Oodnadatta Track - South
The Oodnadatta Track runs through the northern parts of South
Australia in remote desert country and up into the Northern
Territory. Without rain the main route can be undertaken in a
conventional vehicle although you may wish to explore some of the
historical points of interest in the surrounding areas, in which case
you will probably need a four wheel drive vehicle.
The track once formed the main route into Central Australia and the
Northern Territory. Its popularity as a main access route has
diminished but it has gained tremendous popularity with many as an
easier 4wd trip.
The Oodnadatta Track runs from Marree in the northern eastern section
of the South Australian Outback to the Finke Aboriginal Community
Settlement in the Northern Territory, a distance of a little
under 700 km.
As with most of these desert trips, the best time to travel is in the
winter months from April to October, mainly because the heat in the
summer months can get very high.
The Marree Hotel is the starting point for some of my Outback and
Desert 4wd Tag Along Tours and those taking part experience the true
outback pub atmosphere the night before hosted by Phil and Maz Turner,
If you are in this area and looking for a place to stay then there is
no better, accommodation ranges from fully self equipped cabins to
country pub type rooms in the building to camping on the pub premises.
Hot showers, good food, a liquid beverage if that is what you would
like and a friendly atmosphere, what more could you ask for.
There are a couple of stretches without fuel along this trip, the
longest being about 205 kilometers from Marree to William Creek, so
filling up before departing Marree is a good idea.
Marree was a main center for the Afghan camel drivers in the old days
who used the town as a center for the journeys to as far away as Alice
Springs to deliver supplies.
The town was also home to Tom Kruse in the 1930's who was the Royal
Mail postman at the time. He became famous for his mail deliveries to
outback settlements up the Birdsville Track, often under very difficult
circumstances, driving his employers truck and later, when he bought
the business, his own.
When at the Marree Hotel take the time to visit the Tom Kruze room at
the pub, very, very interesting and a story of one of Australia's true
Whilst in town a wander around the now disused railway station is
interesting and so is a visit to the Lake Eyre Yacht Club headquarters.
A few operators run charter flights out of the town to Lake Eyre and
wherever else you would like to fly over. Helicopter flights are
considerably more expensive that fixed wing charters but choppers,
without any doubt at all give you the best aerial experience, and never
more so than over Lake Eyre itself.
William Creek Hotel on the Oodnaddata Track
The Oodnadatta Track also has a significant historical past as it runs
very close to the Old Ghan Railway line, which closed in 1980, and the
Overland Telegraph Line.
Remains of the Old Ghan Line can be seen along the way in the form of
bridges across creeks, the line the track took, some old sleepers on
ocassions and more as it runs through the Great Central Desert and into
the Northern Territory.
Heading west out of Marree the track veers a little left at the
Muloorina Homestead turnoff to the right, the route to Level Post Bay
through Muloorina at the meeting point of Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre
South, these are the shores of the massive Lake Eyre North and the
eastern reaches of Lake Eyre South, however there is a good vantage
point further up the Oodnadatta Track that gives a panoramic view of
Lake Eyre South.
Continuing on the Oodnadatta Track it is now heading west and passes
through what used to be the Dog Fence about 45km out of Marree.
For those that don't know the dog fence is the longest fence ever
constructed anywhere in the world and stretches from Western Australia
across central Australian and up into Queensland. It was put up to keep
the wild Dingo dogs to the north and away from the sheep in the south.
Not much of it remains at this point so don't expect a wild fanfare as
you pass through, if you notice it at all.
Some 20km from the fence the Hermit Hill and its cairn can be seen to
the north whilst a little further on the Borefield Road joins the
Oodnaddata Track from the south. The Borefield Road takes you
125km to the mining town of Roxby Downs.
Approximately 85 km from Marree, and 15km or so from the Borefield Road
turnoff which goes to Roxby Downs, is a visitors viewing area and
lookout which is an excellent vantage point for viewing Lake Eyre
South. Lake Eyre by the way is 12 metres below sea level.
Oodnadatta Track is fairly close to Lake Eyre South at this point and
there are a couple of stretches along the way where you can see the
About 30km from the Borefield Road turnoff the well preserved buildings
of the Curdimurka Siding become clearly visible.
The buildings were restored some years ago by the Ghan Railway
Preservation Society and every other year the Curdimurka Ball is held
here to help raise funds for future restoration projects along the
Ghan. The event is very popular and attracts visitors from all over the
About 30 km past Curdimurka is Coward Springs, home to some of the
famous mound springs. They are formed when hot water from the artesian
basin rises to the surface and brings with it minerals and sediment
from deep in the
The minerals and sediment are left on the surrounds of the springs as
the water evaporates and, in doing so, slowly increases the height of
the mounds so that
they are higher than the natural ground level, hence the term 'mound
Small vegetation grows around the mound spring edges and the water is
home to several species each of snail, prawn and small fish. Some of
the species are unique to just one mound spring.
In days gone by there used to be a pub, hospital and railway siding at
Coward Springs, little of which remains today. They is a good camping
area here which is a little small but is popular and can get busy. In
the peak season you will be asked to pay for a camping permit as you
Around 40 kilometers after Coward Springs is the Strangways Siding,
also in a state of advanced decay and a little past the siding the
Strangeways Telegraph Station, which is one of the OTL repeater
stations located between Port Augusta and Alice Springs.
Just before reaching William Creek, which is about 30km from
Strangeways Siding, is another public access track that leads of to the
right for about 60km to Halligan Bay, on the shores of Lake Eyre North,
where there is a camping area set aside. This is a fairly remote track
with not much traffic.
