We're counting down the top 100 off-road tracks and destinations in Australia for 2017, voted on by you, the adventure travel community! Read the final part of our countdown to discover which locations and journeys took out the top 25 spots.
25 - Sunshine Coast Hinterland, QLD
Behind the surf and good vibes of the Sunny Coast is a lush rolling hinterland full of tourist attractions and opportunities for adventure. Make the trip to any of the region’s popular towns – Montville, Maleny, Mapleton, Kenilworth – and nearby you’ll find either a waterfall, a lookout, a green camping area or a track leading off into the dense rainforest that defines the region. While Mapleton and Kondalilla national parks are most suited to hikers, the larger Conondale National Park has ample tracks and secluded campsites to match its impressive walking trails.
24 - The Tarkine, TAS
Australia’s largest remaining tract of cool-temperate rainforest is a truly unique environ that’s alive with animal and plant life (and unfortunately mineral deposits too, but that’s a longer story). An ecologically diverse and largely undisturbed wilderness, the Tarkine is a mosaic of rainforest, rivers, bare mountain ranges and plateaus, as well as cave systems that are globally significant.
Image Credit: Helen Pearly
23 - Moreton Island, QLD
The world’s third-largest sand island is a golden paradise that entices travellers to bask in its quiet serenity. Almost entirely unsealed outside of Tangalooma Resort, Moreton Island is traversable in a figure-eight that takes you through the island’s best attractions: toboggan in The Desert, get a panoramic view atop Mount Tempest, swim in Blue Lagoon, then head to Queensland’s oldest lighthouse and the picturesque North Point while you’re at it - all before retiring to one of the island’s many idyllic camping areas and bush camps for the night.
22 - Karijini National Park, WA
Karijini is a corner of the Pilbara region that is almost overly photogenic; filled with gorges, waterholes and unbelievably vibrant colours at every turn, it’s hard to take the lens away from your eye for even a moment in this special place. The park’s walking trails make its many wonders accessible to visitors, while its cool, deep pools make a perfect reward for muscles wearied by exploration.
21 - The Madigan Line, NT
The Simpson Desert’s northernmost route is also its most rugged and remote, and was not displayed as anything more than a cross-country route on a Hema map until recent editions. Blazed by explorer Cecil Madigan in 1939 and marked out with designated camps along its course, these days the Madigan Line is a navigable and accepted method of crossing the Simpson - but be prepared for soul-searching remoteness along the way.
20 - The Holland Track, WA
Heading from Hyden and the Southern Wheatbelt region into the outback wilderness of Coolgardie along a winding track, the Holland Track is a multi-day 4WD adventure with a healthy dose of history along the way. Cut after gold was found near Coolgardie in 1893, the Holland Track has been rehabilitated in the past 25 years to become one of Western Australia’s most iconic journeys.
19 - Outback New South Wales
Out the back o’ Bourke you’ll find lonely roads, remnants of Australia’s history, red earth and blue skies. Mungo National Park’s 40,000-year-old human remains, Mutawintji’s rock art sites, Sturt’s vast arid landscapes, Silverton’s iconic pub, Tibooburra’s volcanic granite tors; all are within reach to those who venture into Outback New South Wales, a region that flattens and holds both ancient and recent history within its timeless arid landscapes.
18 - The Red Centre, NT
Over 70% of the Australian continent is desert, and the Red Centre is the beating heart of all of it. From the outback hub of Alice Springs, travellers can experience some of Australia’s most iconic places in a reasonably compact area, including the epic monolith that is Uluru, the oft-overlooked Kata Tjuta nearby, as well as other show-stoppers such as Kings Canyon, the Larapinta Trail and the east and west MacDonnell Ranges at large. For those looking to escape the tourist crowds, there are plenty of out-of-the-way journeys to be had, not to mention the possibility of heading further afield in any direction to encounter Australia’s best Top End and outback tracks.
17 - Barrington Tops National Park, NSW
Undulating ranges and ancient World Heritage-listed rainforest await those who delve into Barrington Tops National Park. Ranging from subtropical rainforest to truly alpine country at its highest elevations, the area is awash with stunning scenery that’s enjoyable from the vantage point of a 4WD or the extensive hiking trails that cut through the region.
