Destination Guide

The Travel Well Guide

The Great Sandy Desert

City: Newman       State: Western Australia       Country: Australia
The Great Sandy Desert is a 360,000 km² (141,000 mi²) expanse in northwestern Australia. It forms part of a larger desert area known as the Western Desert. The vast region of Western Australia is sparsely populated, without significant settlements. The Great Sandy Desert is a flat area between the rocky ranges of the Pilbara and the Kimberley. To the southeast is the Gibson Desert and to the east is the Tanami Desert. The Rudall River National Park and Lake Dora are located in the southwest while Lake Mackay is located in the southeast. This forbidding land was first crossed by a European - Peter Warburton -in 1873. From the air, you can see that most of its landscape is made up of row upon row of parallel red sand dunes, marching across the landscape, cut in places by gullies where seasonal streams run. Even around the edge of the desert there are few settlements apart from old mining communities because it is impossible to make a living here. One route that does go across the desert is the Canning Stock Route, which runs from Halls Creek in a roughly southerly direction to Wiluna. Between 1906 and 1920 Alfred Canning explored the route and sank wells along the way to provide water for cattle. Even now, it is a hard route for 4 wheel drives and requires large amounts of advance planning and fuel drops to be organized. Towards the Gibson Range, the route passes Lake Disappointment, named by its discoverer, Frank Hann, following a long tradition of Australian explorers giving landscape features names that reflect the hardship it took them to get there, their emotion on finding it or commemorating an infamous incident, a tradition started here by Captain Cook, who called the spot where he almost came to grief on the Great Barrier Reef Cape Tribulation.If you want to drive into Aboriginal land, you will need a permit from the Central Land Council.

Climate | When to Visit

Visit during: November to February

Directions | How to Reach

By off-road vehicle.

miscellaneous | Important Information

Go with a tour. The desert is dangerous unless you know what you are doing.

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