North West Coastal Highway

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North West Coastal Highway
Western Australia
Map of north-western Western Australia, with North West Coastal Highway highlighted in red
General information
Type Highway
Length 1,320 km (820 mi)
Route number(s) National Route 1
Major junctions
South end Brand Highway (National Route 1), Geraldton
North end Great Northern Highway (National Highway 1 / National Highway 95), Port Hedland
Major settlements Northampton, Ajana, Carnarvon, Karratha, Roebourne, Whim Creek
Highway system
Highways in Australia
National HighwayFreeways in Australia
Highways in Western Australia

North West Coastal Highway in Western Australia is a generally north-south Western Australian highway which links the fishing town of Geraldton with the iron ore port of Port Hedland. It is 1,320 kilometres (820 mi) long, and constructed as a sealed 2-lane single carriageway with overtaking lanes in some parts. It was completely sealed by 1974.[1] Together with Brand Highway it forms the coastal link between Perth and Port Hedland.

The highway is Western Australia's second longest, and is very remote in parts. Economically it is an important link to the Mid West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions. The highway supports agriculture and fishing in the Mid West and Gascoyne, which transitions to mining, pastoral stations and offshore oil & gas production in the Pilbara.

Route description[edit]

View south along North West Coastal Highway, about 27 km south of the Wooramel Roadhouse in the Shire of Carnarvon

North West Coastal Highway is the coastal route through Western Australia's remote north-west. roadhouses serving the highway which are the only settlements for long stretches. Significant distances separate larger towns such as Geraldton, Carnarvon and Port Hedland with extensive rangeland expanses. The highway provides access to some of the better known tourist destinations in the North West of Western Australia.

From its southern end in Geraldton to Carnarvon, the highway passes through remote and dry semi-desert areas. There are no towns along the highway for about 400 km, with several roadhouses being the only settlements. On this stretch, a turnoff at the Overlander Roadhouse leads to Shark Bay and Monkey Mia via a stretch of road known as World Heritage Drive.[2]

Carnarvon, the only town between Geraldton and Karratha, marks a change in climate. Bananas and other subtropical fruits are grown here. Unlike the subtropical areas on the east coast, the climate is much drier, but Carnarvon is also notorious as one of Western Australia's windiest locations[citation needed].

Further north, the highway passes through desert and becomes very flat. Bridges span many creeks and rivers, which from the distance can be spotted by stands of eucalyptus which grow along their courses towering above the surrounding spinifex and mulga plants. Most of the time these creeks and rivers are dry; however between November and April, the passage of cyclones and other rain bearing depressions can cause the rivers to rise from dry to over 10 metres deep in less than a day.

Near Minilya Roadhouse is the turnoff to the North West Cape area, including Cape Range National Park, Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Maitland River bridge following Cyclone Monty, 2004

Further north the road goes inland and crosses the Ashburton River near Nanutarra Roadhouse. Nearby is Nanutarra Munjina Road, an access road to the mining towns of Tom Price, Paraburdoo and the former asbestos ghost town, Wittenoom. After crossing the Robe River, Fortescue River and Maitland River, the highway reaches Karratha. Karratha, together with its nearby sister town Dampier, is home to the North West Shelf oil & gas project, and the Pilbara's number two iron ore exporting port. A little further east, Roebourne is the gateway to Wickham and Point Samson, the region's number three iron ore port. The highway finishes at Great Northern Highway south-west of Port Hedland and South Hedland, the region's number one iron ore port and one of the largest towns in WA's northwest, with 15,000 residents.

Other towns, settlements, junctions and significant roadhouses on and slightly off this highway include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edmonds, Leigh (1997)The vital link : a history of Main Roads Western Australia 1926-1996 Nedlands, W.A. : University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 1-876268-06-9. page 450 opened 6th December 1974
  2. ^ [1][dead link]