Experience the Great Victoria Desert from the Goldfields to Kata Tjuta and Uluru on the Great Central Road.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Pitjantjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, and Yankunytjatjara peoples who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The Great Central Road is a 1,237km road trip through the Great Victoria Desert from the Western Australian Goldfields to Kata Tjuta and Uluru in the Northern Territory’s Red Centre. Beginning at Leonora, 830km north-east of Perth, the road heads east into the desert.

Read more: Explore Kata Tjuta

About the Great Central Road and Great Victoria Desert

The Great Central Road winds its way through the Great Victoria Desert. It’s the ‘back road’ from Western Australia to the Northern Territory for those who want a true desert experience. Leaving the Golden Quest Discovery Trail at Leonora, continue on to another gold mining town, Laverton.

Read more: Australian Deserts – Everything You Need to Know About Australia’s 10 Deserts


Driving the Great Central Road

The road is mainly gravel dirt with small bitumen sections. There are a couple of Indigenous communities, an amazing art gallery and interactive museum, the most remote weather station in Australia, a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, sand dunes and breakaway country. To get most of the road trip, it takes 3-5 days.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

History the Great Central Road

Pitjantjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, and Yankunytjatjara people have been living in this desert for at least 20,000 years. Pitjantjatjara are also known as the Spinifex people.

Ernest Giles was the first European to cross the desert, naming it after the reigning monarch at the time. He named Kata Tjuta, Mount Olga, and Lake Amadeus after European royalty.

In the 1950s, Australia gave the United Kingdom some land known as Emu Flat in the Great Victoria Desert for nuclear bomb testing.

In the 1950s and early 60s, Len Beadell, surveyed the desert and created some 4WD tracks such as the Gunbarrel Highway, Anne Beadell and Connie Sue Highways.

The Great Central Road started in the 1930s as a track to Warburton. In 1978, funding was given to build a road from Warburton to Docker River in the Northern Territory.

How to Get to the Great Central Road?

The Great Central Road through the Great Victoria Desert is an epic road trip and can only be reached by 4WD. Drive to Leonora, 840km west of Perth, or in reverse, start at Uluru.


The Great Victoria Desert 

Where to Stay Along the Great Central Road

The Great Central Road is essentially a camping adventure. There are caravan parks in Leonora, Laverton, and Warburton.

Accommodation is available at Tjukayirla Roadhouse and Warakurna Roadhouse. At the end of the trip, the accommodation options are at Yulara, the town servicing Uluru.

Read more: 5 Unique Ways to Experience Uluṟu Without Walking on it!


Rough camping in the desert

Where to Eat on the Great Central Road

There’s a pub at the beginning and end of the road, Leonora, Laverton, and Yulara. In between there are two roadhouses with some food. Otherwise, it’s a self-catering trip and supplies are very important.

Things to do on the Great Central Road

Skill Level


To drive the Great Central Road you need experience and skill 4WDing on rough and sandy sections of road. It’s highly recommended to drop your tyre pressure to negotiate the soft sections and make it a more comfortable ride.

Travelers need to be self-sufficient and confident in being in the middle of nowhere. Traffic does pass by, but they may be few and far between.

Read more: How To Prepare Your Car For A Road Trip

Distance / Duration

1237km / 4 days

Read more: The Ultimate Road Trip Through The Red Centre Way

Essential Gear for the Great Central Road

What it’s Like to Drive the Great Central Road

Driving the Great Central Road is a true Outback desert experience. The roads are a mix of sealed and unsealed, the dirt is red, and the animals are interesting.

It’s not uncommon to see camels wandering in the bush and hear dingoes howling at night. The drive passed through Indigenous communities and genuinely remote roadhouses.


Camels are a common roadside sighting

I’ve divided the drive between settlements, but highly recommend having at least one rough camp. Wikicamps gives some of the possible options. We chose an area with rocky breakaways that lit up at sunset.

There are plans for this road to be sealed, so before it gets too busy, it’s a great time to experience the current remoteness.

Day 1 – Leonora to Tjukayirla Roadhouse

Distance: 419km
Duration: 5 hours

Leonora is a small goldfields service town with a twin town of Gwalia right next door. Gwalia was a settlement for the workers of the sons of Gwalia gold mine.



Around 1897, Herbert Hoover ran the mine until he was transferred to China. Later, he became the President of the United States. Take time to explore Gwalia and its museum on the edge of the Sons of Gwalia goldmine pit.

Laverton is on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert and is predominately a gold and nickel mining area. Before heading into the desert in earnest, the Great Beyond Visitor Centre is worth a visit to understand what it was like crossing the desert for the early explorers.

The road east cuts through Cosmo Newberry, a remote Aboriginal community just off main road. A permit is required to pass through here that needs to be applied for in advance. There’s fuel and a shop in the community if needed.

