When people ask us: What’s the one outback adventure you’d recommend to anyone? the answer is simple: the Oodnadatta Track in outback South Australia.
The Track is a smooth, wide gravel road with many things to stop and see along the way: from Lake Eyre to bubbling mound springs and artesian hot tubs, to the Ghan Railway line and its relics, abandoned towns, and living Aboriginal culture.
We recommend the Oodnadatta Track for families, and as an alternative to the Stuart Highway if you’re travelling to and from Uluru or Alice Springs.
Start/Finish: You can either begin or end in Marla or Marree
Time required: 3 days will allow you to stop and explore the many sights along the way
Best time to go: The winter months May-September so you can get out and explore the many sites along the Track.
Recommended vehicle: The Oodnadatta Track is a good gravel road. Whilst 4WD is recommended, any 2WD with high clearance (no lowered sports cars!) could do the trip.
Caravan/Camper Trailer: Off road models recommended, but we’ve seen plenty of on-caravans on the Oodnadatta Track as well.
Accommodation: Hotel/motel/budget rooms at Marree, William Creek, Oodnadatta and Marla. However, WHY would you want to stay in accommodation when there are so many fabulous campsites along the Track? Coward Springs is highly recommended for camping.
Red Centre Way
If you’re looking for an ‘iconic outback road trip’ then the Red Centre Way should be top of your list.
Formerly known as the Mereenie Loop, this 690 kilometre gravel road takes you from Alice Springs, through the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges, via Watarrka (Kings Canyon) to Uluru.
It’s one of the most visually stunning, diverse road trips in Australia.
From cool shady gorges and waterholes, the highest mountains on the Australian continent west of the Great Divide, to ancient comet craters, sandstone monoliths, sand dunes and forests of desert oak, the Red Centre Way will blow away any misconceptions you had about the Red Centre being flat, open and boring.
Start/Finish: Begin or end in Alice Springs or Uluru
Time required: 5 days to do it comfortably, including Kings Canyon and Uluru
Best Time to go: Year round if you’re not camping, but late April-early October is recommended if you’re wanting to do many of the walks.
Recommended vehicle: 4WD due to corrugations (although plenty of backpackers seem to do it comfortably in a 2WD van).
Caravan/Camper Trailer: OFF-ROAD models only as there’s lots of corrugations.
Accommodation: Hotel/motel/budget rooms available in Alice Springs, Glen Helen, Kings Canyon, Curtin Springs & Uluru; camping or campervan. For the BEST outback experience, try camping – especially in the West MacDonnell National Park.
There’s a bit of outback in every part of Australia, with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT. Corner Country in outback New South Wales is one of those places where unexpected adventures can be found.
The tour we recommend follows the explorations of Captain Charles Sturt in 1844, starts in Broken Hill and finishes at Cameron Corner.
Along the way, you visit the famous Packsaddle Roadhouse, the towns of Milparinka and Tibooburra and make your way to the Corner Store at Cameron Corner, where New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia meet.
The landscape is intensely varied, taking you from the Barrier Ranges, across salt plains, forests of native pine, cattle country and into Sturt’s Stony Desert.
Start/Finish: Begin at Broken Hill, end at Cameron Corner.
Time recommended: 3 days to allow for sightseeing.
Best Time to go: Year round if you’re not camping, but late April- early October is recommended if you’re camping or in a camper trailer.
Recommended vehicle: Soft roader, 2WD sedan with care on the unsealed section of the road from Tibooburra to Cameron Corner.
Caravan/Camper Trailer: Yes, with care on the unsealed sections of the road.
Accommodation: Hotel/motel/budget rooms available at Broken Hill, Packsaddle Road House, Tibooburra, Milparinka and Cameron Corner Store. Station accommodation available at Mt Gipps Station, Pimpara Lake Station, Pincally Station and Theldarpa Station. Camping is also available at many sites as well.
Great Central Road
If you’re looking to get a sense of the remote outback without needing to head off on a challenging 4WD track, then the Great Central Road (part of the Outback Way), is one to add to your list.
The Great Central Road (GCR) starts at the foot of Kata Tjuta (Mt Olga) and takes you through the stunning Petermann Ranges, past Lasseter’s Cave, through pristine Gibson Desert country, past Aboriginal sacred sites and rock art, to Western Australia’s Goldfield region.
There’s a lot to stop and see along the way, so it’s not one to rush.
Did we mention the burgers at Tjukayirla (chooka-YEAR-luh) Roadhouse, one of the most remote in Australia? Definitely worth the drive!
Start/Finish: Begin or end at Kalgoorlie or Uluru
Time recommended: 3-5 days to do it comfortably, depending on how fast you travel.
Best Time to go: Year round if you’re not camping, but late April-early October is recommended if you’re camping or in a camper trailer.
Recommended vehicle: 4WD due to corrugations on the Northern Territory side of the boarder. The West Australian side is a well maintained, wide gravel road. The road is sealed from Kalgoorlie to Laverton.
Caravan/Camper Trailer: Very tough OFF-ROAD models due to the corrugations on the NT section.
Accommodation: Hotel/motel/budget rooms available in Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Menzies, Cosmo-Newberry, Tjukayirla Roadhouse, Warburton Roadhouse, Warakurna Roadhouse, Yulara (the town near Uluru). Free campsites abound along the WA section of the road.
Crossing the Simpson Desert via the French and QAA Lines is not a beginner’s adventure, but in our opinion, our most treasured, favourite outback adventure of all.
Whilst traversing the 1100 parallel sand dunes in a superbly remote landscape, testing vehicle and driver is what many people find alluring, for us camping in the dunes, the star-studded night sky, the wildlife and the enormity of the Simpson are what draw us back year after year.
We recommend that you tackle the Simpson Desert only if you’ve had extensive off roading, remote camping and recovery experience OR if you’re travelling as part of a group with others who have these skills.
Start/Finish: Begin or end at Dalhousie Springs (SA) or Birdsville (QLD
Time recommended: Minimum 4 days to do it comfortably.
Best time of year: May-September. The Simpson Desert is closed from 1 December – 15 March every year due to the extreme heat.
Recommended vehicle: 4WD only.
Caravan/Camper Trailer: Not recommended.
Accommodation: Hotel/motel/budget rooms available in Birdsville only. Bush camping with no facilities through the Desert itself.
What would make your list of top 5 outback adventures? Or which adventure would you love to tackle the most? Tell us in the comments!