Originally a narrow and often country road with a single lane in each direction it has been periodically widened and (particularly north of Wanneroo) straightened. Around the Carabooda area the road has been realigned. Short sections of the original, narrow road remain providing access to properties and businesses along the road.
The road is also multiplexed with State Routes 81 and 83 for short lengths.
After the enactment of the Road Districts Act 1871, the Perth Road Board requested that the Legislative Council proclaim eight public thoroughfares through its territory, and on 4 June 1872, Road No.3, intended as a route from Perth to Champion Bay (now Geraldton) via Wanneroo, was published in the Government Gazette. However, the act of proclaiming the road was not contiguous with its development, and progress on surfacing the track occurred at a slow rate.
A proposal to rename the road as "Yanchep Highway" was made in November 1940. The Perth Road Board (now City of Stirling) was in favour of the proposal, subject to the Wanneroo Road Board (now City of Wanneroo) renaming their portion of Wanneroo Road, but the Wanneroo Road Board indicated that they would support a name change if it included Charles Street, in the Perth City Council area. There was no agreement reached.