This state is a lot more than Coober Pedy, the Oodnadatta Track, the Barossa Valley, the Flinders Ranges and the Nullarbor. It is a great State to venture off the beaten track.
South Australia is sparsely populated and 60% of the state is desert area, but it boosts great off-road opportunities for those willing to leave the main tracks. It has beautiful National Parks and nice beaches, superb beach destinations like Robe, great off-road destinations like the Southern Simpson Desert, Lake Eyre and plenty of opportunity for soft off roading in The Gammon Ranges, Flinders Ranges, Gawler National Parks and Yellabina Regional Reserve. Alternatively, you can follow the main tracks also steeped in history like the Oodnadatta Track, Birdsville Track and the road to Innamincka connecting with either Queensland or New South Wales. Word of warning for our international overlanders. The outback, Australian deserts and to some degree our beaches are very different to the terrain you are used to in Europe, Africa or South America. If you are travelling remote ensure one person in the vehicle has first aid knowledge, make sure you have proper communication equipment. Min Satellite phone, UHF radio, and if possible HF radio (available for rental) let people know where you are going and call in to advise them you have arrived. Travel well within your capabilities and when crossing rivers in the North be aware of Crocodiles, same applies to those who like fishing, Freshwater Crocodiles are not as dangerous however they bite and do a lot of damage. The beaches of Australia have some very soft sand in particular when you have to drive above the high water mark. driving the beaches on a outgoing tide is what I recommend when turning on a beach always turn towards the water to avoid driving uphill and turning in soft sand. Tyre pressure very important in our land cruiser i have been down to 10 psi. My suggestion is start at 25 psi and go down in 5 psi lots as required and keep the speed down. Be aware of deep rutted tracks, bull dust, mud, soft sand on beaches and inland tracks, deep water crossings all combined in one day of driving can be a challenge and can break parts in your vehicle not to mention being stranded mid stream with a flooded engine. Be warned do not become one of those people who know it all Australia’s outback is unforgiving.
Coming from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road your first stop would be around Robe a great beach driving destination, followed by Coorong National Park. Most of the beach is open for 4WD vehicles (around 90KM). From here you could travel via Victor Harbour to Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third largest Island after Tasmania and Melville Island. The ferry leaves from Cape Jervis and arrives in Penneshaw 45 minutes later. Must see on the island are Koala’s, Penguins, beaches, Seals Bay, Flinders Chase National Park to witness a great coastline, and walk around Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
Back on the mainland follow the coast line north towards Adelaide the capital city of South Australia, also called the City of Churches. We are not really city people but if you enjoy dining, events and entertainment it may be something you enjoy. If you do, my suggestion is to stay near the suburb of Glenelg. For wine lovers the area around the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are a must to visit.
If you are looking for more beaches, your next destination could be the Yorke Peninsula and Innes National Park. Or you may decide to travel towards the Eyre Peninsula and explore the Coastal regions around Coffin Bay and Lincoln National Park and continue further north all the way to Fowlers Bay with its long beaches. Decision time again: are you following the Googs Track*1 (off Road) or back track on the main Highway to Visit Gawler’s ranges. *1 You find pictures and blog on the West Australia page of our Facebook.
If You follow Googs Track, you finish up in Coober Pedy, once you turn right at the Anne Beadell Highway. (in name a highway but, it is a narrow, sandy track one car wide) After a few days in the outback arriving in Coober Pedy is like arriving in a major city. All supplies you require are available in this mining town. And please note this is one of the towns you must visit, as it is one of the unusual places in Australia. Many people live underground, not just to get out of the heat but also it is easy to build a house in the soft ground. But remember it gets hot in inland Australia and in Northern and Central Australia temperatures get up to 50 Degrees Celsius in summer. (a dry heat) The only reason people live/come here is for the opals.
If you are in town you may even camp underground, stay in underground hotels, visit an underground church etc. Remember it is a tourist town. You can visit working opal mines, mine for opals yourself, buy opals and visit historic mines which explain how opal mining was done in the old days. Visit the place where the movie Mad Max was made (Moon Plains), the Breakaways (at sunset it is magic) and the world-famous Dog fence. From here I suggest you travel north on well maintained roads (gravel) to William Creek (170KM) and turn left to Oodnadatta if you like to visit the Simpson Desert, or right the easy way to Marree approx. 200KM away. The town of William Creek has grown from our first visit in 1985 from a population of 2 to a population 10, I am told.
