Stretching 650km through the desolate South Australian outback, the Oodnadatta Track follows the path of ancient Aboriginal trade routes.
Read on to discover the best things to see and do along the Oodnadatta Track or find and book accommodation along the Oodnadatta Track today.
The Oodnadatta Track runs from Marree (670km north of Adelaide) to Marla on the Stuart Highway near the Northern Territory border. The story of this track stretches back to the days of the early European explorers, who vainly searched the vast South Australian outback for what they believed to be an inland sea in the centre of the continent.
While the inland sea remained nothing more than a myth, reliable supplies of water were discovered, courtesy of local Aboriginal tribes who had known for centuries where water bubbled to the surface from the Great Artesian Basin beneath this otherwise dry terrain. Aboriginal trading routes based around these life-giving oases provided early European pioneers with a passage through the desert. Today, that passage is known as the Oodnadatta Track and these springs can still be found along its length.
The Oodnadatta Track offers numerous opportunities to explore the unique natural and historical wonders of the vast South Australian desert. There are a number of walking tracks for those wishing to get out on foot for a while, while those interested in the history of the outback will enjoy discovering numerous ruins and remains from the past along the track. The track introduces you to a number of fascinating outback towns, including Oodnadatta itself and its well-known Pink Roadhouse, and for much of the way runs parallel to the Old Ghan Railway.
It’s worth stopping off at Curdimurka Siding just past the roadside lookout over Lake Eyre South. Set in a flat plain with the horizon disappearing into a shimmer of haze, it’s not hard to imagine what a difficult lifestyle it must have been for the early railway workers based at Curdimurka – especially through the searing summer months.
Another interesting stop along the track is Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park where a number of active mound springs can be found, the best known being Blanches Cup and the Bubbler. Over time, springs come and go and the Bubbler is now just a shadow of its former self. Early records show that it used to eject water several feet into the air accompanied by a loud roaring noise, a far cry from the gentle ‘plop’ heard today as the occasional bubble of water and gas breaks the surface. To the early Aboriginal people, this was a sacred site of great spiritual importance, as was a lone box tree that grew here, before visiting pioneers cut it down for firewood! While camping is not permitted in the park, Coward Springs, just up the track, has a good campground with the bonus of a natural spa fed by hot artesian water.
Lake Eyre covers 9500sq km, its catchment drains 1,200,000sq km (about one sixth of the continent) and, at 15m below sea level, it has the distinction of being the lowest natural point in Australia. The lake fills with water only a few times each century but, when it does, it attracts waterbirds from across the continent and beyond. Pelicans come from as far afield as New Guinea and it has been estimated that up to 80 per cent of Australia’s pelican population come here to feed and breed in these periodic times of plenty.
A 60km access track to the lake starts near the small outpost of William Creek and, while information material suggested this track could be rough and difficult, we found it to generally be in better condition than the Oodnadatta Track we had just left. That said, the track runs through station property and as well as stray cattle, drivers need to be on the lookout for the odd wheel-wrenching bulldust hole.
Along the way, the track passes a monument to the memory of a female tourist who perished while attempting to walk to William Creek at the height of summer after she and her companion bogged their hire 4WD in sand at Halligan Bay. Sadly, the police found the vehicle had highway tyre pressures and 4WD hadn’t been engaged. After shifting a little sand and deflating the tyres, they were able to drive out the vehicle.
Located on Anna Creek Station is the old Peake Telegraph Station, the world’s largest cattle property and part of the famous Kidman Empire. The Overland Telegraph between Adelaide and Darwin was completed in 1872 and to retain the integrity of the transmissions, repeater stations like that at Peake were required every 250km. The access track to the Telegraph Station is rough and rocky in places as it winds through low bare hills cut by numerous small watercourses and on several occasions daylight could be seen under the camper’s wheels as it bounced over obstacles both seen and unseen. The Telegraph Station was located next to mound springs which flowed from the base of a line of low hills. Despite the ruins’ exposure to the elements over the years, they remain in remarkably good condition and provide visitors with an interesting insight into yesteryear.
Marree is located 670km north of Adelaide, with Oodnadatta sitting a further 407km north west.
The drive to Marree from Adelaide via National Highway A1 and B83 will take about seven and a half hours.
It’s best to travel between April and October to avoid the blistering heat.
For more accommodation options in and around the Oodnadatta Track, click here.
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