Crossing the Tanami desert is one of the most memorable ways to reach the Red Centre.
The shortest route from Halls Creek to Alice Springs is via the Tanami Road 4WD track. It takes two days to cross the vast expanse of the Tanami Desert, allowing time for you to take in a few awe-inspiring surprises along the way, including the second largest meteorite crater in the world, freshwater wetlands filled with birdlife and one of the most remote art galleries on Earth.
The first surprise lies 145 kilometres south of Halls Creek in Wolfe Creek Crater National Park, accessed via a 23km unsealed road through Carranya Station. Standing on the rim of this 880-metre-wide meteorite crater is quite an incredible sight, especially at sunrise and sunset. Known as Karntimarlarl to the local people, the crater is believed to be over 300 thousand years old. Spend the night at the basic camp site maintained by the Department of Parks and Wildlife and watch the desert light play on this unique landscape.
The second highlight will delight nature lovers and bird watchers. Take a short detour to Lake Gregory and Lake Stretch via the northern section of the Canning Stock Route to visit the permanent inland wetlands. Internationally renowned for its incredible birdlife, more than 73 species of waterbirds have been recorded at these wetlands. Choose from one of three campsites (no facilities) for views across the lake at sunset and sunrise.
Your third extraordinary encounter is at the Warlayirti Artists Aboriginal Corporation of Balgo Aboriginal Community – possibly one of the most remote art galleries you will ever experience. Here, approximately 300 Indigenous artists from the local communities of Wirrimanu, Mulan and Kururrrungku (Billiluna) publicly exhibit their fine art paintings, etchings, photography, film and music.
From Balgo, you’re approximately 86 kilometres from the Northern Territory border. A further 701 kilometres will bring you to the Stuart Highway junction, 20 kilometres from Alice Springs.
How to get there
Tanami Road is accessed via the Great Northern Highway, 16 kilometres west of Halls Creek.
Planning your drive
Get a copy of the Shire of Halls Creek Tourism & Travel Guide, published by the Halls Creek Travel and Tourism Centre. The guide features maps and a comprehensive list of attractions that can be accessed via Duncan Road, the Great Northern Highway, Tanami Road and Canning Stock Route.
While Tanami Road is maintained by the Shire of Halls Creek and mining companies that operate in the area, road conditions may vary. Facilities along the route are limited, so you must be prepared to be self-sufficient, carrying adequate supplies of food, water, fuel and essential vehicle spares. While driving, please be aware of and give way to road trains.
You don’t need permits to travel on Tanami Road. However, if you are planning to take the detour to Lake Gregory and/or Lake Stretch, you will need to obtain camping permits for the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area. These permits can be booked online, at Halls Creek Travel and Tourism Centre, Bililuna Community Store, or Mulan CEO’s office during opening hours.
Whilst a formal permit is not required for Balgo Community, it is a condition of entry that you contact them prior to arriving. Their contact number is (08) 9168 8900.
Best time to drive
Tanami Road is road is closed between November and April. Travel conditions are safer and more comfortable during the cooler months, between May and October.