The Cunningham Highway is a 327-kilometre (203 mi) national highway located in south-eastern Queensland, Australia. The highway links the Darling Downs region with the urbanised outskirts of Ipswich via Cunninghams Gap.
The Cunningham carries the National Highway 15 shield between Ipswich and north of Warwick at its junction with the New England Highway where both the Cunningham and the New England head south concurrently to Warwick. Thereafter, the Cunningham carries the National Highway 42 shield to its south-western terminus with the Leichhardt Highway at Goondiwindi. The majority of the Cunningham Highway is a single carriageway with freeway standard and 6-lane arterial road standard towards its north-eastern terminus, near Ipswich.
The highway is named in honour of the explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham who followed a route close to where the modern day highway runs. In 1828 after discovering the route Cunningham sent a report to Governor Ralph Darling emphasising the economic benefits that a link between the coast and pastoral lands of the Darling Downs would provide. The first road between the coast and the Darling Downs was Spicers Gap Road developed in 1859, which crossed the range at Spicer’s Gap and was suitable for the drays used at that time. Although Cunningham’s Gap was known at that time, it was considered too steep a route for drays. With the opening of the Southern railway line between Toowoomba and Warwick in 1871, passenger and goods transport switched to the railways and Spicers Gap Road fell into disuse and was not maintained well due to the cost.
It was not until the advent of automobiles that a route through the steep Cunningham’s Gap beame feasible. The original road was built entirely by voluntary labour and Acting Queensland Premier, William Forgan Smith, officially opened on 11 June 1927, the 100-year anniversary of Allan Cunningham’s supposed discovery of Cunningham’s Gap. Actually, Cunningham discovered two gaps, Spicer’s Gap on 11 June 1827 as he approached from the Darling Downs side and Cunningham’s Gap on 21 August 1828 as he approached from Ipswich. However, Cunningham mistakenly believed he had found both sides of the same gap and not two different ones. This mistake was then perpetuated on the monument to Cunningham unveiled as part of the official opening of the road, as it gave 11 June 1827 as the discovery of Cunningham’s Gap.
The road was plagued by problems during this embryonic stage with the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland announcing that the road was closed, less than one month after it was officially opened. In 1935, the Mains Road Commission upgraded the road to highway and named it the Cunningham Highway. The new sealed road through the gap was eventually opened in November 1949.
The north-eastern terminus of the Cunningham Highway is situated a short distance west of where the Warrego Highway reaches its eastern terminus with the Ipswich Motorway, at Riverview, a suburb of Ipswich. From this point, the Cunningham heads south-west as the Cunningham Motorway, bypassing to the south the Ipswich central business district, the original path of the highway, now named Warwick Road. The motorway transitions to the Cunningham Highway, and a further modern deviation takes the highway south of Willowbank and RAAF Base Amberley through the Scenic Rim region including the towns and settlements of Warrill View, the Fassifern Valley and Aratula.
From this point, the Cunningham Highway begins its ascent across the Great Dividing Range via a mountain pass at an elevation of 787 metres (2,582 ft) above sea level called Cunninghams Gap, situated in the Main Range National Park, between the peaks of Mount Cordeaux and Mount Mitchell.
As the Cunningham Highway descends through the Southern Downs region and west adjacent to the settlement of Maryvale, it reaches a major junction with the New England Highway near Eastments Ridge approximately 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) north of Warwick. The two highways run south to Warwick, sharing the National Route 15 shield and cross the Condamine River before the concurrency terminates and the New England Highway runs south, carrying the National Highway 15 shield; and the Cunningham heads west by south-west through Inglewood, Yelarbon, before reaching its south-western terminus on the outskirts of Goondiwindi.
