4X4 News: Gibb River Road Sealed Near Derby

Gibb River Road Sealed

A $750,000 contract has been handed out by the Western Australian government, which will go towards a making 10-kilometre section of the iconic Gibb River Road sealed.

Gibb River Road SealedA press release from the government indicates the sealed section is down near Derby: “10-kilometre section from Bungarun Road to just before Kimbolton Road will be sealed with bitumen, improving accessibility and safety.”

The vast majority of the 660-odd kilometres of the ‘Gibb’ is still unsealed, and gives travellers great access to some of Australia’s most stunning country and scenery. Incidentally, the road was originally put in as a route for transporting cattle across the rough and arid country, from Wyndham to Derby.

This movement marks the changing nature of the Gibb River Road, which once upon a time was a fairly serious 4X4 challenge. The road has since been well graded, widened and partially sealed, which gives greater access to the area, with a bit less sense of adventure.

4WDs are still recommended for the Gibb River Road, as road conditions are at the mercy of weather, and there are still water crossings to encounter along the road.


2008-09 – sealing of an extra eight kilometres between Derby and the Fairfield-Leopold Downs Road

2009-10 – works to improve 9km between Lennard River and Napier Range

2010-11 – works to improve 24km of Galvans Gorge to Barnett River

2011-12 – works to improve 26km from Barnett River to Mount Elizabeth

2012-13 – works to improve 18km of road from El Questro to the Great Northern Highway

2013-14 – cap 15km at Mount Barnett, undertake $3.9 million of road formation and drainage improvements along 23km between Pentecost River and El Questro

2014-15 – works to improve 33km from Mount Elizabeth to Gibb River Station.


Do you think the Gibb River Road should be getting sealed? Have your say below.



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  • I am a grey nomad hopefully doing the Gibb road next year.

    Having travelled much of the high country I now look forward to the deserts of the great outback.
    We recently completed the Simpson without any problems, bit being wise we never travel alone in these areas usually 3 or 4 vehicle of the same make (Toyotas)
    Preparation is everything we spend weeks leading up to our adventure ensuring vehicles are fully prepared have excellent tyres and a well researched maps of where we are going. Haven’t been caught out yet. So off the Gibb River
    road and other points of interest next Year.

  • leave the GRR as it is, we need this road as a great adventure for years to come. I have done the Gibb twice on a mountain bike solo in the, The GRR Mountain Bike Challenge. My wife followed me bouncing from one corrugation to another in our 80 series. So anybody can drive the Gibb without the black top

  • Aaah, the old GRR. Why seal it? With sealing it will see a lot more traffic, and I’m not so sure that the locals want to see more of that, unless of course they’re in the tourism industry.
    Personally I liked the way it was back in 2008, lots of corrugations and dust, and I’m pretty sure that the people who traveled it 20 years before that would want it like it was back then. It made you travel slower, always giving way to the local traffic ie road trains, and appreciate the country you were traveling through.
    I’m now a Grey nomad with an off road van, and I feel I could write a book about the idiots who travel the GRR at 110kmh and have no form of communication-UHF-and wouldn’t know how to use it anyway,plus those people that don’t prepare for a trip like this,on the road as it currently stands. If you don’t prepare, get a decent 4WD and off road rig, then don’t go that way, and go via an organised Tour Group.
    My sentiment is-ask the locals- the land owners- what they think and want.
    For me, keep the road the way it is. Prepare for it, and enjoy it.

  • I did the Gibb River Road in 2007, had a great time at the spots along the way and the thrill of doing the Gibb. It was raw, graded in places but still had its characteristics, I am heading off again next year and would be gutted if the Gibb was sealed, leave some untouched Australian outback for those who enjoy it. There is a sealed road for the freight n caravaners to use, leave the Gibb as it is.

  • i was working in the Kimberley from 1966 to 73. it was the start of the mining boom, lots of money, wild and beautiful. It was remote and dirt roads/tracks most of the way to Katherine. Over a life time of roaming the outback all over Australia, there are truly very few places that could be called remote. Age caught up with me and I now travel with a offroad van, still poking around the back country. My pet hates are rubbish and toilet droppings. Myself and many of the old outback travellers i know think the problem is the modern vehicles make it easy to get there, camping nowadays is Glamping and many people are of the impression its like going to the local shopping center.
    Yes more people are seeing our great country but at what cost! Imagine 10/15 years from now, I doubt you will be able to cross the Simpson.

