If you’re looking for a way to explore Australia and put your 4x4 to good use without highly technical four-wheel driving, these trips are sure to put a smile on your face.
The Oodnadatta Track
The Outback. It’s the majority of Australia’s landmass, but there’s something daunting about the prospect of travelling through it if you’ve never done it before. One of the best introductions to our desert centre is the Oodnadatta Track, which gives you a taste of desert driving and a bite of the Aussie Outback. The track is generally well graded (although some bumps should be expected), which means the drive is largely straightforward. However, the sights along the way are anything but that, with plenty of history and uniquely Australian landscapes to sink your teeth into at every turn. This includes relics and ruins from the Old Ghan Railway (the Oodnadatta runs parallel to it), the Painted Desert and the iconic Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta itself. Both ends of the track – Maree and Marla – make it easy to get back to more populated areas or, alternatively, dive headlong into another adventure.
K’gari (Fraser Island)
Beach driving is one of the purest joys a four-wheel driver can have behind the wheel, and nowhere else serves it up like the world’s largest sand island. Armed with low range, plus tyres and suspension to give you some traction and ground clearance, you can head up 75 Mile Beach and watch the sand and waves fly by without a care in the world. The inland tracks lead to deep forests at Central Station, Pile Valley and the Valley of the Giants, as well as to K’gari’s perched lakes like McKenzie, Birrabeen, Boomanjin and more. The condition of the inland tracks can range from a soft cruise to a see-sawing crawl, though well-equipped 4x4s will save those inside from the brunt of it. If you’re game, a tactical negotiation with Ngkala Rocks will get you all the way to the northern pinnacle of the island – Sandy Cape – where you can get uninterrupted views of the sunrise and sunset from your camp, as well as spy whales and dolphins splashing off the coast.
The Flinders Ranges, in many ways, is a gateway destination. Not a gateway to another place necessarily (although the Strzelecki Track might have something to say about that), but a gateway into more remote places and more challenging conditions. Most of the tracks in the south around the stunning Wilpena Pound are almost AWD, while there are tougher spots in the north around Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges National Park. Most of the drives at the base of the mountains are high-speed gravel, while they become rockier and redder as you climb the ranges. The views are jaw-dropping no matter where you are, while there are top spots to stay in the national parks, private 4WD parks or at Arkaroola, which all add up to make the Flinders a pretty potent dose of off-road touring. After dipping a toe in with a trip to the Flinders, it’s tempting to slide right in and enjoy the deeper waters of trips that add extra levels of self-sufficiency, four-wheel driving and remoteness to your journey.
The Simpson Desert is one of Australia’s rare ‘off-road bucket list’ destinations (along with Cape York, the Kimberley and Victoria’s High Country), but part of this tag has to do with how much of an undertaking trips like these are to complete. If the scale or difficulty of crossing the Simmo is off-putting for you, then Googs Track might just be the perfect alternative. Its rolling dune country has a passing resemblance to the QAA and French lines that cut across the southern half of the Simpson, but at a touch over 350km from Glendambo to Ceduna, the journey is far more achievable for travellers short on time or looking to gain some experience in similar conditions.
Sturt National Park
There are two massive reasons why the trip from Tibooburra to Cameron Corner is tailor-made for less seasoned off-road tourers; firstly, the landscapes are exactly what most people think of when you say ‘Outback’, and secondly the drive encounters almost every kind of arid terrain imaginable. Beyond the giant granite tors that litter Tibooburra, the sky seems bigger and bluer, while the landscape is red, expansive and transient: you’ll go from soft dune country to gibber plains, rocky jump-up country and even woodlands before you pull on the handbrake at Cameron Corner, where you will find yourself at the intersection of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.