Driving the Canning Stock Route – Our biggest adventure in Australia

Billiluna Start of our Canning Stock Route adventure

Eight years ago Marcel told me about his dream of driving the Canning Stock Route for the first time. My first thought was: “And what should be so cool about driving the loneliest road on planet earth? Wouldn’t a beach or diving holiday be nicer?” Today I know the Canning Stock Route is something very special. And fortunately I said “Yes” to the great Canning Stock Route adventure.

Driving the Canning Stock Route was Marcel’s dream since we first travelled around Australia. This time we fulfilled his dream and we are both still speechless. It was worth every second and I still can’t believe how beautiful and diverse the Outback is.

The Canning Stock Route is one of our greatest adventures we’ve done so far. Isn’t it fascinating that there is a one lane road going through the desert surrounded by nature only. Where else can one drive almost 2’000 km through nature without any buildings or houses. Especially for us from Europe it sounds crazy. We’re talking about a distance where in Europe we would cross 3-4 countries.

What and where is the Canning Stock Route?

The Canning Stock Route (CSR) is one of the great offroad adventures in Australia and a dream for many 4WD enthusiasts. The historical cattle route leads through secluded and rough land of the Gibson, the Great Sandy and the Little Sandy Desert in Western Australia. The Canning Stock Route runs from Wiluna to Halls Creek. Along the whole route there is no city but hundreds of sand dunes, fields of spinifex grass, desert oaks, salt lakes but also animals such as lizards, birds and camels. Not only the landscape is changing constantly but also the track. Sometimes sandy, sometimes rocky, then bumpy and soft. There is just one thing that does not change, the corrugation. It follow us all the way from Halls Creek to Wiluna.

Our average speed is 22 km/h. That’s why it took us 21 days to complete the Canning Stock Route.

The Canning Stock Route is adventurous, exciting and emotional

Driving the loneliest road of the world may sound far from exciting. However, we experience the desert as an always changing habitat and it is not boring for a single second. The track is constantly changing and good 4WD skills are necessary.

Not only is the track challenging but also the loneliness. Being far away from civilization without contact to the rest of the world for three weeks is not easy. But it is not too difficult either. We get used to be without internet quite quickly.

We also realize that it is great to travel the Canning Stock Route together with friends. Sharing stories around the camp fire, watching the starry sky, counting shooting stars and enjoying the nature are so much fun. Honestly, we wouldn’t have time to be online anyway. What a great experience.

We are very happy to drive the Canning Stock Route together with our friends Conny and Roger. Doing this great adventure together is much more fun and safer too.

Some things are unpredictable

When planning for the Canning Stock Route we had many questions. Will our vehicle survive the rough roads and the extreme corrugation? How do we deal with loneliness? Can we carry drinking water for 21 days? What if we get bitten by a snake? Are we prepared well enough for the Canning Stock Route?

Our vehicles are in top shape and managed all obstacles along the road. Our Troopys did not let us down for a second. It was not lonely on the Canning Stock Route either. We met 1-2 other groups per day. We have not seen snakes but aggressive bees. Also our concerns about the water were unnecessary. We got water on some of the 52 wells that could be used for dishwashing and a shower. Some wells even had water in drinking quality.

And then something unexpected happened. Something none of us has thought of. We had a medical emergency. In the middle of the Canning Stock Route. Conny is the one who needs help. She is losing her eyesight. Fortunately, Conny and Roger have a satellite phone and they immediately call their trusted eye specialist in Switzerland. After explaining the symptoms the doctor tells her, that she nees to see a doctor as soon as possible. Well, how soon? We’re at least four days away from civilization. No chance of getting faster to the next city. We only have one chance, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). We call the emergency service and it does not take long and we have a doctor on the line. After telling him where we are and what happened he arranged an evacuation. Conny needs to go to the hospital in Perth as soon as possible.