  • When I travel I like to keep mostly to dirt roads. It gives a greater sense of being away. I do remember travelling the GRR. 660 kilometres of corrugations and bull dust holes. It did have its downsides but I certainly would not have wished for bitumen. I have found that the nature of destinations reached by bitumen change very very quickly. It is like many things. The easier you make something the less it is appreciated or valued. I do, however, appreciate that those living in these areas can benefit from the bitumen and their views are probably more valid than most.
    The are exceptions, of course. Many four wheel drive or off highway destinations I have enjoyed in the past have been ruined by idiots that believe four wheel drives are created to destroy as much terrain as it possibly can in one photo shoot. The tread softly campaign may have been of some benefit but even the advertisements on the television can’t help but show the destructive capabilities of a machine in the hands of someone who believes that mudholes always need to be made wider and deeper. Or the perfect shot for a sand hill crossing in the Simpson is a rooster tail of sand. To you people I just say – You just can’t fix stupid.
    Anyhoo…there will never be a more relaxing sight that a few hours of dust in the rear view mirror followed by a drink or two watching flocks of budgies sweep under the boughs of a great river gum.

  • my wife and i did a couple months around north Queensland and the gulf camping many nights in the bush where possible. each knight we did a pick up of the cans in the in the spot where we stopped. one time we found someone marked the the top of the range with a large garbage bag of bear cans. when we arrived home we cashed in $30 of alluminum cans

  • Seems to me there is a lot of people out there just wanting things that suit them at the present time. People do grow older and their circumstances change. As you get older you still have the desire to visit these lovely out of the way places but a little bit of assurance at boggy or slippery hills is very comforting. I don’t think it is one group or the other that destroys the roads but I am sure it is only going to get worse if these bad sections of road aren’t sealed. The ongoing cost of grading the roads would also be eliminated. Most of the original baby boomer nomads I know go out of their way to pick up rubbish and take it with them. Anyway that’s my bitch for the day.

  • As a grey nomad with a tandem caravan with the lot, I travel the black top and occasionally just off into the bush, carry all my camping gear so that I can ‘park’ the van and take to the dirt, corrugations and sand dunes, or just leave the van at home. I have seen the destruction of many of our iconic off-road routes (Canning Stock Route, Tanami Track, Cape York roads, etc) caused by what is being towed. I spent three months at Mt Dare seeing all types of camper vans and tow vehicles destroyed by the Simpson Desert crossers who either thought their so called off-road campers were indestructable or had no idea how to correctly set up their tow vehicles or how to drive off-road. Now there seems more and more off-road camper trailers destroying the Canning Stock Route, with the addition of three axle vehicles. Incorrect tyre pressures, speed, and heavy trailers cause more damage to dunes and create more corrugations than any other contributing factors. So if we want to keep our iconic off-road adventures, leave the trailers behind, or worst case, ban them. Then we don’t have to seal the roads, and the adventure can start.

  • In 85 went up the Centre across the Gunbarrel to Wiluna, up the Canning to Halls Creek, across the Gibb River Road to Broom, then back to Halls Creek, down the Tanami Track down the Ghan line, we did not see much of a result of a grader and we loved it. Then back to the black stuff.
    We have been back again and again each time a little less challenging and less peaceful. Still a lovely place for a holiday.

    But we don’t live there, the isolation the dust the bad roads, may not be so much fun

  • Take away the dirt roads and you take away the whole atmosphere of the journey.
    Remember when you tackled the RED road to the Olgas? Now a dreary run up bitumen.
    Flinders Ranges is another prime example of how to ruin a beautiful area with great dirt roads, now a large portion is boring & you just don’t look at the scenery in the same way – & yes I’m now at the caravan stage but it doesn’t stop me going places & if your doing 80k on a rough road you are a danger – good dirt OK.
    Leave the dirt roads alone so people who really want to go somewhere have the journey & adventure with usually a reward at the end of a rough road day.

