POLL - Should the Gibb River Road be sealed?

10 kilometres of bitumen doesn’t sound like much but slowly but surely the iconic 660km Gibb River Road across the Kimberley is being sealed.

This week, The West Australian announced that the WA State Government had awarded the contract to seal another 10km stretch of the Gibb at the western end to Bitumen Sealing Services Pty Ltd for $750,000 with the work due for completion by June 2017.

To date, around 120 km’s of the western end of the Gibb River Road has now been sealed as part of the governments 10 year strategy to make improvements to high priority sections between Derby and Wyndham.

The ultimate goal is to provide the freight industry, tourists and local community with improved safety and accessibility, particularly during the wet season.

Personally, I’m not excited to see the iconic Gibb River road succumb to bitumen.

I understand that for many road users like the freight and cattle industries it’s about business, and accessibility is important.

But from the perspective of a road tripper, the appeal of roads like the Gibb are that they are difficult and challenging - the end result being that when you arrive somewhere you feel like you’ve earned it. Plus the fact that there are not hundreds of shiny caravans there to greet you.

With the Tanami Road also being ‘improved’ at a fairly steady rate, I can see a future where there will be a bitumen corridor from the Red Centre to the Kimberley and across the Gibb River Road and the numbers of visitors will rise exponentially.

I suppose that will be good for the business’s who depend on the tourist dollar but one of the best things about Western Australia is it’s remoteness and the fact that it isn’t yet overcrowded like much of the East coast.

Take our Poll

What do you think?

Tell us how do you feel about the Gibb River Road being sealed.


More about The Gibb River Road

Here's a quick highlights video of our Gibb River Road adventure from The Big Lap DVD Series

6 of our favourite places on The Gibb River Road

Big Lap Budget Spreadsheet - 2018

38 thoughts on “POLL - Should the Gibb River Road be sealed?

  1. Avatar
    Mike says:

    I have driven the GRR 6 times and absolutely love this part of the world. The road will never be completely sealed, it is far too expensive. However I think it is a good idea to continue with the current strategy to seal short sections, especially "jump ups" plus construct concrete floodways.

  2. Avatar
    Bryce says:

    Having just recently travelled to Cooktown I feel the GRR should not be sealed. I had in my mind that Cooktown would be an out of the way place but when you drive there on bitumen, there is no challenge and the town has succumbed to the needs of soft core tourists. It has subsequently lost it's mystique as a destination and because of the new infrastructure, it's hard core edge.

  3. Avatar
    Phil W says:

    I have lived and worked on the GRR. The GRR and others in the kimberley are a filter for so many nomads, backpackers and bogans. It is tough, rugged country and what brings people to the area. Kimberley country needs you to be prepared not vice versa! When it's sealed and overrun, a remote iconic Australian experience will become another karijini. Long may The GRR be an Aussie adventure

  4. Avatar
    Mel says:

    Hmm interesting read. I tend to agree with the grader suggestion. Surely that would improve things regularly and hopefully keep the employment local as well. Agree, some graded roads are smoother and quieter than bitumen. Interesting recently up the Strzelecki the variation in road conditions and also going into Innamincka. They graded it whilst we were there and it was as smooth as!

  5. Avatar
    Bob Waterhouse says:

    Bob Waterhouse
    The guy who said ,Get 2 No12 Cat Graders to work year round "Weather permitting" and Rollers to crush the sharp rocks would be the best option. Pentecost could do with an upgrade but other crossings just need good warning signs spaced back so you can pull up in time. That means ,a good road with the dirt atmosphere for the diehards yet lets the lighter vehicles get thru'. My biggest bitch is all the Closed Gates to so many great spots like we had in the 80s and 90s,most No Go Now.
    Tablelands Track, Mt House, out to Springvale on the H/Creek Kun' Road. Just needs a bit of TLC on the East End range Jump up , but leave the rest "As Is" for the Hardened 4 Wheel Driver's, . It is an iconic track full of interesting places.

  6. Avatar
    John Salas says:

    To seal the GRR could have an impact on the 4WD image which is alive and well ,when you see the magazines and 4WD industry as a whole which thrives on the great outback 4wd adventure .
    The 4wd industry should look at this conundrum , maybe as a collective they could exert some pressure on the issue .
    Myself I vote to leave it as it is with a maintenance program to suit all prospective users.

  7. Avatar
    Dean says:

    We would love to travel the Gibb, but only have an onroad van. Makes the trip not worth while, but if it was sealed we would be there in a flash. Don't just let the few have access open it up for all budgets and vehicle types.

  8. Avatar
    Richard Lindsay says:

    We've just finished a 12 month lap of Aus and are already talking about going back to the Kimberly's to finish off the Gibb as we weren't able to complete the entire length due to the size of our caravan. Once we purchase a camper we will be heading back. If it was a sealed road we would have no intensions of heading back. We are after an adventure not a road trip.

