Oodnadatta Track

Where: Oodnadatta Track, South Australia
Permits: None
Costs: Various camping options, free and otherwise all the way along the track
Difficulty: This is a very well graded gravel road but do remember you are in very remote country where not many people travel at certain times of the year. We travelled in October and saw on average one car a day.
Days required to do it justice: 7+ days.

The Oodnadatta Track in South Australia has always been on my travelling bucket-list along with a drink/pub meal at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta. I would rate this is one of the best trips we’ve done on our tour round Australia mainly, at risk of sounding a geek, for the early settlers history in the region and also for the beauty of the remote, desert-like landscape.

Fuelling up at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta

Fuelling up at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta

We linked up with the Oodnadatta Track in the town of Oodnadatta (population 30-ish) after coming south on the Binns Track from Old Andado. First stop was the legendary Pink Roadhouse whose owners (one of whom sadly recently passed away) are responsible for turning this track into a tourism route by sticking up garish pink roadsigns next to most points of interest. We’ve heard mutterings that this place has gone downhill in the past few years but we were pretty happy to find this pink oasis in the middle of nowhere. After a fuel up and a bacon sanger we moseyed off down the beautifully graded gravel road to see what we could find.

This track is the key to Australia’s exploration history and the opening up of the places we are all able to live in today. Explorer John McDouall Stuart  made several trips through the waterholes which line this track in his bid to reach the northern shores in 1862. This was closely followed by the Overland Telegraph in 1870 which linked communications all the way to London and this in turn was followed by the building of the Ghan Railway firstly from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, then onto Alice Springs and beyond. Eventually the position of the railway was moved to the West near the Stuart Highway and the once bustling towns along the Oodnadatta Track were shrunk back to lonely ruined outposts.

History abounds on the Oodnadatta Track - the ruins of Peake Creek Station.

History abounds on the Oodnadatta Track – the ruins of Peake Creek Station dating from the 1860s

This history is still here all along this track in startling clarity, from the abandoned fettlers cottages, railway sleepers and steam train watering points to old telegraph station buildings, telegraph poles and the myriad of springs that were used to sustain human (and animal) life in the outback.

'The bubbler' artesian mound spring

‘The bubbler’ artesian mound spring

Our highlights:

– The ruins at Peake Station which captures all the elements of the history of this track as well as good camping area
– Beresford ruins. We had lunch in the front room of the ruins and sat on the front verandah for a while and regret not staying the night to soak up the atmosphere
– Strangeways springs. Amazing mound springs in the middle of nowhere and a wake up call at how our water supply must be protected
– Coward Springs. If there’s no-one here you’ve got a private spa people would pay a lot more than $20 a night for
– The Painted Desert. Well worth a little side trip and a camp at Arkaringa Station.
– Lake Eyre
– pretty much everything else!!

Driving through the Painted Desert near Arckaringa

Driving through the Painted Desert near Arckaringa

Our lowlights:

Hard to find any. The flies would be one and perhaps the shocking road out to Lake Eyre. Travelling towards the end of the season does mean all the roads have been well and truly smashed but it also means there’s hardly anyone around and that’s a plus 🙂

Leave a Reply