Broome - Geraldton via the Great Northern and
North West Coastal Highways (Hwy 1)
Total Distance 2010km
All distances measured from Roebuck Roadhouse
(The 34km out to Roebuck Roadhouse from Broome are not strictly part of this section so have been left out of the total distance).
Although this road is talked of as 'coastal', you are not going to see the ocean unless you take a turn off to the right with the first being to Port Smith after 110km. This is a favourite with fishermen and there is a caravan park.
We are on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert here and the landscape is pretty desolate. On these highways you need to keep a good lookout for wildlife - emus, roos, rabbits, dingoes, foxes and pigs are just some of the early morning or late afternoon strollers you may encounter.
After the Sandfire Roadhouse (287km) you come to the turn off (340km) to Eighty mile Beach Caravan Park and you should not let the sometimes rough gravel road put you off visiting this delightful little oasis right behind the glorious wide beach which is a shellerís and fisherman's paradise. The park has lots of shade from the palms and a shop that stocks a wide range and does takeaway food.
The next roadhouse is at Pardoo (428km) with the turnoff (530km) to Marble Bar - reputedly Australiaís hottest town - before reaching large and busy Port Hedland (580km). To look at the port facility you need to turn right off the highway and travel a few km to the docks. Here you can see the massive operation as huge trains bring hundreds of trucks of iron ore each day from the BHP holdings in the Pilbara and this is loaded into bulk carriers. The port also handles the output from Dampier Salt which you would have seen on the right on your way into town.
As you rejoin the highway for the trip south you will notice the industrial centre a long way from the port and you turn off before reaching the residential township of South Hedland as you stay on the coastal road and then notice in a while the turnoff on the left to the Great Northern Highway (Hwy 95) leading to Newman and Meekathara at (622km).
You will find a pub with a difference at Whim Creek (696km) where the board proclaims there are FREE powered sites available to travellers with a small fee for use of laundry facilities. It is a nice hotel with motel facilities although a long way from anywhere.
Roebourne (783km) is the gateway to a colourful past and if you have time it is worth exploring the historic settlements of Cossack and Wickham.
A little further down the road you come to the turnoff (821km) for Karratha and Dampier. There are good shopping facilities and caravan parks at Karratha and Dampier is the place where the gas from the rigs on the North West Shelf comes ashore. The Visitors Centre is worth a visit and the town itself is interesting with the port handling the huge iron ore deposits from the Hammersly Mine at Tom Price.
After the Fortescue Roadhouse (952km) the next turn off at (1052km) is to the seaside town of Onslow with the road to Tom Price and Paraburdoo coming at the Nanutarra Roadhouse (1,091km).
There is a shortcut that turns off on the left (1069km) for Exmouth and the Cape Range National Park. This used to be 82km of dusty unsealed road but thankfully itís now all bitumen and leads to a lovely coastal area with camping sites suityable for tents and RVs along the shore of the Ningaloo Marine Park. A visitorís centre gives interesting information about the reef and its inhabitants while further down the coast is Yardie Creek trhat is suitable for canoeing. The town of was the base for U.S. servicemen employed at the huge radio centre for communication with deep sea submarines but this is now a purely Australian facility and the airfield at nearby Learmonth no longer has visits from the huge American transport planes that used to service the base. Exmouth is also the home of a large fishing fleet so if you like fish, prawns and crays put a visit to the fishing co-op on your itinerary.
A road turns off on the right at Minylia Roadhouse (1177km) and used to be the only sealed access to Exmouth but now is more often used to reach the delightful little coastal haven of Coral Bay with its lovely beaches and sparkling water.
After this the highway passes through some pretty arid looking countryside to get to Carnarvon (1397km) which is well known for its production of fruit and vegetables although approaching the town along the highway gives you no clue to its horticulture. The Gascoyne River is usually dry and hiding its ample supply of water for irrigation under its sandy bed. A run out along either side of the river shows a very different picture and illustrates what a supply of water can do in a parched land.
The town has good shopping and general facilities although they seem to be spread over a large area. To the north and reached by an unsealed road, the coast has a number of interesting things to offer including the wreck of the Korean Star lost during a cyclone, spectacular blowholes and a solar-powered lighthouse. There is also a memorial commemorating a naval battle fought off the coast during WW2.
There is no need to run short of fuel along this fairly lonely highway as there are plenty of roadhouses along being the Wooramel Roadhouse (1517km) and then the Overlander Roadhouse (1590km). Here the road on the right is the one leading to the famous Monkey Mia where wild dolphins come to interact with humans although there are a number of other less publicised places like Busselton in WA and Port Phillip Bay in Victoria where dolphins and people can mix freely. This is an area worth a bit of time - Hamelin Pool is the home of Stromatolites and coquinite - rock from shells cemented together over vast ages and quarried for use in local buildings. The main town is Denman.
One of the nicest towns along this coast is Kalbarri and the turn off comes at 1,760km. Besides the interesting township and its facilities, there is the Kalbarri National Park and the Murcheson River to explore. No visit would be complete without a meal at the famous Finlayís Fish Barbecue.
An hours run after the Kalbarri turnoff we are approaching the outskirts of Geraldton (2010km) and deciding which of the many caravan parks to stay in. One of WAís larger towns, Geraldton is an important shipping and trade centre for the mid-west region. It has many attractions including the cathedral. The wild coast in this area has been the site of a number of shipwrecks dating back to some of the Dutch Ships that visited Australia back in the very early days.