“Where is the next airstrip?” the doctor asks. We don’t know. The doctor says in a quiet voice: “I check the details and get back to you as soon as possible”. Waiting for the call feels like an eternity. The satellite phone rings. The nearest airstrip is about 150 km away, located on a remote station. Not too far but on the Canning Stock Route it will take us 4-5 hours driving. We are advised not to travel by night and the doctor from the RFDS confirms that a plane is organized to pick Conny up around lunchtime the next day. We agree to meet at the airstrip.

With the sun rising we leave our camp to get to the airstrip at Glen Ayle station as quick as we can. Right on time we get to the airstrip which is just a long dusty stretch of dirt and half an hour later we hear the Pilatus PC 12 of the RFDS approaching.
Now everything goes quick. We say goodbye to Conny, hugging and wishing her the best of luck. While she’s walking to the plane, the pilot introduces himself and tells us what the next steps are. And then, they fly away to Perth.

The three of us standing there, in the middle nowhere, looking up at the sky with tears in the eyes. It feels unreal. We miss Conny already. But we are glad that she is in good hands and taken care of.

We will finish the Canning Stock Route without Conny but in our hearts she is still travelling with us.

Crazy but true. During the night it starts to rain a few drops as if the sky is crying for Conny too.

The last three days on the Canning Stock Route are still amazing. The landscape is changing constantly. But it is not the same without Conny. We pray and hope that her eye operation is going well. We now realize more than ever how important good health is. Especially when travelling in remote places.

On 4 September, exactly 21 days later, our Canning Stock Route adventure is coming to an end in Wiluna. Suddenly we are back in civilization. Wiluna is a tiny town. We stop at the gas station which is also the grocery store and the place where we can fill up drinking water.

We are glad that we had the opportunity to experience this wonderful trip along the Canning Stock Route, to see this extraordinary part of the world and we are also grateful to own such reliable vehicles. Not only did we spend three wonderful weeks in the middle of nature but we also made new friends.

Canning Stock Route – Route description and diary

A trip through the desert is anything but boring. On the Canning Stock Route every day is different. You don’t believe us? Follow our journey and we show you the beauty of the Outback.

Bye Civilization – Hello Nature

Our Canning Stock Route adventure starts on 14 August 2017. Together with Conny and Roger, friends from Switzerland, we start this challenging trip through the desert. We start in Halls Creek where we stock up on fresh fruits and veggies and one last time checking emails, Facebook and Instagram. The last time for three weeks. It feels weird.

Day 1 – Billiluna to Lagoon – 87 km

Canning Stock Route Offroad Track

The Canning Stock Route starts with a wide track. Spinifex is dominating the landscape. The fields are glowing in the sunlight and therefore we forget all about the annoying corrugation. We cross a dry clay pan. A few trees but no sand dunes to cross yet on the way to the Well 51.

Well 51 Canning Stock Route

About 50 km south of Billiluna the track gets narrower and the first sand dune to cross is 78 km south of Billiluna. The dunes are low and easy to cross.

Camping at Lagoon
GPS Coordinates: S 20° 5′ 56″ E 127° 10′ 23″

Highlight of the day: A Magnum ice cream in Billiluna

Day 2 – Lagoon to Mount Ernest – 73 km

Canning Stock Route Track

Narrow single-lane track. Spinifex dominates the landscape and there are road sections with horrible corrugation.

6.5 km south of the Lagoon we reach Well 51. Water in the well looks muddy. The windmill is not pumping water anymore.

We skip the detour to Well 50. According to comments in WikiCamps there is nothing left of Well 50.

The track continues through landscape dominated by dunes. Suddenly the landscape changes to bush land.

We get to Well 49 which is an unexpected oasis. Running water, toilets and a shower.

We continue south. The road gets rougher. Plenty of corrugation, rough and stony. Next stop Mount Ernest.

View from Mount Earnest

Highlight of the day: Shower at Well 49

Camping at Mount Ernest
GPS Coordinates: S 20° 10′ 1″ E 126° 34′ 1″

Day 3 – Mount Ernest to Well 46 – 85 km

Mount Ernest Canning Stock Route

Hilly landscape and very windy today. Stopping at Well 48. Ruins only. Rusty barrels but no water.