  9. Avatar
    Sigrid Roewer says:

    If the road was sealed, oldies like me, who do not go off the blacktop, would have access to the beautiful area.

  10. Steve Baile
    Steve Baile says:

    Thanks for all of your great feedback folks - some great points here. It seems that roughly half of us are keen to see it left unsealed with the other half divided between sealing some or all of it. Quite a few people suggesting to leave it unsealed but do a better job of grading it which sounds like a good compromise.

  11. Avatar
    John says:

    I travelled the Gibb River Road in my Mitsubishi Outland Aspire AWD in 2015 towing a 4 metre Jayco outback. The van came off the hitch in a dip so had to jack it up to put it back on the car. Blew a tyre 40 mins later and had it changed at the over the hill tyre and mechanical had great service there. got stuck in the Mt Barnett River and had to be towed out. Never had trouble with any of the other crossings. I enjoyed the experience, but then I don't have to live there the locals could be isolated for weeks, this is about them and not the 4wd adventurers. Not much good to have great sites if only the very few can see them.

  12. Avatar
    Greg says:

    Leave it unsealed. I've been up and down it several times. Make the damn thing a challenge, rather than just another blacktop highway. It's now a challenge for people to get their vehicles properly prepared. Do we really want it so a Toyota Corolla can do it?

  13. Avatar
    Jan says:

    If I could have voted for a good maintained road that off road caravans and vehicles could use at any time of the year to the exclusion of huge " road trains" bdoubles and raging army vehicles then that is what I would have done ... Being new to off road exploration versus "touring" vans we are excited to see the rest of this beautiful country but are horrified at the thought of the lumbering huge vehicles that demand the road to the detriment of those who wish to enjoy the beauty of our wonderful environment ....

  14. Avatar
    Tony Power says:

    Gibb river road can be left unsealed but needs the following to enable better access for people without expensive 4WD.
    1/ Needs 2 x Cat 16 graders working continually from either end.
    2/ Heavy roller to crush sharp tyre destroying surface rocks
    3/ The Pentecost river crossing could easily be made more easily negotiable with Spiralock culverts and rock fill

  15. Avatar
    craig says:

    We are loosing access every day to iconic 4wd destinations because of the lock the gate mentality. Sealing the Gib will be the first step to locking us out of the gorges and waterfalls of this iconic 4wd destination .

  16. Avatar
    bob says:

    leave it unsealed but maybe regularly graded to keep the adventuring spirit alive.the nullabor used to be a great drive before being sealed but now i just find it as boring as batshit and a monotonous drive where its just foot to the floor

  17. Avatar
    Paul Walsh says:

    i believe its better for the locals to have it sealed for access reasons and also safety. personally i don't think the decision is my choice either way. look at how many dirt roads around Oz have been sealed in the past 10 year's its called progress.

  18. Avatar
    Briggsy says:

    I work in the road building industry , so if they do I hope the company I work for win the contract and I'll get to drive it every day.............. Seriously, leave it alone, it's an ozzy icon, people come from around the world just to drive the challenge that is the Gibb...

  19. Avatar
    Robert Mewburn says:

    I have never been along the Gibb and would most likely not if it was a sealed road. We have a huge number of roads in this wonderful country we live in that is accessible only by 4x4. It is a drive for the experiences 4wder who prepares for an outback adventure. Put an ill prepared family in a vehicle goes well on tar but the people inside may be at their peril if they venture into such a remote area.
    Leave it for the ones who know or have a reasonable idea of survival.

  20. Avatar
    BARRIE .A MC D. says:


  21. Avatar
    Ade Larsen says:

    Imagine how much maintenance you could do with a 750,000 AUD, a decent Grader driver and some will-power ?

    Keeping it graded would be economically viable and the road surface would be better than the bitumen in any case.

    Well maintained graded roads are generally smoother than bitumen roads

    Dirt roads means more jobs, more taxes paid and more money injected into local economies.

    NB : The bitumen resurfacing company is not local and the bitumen comes from 4000km away.

    Keep it local. Keep it real.

  22. Avatar
    Barbara Butler says:

    The Gibb River Road should be left alone and the same with all the other out back tracks - they are all iconic the reason we all buy the Fwds and the off road vans and campers so we can go concour them and see all the many beautiful waterfalls and gorges etc etc. this is why so many tourists come to Australia to see this country the way it's meant to be seen. These roads will then be accessible to anyone and everything -Australia will lose its uniqueness

  23. Avatar
    Greg Ball says:

    After having a 4wd for a few years I now travel Australia permantly in a Motor Home for reasons of health problems of my wife. I have not travelled the Gibb river but I intend too but will hire a vehicle for that purpose. I have seen a hell of a lot of Australia, but because I drive a motorhome I would not like to see what wilderness roads are left sealed just for creature comforts. Along with sealed roads comes mountains of rubbish, speed demons, road fatalities and the all mighty dollar would eventually ruin the whole area. We have a very diverse country so let's keep it that way.