  • How disappointing. The beautiful remoteness of the Kimberley is being compromised and unfortunately caravans are getting right of way. So many places are being opened up

  • Leave it alone. As is said about the Bungles the road will never be sealed because those sitting on the tar do not appreciate the isolation and the true nature of being out in the wilderness and the quietness of the bush. I have been off road for over twenty years and there are few places where nature is preserved and people leave no imprint. Anyone been to the Simpson desert lately ? I was there twenty years ago . What a mess it is now

  • We towed a tandem off road van across the GRR last July, the sealed parts were in the right places and the rest of it was great as far as I was concerned. If the road is upgraded then the road to Drysdale Station will see heaps more bent or broken cars and vans. I must note that of the dozen or so broken cans and camper trailers none were name brand units. I personally would leave it alone and spend the money sealing the hiring g Tanami Road.

  • My wife and I travelled the Gibb in 2012, it was a fantastic off road trip we had looked forward to for a long time.
    If it continues to be bitumonised we will all be talking about how good the GRR used to be.
    It’s very hard to stop this type of thing happening, the people in charge can’t fathom the way we all think.
    Get out there now and enjoy it.

  • Hi, my wife and I are young grey nomads and did part of the GRR in 2015 and loved every part of it (with out the van). I agree with Ray that it would become just another busy short cut with many still not being able to access the remote areas anyway. I do take exception to Nigel’s comment that grey nomads leave rubbish behind where ever they go, some might most don’t. LEAVE GRR alone,it’s nice to go to places that most won’t or can’t. There are other ways to visit these remote areas if you have the coin.

  • absolutely leave it alone
    leave something for the people who enjoy the adventure of getting to a place without being overtaken by tour operators and endless day trippers.It is a unique place to visit and if you really want to see this part of wild australia make the same effort and preparation required for a remote as people have before.
    enjoy the wild and woolly while you still can.
    dont flood the gorges (pardon the pun) with endless numbers of bus travellers and operators going under the guise of eco tourism sealed footpaths and tollgates are the last thing needed in an area as beautiful as this

  • Please leave the GRR as it is. The jump ups are sealed for safety already. Sealing the Gibb will ruin the adventure and the iconic status it holds.
    My wife and I took my 2 daughters through that country on the GRR in 2014 towing a Jayco Outback. It was one of the greatest trips we have ever enjoyed. The people we met along the way we’re all like minded with a love of the seclusion, adventure and love of the pristine Kimberley. Sealing the road will go a long way to making it just another highway, and sorry to say, open the floodgates to the type of traveller who barrel through without a care for the country or anyone else.

  • LIke most of my friends in our small in our 4×4 club think it should be left alone in its iconic state. There are sections that could be sealed for safety reasons but other than that no. Stop pandering to the tour operators who want to ensure they have no stoppages,


  • I’m not a fan of sealing any of these roads. I do understand the benefits – lower long-term maintenance costs, safer and faster commuting for the locals, easier access to a wider group of people bringing tourism dollars into the areas with them, but the down side is not worth it. Just look at Litchfield Park in NT for the perfect example. When I first toured LP, it was high clearance 4×4 territory only. The people it attracted loved and cared for the environment they made the effort to visit. There was no rubbish to be seen anywhere and the bush remained pristine. My second trip saw a change – those areas made accessible had suffered as a result, through in discriminant campfires, larger areas of bush damaged and rubbish left behind. My most trip into LP, with all the roads now sealed, was a real shock. Buses, caravans and trailers everywhere. Dozens of people crammed into small, once pristine waterholes, garbage tins overflowing and rubbish blowing into the surrounding bush. Not to mention the sheer eye-soar of tarmac cutting swathes through the bush and large open car-park areas. What a way to destroy the very ambience that attracted adventurers in the first place. I was devastated.

    Please, don’t f-up any more of our beautiful country by opening it up to all and sundry. All and sundry don’t care about the places they go to. They go there to say they have been there, and trash it in the process.

  • Unlike many, my wife and i did the GRR in 2014 complete with caravan. Admittedly, it is semi off-road style, NOT tandem, with full independent transmission. The Gibb was rough but not as bad as the Mereenie Loop or the main roads on Kangaroo Island when we lived there. If sealed, people without adequate vehicles would be able to wizz from one end of the Gibb to the other and having no way to access most of the attractions which are well off the beaten track (try the 100Klm driveway into Mornington wildlife conservancy). We believe it would just turn the Gibb into a racetrack from Kununurra to Derby.

  • I think it’s good that the dangerous sections are being fixed, to make the road safer and reduce damage to 4WD vehicles.

