Exploring the Outback can be very risky, especially for newbies in the off-roading field. But this factor encourages most of the expert 4WD enthusiasts to push the limits of their vehicles and themselves. As a result, the 4WD tracks that pass through the Outback are among the most popular ones in the country.
The Heather Highway is an outback track in Western Australia. It connects the Gunbarrel Highway east of Len Beadell’s Tree with Great Central Road west of the Warburton Aboriginal settlement. Also, it is one of the best tracks to explore the notorious Australian Outback.
From Perth, you can reach Heather Highway by taking this route:
- Head southwest toward Roe St
- Turn left at the first intersection onto Roe St
- After 250 m, Roe St turns left and becomes Stirling St
- Turn right onto Newcastle St
- After 400 m, turn right onto the Tonkin Hwy S/State Rte ramp to Airport
- Merge onto Tonkin Hwy/State Route 4
- Use the left lane to take the National Hwy 94/National Rte 1/Gt Eastern Hwy exit
- After 400 m, turn left onto National Highway 94 (look for signs leading to National Hwy 94/National Rte 1/Midland)
- Use the left lane to take the GT Eastern Hwy/National Hwy 94 ramp to Kalgoorlie after 10 km
- Merge onto National Highway 94
- Continue straight onto Great Eastern Hwy/National Rte 94 Alternate
- After 35.8 km, turn left onto Throssell St
- After 800 m, turn right onto Piccadilly St
- Turn left onto Goldfields Hwy/State Route 49 after 215 km
- Turn right onto Melita Rd
- After 11.7 km, turn left onto Kookynie-Malcolm Rd
- Turn right onto Laverton-Leonora Rd after 14.8 km
- After 99.3 km, turn left onto Lancefield Diversion Rd
- Turn left onto Great Central Rd after 504 km
- Turn left onto Heather Hwy after 17.9 km
What Should I Know About Heather Highway?
The Gibson Desert has been home for millennia for Aboriginal people. As recently as 1966, there were still a few Aboriginal families that had still no contact with modern Australians and were still living a nomadic way of life. The first white person to head into the Gibson Desert was the explorer, Ernest Giles. While on his second Expedition from 1883 to 1884, Giles and Gibson reached a point in the desert where they were very short of water. Had they proceeded any further, after running very low on water, it would have resulted in the death of all members of the party.
Ernest Giles last saw his horse the ‘Fair Maid of Perth’ and Alfred Gibson alive on the 23rd April 1884. They saw distant hills that he named the Alfred and Marie Range, after their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh while running dangerously low on water. The party started to retrace their tracks back to Circus Water, some 140 kilometers again in the Rawlinson Ranges. Gibson’s horse fell, and the cob died where he fell. Giving Gibson his mare and sensing their dire situation, Giles sent Gibson to fetch for water, on a return trip that he thought would take around six days. Giles went on to crawl back to the water, while his companion and the ‘Fair Maid of Perth’ were never seen again. To honor his traveling companion, Giles named this desert after Gibson, who perished.
The first road that passes through this area was built by the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party and Len Beadell. The Gunbarrel Highway is now at the top of most four-wheel drivers tracks’ to-do’ list. It was built to connect the Giles and Carnegie Homestead with the Stuart Highway back when the Rocket Research and Atomic Test was still active in the deserts of South Australia. This first east-west road across Australia was now set to see further exploration, but for different reasons. During the mid-1960s, the Gibson Desert area was similar to other outback areas in Australia, and the search for “black gold” was on.
An Australian Company was founded, with a consortium with Placid Oil Company, Hunt Petroleum Corporation, and Exoil Company NL from the US. This Australian Company, Hunt Oil Company were given permits to explore more than 202,640 square kilometers of the deserts of Western Australia, from the south of the Tropic of Capricorn through to the Great Victoria Desert.
Many roads linking the north and south were built to give a useful link for the oil rigs and mining plants. The naming of this road was named after David and Margaret Hewitt’s daughter, the then Warburton Aboriginal Community’s superintendent.
