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Inspired by an episode of the TV show Queensland Weekender, we were pondering taking a "quick" trip out to Outback Queensland in Australia. We tapped the proposed destination into the Google Maps route planner, liked what we saw, and prepared to book some accommodation at our destination. Then luckily an Aussie friend saw what we were trying to do... Apparently Google Maps doesn't understand about un-made / dirt roads, not least the car-hire / rental-car insurance implications, not the fact that our "short" drive would be longer than expected as there's no way we'd be meeting the average speeds on dirt that it predicted...

Before I make another similar mistake, I was wondering - are there any online route planners for Australia that understand the difference between paved / tarmac'd / asphalt and un-made / dirt roads?

Both so that on this trip with a "basic" hire car I can avoid them, and on a possible future trip with a 4x4 car so I can properly esimate travel time + necessary safety extra provisions?

  • Are you sure they are routing you on actual dirt roads, or are some of them unpaved but still all-weather, e.g. gravel roads? Here in Saskatchewan, Canada, Google Maps will route you on the latter and you can do about 80 km/h safely on them if there's little traffic and you know what you're doing. Dirt roads, if maintained, can actually be easier to drive on as long as it's dry, but all bets are off if there's any rain. – Jim MacKenzie Apr 15 '18 at 13:50
  • @JimMacKenzie I can't be sure, because Google Streetview doesn't cover all the roads we'd need to drive down, but local QLD folks assure me there's just basic dirt roads for the last few hundred kms.... – Gagravarr Apr 15 '18 at 14:07
  • I'd recommend contacting the tourism information office for the state of Queensland (or for that area of Queensland, if there is one) - they can tell you the specifics. If you have to go hundreds of km on actual dry-weather-only dirt roads, you are definitely going to have an adventure. – Jim MacKenzie Apr 15 '18 at 14:48
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    Could you use State roads dataset and import it into an app like OpenStreetMap? – Giorgio Jun 21 '18 at 16:51
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Yes, but not great.

OpenStreetMap has surface information for roads and doing a quick survey of other known roads suggests it's moderately accurate, but there is no guarantee it is correct.

Case in point for a recent trip of mine - Wolgan Road has a surface listed as "unpaved". The majority of this road is actually paved, and only the last 9 km is unpaved.

To retrieve this information, find the road of interest, right click and choose "Query features". Select the road's name from the list that appears and it will have a property of "surface" to review.

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