16 - Tanami Road, NT & WA
One of the Red Centre’s main veins takes travellers from just outside Alice Springs to the eastern Kimberley checkpoint of Halls Creek along a classic outback drive. Due to road train activity along the track, conditions are usually good, making it that much easier to marvel at the landscapes and terrain on offer through Australia’s third-largest desert and its surrounds.
15 - The Snowy Mountains, NSW
Australia’s highest mountain range is one of Australia’s only true alpine bioregions – a rare commodity, and a point that’s not lost on adventure-seekers. Skiiers, tourers and hikers alike flock to this (sometimes) white wonderland, which is home to the scenic Lobs Hole Ravine 4WD track, rugged mountain biking trails, pristine fishing spots and so much more.
14 - The Lap of Australia
Doing the lap is a dream close to the collective heart of Australia’s touring scene, the chance to experience the country’s coastline and inland hotspots a salivating prospect to dyed-in-the-wool explorers. The length variable, the duration a mystery, the lap of Australia is a monumental undertaking that makes for an unforgettable journey.
13 - Blue Mountains National Park, NSW
A vast sea of green framed by the uplifted basalt plateau that so defines the region, Blue Mountains National Park is more than just a series of breathtaking vistas. Drive or hike through dense forest, visit Wentworth Falls or be more adventurous with some abseiling or rock climbing to get up close and personal with this iconic part of Australia.
Image Credit: Chen Hualin
12 - Kakadu National Park, NT
Australia’s largest national park embodies the transformative change of the Top End’s monsoonal Wet and Dry season. In the Wet, Kakadu’s lagoons, billabongs and swamplands are a lush paradise filled with all manner of birds, fish and reptiles in harmonious balance, while the Dry changes the landscape to open woodland and grassy plains more conducive to mammalian life. The imposing Arnhem Land Plateau was actually a sea cliff when a shallow sea covered the park 140 million years ago, while Aboriginal tribes have lived in the region constantly for the past 40,000 years; no wonder Kakadu is one of the most significant and ecologically diverse national parks on Earth.
11 - Cameron Corner
Cameron Corner is the point where Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia converge. Officially marked with a diagrammed boundary post, travellers who make it to this auspicious location will inevitably feel the pull of the outback tugging on them in all directions – head east into the red wilderness of Sturt National Park, west towards the Strzelecki Track or north to Poeppel Corner, the Simpson Desert and Outback Queensland.
10 - The Gulf Savannah, NT & QLD
Between Cape York and the Northern Territory’s big-ticket destinations is Gulf Country, a dry savannah region that is unique among the monsoonal climes of the Top End. Home to protected areas like Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill), Staaten River and Camooweal Caves national parks, visitors traversing the Savannah Way can enjoy the region’s unique traits in context with the rest of the Top End.
9 - The Pilbara, WA
The Pilbara sits south of the Kimberley in northwest Western Australia, and while there are some superficial parallels between these two heavyweights, the Pilbara remains an experience like no other. Home to some of the world’s oldest landscapes (including 3 billion-year-old sandstone), the region is split into both arid and tropical regions, with the uplands home to the Pilbara’s world-famous gorges, which meets the Indian Ocean and the picturesque Coral Coast to the west.
8 - The Birdsville Track, SA
The Birdsville Track is perhaps Australia’s quintessential outback drive: a long-gone cattle droving trail, this sometimes-rough track traverses the Strzelecki, Sturt Stony and Tirari deserts through dunes, gravel and gibber plains. Linking two of Australia’s best-known outback towns in Maree and Birdsville, the only supply point along the route is Mungerannie Station, meaning it’s important to be prepared before traversing this beautifully desolate route.
7 - The Canning Stock Route
There’s no track in Australia – perhaps the world – which matches the Canning Stock Route for sheer remoteness and brutality. Don’t be mistaken, these are terms of endearment, with more and more of the outback becoming accessible through facilities and homogenised tracks. For those prepared for the journey ahead, the Canning serves up over 1600km of total aloneness in the Australian Outback, unbroken by civilisation and without even a fuel stop for the first 1000km (and then for the remaining 600km to Bililuna). The track and its narrow corrugated tracks, sandy dunes and all take between 2-3 weeks to traverse at a reasonable pace, giving travellers plenty of time to immerse themselves in this full-yet-empty stretch of outback.