Track gets sandy, lots of spinifex. We hear first voices on the radio. Northbound traffic approaching. We exchange positions and learn that four vehicles are on the way including an expat from Switzerland.

More corrugation. Small sand dunes and lots of wildflowers. Great contrast, violet bushes in the red sand. Again voices on the radio. A tour group is travelling from south to north. When we meet we are asked the second time today already: “Can you jodle?” Why do Australians think all people from Switzerland can jodel?

Sand dune Canning Stock Route

Rocky and sandy parts are alternating. Winding track and lots of bushes. We skip Well 47 as it is supposed to have no water.

More dunes and higher dunes. Driving up is ok but on the way down it’s extremely bumpy.

Highlight of the day: Running camel

Camel on Canning Stock Route in Australia

We camp at Well 46. Good water for a shower and washing dishes. Lots of bees and wasps close to the Well.

Camping at Well 46
GPS Coordinates: S 20° 38′ 30″ E 126° 17′ 15″

Day 4 – Well 46 to Well 43 – 100 km

Very winding track through the bush. Stony and sandy sections. Well 45 only ruins. No reason for us to stay. Crossing sand dunes seems to become part of our daily life.

Our average speed so far is 23 km/h. We’re cheering when we see Gravity Lake in front of us. The dry clay pan is flat. Yeah, driving 50 km/h for the first time since days. It feels like driving 130 km/h.

Gravity Lake Canning Stock Route

The dunes are overgrown with wildflowers. Yellow and violet bushes dominate the landscape. Beautiful how colorful the desert is.

We stop at Well 44, ruins only. More dunes between Well 44 and 43. Driving uphill is easy, downhill very bumpy and exhausting. We get rewarded with beautiful wildflowers.

Red dune Canning Stock Route

Camping at Well 43
GPS Coordinates: S 21° 12′ 45″ E 125° 59′ 7″

Highlight of the day: Sand dunes like the ones in the Simpson Desert

Day 5 – Well 43 to Well 41 – 78 km

Canning Stock Route

The nights are incredibly quiet.

Day is starting with sand dunes to cross. We reach Guli Lake. Highway. Driving 50 km/h. Guli Lake is a salt lake but covered in bushes.

Photo opportunity at Well 42. No water but a iron pilar with a skeleton on top.

Lots of high dunes to cross between Wells 42 and 41. Slow day. We only do 78 km in total.

Camping at Well 41
GPS Coordinates: S 21° 33′ 13″ E 125° 51′ 37″

Highlight of the day: Guli Lake Highway

Day 6 – Well 41 to Well 37 – 110 km

Taking photo Canning Stock Route

Dunes, dunes, dunes. Man drive, women take photos and videos. We need to capture the action.

Passing the junction to Well 40 (2.8 km) and Michael Tobin grave (3.2 km).

Lake Tobin Canning Stock Route

Complete change of the landscape. In front of us the huge Lake Tobin. 10 km of fast driving. Great camp spots on the south side of Lake Tobin.

Well 39 ruins only. There is still some water. Well 38 is dry.

The highest and longest dunes are between 38 and 39. This is the most difficult part of our Canning Stock Route adventure. The sand is soft and the dunes boggy. When driving up our LandCruisers are swaying from left to right and back. Reducing tyre pressure helps to get over the dunes.

Fantastic campsite at Well 37 in the middle of desert oaks.

This was one of the most challenging days so far.

Camping at Casuarina Buschcamp
GPS Coordinates: S 22° 9′ 11″ E 125° 27′ 30″

Highlight of the day: Getting over high dunes

Day 7 – Casuarina Buschcamp (Well 37) to Well 33 – 92 km

We are overwhelmed by the constantly changing landscape.

Sand dunes are part of our lives at the moment.

Water at Well 36 but it doesn’t look drinkable. In our brochure we read that Well 35 is a holy and important place for aboriginal people. So it’s no coincidence that we meet a group of aboriginal people at Well 35.

If there are no sand dunes than there is corrugation, lots of it. The land getting flat. We get close to Kunawarriji. The last 40 km to Aboriginal Community Kunawarriji are rough and annoying. Bone shaking corrugation.

