Australian Outback Adventures: A Beginner’s Guide
Rugged landscapes, native wildlife and quirky adventures await, in the Aussie outback. If you’ve never explored the country’s vast, inland wonders, it’s a wild ride worthy of your travel bucket list. Here’s how to start.
The cattle stations, mountain ranges, deserts and eccentric pubs of the Australian outback are like nowhere else on the planet. Here, you can see night skies ablaze with stars, kangaroos bounding across endless horizons and billion-year-old gorges. The only problem is, how do you even begin to tackle it?
How To Explore The Australian Outback
The easiest way to discover highlights of the Australian outback is to fly into centres such as Alice Springs, Darwin or Adelaide and set off on an organised tour. This gives you a taste of the action, without worrying about running out of petrol on an endless stretch of remote road. Or, take a ride on the Ghan Great Southern Rail into the heart of the country, from Darwin to Adelaide.
However, a self-driving trip with a 4WD is the best way to make the most of it. Driving in the outback is pretty safe, when you’re prepared. There are plenty of accommodation options on the most popular routes, especially if you’ve got a caravan or camping equipment.
The Basic Essentials For Your Trip
The key to being prepared, is to map out your trip depending on the distance you want to cover and pinpoint facilities to stock up on water, groceries and fuel along the way. Don’t forget to take a good old paper map either, as a GPS may not always be reliable and you’ll be up the proverbial creek without a paddle, if it stops working.
There are a few essential items you’ll need to pack, whether you go on a tour or self-drive. They include a waterproof jacket, comfortable hiking boots, personal medications and toiletries, a torch, sunscreen and, whatever you do, don’t forget a wide-brimmed Akubra Hat to look the part! You can access most essential items on the road, however they tend to be expensive and, depending where you are, you’re not likely to find a wide range of products.
The best time to go is between April and October, to avoid gazillions of flies and scorching temps of over 40 degrees. Plus, if you want to head to the Top End, many regions are inaccessible during the summer wet season.
Where To Go On Your First Australian Outback Adventure
There are plenty of challenging trips to traverse off the beaten path, once you get the hang of travelling in the outback. For the first one though, it’s best to stick to well-worn routes to get some practice in. These road trips offer plenty of iconic sights, with easy accommodation options, shops and petrol stations along the way.
The Red Centre Way
Without a doubt, the most popular route is the Red Centre Way, over a five or six day loop from Alice Springs to Uluru. To make the most of the starry skies and avoid trouble on some unsealed roads, a 4WD and camping equipment is recommended. First up, you’ll see the West MacDonnell Range National Park, home to Ormiston Gorge, rock wallabies and refreshing swimming holes.
Journey on towards Kings Canyon, to check out Tnorala, a 140 million-year-old comet crater and set up camp at the Kings Canyon Resort. Before you reach the iconic destination of Uluru to watch the sun light up the rock, detour to the Garden of Eden for a swim. Spend a couple of days in Uluru, to see the incredible Olgas and do the Mutitjulu Waterhole Walk.
Olgas Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory
Uluru, Northern Territory
Brisbane To Birdsville
If outback pubs are your thing, there’s arguably none more famous than the Birdsville Hotel - and it’s definitely the most remote. This is another drive that’s low difficulty in a 4WD and you can do it in under a week from Brisbane. Along the way, you’ll get to trek in the Main Range National Park and visit Nindigully Hotel and its famous pig-racing event in November.
You’ll also see Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils in the town of Eromanga, which is the the furthest settlement from the country’s coast, with a population of a whopping 45 people. Moving on, you’ll arrive in Windorah with its award winning Western Star Hotel, before finally settling in Birdsville for a beer at the bar and epic views of the Simpson Desert, from the Big Red sand dune.
After doing these trips, you’ll be ready for your rite of passage across the Nullarbor Plain and a lifetime's worth of outback Australian adventures.