From here you could follow tracks to Lake Eyre and into the Tiara Desert, but ensure you carry the right communication equipment. As a reminder on the way to Halligan point you will find the plague dedicated to a young Austrian woman who lost her life trying to walk back to William Creek after her 4WD got bogged. Just before arriving in William Creek you pass Anna Creek station the world’s largest cattle station. My suggestion would be to travel west towards Oodnadatta. The Oodnadatta track is a perfect maintained gravel road and the easy option if you are driving from Alice or Ayers Rock towards the Flinders Ranges. 80KM south west of Oodnadatta you can visit the Painted Desert area. I suggest from here you travel towards Mt Dare Homestead. Remember before entering Mount Dare Homestead you do require the Desert Pass. From now on you are going more remote and I suggest you do have good communication equipment: at least UHF but HF is better, or at least a satellite phone. (forget the CB as this will only work vehicle to vehicle in convoy)
The Homestead can be reached from the Alice or Ayers Rock, via Chambers Pillar and the Finke Track just 10km after you passed the Northern Territory border. It is the starting point for the Simpson Desert crossing (West to East is easy compared to East to West due to the steeper sand hills). click here for more information and road conditions. http://www.mtdare.com.au/outback-track-and-road-conditions-including-simpson-desert. From here the track to Birdsville starts and you have 2 options either around 800KM via the Rig Road or 440km via the French line. We have driven the French line on numerous occasions in either the West or East direction. The Simpson Desert is made up of 1100 sand dunes all running North to South and some of those dunes are 250 meters long. I can’t stress enough that you must be prepared and require communication in this area; there is a lot of exploring as the area stretches over 400KM North to the Plenty Highway and east to Birdsville without any towns in the desert. Once you arrive in Birdsville, this town has become the big smoke again after a week or longer in the desert. (subject of your plans and route) Birdsville is an outback town with all the facilities you require. It is also home to the famous Birdsville Hotel and the Birdsville races (early September).
You are now back on good maintained roads either north to Boulia, east to Brisbane or south to Marree (500KM) (Birdsville Track). As we are covering South Australia in this blog we will turn right following the Birdsville track till the turn off to the Walkers Crossing track and a great overnight camp site at Coongie lakes. From here another 100Km to Innamincka. The alternative is to follow the main Birdsville track to Marree with a few possibilities to turn right into the desert areas again, or to continue to Muloorina Homestead north of Marree for a swim and a look at station life. If you decide to visit Innamincka, you should also consider Marree and Muloorina Homestead. From the homestead you can also visit Lake Eyre via Level Post Bay.
It was here that in 1964 Sir Donald Campbell set a land speed record of 648 km/h on the dry Salt Lake in a gas turbine powered car. Lots of history around Maree. Further south is the turn off to the Gammon Ranges and the Flinders Ranges further south. (this area can be reached also from Innamincka via 4WD tracks) the Gammon and Flinders Ranges are connected by good roads. (gravel) Both parks have a rugged mountain scenery, gorges and waterholes and lots of tracks to explore. Personally, we enjoy the Gammon Ranges a lot more than the Flinders Ranges due to less tourists, sheltered gorges and hidden plunge pools. Must do is Arkaroola, founded by Reg and Griselda Sprigg in 1967.
We were very fortunate to meet Reg and his wife in the mid-1980 and spent a few days listening to his stories and his time as a student of the Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson. The late Dr Reg Sprigg was one of Australia’s greatest geologists and conservationists. This man studied ecotourism years before it was launched in Australia. The area is also home to the endangered Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby and is a mecca for 4WD owners. The Flinders Ranges has similar spectacular scenery with its highlight Wilpena Pound, a large amphitheatre. Lots of scenic and soft 4WD tracks cover this area.
If you like some luxury after weeks of bush camping you may consider Rawnsley Park Station. From here it is just 400 kilometres on sealed roads back to Adelaide. To obtain a desert pass online click. https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/book-and-pay/parks-passes/desert-parks-pass but from memory you can also purchase this at the Pink Road house in Oodnadatta, Birdsville Hotel and Marree. But you better check.