Amazing Australian Road Distances

On December 28, 2009 · 11 Comments

Colin, a reader from South Hedland in Western Australia, sensed my dismay with the long distance displayed on a particular Texas road sign and offered to share some extreme examples from his homeland.(1) My sign noted that El Paso, on the other side of the state, was 857 miles (1,380 kilometres) away. That’s pretty good but prepare to be amazed with some Australian road signs from Colin’s collection.

Let’s start at the town of Carnarvon on the western coast where the Gascoyne River meets the Indian Ocean. I enjoyed this image in particular because it shows the type of road that must be traversed through many sections of this sparsely-populated terrain.

Road from Carnarvon

Colin mentioned that the road is sealed (paved) for about 100 km after this point but then it reverts back to dirt for the next 500 km or so. Imagine riding over 500 km of dirt at a speed of probably 90 km/hour. The sign in the distance is a bit illegible because I had to reduce the size of the photo to fit into the blog, so here is a close-up view of it.

Distances from Carnavon

This image is also available in Google Street View Feel free to take a moment to open it in another window while pondering its sense of place. I’ll wait.

The furthest distance listed is Mullewa at 663 km (412 mi). That’s still less than the Texas road sign but remember that this is largely a dirt track for several hundred kilometres as opposed to the high-speed interstate highway that rips across the width of Texas.

This is the track displayed on the road sign. Notice that it’s merely a tiny segment of road within a single Australian state. Things are about the get much more incredible.

View Larger Map

I’ve expressed my fascination with the Eyre Highway a couple of times previously on the Twelve Mile Circle. The vast distances and rugged isolation along the Nullarbor Plain have inspired both a weird unofficial time zone and a so-called world’s longest golf course. The road sign located here blows the Texas example right out of the water.

Eyre Highway Sign

Indeed, from this spot in Norseman, Western Australia (loved the camels in the roundabout by the way) to Adelaide, South Australia, a traveler will need to cover 1,986 km (1,234 mi) along a contiguous road! True, the route is not confined to a single state as is the case with Texas, but one has to be impressed by the sheer audacity and enormity of the distance.

View Larger Map

The next sign cuts to the heart of the difference between the Australian concept of distance and its Texan cousin. Ponder the significance of this sign posted near an entrance to the Gunbarrel Highway.

Gunbarrel Highway Distances

The Texas sign is a boast, proudly taunting arriving motorists that they’ve arrived at something bigger. It’s not posted to be helpful but to brag. Conversely, the Australian signs are a warning. Drivers must depend upon themselves and their own resources to cover long distances between available services: "Motorists be warned that there is no water or other services between Carnegie and Warburton a distance of 500 km." The message is unmistakable. Break down along these stretches and a driver may be in serious trouble, perhaps in perilous danger for one’s own life.

Thanks for the input, Colin!

(4) Some of the best story ideas come from user suggestions and content. In addition to Colin’s contribution, I’d recommend user content provided in The Triple Frontier Lost Again, and Counting Border Crossings.

On December 28, 2009 · 11 Comments

11 Responses to “Amazing Australian Road Distances”

  1. Steve says:

    Although not really related to your post, I’ve always been interested in how far away mileages are posted for NYC on I-95. I know there’s one near the DE Memorial Bridge going north and one in Rhode Island going south.

    I dont’ know why, but that’s always been something I’ve noticed.

  2. pfly says:

    Australia outdoes Texas, that made me laugh. I told a friend who pointed me to this sign, just outside Wilmington, NC on I-40: 2,554 miles to Barstow, CA! He says he’s seen the sign many times and it’s quite real. But alas, it appears to no longer be there:

    • Since we’re on the subject, there’s an even more obnoxious bragging sign in Ocean City, Maryland where US Rout 50 begins/end depending on how you look at it. The sign let’s people know that Sacramento, California is 3,073 miles (4,946 kilometres) away. It looks like they’ve also posted high above an elevated portion of the highway to prevent theft.

      View Larger Map

    • Good lord, I think Jon P. wins the obnoxious bragging sign contest (unless something even more extreme is lurking out there). I found his Bishop, CA example in Street View. Notice that Provincetown, MA is a mere 3,205 miles (5,158 kilometres) away on U.S. Route 6!

      View Larger Map

  3. jbapo says:

    Here in Sacramento, we have a sign at the Western end of US-50 indicating the distance to Ocean City, MD, as well.

  4. Saint Cad says:

    I don’t have a pic, but the sign on I-10 East just out of Santa Monica proclaims it the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway and gives the distance to Jacksonville, Fla over 3000 mi away.

  5. Saint Cad says:

    Sorry for the double post.
    For pfly, we have a sign in Barstow giving the distance to Wilmington. Last time I went through, it was still there.

  6. Graham says:

    Just stumbled upon your website. You have given a fine example of the large distances traversed in Australia, however we do have much larger numbers on our Highway signs.
    The Highest I am aware of is 3,423km which is signposted on the Warrego Highway at Dinmore just west of Brisbane giving the distance to Darwin. Following that there is another sign with 3,418 for Darwin, and then 3,414 shortly after. You get the picture, its a long way and they will constantly remind you of it.
    There are also signs in Western NSW with Perth on them with have numbers nearing 3,000km. On a smalller scale signs in Brisbane for towns in far north Queensland regulary exceed 1,600km.
    Signs in Southern Sydney mention Melbourne with a distance of 1,035km via Princes Highway.
    On the Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Darwin distances regulary reach upwards of 2,500km.
    I would hazard a guess that Australia has more Highway signs with distances on them of over 1,000km than any other country on the planet.

  7. I enjoy your geo-oddities site very much. Regarding long-distance figures on signs in the US, I believe in a few cases the distance to the terminus of a major interstate will be noted at the opposite terminus. For example, where Interstate-70 “starts” near Baltimore MD, there is a mention of its end way off in Utah, some 2,000+ miles away. I am not sure if there is a sign at the west (Utah) end of the interstate mentioning its opposite end in Maryland.

  8. Jean says:

    A new bridge is being built in Shkodra, north of Albania, on the road to the border with Montenegro. A road sign as been put there, saying the distance of some European capitals, the farthest being Berlin, 1800 or so kilometers. It’s not good enough to beat any of the given examples, but still it’s not bad for Europe.

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