We finally get to Well 33. An oasis in the desert with a big water tank (drinking water). Nice windmill, perfect for a great sunset picture.

Well 33 Canning Stock Route

Camping at Well 33
GPS Coordinates: S 22° 20′ 29″ E 124° 46′ 30″

Highlight of the day: Drinking water at Well 33

Day 8 – Well 33 to Kunawarriji and back to Well 33 – 15 km

The Aboriginal community Kunawarriji is great for travelers along the Canning Stock Route. Here we can fill up our diesel and water tanks. Even if we have a double diesel tank (180 liters), the diesel would not be enough to drive the entire Canning Stock Route.

There is also a shop in Kunawarriji, the J J’s Outback Store. The food is extremely expensive but at least we have the possibility to buy something. Our treat today: A Magnum ice cream. Yummie!!!

Kunawarriji Store Canning Stock Route

Camping at Well 33
GPS Coordinates: S 22° 20′ 29″ E 124° 46′ 30″

Highlight of the day: A Magnum ice cream

Day 9 – Well 33 to Thring Rock Turnoff – 117 km

Canning Stock Route adventure

For the ones who do not want to drive the entire Canning Stock Route, at Kunararriji it is possible to leave the CSR. The options are to drive to Port Hedland (750 km) or in the opposite direction to Alice Springs (1’100 km).

Our Canning Stock Route adventure continues.

From Kunawarriji to Well 32 the road is corrugated. There is nothing left of Well 32, so we move on. More corrugation and small dunes to cross before we get to Well 31. Road is rocky and bumpy to Well 30. Well is practically not existing. Big trees with shade, perfect lunch stop.

A camel is running in front of us before it is heading into the bush towards a dune.

More dunes to cross. One after another. After refueling we are heavier and it’s harder to get over the dunes. Well 29 ruins only. Heading on to Thring Rock Turnoff, just a few kilometers after Well 29. Great for camping with shady trees.

Camping at Thring Rock Turnoff
GPS coordinates: S 22° 33′ 44″ E 123° 53′ 07″

Highlight of the day: A camel

Day 10 – Thring Rock Turnoff to Well 26 – 90 km

The day starts with crossing sand dunes. The dunes are overgrown with lush vegetation and they are now further apart (about 500 to 600 m) compared to the ones before.

Well 28 not much left. Right after Well 28 another steep dune. Sand is hard and easy to cross. After many more dunes the landscape changes again. Limestone hills in front of us and track is rocky and very bumpy. Not for long, more sand dunes to come. Well 27 only ruins and no water.

At Well 26 we find an oasis. Small trees, fire pits and a toilet (even with toilet paper).

Camping at Well 26
GPS Coordinates: S 22° 55′ 19″ E 123° 31′ 05″

Highlight of the day: Homemade pizza from the fire. Thanks a lot, Conny and Roger

Day 11 -Well 26 to Georgia Bore – 82 km

We’re halfway through!

High dunes between Wells 26 and 25. We wonder, if the dunes will accompany us right until the end of the Canning Stock Route. We’ll find out.

On top of one dune we can see a few pink lakes. It looks unreal.

We skip Well 25 as there are only ruins left. Super soft dunes to cross between Well 25 to 24. Track is getting rocky going through bush. Water at Well 24 is covered in a layer of green algae.

Another change in landscape. Hills that remind us of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Well 23 only ruins. Track between Well 23 and 22 is very corrugated. We get to Georgia Bore which is a great place to camp. Well at Georgia Bore is great, water quality good (looks drinkable), toilet and fire pits.

Camping at Georgia Bore
GPS coordinates: S 23° 32′ 05″ E 123° 12′ 02″

Highlight of the day: The pink lakes

Day 12 – Georgia Bore to Savory Creek Camp – 88 km

Very stormy night. Even after sunrise wind is still blowing.

Next stop Well 22. On track more corrugation and a long red dune. Well 21 ruins, large hole in the ground only.

