Road Photos & Information: Northern Territory
  Stuart Highway (National Highway 87) - Alice Springs to Tennant Creek

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Route Numbering:

General Information:

The Stuart Highway is one of NT's most important routes, linking Darwin, Alice Springs and the populated areas of South Australia, including Adelaide.

Named for explorer John McDouall Stuart, the first European to cross Australia from South to North, and it generally follows his route. The Stuart Highway crosses the desert of Central Australia to savannah grasslands and tropical wetlands in the North. 1

History:

The Stuart Highway began as a dirt track servicing the construction of the Overland Telegraph in the 1870s and served to link the railheads until World War II. 1

Construction of the telegraph line had required the development of a track along the line’s route, to enable wagons and other vehicles to travel with loads of posts, wire, and other materials. An area of approximately two chains width (about 40 metres) was cleared on either side of the line and this became “the track” – the only transport route south. 2

For the whole length of “the track” there were frequent deviations. Detours were made to reach watering places and wet season detours were developed to avoid low and boggy ground. Tracks were continually deviated and altered by “self-help” travellers. There was no formal development or maintenance of the road, beyond the Two and a Half Mile (Parap) in Darwin, until the late 1920s. 2

From 1936 a low standard dry weather road was developed from Darwin to Adelaide River, roughly along the present route of the Stuart Highway. From Adelaide River a similar low standard road was developed southward to the railhead at Larrimah. However, construction and maintenance of these roads was given a very low priority because the same route was served by the North Australia Railway line. 2

When war loomed it became apparent that the railway could not meet all defence requirements. Planners saw a need for an all weather road to service dispersed military installations, particularly airfields, in the immediate Darwin hinterland. So, from May 1941, the Darwin Adelaide River section (115km) was upgraded to an all weather gravel road standard. The work was done by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. 2

By early 1943 traffic between Darwin and Adelaide River had reached 2000 vehicles per day, mostly heavy lorries. The gravel surface disintegrated under this traffic and so it was decided to provide a bitumen seal – 6.2m wide to Adelaide River and 4.8m wide from there to Larrimah. 2

Similar work was done by interstate Main Roads teams on southern section of the Stuart Highway, with the result that by 1944 the highway was bitumen sealed, although some sections were very narrow. 2

Alice Springs to Tennant Creek   Tennant Creek To Alice Springs
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Old Hospital Sign:
Old style hospital sign at Arumbera, south of Alice Springs town centre, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

  Advance Directional Sign:
Southbound approaching the intersection with Plenty Hwy (SR12) at Hart, north of Alice Springs. 2000.

Image © Tourism NT

Brewer Road:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) at Brewer Rd, Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

  Black ID Sign:
Black intersection directional sign facing Wills Tce at Alice Springs, 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign at Arumbera approaching Hatt Rd, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

  ID Sign:
Intersection directional sign on the roundabout with Gap Road, South Terrace, Bradshaw Drive and Telegraph Terrace (NH87) at Alice Springs, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

Services Sign:
Sign denoting distance to next town with services, Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

  Advance Directional Sign:
Southbound approaching Roger Vale Dr at Connellan, 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

Speed & Red Light Camera Sign:
Sign indicating the use of electronic equipment to enforce speed limits and adhersion to red traffic lights, Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

  Intersection Directional Sign:
ID sign on Roger Vale Dr at Connellan at the intersection with Stuart Hwy (NH87), 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

Old Ghan Railway Track:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) at Arumbera as it crosses the Old Ghan Railway Track, November 2016. The current track has been is located southwest of this location by a few kilometres.

Image © Paul Rands

  Reassurance Directional Directional Sign:
Distance sign after Roger Vale Dr at Connellan, 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign at Arumbera approaching Roger Vale Dr, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Roger Vale Drive:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) at Roger Vale Dr, Arumbera, November 2016. NH87 turns left at this location.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Reassurance Directional Sign:
Distance sign at Arumbera, 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

     
Norris Bell Drive:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) at Norris Bell Dr, Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Intersection Directional Sign:
ID sign at Yirara College at Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Intersection Directional Sign:
ID sign at Pioneer Park Racecourse at Arumbera, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign approaching Ross Hwy (SR8) at Ilparpa, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Ross Highway:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) at Ross Hwy (SR8) at Ilparpa in Alice Springs. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Reassurance Directional Sign:
Distance sign at Ilparpa, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
The Gap:
Stuart Hwy (NH87) as it passes through The Gap at Ilparpa, November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
Advance Directional Sign:
Diagrammatic AD sign approaching the intersection with Gap Road, South Terrace, Bradshaw Drive and Telegraph Terrace (NH87) at Alice Springs. November 2016.

Image © Paul Rands

     
ID Sign:
Intersection directional sign on the roundabout with Gap Road, South Terrace, Bradshaw Drive and Telegraph Terrace (NH87) at Alice Springs. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Advance Directional Sign:
Diagrammatic AD sign on Bradshaw Drive at Alice Springs, approaching the intersection with Gap Road, South Terrace and Telegraph Terrace (NH87). 2001.

Image © Jamie Scuglia

     
Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign assembly approaching Stuart Tce, the access road to Alice Springs Hospital, just south of the Larapinta Dr (SR4) and Stott Tce intersection. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign approaching the intersection with Larapinta Drive (SR4) and Stott Terrace in Alice Springs. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Intersection Directional Sign:
ID sign near the Larapinta Dr turn lane at Alice Springs. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign approaching Tanami Rd (SR4) near Alice Springs. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Distance Sign:
RD sign as you leave the Alice Springs area. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Advance Directional Sign:
AD sign at Burt Plain approaching Plenty Hwy (SR12). August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Plenty Hwy Junction:
ID sign assembly at the Plenty Highway intersection at Burt Plain. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Distance Sign:
RD sign located at Burt Plain, after the Plenty Hwy intersection. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
AD Sign:
Advance directional sign at Aileron. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Distance Sign:
RD sign in the Wycliffe Well area. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Intersection Directional Sign:
ID sign at Wauchope facing the Devil's Marbles access road. August 2008.

Image © Kate Pilling

     
Click here for the continuation of NH87 between South Australia border and Alice Springs
Click here for the continuation of NH87 between Tennant Creek and Daly Waters

1 NT Government Chief Minister's Office

Last updated: 17-Jul-2019 12:05

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