Visitors to WA
Welcome to Western Australia!
Western Australia (WA) is the largest state in our vast, arid continent, covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometres – that’s bigger than the whole of Western Europe or four times the size of Texas. We want you to enjoy your stay, but more importantly we want you to stay safe.
There are many things you need to be aware of before you drive in the city or around the outback. Take some time to read the following pages to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and safe as possible!
is the maximum speed limit on open roads in WA.
metre trucks are common in outback WA.
is the distance you must travel behind a car & caravan more than 7.5m long.
litres of water minimum, per person per day when on outback trips.
In country areas, particularly in the north-west of WA, there are local publications with good advice on driving in the region. Local police, local government (RoadWise) offices and local visitor centres can all offer advice on driving safely.
Keep up to date with current road conditions or call Main Roads Western Australia on 138 138. This number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can also be contacted to report road hazards.
Our hot and dry conditions also create a bush fire risk. Keep up to date with the latest fire information for travellers.
The best advice on any road condition is:
- assess the situation
- ask experienced locals for advice
- take your time
- avoid potential hazards
Preparing to Drive
Planning ahead is crucial for any long distance driving trip in WA. Distances between remote townships can be vast and in some cases conditions can be very hot and dry.
Use the Right Vehicle
If you are hiring a car, get advice on the best model for the road conditions. A four-wheel-drive track is no place for a conventional vehicle. Tourists and locals have died after being trapped in hot, remote, sandy areas. Check you are covered for insurance under off-road conditions and for collision damage (from animals as well as other vehicles).
Plot Your Journey
Make sure you use a good road map to plot your daily destinations based on distances. Work out how long each day's driving will take you, allowing for rest and meal stops and viewing attractions. An itinerary is also a good way to plan your adventure.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
The weather in Western Australia varies greatly from one end of the state to the other. Always check the latest local weather conditions when travelling around the state.
The northern coastal areas of Western Australia can be subject to tropical cyclones and downpours during summer months (December - March). Heavy rains can make some dirt roads impassable within hours.
Stock Up on the Essentials
The drive between remote townships can be long, and in some cases, conditions very hot and dry. Plan ahead with fuel and food stops few and far between. Carry plenty of water, at least 4 litres a day per person, plus an emergency supply. Include non-perishable food items in case of a break down or emergency situation. Extra fuel is also a necessity when driving long distances.
Safe Driving Tips
You may drive into some remote areas where planning is very important to ensure your experience is safe, enjoyable and memorable.
The following is a list of safety tips to help you:
- Always tell someone where you are going, your return dates and your itinerary.
- Make sure your vehicle is in top mechanical condition.
- Check road conditions before departure. Rain can cause flooding, making some tracks and roads impassable.
- When travelling on unsealed roads use caution and 'read' the road well ahead of the vehicle.
- Carry at least 4-5 litres of water per person, per day (preferably in at least two containers).
- Use a detailed recent road map (it is a good idea to keep track of your mileage so you always know where you are).
- Carry extra food, fuel, water and vehicle spares if you are travelling on remote tracks.
- If your vehicle breaks down or cannot be driven because it is bogged, always stay with it. It is much easier to spot a vehicle during an aerial search than a person under a tree.
- Roads and tracks on private property should not be used without the landholder's permission. Leave gates as you found them.
- Take care at all railway crossings and obey the signs. Train movements can be irregular and not all crossings have flashing lights.
- Large slow-moving agricultural machinery may be encountered on highways and local roads, so take care when overtaking.
- Give way to emergency vehicles. Dust can obscure vision and stones can break windscreens when travelling or passing on dirt roads.
- Keep alert for wildlife such as kangaroos and emus, especially at dusk and dawn when visibility may be poor and they become more active.
- Remember to take regular breaks from driving to keep refreshed and admire the sights.
- Be prepared. Pack a first-aid kit.
Not all roads in country areas are sealed. They can also be gravel surfaces which can be loose and corrugated, dirt or sand.
Many sealed roads also have gravel edges and drivers can easily lose control of their vehicle if they veer into them - especially at higher speeds. In some country areas, roads are narrow, single and sealed with gravel edges. Drivers need to take particular care when approaching oncoming vehicles, especially large agricultural machines or heavy vehicles. Please do not force them onto the edge of the road - brake gently, pull over and wait for them to pass.
Vehicles on gravel roads and dirt create big clouds of dust and make visibility poor, so keep your distance from the car in front and be prepared for dust and stones from cars travelling in the opposite direction.
On gravel roads tyres can spin or lose grip. Take particular care on bends as it is easy to slide off the road or roll your car. Do not brake suddenly as you are likely to skid and lose control. Please slow down and take care when driving on unsealed roads.
Driving on sandy tracks requires plenty of skill and often the only suitable vehicle is a four-wheel-drive. Sand tracks often form pockets like snow drifts which create extra hazard. You will need to take extra care when driving on sandy roads and travel very slowly.
Water Over Roads
If floodwaters cover the road, drivers should use an alternative route if possible. If there is no other choice, always check the water level on roads and floodways, streams or rivers before driving over or through them. Always check the depth of the water by getting out of your vehicle and walking the intended crossing if safe to do so.
If the water is not flowing, always check that the water level is no higher than the bottom of the vehicle if driving a conventional 2WD and no higher than the average adult knee if driving a higher 4WD.
If the water is flowing and deeper than the bottom of the wheel chassis do not cross. Country road conditions can change quickly so check with the local visitor centre before leaving.
World's Longest Trucks
Australia is home to some of the largest trucks in the world known as 'road trains'. They can be up to 53.5m long (175.5 feet) with 2, 3 or even 4 trailers and require great care when overtaking.
- You need a long straight stretch of road that is clear as far as you can see.
- Be aware that it may take some time to overtake one of these long trucks.
- Take your time and stay back several car lengths. When it is safe to pass, indicate, move over the centre lane, accelerate and overtake quickly.
- Remember, never overtake a truck on a curve or a hill where visibility is limited, even if the truck is moving slowly.
- If you cannot see past the truck, wait for a better opportunity.
- If you are towing a caravan or trailer it is best not to try and overtake at all. Wait for an overtaking lane, where it is safe to do so
Western Australia also has some of the largest oversize loads in the world. The width may cover more than one side of the road. Depending on the dimensions and mass, oversize loads may be escorted by pilots and police.
If you encounter such a situation, you are legally required to follow the instructions indicated by the pilots or police to assist the safe passage of the load.