Once again, the landscape changes completely and we are facing a salt lake. There are tracks right through the salt lake. We decide to take the detour as it looks pretty soft in the middle of the salt lake.

Salt lake Canning Stock Route

Small dunes are separating the salt lakes from each other. Once we get to Lake Disappointment we are all but disappointed. In front of us a huge white salty lake.

Lake Disappointment Canning Stock Route

Camping near Savory Creek between desert oaks
GPS Coordinates: S 23° 20′ 36″ E 122° 40′ 38″

Highlight of the day: Lake Disappointment with its snow-white salty crust

Day 13 – Savory Creek Camp to Durba Springs – 93 km

Today we get to Savory Creek. This is one of the main obstacles along the Canning Stock Route. Once we reach the Savory Creek we are stunned about the amount of flowing water here in the desert. Water is extremely salty and the mud extremely sticky and smelly.

Savory creek Canning Stock Route

The track follows the creek to the point where the water level is very low. The creek crossing is tricky as the sandy riverbed it very soft in some spots. Before we cross the Savory Creek we walk through it to check the surface. It’s a wise decision.

After all the crossing was easy. Well done!

More red sand dunes and salt lakes dominate the landscape. And of course there is lots of corrugation in between. We get to Well 18 at noon.

Well 18 Canning Stock Route

Well 18 has been restored in 2016. Nice well with great water. We fill our solar shower and all water containers. Heading south towards Durba Springs.

From the junction it is 5 km to Durba Springs. We are now leaving the Canning Stock Route. To camp and visit Durba Springs the permit is needed. More about how to get the permit at the end of the post.

The track to Durba Springs is rough, rocky and has some washouts. Following the range for a few kilometers. Wow! Durba Springs is an oasis. Lots of space on a large grassy area with giant eucalyptus trees. That’s what we need now.

At Durba Springs we stay two nights.

Durba Springs Canning Stock Route

Camping at Durba Springs (toilets, fire pits, shade and camping on grass)
GPS Coordinates: S 23° 45′ 16″ E 122° 31′ 01″

Highlight of the day: Managing the main obstacle off the Canning Stock Route: The Savory Creek

Day 14 – Durba Springs (0 miles)

Well deserved off day at Durba Springs.

We have driven 1’110 km on the Canning Stock Route so far. Our average speed was 23 km/h. Another 13 days of driving lies ahead of us. From Durba Springs it’s about 500 km to Wiluna.

There is a gorge that you can explore. There is no marked track, it’s bushwalking.

Highlight of the day: Relaxing under big gum trees

Day 15 – Durba Springs to Well 15 – 74 km

The sidetrack to the Durba Springs is totally worth it.

Time to head on for us. Back to the Canning Stock Route the track leads through bush, road is rocky. In the distance we spot something colored approaching fast. A biker. And another one, and another one. A group of six motorcyclists drive the Canning Stock Route. They travel light; all the supplies are with their two supporting vehicles. That looks like a lot of fun doing this trip on a motorbike.

Bikers on the Canning Stock Route

700 meters off the main track we get to Well 16. Big hole with little water.

Track is a mix of sand dunes, bush and corrugation. Between Well 16 and 15 we’re checking out the wheel cart from Murray Rankin, who successfully walked the Canning Stock Route in 1976 in less than three months.

Camping at Well 15 (toilets, fire pits, water)
GPS Coordinates: S 24° 08′ 28″ E 122° 12′ 10″

Highlight of the day: Meeting six bikers on the CSR

Day 16 – Well 15 to Well 12 – 68 km

Spinifex dominates the landscape and on the track the corrugation. Not much left of Well 14. More dunes to cross and lots of corrugation.

We skip the detour to Well 13 (4 km return). Corrugation between Well 13 and 12. Some sandy and rocky sections are a welcome change.

Just before we get to Well 12, we drive through lush green bush. The colors and the amazing landscape compensate for the annoying corrugation.

Well 12 Canning Stock Route

In the evening, we unfortunately have to call the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Conny has a problem with her eye and needs medical assistance as soon as possible. She needs to fly to Perth. Fortunately our friends have a satellite phone to contact the emergency service. The RFDS confirms to send an airplane the next day.