  24. Avatar
    Damian Petrie says:

    You only have to drive to the conditions and have a suitably prepared vehicle. I have done it for years. The only disappointing thing these days is trying to find a suitable camp-site free of hundreds of bitumen warriors and road to drive on not scattered with rubbish. Please leave these ionic roads alone!

  25. Avatar
    Rod says:

    We must think of the people who are the backbone of this beautiful country of ours ,over the years they have shook vichicles to pieces battled all road conditions I feel if sealed this will make the road a all purpose ,open up for more travellers in this more money is spent in these ereas ,some comments I've read have the view that more rubbish will be spread in this erea ,it there is plenty bins along the route and emptied regularly,not left over flowing as I have seen on two trips around this beautiful country of ours

  26. Avatar
    Duncan says:

    It is a lifeline for the residents who live along its length. Us tourists that drive it maybe once should have no say about it being sealed.
    After all, it is the cattle producers who need to get cattle to ports and markets that are the reason so many of the remote roads are even there. Some lead to mining sites. All produce regular income to those areas. Tourists are seasonal only.
    My thought is that is going to benefit those living on it, so move on to do. The roads into gorges will not change. It will still take many years to complete anyway.

  27. Avatar
    Roo says:

    No way! Sealed roads always lead to mountains of rubbish everywhere, 2wds speeding with no account of others, road trains damaging the tar due to their weight & blowing out tyres, & no doubt death from speed related accidents. Do we really need the Gibb to lose it's 'last frontier' status? I've lived in the Pilbara for almost 30 years & have travelled extensively & love the seclusion of the Pilbara & the Kimberley, but sealed roads destroy this.

  28. Avatar
    Bron says:

    I would like it to be sealed, I would love to travel this road and see the natural beauty of the area but will not be travelling a road that is going to possibly cause damage to my vehicle. Been there done that and see no joy in it. Having the road sealed will open greater opportunities with tourism allowing more overseas visitors being able to experience our amazing country in a safe welcoming environment.

    • Avatar
      Barbara Butler says:

      I have travelled this road and believe me there are plenty of overseas visitors up there doing the same thing in fact I would go as far as to say that there are more overseas people than there are Aussies. They hire the suitable vehicles to traverse this beautiful region. You need to travel to the conditions as any person who lives there and anywhere else in the bush would tell you. Yes there are times when some people damage their vehicles but majority of people who are there know about the risks and its part of the whole experience

  29. Avatar
    Neil Churches says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that the GRR must be sealed - it's progress and provides a better living and prospects for those who live in the area, as well as increasing road safety for users.

  30. Avatar
    Jim Cambron says:

    This is a difficult topic for me...

    I am a Suzuki Samurai (eg. WT Sierra) owner from the USA. I am also a tourist who would like to explore the area of the Gibbs River Road. Unfortunately, instead of my "trusty" Samurai, I will drive a RWD Ford minivan converted into a camper vehicle. There is no way that I could consider making the river crossings even if I had half a chance that the crossings would be dry enough.

    As a compromise, couldn't it be possible to build all-weather river crossings? I can change a tyre. Changing a hydro-locked engine at the corner of No and Where, not so much.

    The adventuresome could make the crossing on the riverbed if they wanted - although a breakdown in the riverbed can create pollution...

    In closing, look for a white Ford Minivan with "Hoover" on the side driving across the top of Australia in August and September 2016. That will be me.

  31. Avatar
    Chris says:

    The only people that should make this decision are the people that live on or off the road full time, if sealing it would make things better for them then it should be done not for the people that may do a once in a lifetime holiday along it

    • Avatar
      Rob says:

      Very well said. I have not as yet done the Gibb but been to Cape York and kind of enjoyed the break of tar from the dirt. Still want to to do the Gibb b4 too much tar is laid.

  32. Avatar
    stevef says:

    It will bring more problems with rubbish , pollution and get crowded .We already have Kakadu and Litchfield e.g. as spectacular destinations. Keep GRR for people who like a bit of adventure and isolation.Why go bush and have to camp next to lots of people..

  33. Avatar
    Kevin Hunter says:

    I grew up first a Streaky Bay and then Woomera and felt comfortable when the roads were unsealed. The run from Woomera to Port Augusta was 126 miles of sharp stone and dust, and if you got away with a trip both ways without blowing out a tyre, breaking a spring or punching a hole in the fuel tank you were doing well. Most of the roads were dirt and provided a challenge. There are few challenges now, and the new guys on the block, that you can follow by the diff scrapes, travel down the same roads at 120 kph. Let us leave some areas of challenge.

  34. Avatar
    Allan says:

    I have never done the Gibb River Road but would love to .Its on my bucket list .I think part of the beauty of the GRR is the challenge so guess its best leave it as is but again it would open up the area to more tourists and possible work if sealed .Expensive but ????

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