As with all major trips to the Outback, careful detail must be given to your pre-trip preparation. Your vehicle must be in first-class mechanical condition, with particular focus on the suspension and tires. A good quality first aid kit should also be carried and either an HF Radio or Satellite Phone, for reliable outside communications in case of an emergency.
Remote Desert Country
Temperatures can go over 50°C in the summer months, and it has been known to increase to 60°C. Travel during summer is not recommended. It is in the remote desert country, so you should self-sufficient and bring fuel, water, food, and vehicle repair equipment and spare parts. Also, your vehicle will need to be prepared extensively for traveling in remote areas.
As you will be traveling along the Great Central Road and the abandoned parts of the Old Gunbarrel Highway, you will need a transit permit from the Ngaanyatjarra Council, and it must be secured in advance. These permits are free, and you can apply for one online. It must also be noted that driving on the Old Gunbarrel is restricted to limit the number of visitors, with a minimum of 2 vehicles to a maximum of 5 cars in any one group if you’re coming from the east and Warakurna.
How Are The 4WD Tracks in Heather Highway?
The Heather Highway is a well-signposted track from both the Gunbarrel Highway and the Great Central Road. Based on which direction that you came from, the Heather Highway junction is marked by a modern and clear signpost, with distances for Warburton 126 and Wiluna 720. Aside from that, there is also a small sticker board, where passing travelers have added their stickers.
Some road maps state that this track has terrible corrugations. Still, compared to some severe corrugations further out, the Heather Highway was an enjoyable track to drive, giving great relief of those bone-shattering sections further to the west. The main thing that you should be aware of is the typical large wash away. As this track is not as vegetated as other trails along the Gunbarrel, drivers have a clear view of the course most of the time. Aside from that, you will see the track conditions and wash aways up ahead.
Only a few minutes after starting the trip, you will reach the only main track junction in the whole track. The main trail then leads you further north goes to the Tjirrkarli Aboriginal Community. From here on, the road is a real outback superhighway, vast, well-graded, and generally in excellent condition. The major thing to be aware of on this part is vehicles coming from the other direction, so care must be taken of the crest of some of the more massive hills. Once onto the Great Central Road, further right conditions will lead you to Warburton, only 42 kilometers from the track, where fuel and a general store will give you the chance to resupply.
What Are The Other Things That I Can Do in Heather Highway?
While driving through the Heather Highway, you can head to the Communications Tower on the Western Australian side of the road.
What Do Other 4WD Enthusiasts Say About Heather Highway?
“Firstly, none of that part of the track is maintained, and depending on the weather, will determine just how much further erosion of tracks has occurred.
The track section from Everard Junction through to Mount Gordon is typical outback tracks but is usually heavily corrugated as you head south-east towards Mt Beadell, and from there will improve the further you head south.
As for the Heather Highway, it is a mixture of deep washdays and corrugations, then turn into a superhighway after the junction where it meets the turnoff” -Stephen L (https://www.exploroz.com/forum/138396/gunbarrel-hwy-between-heather-hwy-and-everard-junction)
Where Should I Stay in Heather Highway?
There are no campgrounds or homesteads in the area. So, you should prepare your bush camping gear and find shaded places to stop and take a rest.
Is 4-Wheel Drive The Same As All-Wheel Drive?
Both cars drive all four wheels, so in one sense, there is no difference except that AWD has become an accepted description for a vehicle that drives all of the wheels. 4WD is typically used on large SUV Four-Wheel Drive (4×4) vehicles designed to handle the extra traction of 4WD in off-road situations.
Can You Switch To 4wd While Driving?
There’s no need to use 4L four-wheel drive for highway driving ever. Also, in most vehicles, if you’re already on the road and the conditions suddenly change, you can switch to 4H four-wheel drive while you’re driving. It is not the case with a 4L four-wheel drive when you must slow down significantly or even stop.