The Top 10 Outback Road Trips You Need To Do Before It’s Too Late
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Choosing our Top 10 outback road trips wasn’t an easy task. We tossed dozens of ideas around, before finally settling on our favourites. All of these road trips are remote, often rough and travel through fantastic landscapes.
It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, they’re all brilliant!
The thing is, with so many people travelling these days it’s getting harder to find those roads where you don’t see another vehicle for a day or so. And it’s getting harder to find a spot where you can almost guarantee you’ll be camping alone.
So get out there before it’s too late. Enjoy the solitude and isolation while it lasts.
They’re definitely not listed from most to least favourite… every one of these trips is equally as good!
Looking for ideas on places to visit along the way? Use our Interactive Map to help you plan your next outback road trip.
And check out our series on survival and safety in the outback, for ideas and tips on preparing for your next road trip.
1. Gary Junction Road
Starting just north of Alice Springs, the Gary Junction Road heads west through the remote Gibson Desert then the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. 860km later, it meets the Gary Highway, which is nothing more than a sandy, corrugated track.
These are Len Beadell tracks, built in the 1960s by Len and his Gunbarrel Construction Party.
Push on west for another 830km and you’ll arrive at the nearest town, Marble Bar. This is a seriously remote trip.
And what an incredible trip it is. Ancient mountain ranges, dark red rock outcrops and red sand dunes, all padded out with white spinifex. It’s a photographer’s dream!
Vehicle: 4WD only.
2. Old Ghan Rail Line
Join us on an historical journey from Quorn in South Australia to Alice Springs, NT, following the Old Ghan rail line.
My father caught the Old Ghan in 1950 and fortunately documented the trip with his Box Brownie camera. So we decided to retrace his steps from Quorn up through Maree, along the Oodnadatta Track, then through Finke and into the notorious shifting sands to Alice Springs.
This trip covers a huge variety of terrain and scenery…. the wild ranges of the Flinders Ranges, the white clay desert country of the Oodnadatta Track and the magnificent red desert country north of Finke.
Vehicle: Quorn to Oodnadatta 4WD preferred. Oodnadatta to Alice Springs 4WD only.
3. Great Central Road
The Great Central Road starts at Uluru and runs across the Gibson Desert to Laverton in Western Australia.
This is a remote journey, yet a popular shortcut in the peak travel season. However you’ll have no trouble finding a remote bush camp.
The scenery through here is sensational. It varies from mountain ranges in the east to classic sand dune country in the west. And you have the amazing Uluru and Kata Tjuta formations to immerse yourself in at the eastern end.
This is one of our favourite outback road trips, simply because of the scenery and isolation.
Vehicle: 4WD preferred. The Kata Tjuta to Docker River section is often horrendously rough.
4. Savannah Way
The Mataranka to Burketown section of the Savannah Way is an adventure from the Northern Territory’s Top End.
You can take the Mataranka to Borroloola via Roper Bar route or the slightly easier Daly Waters to Borroloola via Cape Crawford route. East from Borroloola though, there’s only one way to Hells Gate and Burketown… and it can be rough!
This is typical Top End country. Low ranges, enormous savannah woodlands and extraordinary watercourses lined with pandanus palms. And watch out for the crocs!
This is only one section of The Savannah Way. It starts at Cairns in northern Queensland and traverses the top of Australia, all the way to Broome in Western Australia. Go here for more information on The Savannah Way.
Vehicle: 4WD only from Borroloola to Hells Gate Roadhouse.
The Nullarbor Plain is a vast limestone plain stretching across the bottom of Australia. The Eyre Highway follows the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight in places, allowing you to experience these forbidding waters up close.
The road is tarred and well used, as it’s the main link between the east and the west.
However, you’re on your own once you turn off the Nullarbor. A sense of isolation closes in around you and you could be the only person left on the planet.
The roads and tracks leading off the Nullarbor can be rough, with frequent limestone outcrops. If you’re looking for a break from the tar, a trip along the Old Eyre Highway will give you a taste of what an epic journey this trip once was.
And the Nullarbor journey is full of surprises! Go here for some unusual destinations along the Nullarbor.
Vehicle: 2WD. High clearance 2WD or 4WD if venturing off the highway.
6. Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road runs through The Kimberley in Western Australia. It’s one of the best-known outback road trips, and with good reason.
Take your time along The Gibb River Road to explore at least some of those places off the main road. It really is an adventure from start to finish.
Vehicle: 4WD recommended.
7. Darling River Run
If you’re looking for a true outback experience, the Darling River Run ticks all the boxes. It starts at Bourke, NSW and follows the Darling River all the way to Wentworth, on the NSW/Victorian border.
Unfortunately the Darling has been stretched to breaking point due to a combination of corporate greed, political meddling and outright corruption.
Yet the Darling River Run endures as one of the great drives in Australia.
There’s nothing quite like this country… those gnarled and twisted river red gums clinging to the banks, the wide and fertile floodplains, and the Darling slowly winding its way downstream.
Spend some time at each one. The locals are friendly and extremely generous, and you’ll find this part of NSW gets in your blood.
8. Sandover Highway
While the Sandover doesn’t have breath-taking scenery, it’s still a fantastic drive. Just on 700km of desert country and wide plains at the eastern end that stretch endlessly in every direction.
If you’re looking for an alternate route from western Queensland into the Red Centre, then the Sandover is a much quieter route than the Plenty.
You’ll pretty much have the road to yourself. Exactly how we like it!
Vehicle: 4WD recommended.
9. Walkers Crossing
Walkers Crossing is a shortcut between the Birdsville Track and Innamincka in South Australia.
In terms of outback road trips, Walkers Crossing’s only short. It’s less than 200km. But the variety in this short distance is astounding… vast gibber plains, tall red sand dunes, Cooper Creek floodplain country, huge salt lakes and Cooper Creek itself.
Plus, there’s quite a few excellent camping spots where you can spend the night star-gazing and taking in the peace and serenity.
A perfect initiation into outback travel!
Vehicle: 4WD only.
10. The Cut Line
The Cut Line draws you into the outback and spits you out in Corner Country, New South Wales.
Starting at Bourke, The Cut Line passes through Wanaaring then heads off to the giant Sturt National Park and ultimately Tibooburra.
This is desert country. The soil changes to a deep red and sand dunes emerge from the scrub. You cross the Warrego and Paroo Rivers, gradually heading deeper into Outback NSW.
You can veer off The Cut Line to places like Hungerford, Currawinya National Park, Louth and Tilpa. Or you can go all the way to Tibooburra, then onwards to Cameron Country, Innamincka, Noccundra, Milparinka and so on.
The Cut Line is a gateway to the outback from eastern NSW. And it’s the ideal introduction to the wonders of the outback. One of our favourite outback road trips!
Vehicle: 4WD recommended.
So there’s our Top 10 outback road trips to date. We could have chosen a hundred more… there’s so much to see in this huge country.
Some of these road trips have already been discovered and are now quite busy in peak times. But if you choose your timing wisely, you’ll most likely miss the rush.
Get out there before it’s too late, though… these roads trips are busier every season.
Take your time on these road trips. Get a feel for the country, the subtle changes in the landscape. Before you even realise, the outback will be in your system and you’ll be counting down the days until your next trip!
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