Next stop William Creek. William Creek is a small town but probably a
welcome stopping off place after the journey from Marree. At the
William Creek Hotel fuel is available, some food sometimes and always a
good cup of coffee. If you left Marree around 9 ish then this will
probably be a good lunch stop and a chance to stretch your legs.
A few kilometers north of William Creek is the junctionwith William
Creek Road to Anna Creek, not far down the track, and,
ultimately, Coober Pedy about 165km from the junction.
About 65 km north of William Creek is the turnoff to the east that goes
to the Nilpinna Station Homestead a few kilometers off the Oodnadatta
Track and about 20km past this junction are the remains of the Edward
Creek Siding, also on the Old Ghan Line, and its water softening tanks.
Many of the sidings had these tanks as the bore water was
too hard to be used in the locomotives that traveled up the Ghan and
was pre-treated before being used.
North of here is the Peake Station Homestead and a little further
another siding ruin, the Warrina Siding.
About 110km from William Creek is the monument erected in memory of
Ernest Giles who did a fair bit of exploring in the area. The track
leading east at the monument leads to the Peake Telegraph Station ruins
which comprises of several old stone buildings. Whilst there has been
some restoration work done here much is still in a state of ruin.
The telegraph station is about 15km down the track. It is an
The building of this telegraph station plus the already existing Peake
Homestead and a newly built police station made this area into a
reasonably sized community. It all came to an end and was abandoned in
the early 1890's when Oodnadatta came into existence and most of the
public servants were relocated there.
Back onto the Oodnadatta Track and on northwards, and for about 15km
away from the Old Ghan Track, the ruins of the Peake Creek Siding can
be seen. As the
Oodnadatta rejoins the Ghan the track crosses Peake Creek and not much
further the track crosses the Neales River, the largest watercourse on
Just upstream from the track crossing is the Algebuckina Bridge which
is the largest bridge ever constructed in South Australia and was built
to carry the Ghan Rail Track. On the northern end of the bridge are the
graves of workers involved in the bridge's construction.
To the east of the bridge is a track to the Algebuckina Waterhole which
is a designated camping area. This is a good spot to have a rest break.
From Algebuckina you will pass the Mount Dutton Ruins as the track
travels north and shortly after the turnoff to the Allandale Homestead.
Shortly the track again
crosses the Neales River which offers several pleasant camp sites
amongst the trees on its banks. You would be lucky to see water in the
river as it is mostly a
Now it is only a few kilometers into Oodnadatta.
Oodnadatta, the town that has survived, despite the Ghan being
relocated westward, with a population of around 200 and probably
because it is on a main tourist route with not much between it and the
There are some famous landmarks around here with probably the best
known being the Pink Roadhouse started by Adam and Lynnie.
Unfortunately Adam didn't survive an accident in his rally car whilst
competing in a Targa Rally.
They had been around for years and could tell you everything you would
ever want to know about the area. Any pink information signs that you
see along the track in the region have been erected by them and they
have even produced some of their own local maps.
Lynne continued to run the business with the help of her sister but has
subsequently sold the business and moved on.
Oodnadatta is the point where many who have come up the Oodnadatta
Track from Lyndhurst and Marree now branch off onto other tracks and
into other trips. Whilst the Oodnadatta Track continues westward to
Marla and the Stuart Highway, there is another track that continues to
follow the Old Ghan Rail line to Finke, although it doesn't run as
close to the track as it did up to Oodnadatta.
Oodnadatta to Marla is around 210km via the Wellbourne Station.
Oodnadatta it is also the start of the Simpson Desert trip for many to
the north east and has become one of the most popular 4wd trips and
desert crossings of modern times. On occasions there are even traffic
jams as vehicles get stuck crossing the dunes.
The majority of trips through the Simpson Desert are done west to east
because the inclines on the westward slopes of the sand dunes are of a
lesser gradient than
east to west.
The Simpson is closed annually from the last week in November
until March 16th. It is too hot to travel this desert during this
Others will head south west to Coober Pedy via Mount Barry a distance
of nearly 200km.
Another destination from here is Cadney Park also on the Stuart
Highway. This route is a little more appropriate to 4wd vehicles and
first travels along the Coober Pedy road to the Arckaringa Homestead
turnoff and then via the Cooper Hills Homestead to Cadney Park.
Cadney Park offers camping facilities, fuel and supplies and is about
175km from Oodnadatta.
The most adventurous travelers will continue north and head for Finke,
following the Old Ghan Railway line. Whilst you shouldn't experience
harsh four wheel driving conditions on the route it is probably a 4wd
Heading out of town on the Oodnadatta Track towards Marla, there is a
turnoff about 17km out of town there is a northerly turnoff to Mount
Sarah and the Hamilton Homestead and is a reasonably good track to
Hamilton Homestead, which is a little over 100km from Oodnadatta.
The route follows a track that passes many homesteads along the way and
cross several creeks and some 285km from Oodnadatta the track reaches
Finke was a main junction on the Old Ghan Railway and it was suspected
that it would be abandoned after the re-alignment of the Ghan westward
but was taken over by the Aboriginal community and is now a thriving,
town. Don't expect to find too much in the way of food, fuel or public
toilets in Finke.
From Finke it is about 150km to Kulgera and the bituminised Stuart
Australian 4x4 Travel and Australian 4x4 Tag Along Tours operates a
relaxed and informal 12 day Tag Along Tour that includes the Oodnadatta
Track, Simpson, North Simpson, Hay River, Birdsville, Innamincka,
Tibooburra, Milparinka and White Cliffs.
It also runs 4wd tag along tours to other desert destinations.