It is already late and dark when we call the RFDS and because we are 4-5 hours driving from the next airstrip, we are advised not to drive there today. Driving on the Canning Stock Route by night can be dangerous.

We’ll leave right at sunrise the next day.

Camping at Well 12 (toilets, water and fire pits)

GPS coordinates: S 24° 35′ 38″ E 121° 52′ 21″

Day 17 – Well 12 to Well 9 – 78 km (+ detour to Glen Ayle Station – 116 km return)

We get up 5 am. Sunrise is at 6 o’clock. We have about 130 km ahead of us to get to the airstrip at Glen Ayle station. That’s more than 5 hours with an average speed of 25 km/h. We finally reach the large, dusty airstrip shortly before 12 noon. It does not take long and we see the Pilatus PC 12 of the Royal Flying Doctor Service approaching.

Royal Flying Doctor Service

Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to our friend Conny. With tears in our eyes we say goodbye, wishing her good luck and strength. It is a very hard moment and we feel totally lost standing here when the plane takes off. Of course, we are happy that Conny is in good hands and gets medical care. But we miss her already.

Camping 1 km south of Well 9
GPS Coordinates: S 25° 00′ 37 ” E 121° 34′ 32″

Day 18 – Well 9 to Well 6 – 60 km

Another sunny day. Unfortunately it’s just the three of us. In our heart Conny is travelling with us and we will finish the Canning Stock Route adventure together.

Today we are so lucky. We spot a Thorny Devil. He’s standing in the middle of the track and we almost run him over. Time to take photos.

Thorny Devil Australia

The landscape changes again. The flat and large fields are covered with spinifex grass. Track is a mix of rocky sections, corrugation and washouts. We’re surrounded by farmland. We see cows, bulls and emus.

We get to the ruins of Well 8. There is not much left of the well. Winding track leading through trees and bushes between Well 8 and 7.

There is not much left of Well 7, just a big hole. Track goes zigzag through small trees. It looks like this part could be really tricky during wet weather. There are lots of washouts. It feels like we’re driving in a dry river bed.

After lunch we get to Well 6. Perfect camping spot. Well is renovated with a winch and water bucket. Water quality is great. Camping under huge gum trees.

Camping at Well 6 (toilets, fire pits and water)
GPS Coordinates: S 25° 14′ 26″ E 121° 05′ 57″

Highlight of the day: Thorny Devil

Day 19 – Well 6 to well 3 – 124 km

It is freezing. The wind has change and brings cold air from the south. First stop at Well 5. The well is restored, has a winch and a bucket. We read that this is the deepest well on the CSR. We continue south, the track leads through Spinifex country. Lots of corrugation, what else.

Lunch stop at Windich Spring. Great for a short walk to the riverbank. There is a signposted hiking trail leading to an oasis of big eucalyptus trees.

After lunch the Canning Stock Route gets rough with deep washouts. Good driving skills are required. Next stop at Well 4A.

Another change in landscape. From flat farmland and bushes to hilly landscape. Winding sections and it goes up and down. Than Gibber Plains and salt lakes. We can’t believe how diverse the desert is. It’s all but boring. It’s just the corrugation that is annoying.

Camping at Well 3
GPS Coordinates: S 25° 46′ 32″ E 120° 24′ 49″

Day 20 – Well 3 to North Pool – 106 km

Winter has arrived during the night. Last night the temperature dropped to chilly -1°C. At 6:30 am it is 2°C and at 7:30 am already 10°C. The strong wind doesn’t help either to get warm. Therefore we light a camp fire and enjoy a hot cup of morning coffee.

It’s day 20. Will we finish the Canning Stock Route today? The first few kilometers are very slow going. Also the corrugation does not allow speeding. Today’s average speed is 20 km/h.

Well 2A is collapsed and there is only a large hole with some water left. Next stop is Well 2. Narrow sections through the bushes with lots of corrugation inbetween. There are displays and an information board at Well 2. Our Canning Stock Route adventure slowly comes to an end.

