Offering travellers a slice of outback history to go with its classic desert landscapes along an adventurous off-road drive, the Oodnadatta Track is an iconic Australian 4WD track.
|Grading||High ground clearance required|
|Time||Three days minimum|
|Distance||618km, Marla to Maree|
|211km, Marla to Oodnadatta; 202km Oodnadatta to William Creek; 205km William Creek to Maree|
|Facilities||Marla, Oodnadatta, Maree, William Creek|
|Best time of year||April to October|
|Warnings||The Oodnadatta Track is renowned for being hard on tyres so take more than one spare. Driving on the lake surface is illegal and dangerous. Lake Eyre access tracks have no reliable water and are not recommended for towing caravans or camping trailers. The track to Halligan Bay is very sandy.|
|Permits and fees||None apply, except for camping fees at most campgrounds.|
Marla Roadhouse Campground
Pink Roadhouse, Oodnadatta Ph (08) 8670 7822
The Oodnadatta Track is not the most challenging drive in the Australian Outback, though it will travellers into the neighbourhood of some of the most exciting attractions in the country, including the Simpson Desert, Lake Eyre and the Red Centre.
What to expect
The Oodnadatta Track is made up of 617km of unsealed outback roads that take travellers from Marree to Marla in South Australia. Four-wheel drivers should be well prepared for this journey because it will bring them through the heart of the Red Centre, which means that many sections of the journey will pass through remote and virtually barren terrain. It is up to travellers to make sure they come stocked with water, food and fuel.
Image: Railway bridge along the Old Ghan Line
The track traces along a path that was once an Aboriginal trading route and boasts astounding desert scenery. Springs can be found along the way, feeding from the Great Artesian Basin, and so can the remnants of the Central Australian Railway. While the trail can be attempted in a 2WD, a 4WD is recommended due to the challenging terrain. What makes the Oodnadatta Track all the more appealing is that, while it is challenging, it is a great drive for those who have never attempted a remote journey before.
The Trail from Marree
Those looking to start off at Marree will also be starting off at the beginning of the Birdsville Track. Here, travellers will have the chance to view the Blitz Truck, which was once owned by Tom Kruse, the Track Mailman of Birdsville. Those looking to stay at the iconic Marree Hotel will have the chance to eat and drink to their heart’s content before setting out to the Hergott Springs, which are located just outside the borders of the town.
As travellers continue on their way from Marree, they will want to make sure that they look out for the Ghan Railway sidings in Alberrie and Curdimurka to name but a few.
Image: Moonrise on the Oodnadatta Track
Coward Springs is a great place to stop and relax in a spring-fed tub. The camping grounds, also located here, give visitors the opportunity to explore a wetland that rests beneath gigantic Athel Pines. The camping grounds at this site are subject to fees and offers toilets, showers and camel tours. Those looking to venture out will have the option to partake in walks, birdwatching and even spend some time in the local museum.
Image: Thermal pool at Coward Springs
The Strangways Historic Site
Strangways was one of the very first pastoral property homesteads in the area and was turned over to the government back in 1870. At one point in time, it consisted of numerous buildings and became the repeater station – a facility which later moved over to William Creek.
Image: Driving through Strangways
Lake Eyre is not to be missed for anyone searching for a true natural spectacle. The site is situated only a stone’s throw from William Creek, but it should only be attempted by more experienced four-wheel drivers. William Creek, located just after this, is perhaps best known for its local pub and it’s also a fuelling station for those completing the Oodnadatta Track. It is here that travellers will be able to find basic food, fuels and very basic accommodation.
Image: Camping at Algebuckina Bridge
There is so much to do and see on the Oodnadatta track that it would be difficult for an off-road traveller to do it all in one trip. The side trips can add days and weeks to the trip, so it’s up to each traveller to ensure that they do their homework and plan their own dream journey.