Highway 1 Australia

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The National Route 1 shield was once a familiar sight in all states

Highway 1 is Australia's coastal highway joining all mainland's state capitals and coastal towns circumnavigating the entire Australian continent. At the total length of more than 20,000 kilometres, it is the longest numbered highway in the world.

Highway 1 also goes through Tasmania. It starts in Hobart and then works its way past Launceston and up to Burnie.


Stretches of Highway 1 which is a part of the National Highway network sports the green and gold shield and is designated as National Highway 1 instead of National Route 1

When the National Route Numbering system was adopted in 1955, Highway 1 was the only truly national highway, although it was not necessarily the shortest distance between many town centres. Most of the other national routes are at some point a tributary of Highway 1. It could be argued that Highway 1 starts /end its track in the historical Rocks precinct in the heart of Sydney, Australia's first city. Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge north, it becomes the Pacific Highway, going south via George St (Australia's first street) it becomes the Princes Highway. At other capital cities it brushes past their central business districts.

With the introduction of National Highway system, the significance of Highway 1 diminished and in the 1990s, route numbering changes in Victoria and South Australia split it into two major sections running along the west and eastern coasts of Australia.

The stretch of road between Darwin and Normanton, Queensland is no longer signed as Highway 1 in recent maps.

Under the original Highway 1 scheme, certain stretches parallel to the main track was marked as National Route Alternative 1. However, almost all has been replaced by State Route Numbering.

The National Route Alternative 1 shield


Originally, from Sydney it heads southwards to Melbourne and then on to Adelaide via Princes Highway. From then on to Perth via Port Wakefield Road and the Eyre Highway, Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and South Coast Highway. It then heads to Darwin via Brand Highway, North West Coastal Highway, Great Northern Highway,Victoria Highway and Stuart Highway.

From Darwin, to head to Queensland, Highway 1 follows the Stuart Highway until Daly Waters and thereafter the Carpentaria Highway until Borroloola. From then on it follows the unsealed Savannah Way through Burketown and Normanton in Queensland.

From there the Gulf Developmental Road to Cairns and southwards via Bruce Highway to Brisbane and thereon back to Sydney by Pacific Highway.

In Tasmania it starts in Hobart and heads towards Launceston via the Midland Highway. From Launceston it becomes the Bass Highway through to Burnie. From Burnie the Bass Highway becomes Highway 2 and goes up to Green Point on the western coast of Tasmania.

Large sections of Highway 1 are shared with the Australian National Highway, though the two are not synonymous. For instance, the Pacific Highway running from Brisbane to Sydney is part of Highway 1, but is not part of the National Highway.

Road conditions

With such incomparable length that takes it around Australia its road condition varies from high-speed expressways in the big cities and busy country freeways like stretches of Pacific Highway and Princes Freeway to isolated and remote areas like the Nullabor Plain and north western coasts and 4WD-only dirt tracks in the top end of the Northern Territory.

Some stretches across the Nullarbor Plain and along the north-western coastline are quite isolated, with roadside settlements supporting the passing traffic the only human activity for thousands of kilometres. Still other stretches are high-speed high-capacity expressways with six lanes or even more such as Brisbane's Gateway and Pacific Motorways, Sydney's Eastern Distributor and Melbourne's Monash Freeway.

Average daily traffic counts on Australia's Highway 1 range from as few as 500 vehicles to over 100,000 vehicles every day.


Highway 1 is the ultimate Australian tourist destination. It covers practically every major inhabited part of Australia. Big sophisticated capital cities, busy holiday resorts, dramatic coastlines, forests ranging from tropical, temperate gum forests to giant karri stands, scrubland, deserts and huge tropical swamps are some of the variety of landscapes that can be found along en route.

Stretches of Highway 1 are very popular with interstate and overseas tourists. A drive around Highway 1 with a major detour to Uluru and back again practically covers most of Australia. The number 1 shield became part of the bush landscape to many travellers, truckers and country people.