Great Northern Highway

Australia’s Longest Highway

The Great Northern Highway links Perth with the State’s northernmost port, Wyndham. At a length of almost 3200 kilometres it is the longest highway in Australia.

The Great Northern Highway is the only sealed road link between the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. Economically, it provides vital access through the Wheatbelt and the Mid West to the Pilbara and Kimberley.

The highway begins in Midland near Great Eastern Highway, and further north intersects the Reid and Roe highways, which together form Perth’s ring road. Three rural highways spur off Great Northern Highway. Brand Highway and North West Coastal Highway provide an alternative coastal route between Muchea and Port Hedland, while further north Victoria Highway carries the National Highway route and interstate traffic into the Northern Territory. Various road routes are allocated to sections of Great Northern Highway, including the Highway 1 routes National Route 1 and National Highway 1, as well as National Highway 95.

Creation of the Highway

The highway was created in 1944 from existing roads in the Wheatbelt and a series of tracks through remote pastoral areas. However, it was a hazardous route that could be dusty in the dry season, and boggy or washed away in the wet season. Some sections were effectively impassable sand, while others contained limestone outcrops.

Economic growth and development in northern Western Australia prompted initial improvement efforts, and the federal government’s Beef Roads Scheme in the 1960s resulted in a noticeably higher-quality road in the Kimberley. Construction of a sealed road from Perth to Wyndham, including numerous bridges to reduce the impact of seasonal flooding, took many years to complete. The last section opened in 1989.

However, by then many older sections were either worn out or not up to modern standards. Various upgrades have been carried out in small sections, across the length of the highway, with further works planned.

A major realignment of the highway in Perth is being constructed (scheduled for completion in 2019), as part of the NorthLink WA project that is also upgrading Tonkin Highway.