  • I did this track in 2008 with my wife on our honeymoon. It was fantastic and all part of our adventure. It was not hardcore the , even though it was all dirt the whole way.
    I had promised our kids I would take them their… Ours is a great country and I agree that more people should see it… Though I also think they need to learn and respect the wildness and true beauty that is up there. Bitumen here and there will destroy the remote feeling you get…. All I can say is get in quick before its all gone.
    PS: I just hope the short lil run to cape Leveque hasn’t been touched, that place is awesome and a highlight

  • For the sake of upsetting you guys winging about grey nomads , don’t lose sight of the fact that you will become one as you age, you will get old and slow down and if you want to travel you will find it harder to do the things that were simple when you were younger, that is unless you kill your selves before that. Also have you thought that just maybe the grey nomads(your parents and grandparents included) maybe want their vehicle to last so that you might actually get an inheretence when they die .
    Now that part is over, I do agree that rubbish should be taken out as you take the stuff in so why leave it behind. Take it with you! In regard to toilet dump points, would you rather dig a shallow scrape and cover it over and eventually have the bush full of toilet paper and have nowhere to walk without stepping on somebody’s bodily waste or would you rather have the waste put into one place rather than on the side of the road.
    Sealing the road for safety is a good thing and I am sure the govt. has better things to do with their money. I.E. Polly. pay rises

  • For those who live in the area or desire more cashed up tourists for business this would be an obvious winner however it compromises the assets one moves to such a place for. For the traveler, there’s alot of tar and not everything/everywhere should be gifted as an entitlement, some things must be earned.

    I am yet to travel this track but feel saddened at the proposed loss of yet more adventure and space to escape.

  • Don’t you just love those neatly tied plastic bags full of rubbish that grey nomads leave at the side off the road?

  • I completed the GRR two years ago and mostly agree with Simon. What he did leave out however, was the amount of rubbish that inevitably gets left behind because of the mistaken belief that where there is bitumen, there are other services like rubbish collection. Then you will also need to put in RV dump points, They are also those that have a habit of putting ant powder around the legs of their caravan to stop ants and then just drive off and leave it there.

    I think there are better places to put the bitumen.

    Leave the GRR as an adventure road,


  • Hi all. I last did the GRR in 1992 in a new 4WD when it was a bit rough, but not too bad if you were used to going ooffroad. It was an adventure though and stunning country. Few vehicles then, but some more adventurous types were even doing it in cars with stronger tyres! Shook the crap out of them but they made it.
    I am now selling up, buying a new home base and going on the road for a while in my 4WD and new offroad camper. Certainly want to vist the remote places as well as the more accessible. Like Simon, I am in two minds. As there are more people on the road now, better roads are essential, though not necessarily sealed. Remoteness, lack of facilities and a bit of effort to travel to these places is part of what makes them them so special, and unique. But there is, and no doubt always will be, so much of Australia that will remain harder to access and unique, so maybe it isn’t a bad idea to seal the GRR so more people can access it within there confidence zone.
    But perhaps Simon has a point. I think to many people lack a willingness to to move beyond the safe confines of caravan parks, their feature packed large caravan and easy access. There is so much more to see if you venture a bit further, you can still be very comfy, keep clean and eat well (nothing nicer than a cold beer or wine under a million stars in the Kimberley or Tanami) and safe too. You can work up to it with shorter, easier trips and less remote camps.
    Happy travels, and don’t miss out.

  • I have just completed the GRR. To be honest I have mixed feelings. The areas where they have sealed make a lot of sense. Up hills around corners through the big ranges. These would be torn up very badly by traffic over a season and through the wet most parts would be washed away. If you live in this part of the Kimberley and need to get to hospital sealing it would make a lot of sense. However and apologies to those who I will no doubt offend. With bitumen comes grey nomads. With their massive slow travelling rigs (I am not sure why they all do 80 most have 200 series Landcrusiers that can seriously move). At the moment they are forced to leave their vans at Derby or Kununurra and only the brave get a roof top tent or swags, leave their broom’s and washing machines and set off for the unknown – well that’s a bit dramatic I know. but its nice to have the Gibb kept a bit for the adventurers. Rather than the caravan park crowd.

  • When we did the round Aussie thing in ’73, the only bitumen I can remember was from Alice Springs to Darwin.From the S A border to Perth just about everything else was dust,red dust,pot holes and corrugations.Can’t say that I will miss any of it next time,which should be soon.Loved the isolation back then,wonder if that’s still there?

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