South Australia’s excellent country for 4 wheel-drive action. Whatever your pleasure, whether it be stunning coast, unforgettable National Parkland, or awesome stretches of desert, South Australia’s got the lot. So, if you’re game for adventure, let’s drive down some of the best 4WD tracks South Australia can boast!
Right, let’s kick off with a stunner. It’s got features a-plenty, and contains tracks to suit everybody, from beginner to old hand, so it’s one to please all kinds of drivers.
Starting around 200km west of Adelaide, Flinders is famous for its spectacular vistas across landscapes more than 600 million years old. Chief among these sights has got to be Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre atop St Mary Peak. It’s like a colossal circular ripple, which dwarfs the surrounding landscape. Really quite something, and even better from a small plane: you can book a scenic flight right over the top of it.
On a slightly different scale are the endangered Yellow-footed Wallabies that nestle in the foothills – they’re tricky to spot but if you do you’ll have a golden photo op. Look out also for eagle, emu and lizards.
Once you’re past the mountainous stuff, the dirt road becomes flatter, affording never-ending views across dry dusty plains. This is other-worldly driving. Look out for waterholes to have the best chance of spotting wildlife en route.
As for accommodation, there’s plenty of bush camping available, as well as rooms on offer at Alpana Station, with private bathrooms and fire pits – perfect for that al fresco tucker under the stars. Just don’t forget to see a supplier so you can load up on cooking utensils first.
Coorong National Park
200km southeast of Adelaide, this track’s for the beach-lover. Of all the beaches you can drive on in South Australia, this one’s probably the easiest. Consequently, beginners will be quite at home here, as they make their level way across the smooth sand for 65km or so. Campsites abound, so you can have quite a weekend adventure here at Coorong.
There are only two things you need to remember if you’re going to Coorong:
- Be sure of the tide times. It’s an easy drive, but it’s also easy to find yourself cut off by a fast-encroaching high tide. And you really don’t want to see the looks on the coastguards’ faces when they turn up to get you out of lumber.
- If you’re planning on going in the spring, change your plan. The beach is closed during this season in order to protect the population of hooded plover that nests there. Aside from that, the beach is wide open, so pile in.
Coorong’s great for those who aren’t so sure of their 4WD abilities and as a result is a popular choice for novices. However, its popularity does mean that you won’t get that miles-from-it-all feeling that you were perhaps hoping for. You’ll need to try a more remote track. Talking of which…
Oodnadatta National Park
If getting away from it all’s what you want, you’ll be wise to choose Oodnadatta. Why? Because the track passes right through the good old Red Centre. In other words, the uninhabited Australian heartland. It’s fair to say that you won’t be troubled by much in the way of company during this portion.
You can however find some friendly sorts at the Maree Hotel, the traditional starting point for drives into Oodnadatta. From there, make your way across the sandy landscape to Coward Springs, where there’s a decent campsite, where you can relax, recharge and even book a camel safari.
The 4 x 4 tracks hereabouts range from easy to moderate, with the biggest challenges being the uneven conditions facing the driver making their way to Lake Eyre (AKA Kati Thanda).
This road – known variously as the Oodnadatta Track, and the String of Springs – follows the course of an old Aborigine trading route. En route, you may get a sinking feeling as you pass Australia’s lowest point – Halligan Point. The lake itself’s a whopper and its rivers cover more than 1.2 million km2. Whatever you do, don’t try driving on any portions of the lake – it’s illegal.
Best time to try Oodnadatta? April to September. Special tip for this region: put two spare tyres on your equipment roster. The terrain’s especially tough on tyres.
Coffin Bay National Park
Don’t let the name put you off. It’s a dead good place for a 4 wheel-drive undertaking. It’s quite a remote spot, only accessible by 4WD, and offers quite a challenge for drivers so is in the medium category.
The range of terrain includes beaches, over at Eyre Peninsular, as well as narrow pathways that demand a good deal of concentration – this one’s not for floor-it merchants. Those who like to use a little more skill and a little less gas will be well-rewarded here.
Overall, to treat Coffin Bay lightly would be a grave misunderstanding.
Ngarkat Conservation Park
Let’s finish with a belter. A 300km drive east from Adelaide, this place has a well-earned reputation as heaven for 4 wheel-drivers. The 270,000-hectare park has routes to suit all abilities, but the best are the uber-challenging off road tracks through the desert and over the massive sand dunes. The Border Track, tracing the line between Victoria and SA is especially difficult and you’ll need to make sure you’ve got your vehicle well fitted-out out for it.
You can’t come to Ngarkat without getting out of the car and trying the Orchid Hike. It takes you into a magical pine forest filled with the most beautiful orchids you’ll ever see. Then, when your thoughts turn to bed, there’s great camping at the eleven sites ranged around the area, including a terrific spot up at Box Flat.
The heat in Ngarkat can be incredible, so make sure you come between April and September.
What equipment should I take offroad?
First aid kit’s a must, and you should really take more petrol and water than you think you need. You don’t want to be running low on either when you’re miles from the nearest pump. Especially if you’re going to attempt the Red Centre. There’s a good reason why nobody much lives there.
Take a couple of planks to help you out of a boggy situation, and make sure your map’s detailed and up-to-date so you can find your way to SA’s best 4WD tracks. Get a two-way radio in case your mobile fails you, and invest in some cooking facilities – nothing beats cooking your own food out in the outback, under the incredible stars.
Who can help make my vehicle offroad ready?
Try Total 4×4. They’ll be glad to help you decide if you’re not sure what you want, and for those who do know what they want, they’ll have it at a great price.
All aboard for some South Australian adventure!