Cordillo Downs Station, SA: Destination Guide

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It may seem like you’re travelling on the road to nowhere, but reach Cordillo Downs Station - one of Australia’s largest cattle stations - and you’ll realise the arduous journey was well worth the effort.

Read on to discover the best things to see and do at Cordillo Downs Station, or find and book accommodation near Cordillo Downs Station today.

About Cordillo Downs Station

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First taken up in 1875, Cordillo Downs grew over the years to have a larger population of people and buildings than the town of Innamincka. That’s not really surprising when you consider it was once considered to be 7800sq km in size. That’s more than one million and nine hundred thousand acres! It ran more than 85,000 sheep, making it the largest sheep station of the time. It also had 28 horses, 450 head of cattle and one camel for years, plus it boasted more than 120 stands for shearers during peak shearing season.

It grew so big that it had its own post office, blacksmith, saddler and police station. It even had its own polling boxes during elections, and with the amount of families living on the station a full-time school teacher was employed to cater for the kids. There were nine full-time boundary riders, whose job it was to check and repair the fences, and four full-time musterers and netters just to name a few of the people finding employment from the station.

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Many of these people actually fell victim to this place’s harsh environment with several dying of thirst, including one Aboriginal-Chinese boundary rider who perished in 1900. His remains weren’t found until 1906 – it doesn’t get much more remote than that!

In the later years, Cordillo Downs made the switch from sheep for cattle, mainly because wild dogs had been a massive problem for the whole time. In fact, a lot of Aboriginal women were employed as shepherds to try and safeguard the flocks when times were at their worst.

Things to do at Cordillo Downs Station

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The magnitude of this place is half of its beauty. After all, it is literally the size of several European countries! Add in a mountain of historical significance and you’ve got yourself an intriguingly beautiful place to learn, relax, unwind and totally re-ground yourself. It’s a bit like the tai-chi of Australia you could say…

Getting out and exploring the landscape, be it on foot or 4WD, is one of the best things to do when you reach Cordillo Downs Station. The wide open countryside shimmers practically everywhere you look and that sense of true-blue adventure is well and truly alive in this region. From the red sand hills littered with spinifex, the totally barren flats and stony tablelands, not to mention those strikingly abrupt cliffs in the distance, too – it’s the Australian environment at its best. As harsh as this land is, it’s utterly spectacular at the same time - so pack your camera!


Old historic woolshed

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Perhaps one of the main attractions on the Cordillo Downs Station is the old historic woolshed, which is now heritage-listed given its unique nature. Its walls are constructed of stone, which are a few feet thick. Why did they use stone or solid rock, you ask? Well, there aren’t many trees out this way, and you couldn’t exactly order a load of timber when you’re living smack bang in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the 1800s, now could you? So typical of the traditional Aussie battlers they made do with what they had, and managed to build the largest woolshed of its kind for that period out of rocks sourced from the land.

Cadelga Ruins

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Roughly 88km north of the historic woolshed you’ll find a crumbling mess of ruins known as the Cadelga Ruins. This is actually the old homestead of the Cadelga Station, which was taken over by Cordillo Downs back in 1903. Now, it doesn’t look like much from the road, but once you get out and have a closer look you realise this place would have been pretty fancy in its day. I mean it was never the Titanic, but being handcrafted out of stone and timber, the workmanship that would have gone into it should definitely be appreciated. It’s situated nice and close of a waterhole, which still has plenty of water to this day. Now this place is a fairly popular place to establish camp for the night, but out of peak season it’s a pretty remote spot. So I can all but guarantee you’ll have the whole place to yourself.

Getting to Cordillo Downs Station

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Cordillo Downs Station is a remote region to tour, and is located about halfway between Birdsville in Queensland, and Innamincka in South Australia, which is Strzelecki Desert country.

The best way to tackle the seemingly endless dirt road to Cordillo Downs Station is to refuel and restock at either Birdsville or Innamincka, and then make tracks for the station. Cordillo Downs Station is 116km north from Innamincka and 155km south-east from Birdsville, and conditions are rough to say the least – be prepared for a bumpy ride!

When to visit Cordillo Downs Station

Extreme heat conditions tend to keep visitors to Cordillo Downs Station away during the summer months, but if you do insist on travelling, make sure you are well equipped to do so, and don’t mind a few thousand flies keeping you company!

Travelling between April to October is generally recommended, however, on the odd occasion the region is hit with heavy rain, the road can become flooded and closed, so always check weather and road conditions before heading off.

Where to stay at Cordillo Downs Station

Discover more accommodation options close to Cordillo Downs Station.