Getting up the courage and know-how to travel the Australian Outback on your own is tough. Make it easy with our list of the best 4WD tracks for first-time outback travellers.
Track conditions in the Australian Outback do vary season-to-season and even intra-season due to how recently a track’s been graded, weather events and traffic volume, meaning a flat gravel highway can become a rutted track without too much warning. However, the suggestions below are likely to only require basic to intermediate off-road driving experience in most conditions, and the majority of them have ample supply points along the way to give first-timers confidence. You’ll also need to ensure your vehicle is prepared for the outback too.
Slicing through to the centre of the outback along a well-maintained gravel track, the Oodnadatta combines scenery and history together in a way few other journeys do. The 617km track itself runs parallel to the Old Ghan Railway and closely follows an Aboriginal trade route, meaning relics of the region’s recent and ancient history litter the trip from start to finish. Along the way, travellers can make a stop at Lake Eyre South, get a photo at the Pink Roadhouse, soak in Coward Springs or make a detour to the fabled Painted Desert.
2. The Birdsville Track
Both the Birdsville and Oodnadatta tracks start or end at Maree, with the Birdsville Track heading northeast to its namesake - which also happens to be one of Australia’s most iconic outback towns. Taking a minimum of two days to traverse, the track goes through classic dune and gibber plain country before finishing at Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert, which is famous for its pub and bakery (and subsequent curried camel pies). There’s only one supply point along the trip, Mungerannie, which sits close to the halfway point at 315km from Birdsville.
A partly-sealed link between Outback Queensland and the Red Centre, the Plenty Highway takes travellers through shifting arid landscapes to and from the heart of the Australian Outback. Ideal as a precursor trip for those heading to Central Australia, the Plenty Highway has well-spread supply points and presents a mild off-road challenge for those looking to escape into the outback.
Maps & navigation for Outback Australia:
4. Red Centre Way
Considered to be the ‘scenic route’ for one of Australia’s most scenic regions, the Red Centre Way (formerly the Mereenie Loop) offers travellers an off-road alternative for discovering the best attractions close to Alice Springs. The drive is not an altogether memorable 4WD challenge, but the sights it offers along the way certainly are: head through the imposing West MacDonnell Ranges, stop-over at Kings Canyon, then cruise through to Uluru and Kata Tjuta for a potent hit of Outback Australia.
Running through low-lying channel country from Lyndhurst to Innamincka, the Strzelecki Track is an uncomplicated and rewarding off-road experience for travellers of all levels of experience. The track, which usually takes a couple of days, ranges from flat stony gravel to sand in some areas, with breakaways in the southern section heading towards the Flinders Ranges, while Innamincka in the north is the entry point to the outback oasis of Coongie Lakes.