Towns on the Cunningham Highway
From northeast to southwest, the following towns and settlements are located on the Cunningham Highway:
Major exits and intersections
LGA Location km mi Destinations Notes Ipswich Riverview 0 0.0 Ipswich Motorway (National Route M2) east – Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast North-western terminus via motorway-grade underpass 0 0.0 Warrego Highway (National Route M2) west – Toowoomba No westbound exit to M2 westbound;
No south-westbound entrance from M2 eastbound
Blackstone 4.6 2.9 Redbank Plains Road (State Route 61) – Redbank Plains, Blackstone South-westbound exit and north-eastbound entrance 5.7 3.5 Redbank Plains Road (State Route 61) – Blackstone, Redbank Plains North-eastbound exit and south-westbound entrance 5.7 3.5 End of motorway conditions, beginning of highway conditions south-westbound;
End of highway conditions, beginning of motorway conditions north-eastbound
Raceview 7.7 4.8 Swanbank Road – Swanbank, Raceview South-westbound exit and south-westbound entrance 8.8 5.5 South Station Road – Raceview, Swanbank North-eastbound exit and north-eastbound entrance Flinders View 9.8 6.1 Ripley Road – Flinders View, Ripley South-westbound exit and south-westbound entrance;
North-eastbound exit and north-eastbound entrance
14.3 8.9 Centenary Highway (State Route A5) No southbound exit to A5 south-westbound;
No north-eastbound entrance from A5 northbound
14.9 9.3 Ipswich-Boonah Road south (State Route 93) – Boonah 14.9 9.3 Warwick Road north – Yamanto Willowbank 19.2 11.9 Ipswich-Rosewood Road northwest – Amberley Scenic Rim Fassifern 56.5 35.1 Boonah-Fassifern Road east (State Route 90) – Boonah Southern Downs Glengallan 115.6 71.8 New England Highway (State Route A3) north – Toowoomba A15 northern concurrency terminus Warwick 126.6 78.7 Condamine River Bridge over river 129.4 80.4 New England Highway (National Route A15) south – Stanthorpe / New South Wales A15 southern concurrency terminus 129.4 80.4 Cunningham Highway continues as National Route 42 Karara 178 111 Toowoomba Karara Road (State Route 48) north – Leyburn Goondiwindi Oman Ama,
216.7 134.7 Stanthorpe Inglewood Road (Alternate State Route 89) south – Stanthorpe Eastern concurrency terminus for Alternate State Route 89 Inglewood 234.4 145.6 Millmerran-Inglewood Road (State Route 82) north – Milmerran 236.4 146.9 Inglewood Texas Road (State Route 89) south – Texas Western concurrency terminus for Alternate State Route 89 Goondiwindi 324.2 201.4 Leichhardt Highway (National Route A39) west via bypass – St George, Brisbane and Rockhampton /
(to Barwon Highway (State Route 85) – Nindigully)
Bypass does not carry the shields, although named as the Leichhardt Highway 327 203 Marshall Street west to Barwon Highway (State Route 85) – Goondiwindi town centre, St George / Nindigully
Newell Highway (National Route A39) south – Macintyre River to New South Wales
South-western highway terminus at roundabout 1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
Cunningham Highway at Cunningham’s Gap
- Google (2 April 2015). “Cunningham Highway” (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
- “South-east Queensland coast (map 7)” (PDF) (Map). Guide to Queensland Roads. Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Government. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
- “South-west Queensland Downs (map 6)” (PDF) (Map). Guide to Queensland Roads. Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Government. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
- Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (2000). Heritage Trails of the Great South East. State of Queensland. p. 35. ISBN 0-7345-1008-X.
- “Spicers Gap Road Conservation Park (entry 601732)”. Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- “NEW EAST-WEST ROUTE”. Warwick Daily News (2489). Queensland, Australia. 13 June 1927. p. 6. Retrieved 9 December 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- “Cunningham’s Gap”. The Brisbane Courier. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 13 June 1927. p. 13. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- “Allan Cunningham”. Monument Australia. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- “Week-end Trips – State of Roads – Royal Automobile Club’s Reports”. The Brisbane Courier. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 2 July 1927. p. 18. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
- “Minister opens new highway”. The Courier-Mail. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 7 November 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- “Map of Cunningham Highway, QLD”. Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
Media related to Cunningham Highway at Wikimedia Commons