Halfway between Cosmo and Tjukayirla is Yeo Lake Nature Reserve which has great wildflower displays in spring. Gnamma holes, which are natural cavities commonly found in hard rock, are dotted along the drive.

About 80km west of Tjukayirla Roadhouse, there are a few places to stop and see where the First Nations people and explorers found water.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse has fuel, accommodation, supplies, and food.


Tjukayirla Roadhouse

Day 2 – Tjukayirla Roadhouse to Warburton

Distance: 245km
Duration: 4 hours

This is red sand dune country, with intermittent rocky outcrops along the way. The sand dunes are covered with a surprising number of shrubs including prickly spinifex. Keep an eye out for camels and reptiles like thorny devils.



Warburton or Mirlirrtjarra is an Aboriginal community of about 600 people. This is part of the Western Desert cultural bloc. There’s an amazing art gallery, home to the Papunya Tula art movement. The Tjulyuru Regional Arts Gallery is open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4pm. Other days it’s open on request.

The Warburton Roadhouse has all essential supplies plus accommodation, including both rooms and camping options.

Day 3 – Warburton to Warakurna

Distance: 233km
Duration: 4 hours

Today is a true Outback experience with vast skies and desert that rolls on forever.

Warakuma is home to the most remote weather station in Australia named after early explorer, Ernest Giles. Around the Giles weather station is some interesting space junk leftover from the rocket testing days in the 1950s. We hung around for the release of the morning weather balloon at 8.45am.


The morning weather balloon!

Even though you’re still in WA, the Warakurna Roadhouse and Giles weather station operate on Central Standard Time (CST) time, not Western Australian time.

While camping here for the night, we listened to the dingoes howl as we went to sleep. Never feed or approach dingoes as they’re wild animals.


A scruffy-looking dingo

Day 4 – Warakurna to Uluru via Docker River

Distance: 340km
Duration: 5 hours

The landscape dramatically changes as the Petermann Ranges rise out of the red desert. The vegetation changes from low scrub to taller bloodwood and Desert oak trees.

Just over the WA/NT border is Docker River/Kaltukatjara, another Aboriginal community. Again, a permit is required to drive through here and is available online. Docker River has most supplies including fuel.

Lasseters Cave is the stuff of legend and where gold prospector, Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter, sheltered when his camels had bolted. He claimed to have found Lasseter’s Reef, a rich desert gold deposit in 1930. While plenty of would-be prospectors have tried, the reef of gold has never been found.

Past the Petermann Ranges the drive turns into a rollercoaster of red sand dunes. At the crest of each dune, you gain a tantalising view of distant purple rocks that become bigger and more recognisable at Kata Tjuta.


Kata Tjuta and Desert oak

Be aware that after four or five days in the desert, reaching the very busy bitumen roads at Kata Tjuta and Uluru filled with busloads of tourists can be a culture shock.

Arriving at Kata Tjuta and Uluru the back way means you’ve bypassed the National Park gate, and will pass through as you exit the park and head to Yulara, the accommodation township for Uluru. To go back in and explore more, a Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park pass is $38 for three days.

Tips to Driving the Great Central Road

  • Past Laverton there are five remote roadhouses along the road but plan and be prepared. Refuel at each one unless you have a long-range fuel tank
  • Make sure you know how to change a tyre and do basic car checks like oil and water
  • To even out the ride, lower your tyre pressures to around 20-25 psi
  • Avoid driving in summer as it’s blisteringly hot
  • Be aware that rain can close the road so watch the forecast beforehand
  • Mobile phone coverage is very limited-to-non-existent.
  • We took a UHF radio for short range communication. Some people take an EPIRB or Spot device to send an alert message in an emergency
  • Tell someone you know when you start and arrive at your destination

FAQs the Great Central Road

Where is the Great Central Road located?

The Great Central Road is located between Laverton and Uluru in the Great Victorian Desert

How do you get to the Great Central Road?

The start of the Great Central Road is in Laverton, a 10.5 hour drive from Perth. Alternatively if you’re in the NT, you can start the drive at Uluru, a 5 hour drive from Alice Springs.

When is the Great Central Road open?

The Great Central Road is open year round unless it’s closed due to rain.

When is the best time to drive the Great Central Road?

The best time to drive the Great Central Road is autumn and spring. Summer is very hot, and winter can be very cold when it can drop to below zero at night.

How long does it take to complete the Great Central Road?

We tooks four days to drive from the Great Central Road from Leonora to Uluru. It can be done quicker but always drive to the road conditions.

How long is the Great Central Road?

The Great Central Road is 1,237km.

Can you swim at the Great Central Road?

No, there’s no permanent water on the Great Central Road

Do you need a 4WD to get to the Great Central Road?

Yes, a 4WD is essential to drive the Great Central Road.

Do I need permits to drive the Great Central Road?

Permits are required from both the Northern Territory end and the Western Australia end.