Duncan Highways -
The Buchanan Highway starts at Dunmarra in the Northern Territory and
travels west and then north west until it joins the Victoria Highway
east of Timber Creek. The Duncan east from Halls Creek to the Buntine
Highway junction and then north to Kununurra.
You should have some decent maps when travelling the Duncan
and Buchanan Highways - get yours from our Map Shop
Both tracks give you lots of opportunities to explore. The Buchanan
Highway travels north of the Tanami Track and south of the main access
road from NT to WA, Victoria Highway, which runs from Katherine to
Allow a distance of at least 800km from Halls Creek to Dunmarra and
considerably more if you decide to do the section from Halls Creek up
to Kununurra on the Duncan Highway. The trip will take you through some
very remote and harsh country.
There are really two trips described on this page. Both begin
in Dunmarra and end at Kununurra.
The first option is traveling along
the whole length of the Buchanan Highway, or only doing half of the
Buchanan Highway and then heading of south west along the Buntine
Highway to join up with the Duncan Highway for the trip to Kununurra.
Vehicle preparation is essential as is carrying adequate supplies of
fuel water and supplies. Be prepared for long stretches without finding
fresh fuel supplies, the longest being from Halls Creek to Kalkarindji,
which is a little over 400 km.
The region was first discovered in 1855 when Augustus Gregory landed at
the mouth of the Victoria River. Whilst there were other explorers who
ventured into the region in the meantime not much happened here until
Alexander Forrest started opening up the Kimberley for pastoralists in
1879 and later Nat Buchanan who developed the stock routes from The
Kimberley region to The Gulf and Western Queensland that this area
began seeing settlers and started to prosper.
The Buchanan Highway starts westward from the Sturt
Highway, about 6 kilometers north of Dunmarra Wayside Inn and a little
over 40km south of Daly Waters.
The first stretch of the journey is through remote scrub country and is
a little dull. Whilst the road is normally in reasonable condition, it
is not much used and you may encounter the odd rough patch. Some 185km
later the Buchanan Highway reaches Top Springs, which is located on the
old Murranji Stock Route, comprises of little more than a roadhouse and
motel. Whilst fuel and grog is available here there is little in the
way of provisions.
To do the whole of the Buchanan Highway from Top Springs head straight
and then north westerly until you reach the Victoria Highway east of
Timber Creek. The first major landmark is crossing the Victoria River
about 94km from Top Springs. A little over the river and the highway
comes to Victoria River Downs Homestead.
In years gone by this was the largest cattle station in the world and
today still runs in the region of 100,000 head and covers a
comparatively small area by cattle station standards these days of
12,000 kilometers. Still a fairly large area though.
The homestead can supply a wide range of fuel and provisions and the
airport is a popular aviation destination.
From Victoria Downs Homestead the road continues north west through the
impressive Jasper Gorge, where you are able to camp in some very
pleasant surroundings, and through the outskirts of the Gregory
National Park to the Victoria Highway.
West at the junction leads 29 km to Timber Creek, 250
kilometers from Top Springs and a very enjoyable and scenic trip. Right
leads to Katherine via the Victoria River Roadhouse.
Heading west from Timber Creek towards Kununurra is a total distance of
around 240 km. At the 180 kilometers mark the Duncan Highway joins from
Continuing on takes you past the outskirts of the Keep River National
Park to the north and 20 kilometers from the Duncan Highway turnoff is
the road leading south to Lake Argyle, the Ord River Dam and the Ord
River Irrigation Scheme, as well as the Argyle Down Historic Homestead
and the Lake Argyle Resort.
This is a spectacular region and one that can most be appreciated from
the air. If you can take a scenic flight when you get to Kununurra.
Most of the joyrides also pass over the Bungle Bungles, which add
another magnificent dimension to your flight.
There are other options to take when you leave Top Springs though.
Instead of going straight along the Buchanan Highway you can head
northwards along the main Buntine Highway, past the Old Delamere
Homestead and the Victoria Highway junction. Turning left, or west,
here also takes you to Timber Creek but through the Gregory
National Park and passed the Victoria River Roadhouse.
Alternatively you can swing south at Top Springs onto the Buntine
Highway and head for Halls Creek. The first stage of this leg is on
bitumen until it reaches Kalkaringi, via Wave Hill Homestead. Here you
can top up with fuel, basic provisions and you may decide to stop over
at the small camping ground.
From here there is a very long stretch without fuel stops so make sure
you take adequate supplies with you.
Leaving Kalkaringi you also leave the bitumen as the road again heads
240 km south west towards the Western Australian border and the
junction with the Duncan Highway, passing through some of
Australia's prime cattle country.
Once across the border it is about 20 kilometers to the Nicholson
Homestead and the Duncan Highway junction.
From here you would be on the Duncan whether you decided to go north to
Kununurra or west to Halls Creek. If you were to continue to
Halls Creek there is about 180 kilometers to go via some very scenic
spots, but this trip heads north to Kununurra.
North on the Duncan Highway from the Nicholson Homestead is a pleasant
trip and the journey is on a reasonable gravel road. There are several
creek crossings with very pleasant camp grounds along the way.
At Ord Hill the Duncan Highway starts running more or less in the same
direction as the Ord River and the boundary of the Purnululu National
Park. The Purnulula National Park is spectacular but, unfortunately
there is only one access route and that is off the Great Northern Road
to the west of the Park via Spring Creek Track.
A little further is Forrest Creek and the Ord River Homestead and views
over the Ord River Valley with glimpses of the Bungle Bungle Range to
Having travelled along the Duncan Highway for about 270km it reaches
the junction with Victoria Highway and about 60 kilometers west to
Between the junction and Kununurra is the turn off to Lake Argyle and
everything that goes with it as described earlier on this page.
You are in Australia's last frontier up here, allow plenty of time and
enjoy it, it is spectacular.
Australian 4x4 Tag Along Tours operates a relaxed and informal
12 day Tag Along that includes the Simpson, North Simpson, Hay River
and several other iconic Outback places and regions in NSW, SA, NT,
Qld. Further details can be found by following the Tag Alongs link at
the top of this page.
If you would like to travel to this area in the company of
other people then this trip probably represents the best value
available from anyone.
The information provided on this web page is for use as a guide only.
If you are planning to undertake this trip you must seek out other
authorative advice and information. Desert and Outback travel
can be very hazardous and should only be undertaken after lengthy and
careful planning. The owners of this website shall not be held
responsible for any damage or injury that you may experience during any
conventional vehicle or four wheel drive trip, desert or otherwise.
Distances between places mentioned on this page are as a guide only.
You must verify these details yourself using professional maps and/or
mapping equipment before you set out on a the trip. Do not attempt to
access desert or other remote regions in an ill-prepared vehicle and
without adequate communications equipment. Do not under estimate the
limited supply of fuel, water and provisions in these areas as well as
the possibility of encountering extremely harsh elements and conditions.