Another few kilometers and we reach Wiluna North Road. We spend a last night at North Pool before we check out Well 1, the start or end of the Canning Stock Route.

We drive about 20 km on the Wiluna North Road to get to North Pool Camp. The wide gravel road is like a super highway to us. After 21 days of very slow driving, 65 km/h feels like flying over a speedway. Almost back to civilization.

North Pool camping Australia

North Pool, great camping next to a waterwhole (no toilets, waste bins available)
GPS Coordinates: S 26° 26′ 47″ E 120° 08′ 53″

Day 21 – Northpool to Wiluna – 27 km

Another chilly morning. Today is the last day of our Canning Stock Route adventure. We visit Well 1 and then directly to Wiluna.

End Canning Stock Route

We are back to civilization!

Wiluna is a small town and not very attractive but it fulfills all our needs. There is a petrol station to fill up our diesel and water tanks, there is a shop to stock up on groceries and there is phone reception.

Highlight of the day: Hearing voices in the radio at the gas station.

We are so happy and grateful about our reliable travel companions, our Toyota LandCruisers.

It was so much fun to drive the Canning Stock Route and we thank you Australia, that you make such an adventure possible.

A big thank you to Conny and Roger our friends from Switzerland. Driving the Canning Stock Route together was so much fun and also emotional. An adventure we will always remember. We now wish you two all the best for the future, safe travels and good health.

Facts about the Canning Stock Route – Distances, travel time, supplies, preparation

Best time to travel

The best time to do the Canning Stock Route is between May and September

Depending on the rainy season, times can vary each year. Check road conditions before you start your trip.

Personal experience: We drove the Canning Stock route from mid August to early September. We had warm to hot days and pleasant, cool nights. The track was dry and also the salt lakes were easy to cross. Some salt lakes were soft, therefore we have chosen the detour. We managed the main obstacle, crossing the Savory Creek, without any problems. This could be tricky right after the rainy season.

Distances

Start/End point: Halls Creek
Endpoint/Start: Wiluna

The Canning Stock Route can be driven from North to South or vice versa.

Our Canning Stock Route adventure:
From Halls Creek to Wiluna 1’933 km (including sidetrack of 116 km return to Glen Ayle Station because of a medical emergency)

Halls Creek to Billiluna: 170 km
Billiluna to Kunawarriji: 625 km
Kunawarriji to Wiluna: 1’138 km (including side trip to Glen Ayle Station, 116 km)

Travel time for the entire route: 14 to 21 days

Own experience: We took it easy and therefore we were travelling for 21 days along the Canning Stock Route (including 2 days rest)

Average daily mileage

Total kilometers traveled from Halls Creek to Wiluna: 1’933 km

21 days on the road

Driving about 90 km per day

Average speed: 22 km/h

Diesel prices (as of August 2017)
Fitzroy Crossing: AUD 1.425
Halls Creek: AUD 1.439
Billiluna: AUD 2.60
Kunawarriji: AUD 3.40
Wiluna: AUD 1.81

Wiluna Australia

Fuel consumption

Halls Creek 180 liters – Full tanks (Dual-Diesel tank)
Billiluna 20 liters for AUD 50 / 2.60 per liter
Kunawarritji 98 liters for AUD 335 / 3.40 per liter
Wiluna: Remaining Diesel in the tank: 34 liters

Total diesel consumption: 264 liters for 1’933 km

Average Diesel consumption on the entire route: 13.7 liters per 100 km

Fuel consumption in detail for different sections

From Billiluna to Well 33 we had an average fuel consumption of 15.6 liters of diesel per 100 km. There were many soft dunes to cross, therefore our fuel consumption was pretty high. For driving in sand we reduced the tire pressure massively and we often drove in 4×4. Air conditioning was on only in the afternoon.

From Well 33 to Wiluna our average fuel consumption was 12.9 liters per 100 km. We had some dunes to cross but not as many as during the first week.

Which vehicles are suitable for the Canning Stock Route?