6 - Fraser Island, QLD
The world’s largest sand island is a world apart, delivering countless sights and experiences available only on Fraser itself. Drive through strikingly tall and dense rainforest – an oddity among sand islands – which lead to coastal heathlands, giant sand blows and 110km of beach from one end of the island to the other. Its uniquely clean perched lakes sparkle many shades of blue (Lake McKenzie most prominently), while tranquil Eli Creek flows 80 million litres of cool fresh water from the heart of the island to the sea each day. With so much to see and do while you 4WD on soft sandy tracks, it would be easy to spend a fortnight simply exploring new places within the endless treasure trove that is Fraser Island.
5 - The Flinders Ranges, SA
An ancient landscape whose buckled ranges seemingly ripple into infinity, the Flinders Ranges is outback South Australia at its vibrant best. Crowned by the epic natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound that twists and turns high above the surrounding landscape of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, 4WD tracks cut across rough countryside to guide travellers deep into this rugged region. With resort accommodation nearby, adventurers of all kinds can discover the Flinders, which is flanked by the impressive Arkaroola and the similarly dramatic landscapes of Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.
4 - The Simpson Desert, SA NT & QLD
The Simpson Desert is Australia’s most viscerally ‘outback’ bioregion, yet it is completely unique. The prospect of crossing the Simmo is a compelling call-to-arms for those with an adventurous spirit and sufficient preparedness, the world’s largest sand dune desert cramming 1136 sand dunes between its eastern and western extents. Embodying the ‘same but different’ paradox that’s familiar to lovers of outback landscapes (and recreational travel in general), the Simpson Desert’s rolling red dunes hold a rare magnetism; one that draws travellers from all over the globe into Australia’s arid stronghold.
3 - Cape York, QLD
The Cape epitomises the Top End and the Australian tropics at large, the essential symmetry that comes from each season’s Wet and Dry bringing change and renewal year-on-year, which also makes each trip to North Queensland’s adventure capital totally unique. The fact that the entire region is only realistically open for four-wheel drive exploration from April to October – due to adverse conditions and monsoonal flooding – makes the chance to venture into this natural wonder all the more enticing.
The wind-swept beaches of the remote Starcke Coast; the steep clay climbs of the CREB Track; the iconic surge up the Old Telegraph Track, through its many creek and river crossings headed north towards the northernmost tip of Australia – all of it combines to make Cape York one of the world’s most sought-after adventure destinations.
2 - The Kimberley, WA
A trip to the Kimberley is the most awe-inspiring travel experience that Australia has to offer, the region’s spectacular gorges, dramatic ranges and semi-arid wilderness combining on a grand and colourful scale seen nowhere else in the world. The main artery through this wild frontier – the Gibb River Road – is a 660km adventure drive, which blows out to over 3000km with all its side trips taken into account.
Kimberley tours are available, however the area is best discovered by 4WD, allowing travellers to explore the many tracks (both easy and difficult) that burrow deep into its most remote reaches: massive Mitchell Falls, the almost alien Bungle Bungle Range, El Questro’s hidden delights, Cape Leveque’s remote coastline, the list too long to recount in full. The region’s size and natural richness is such that travellers often feel they must return to explore further, so plan carefully. However, in a place so generous in its bounty, all plans lead to an unforgettable experience in the Kimberley.
1 - The High Country, VIC
The chilly climes of Victoria’s alpine country are overflowing with history, scenic masterpieces, and most importantly, an unimaginable amount of tracks, trails and camping areas to discover. Famous for its ancient ties to Aboriginal culture, 1800’s gold rushes and bushrangers, nowadays the High Country’s 25,000km of tracks and unsealed roads are what draw explorers to this peerless off-road utopia. These rocky tracks cut across the High Country’s many mountains, which often deliver stunning vistas of blue-tinged, snow gum-covered ranges that lazily undulate to the horizon and out of sight. Alternatively, they dive down into lush forested valleys and lowlands, through cold river crossings and past historic huts, with a multitude of grassy campsites in sublime locations along the way.
What’s perhaps most special about the High Country is that even outside of its off-road touchstones - Blue Rag Range, Billy Goat Bluff Track, the Wonnangatta region to name a few – it’s full of unforgettable drives, walks and views, many of which have no signpost or notable fanfare attached to them. It’s this abundance of adventure that entices travellers of all kinds to venture up the High Country’s climbs, and why it’s the most dreamed-of off-road destination in Australia for 2017.
Discover more of Australia's best adventure destinations for 2017 with our full off-road top 100:< 50-26