Travelling the Nyangumarta Highway WA

Staff writers — 4 July 2024

Crossing more than 600km of open country covered with termite mounds, sand dunes and salt pans, the Nyangumarta Highway stretches from Kunawarritji on the Canning Stock Route, all the way to Eighty Mile Beach on the far west coast.

Formerly known as the Kidson Track, this stretch of road was constructed in the late 1960s as an oil exploration track by West Australian Petroleum (WAPET) Pty Ltd.

In 2014, the Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation renamed the track the Nyangumarta Highway to honour the Traditional Owners of this desert country. It is one of the longest private roads in the world.



This remote track starts at Gary Junction near Kunawarritji, and there are no services along the route so fill your tanks and spare jerry cans here. After turning off the Canning Stock Route (CSR), the first 100km or so is on the well-maintained gravel Kiwirrkurra Road that runs parallel with the dunes. At the northern end of Lake Auld there is a large rocky outcrop which, after a short climb, provides 360 degree views of the Great Sandy Desert.

From here the track heads north through a series of salt pans and past termite mounds before returning to the red sand and dunes, and the track conditions vary greatly. You’ll experience anything from well maintained and wide, to corrugated and severely overgrown, with some bush pinstriping inevitable in some sections. Keep your eye out for camels on the road.

From the road near Mellinjerie Well, the remains of a former Aboriginal community, known as Paru, can be seen. An abandoned windmill, old tractor, vehicles and makeshift shelters are visible, but the site is in Martu Land so permission to enter is not provided in the Nyangumarta permit. Travellers are asked to not enter the site as it has historic significance to the Nyangumarta and Martu people.

Some 72km past Mellinjerie Well, is a turnoff to Naburu Rose’s Track to the north. This is one of the only side trips off the Nyangumarta Highway and heads through open spinifex country to an emergency airstrip. There are two permitted camping areas here and to get there you will pass through two significant cultural sites. The Traditional Owners request that you do not stop and do not take photographs while passing through this area — both ‘no stopping’ zones are clearly signposted.

The first camping area is located in an open cleared area beside the highway. Just 5km further west is the day-use only area of Djimakarra Soak. Closer to the coast, you reach the second camping area which is also a cleared area beside the highway on top of a small rise. From here, it is an easy run along well-maintained roads to the Great Northern Highway, with the occasional rocky outcrop starting to feature among the endless spinifex plains and termite mounds.

A short drive south on the sealed road of the Great Northern Highway brings you to the turnoff for Eighty Mile Beach. Another 15km on the gravel takes you to Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park, where you can watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Warnings

This is a remote area, and travellers must be self-sufficient with all necessary fuel, drinking water, food and firewood. Eighty Mile Beach and the Nyangumarta lands are in a region prone to cyclones. If travelling in cyclone season, 1 November to 30 April, check for warnings with the Bureau of Meteorology. Djimakarra Soak is day-use only — no camping is permitted. There are several designated ‘no stopping’ areas along the track where travellers must continue driving. No stopping areas are marked on the map in the permit brochure.

Track Details

Driving time: 15 hours (average speed 45km/h)

Distance: 681km, Gary Junction to Eighty Mile Beach

Longest distance without fuel: 651km, Kunawarritji to Sandfire Roadhouse

Best time of year: Cooler months: May to September

Permits and fees: A permit is needed to drive the Nyangumarta Highway and camp sites in designated locations within Nyangumarta country. The permit fee is $55 per 4WD, including a trailer if applicable. It is available for purchase on the Four Wheel Drive Australia website. The permit is valid for one month. It also allows access to Nabaru Rose’s Track (Nikolay Road).

Contact details

Kunawarritji Community Store

P: 08 9176 9040

Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park

P: 08 9176 5941

E:stay@eightymilebeach.com.au

W: https://summerstar.com.au/caravan-parks/eighty-mile-beach

Sandfire Roadhouse

P: 08 9176 5944

Related articles

Eighty Mile Beach WA

The Canning Stock Route: What you need to know

How to drive on dirt and gravel roads

Tags

Nyangumarta Highway Kidson Track WA Eighty Mile Beach Gary Junction