When we bought our vehicle in Australia, we knew it has to be a Toyota LandCruiser, because we want to drive the Canning Stock Route. We think the LandCruiser or similar 4×4 vehicles are perfect to drive the canning.

Driving the Canning Stock Route with big vehicles like Unimog or MAN trucks is not a good idea. The track is narrow (ideal for LandCruiser, Landrover etc.). Many passages lead through bushes.

Good to know

The total distance from
Halls Creek to Wiluna: 1’820 km
Billiluna to Wiluna: 1’650 km (including smaller detours to springs)

Supplies available on the Canning Stock Route:
In Billiluna at the start/end and after 633 km at the Aboriginal Community Kunawarriji

Food, diesel and drinking water are available at these locations and waste can be disposed of.

Permits (Permits)

Anyone who wants to travel the Canning Stock Route needs two permits because the track is going through aboriginal land. It is also defined which places and wells can be visited and where access is forbidden. After you get the permit confirmed, you will also get a PDF brochure with all important details.

You can apply for the permits here:
1. Permit for the area Well 5 to 15 and Well 40 to 51
Costs: AUD 100 / EUR 67

2. Permit for the area Well 16 to 39
Costs: AUD 110 / EUR 74

Shopping for the Canning Stock Route

If you drive the Canning Stock Rock from North to South:
Fitzroy Crossing: Huge IGA with good selection of groceries and fresh products
Halls Creek: IGA Express, good choice and reasonably priced
Billiluna: Small shop with basic food and some fresh products, expensive because it’s very remote (Card payment possible)
Kunawarriji: Small shop with good selection, also fresh products like cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, very expensive (Card payment possible)

If you drive the CSR from South to North it’s best to stock up in Kalgoorlie or any other big city. There is a shop in Wiluna. Good selection, nicely presented but expensive.

Even if you can pay with card almost everywhere, it is good to bring enough cash. You never know if you need it in case of an emergency. Cash is king.

Traffic on the Canning Stock Route

During the 21 days we saw a total of 53 cars and 8 motorcycles.

Historical background

When gold was found in Wiluna in 1900, the gold rush started. Lots of men found work in the gold mine. They earned good money but they could not buy much in Wiluna. The demand for beef increased and the men did pay lots of money for beef. The only problem was how to get the cattle from the Kimberley region down to Wiluna as fast as possible.

In 1906 Alfred Canning had the mission to build a track that runs from Halls Creek to Wiluna. It took him four years to complete the 1’500 km stock route. Water was the biggest issue. The cattle have to be fed on the way and thus wells were laid out around every 25 km. That makes a total of 52 wells along the whole Canning Stock Route.

The stock route was used to bring cattle from North to South for about 50 years. In 1958 the last herd of cattle arrived in Wiluna.

Today, the Canning Stock Route is one of the greatest offroad adventures for 4×4 enthusiasts.

Back to my first idea. A beach holiday instead of the Canning Stock Route? No. But a beach holiday after the CSR? Well, that would be perfect combination.

2 thoughts on “Driving the Canning Stock Route – Our biggest adventure in Australia

  1. Hi Reni and Marcel, We met whilst camping one night around well 43 on the Canning Stock Route. My wife is Swiss and I lived in La Punt in the Engadine Valley.
    Sorry to hear about Conny’s experience on the CSR and I hope that she has recovered.
    If Conny and Roger, or yourselves, are still in Perth and need any assistance please pass on my contact details as I would be more than happy to help if I can.

    Otherwise I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels around our lovely country.

    Regards Andrew Curby

    • Hi Andrew,

      Great to her from you. The Canning Stock Route was such a great experience. We really enjoy this adventure a lot. Unfortunately we had this medical emergency. Thanks god to the RFDS who flew Conny to Perth. She is still recovering from the operation but is much better. They are on the road again in WA. We will pass on your email to Conny and Roger.

      We have arrived in northern QLD. After driving the Gunbarrel Highway and the Great Central Road into the Red Center we drove up north and followed the Savannah Way to the east. What an epic trip! And we still have another half a year! 🙂

      Thanks a lot and best regards,
      Marcel and Reni

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