It’s time for adventure. Queensland is absolutely stuffed with it, and the 4WD tracks it has are among the best in the world. It really is off road central. There are first-class thrills to test the most intrepid motorist, as well as some for the relative newcomer. So let’s not dawdle. Ready? Jump in!
Let’s start with a well-known one, famous not least for the Birdsville Hotel, which styles itself ‘Australia’s most iconic outback pub’. The old place is certainly a sight for sore eyes after a long day’s track driving, and accommodation’s available as well as a nice range of food and drink.
As far as the track goes, you’re looking at a 515km stretch, on an unsealed gravel surface, and is a fairly easy drive so good for beginners. It will take you through a wide-ranging variety of landscapes, starting with wetlands then gibber plains, before the desert pavement gives out to mile upon mile of sand dunes, courtesy of the Simpson Desert (and the Sturt Stony desert next door).
No permits are necessary to drive the Birdsville track, so you can get cracking without any paperwork caper. One thing definitely worth knowing: there’s only one fuel stop en route, so make sure you’ve got plenty on board when you set out.
The track takes around 10 hours to drive in total, and at the end you’ll be ready for that Hotel. Time it right and you could join in the fun of the Birdsville Horse Races, taking place in September every year. It’s not all about cars round here, you know.
Welford National Park
A step up in difficulty from Birdsville, this easy-to-moderate drive is packed with things to do on top of the driving. There’s great birdwatching, fishing, hiking and tremendous Aboriginal history to take in, as well as enjoying some breathtaking scenery, with the incredible red dunes being a standout.
Talking of dunes, it’s pretty arid throughout, so, as ever, make sure you’ve got stacks of water on board. When the infrequent rains do come, driving conditions can get very muddy under tyre, and your progress will be slow going. If rain’s expected, take extra provisions as well as appropriate equipment.
The National Park’s good to stay overnight in, with good, albeit primitive, camping permitted along the river at Little Boomerang Watering Hole.
Another easy-to-moderate drive, this one takes you through the magnificent Carnarvon National Park, which is an area famous for its sandstone vistas and woodland valleys, located around 590km from Brisbane.
The road into the park’s pretty plain-driving, but don’t let that fool you – a few km in, the gentle bobbing suddenly turns into hard rock. Such is the unevenness of the craggy off road tracks that you’ll need a 4WD with high clearance to get through them unscathed.
Lots of camping options here – there are four sites, with reasonable facilities. There are two towns in the neighbourhood too, so there are opportunities for restocking mid-trip.
Winter’s the best time to visit, unless you’re the kind of driver who likes it seriously hot. Do be careful to avoid the area in wet weather though. If bogs are your bag, you’ll love it. All others, don’t try it. The potential for getting stuck is way too high.
Coffs Harbour Hinterland
While the beachbums may head to Coffs Harbour only in search of some seaside action, four-wheel drivers in the know head a few km inland, all the better to try out the extensive range of tracks on offer. Check out what’s here: old logging trails through remote forest, steep undulating dirt roads that will bring out the mountain goat in you, banana plantations yielding delicious thrills, and rainforest areas just dripping with promise.
There are tracks for all abilities too, from novice to old pro, and, when you’re done with the high-octane stuff, you’ve got all that lazing around on the beach just down the road. Coffs Harbour has a good range of accommodation on offer too, so you can extend the holiday as long as you like.
OK, now we’re getting serious. This is the northernmost drive in Queensland and delivers challenges of an altogether different class to the others we’ve covered so far. The Old Telegraph Track’s one to write home about: it has ruts, erosion and creek crossings that will have the fainter hearted morsing out SOS in no time. This is especially the case with the downright infamous Gunshot Creek. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
All this isn’t to say there isn’t some relaxing driving up Cape York way too. There are expansive savannahs punctuated by vast lily-covered lakes and patches of lush rainforest that offer up great wildlife spotting opportunities. Lots of Aboriginal culture on offer too.
Three tips you need for driving in Cape York.
- Go in the dry season
- Look out for crocs. If you fancy a swim, try Fruit Bat Falls. Crocs won’t bother you there. Eliot Falls is a good spot too.
- Did I mention the challenging motoring? This is not one to try if your experience and equipment aren’t up to scratch.
There’s accommodation available at Punsand Bay, and you can go from there to the very tip of Australia.
One final one to really get your juices flowing: Sundown’s the last word in thrills, but it’s one for experts only, in vehicles with thorough fit-outs. It’s vertiginous: mountainous routes plunge headlong into sheer-sided gorges then back up onto razor-sharp ridges. If this track doesn’t get your heart beating faster, it might be worth getting a test to check for cyborg DNA. Some say this is the hardest 4WD track in Queensland. They may be right.
When the driving gets too much, you can stop at the Severn River and try out the fishing and kayaking on offer there, or just have a bit of a swim. There’s camping nearby, with the most remote being up in Red Rock Gorge. There are a couple of towns in the area for supplies, which you’ll be needing as the campsites aren’t exactly crammed full of luxuries.
What do you need to be offroad ready?
There are certain bits of kit you’re not going to want to leave without. First aid’s obvious, as is sufficient water and fuel. Another absolute must is some lengths of wood that will be a godsend if you get stuck in a bog or over an edge.
Make sure you’ve got a decent map that’ll help you to find 4WD tracks in the first place, as well as help you to find your way out of them when the time comes. Ideally invest in a two-way radio so that when mobile signals give out (and they will) you’re not totally cut off.
It’s worth having equipment on board that will help you cook, and perhaps even catch, your dinner. A fishing rod will be handy when you’re in the mood for something a bit fresher than another tin of baked beans, and a field kitchen will be just the job for grilling that fella when you land and gut him.
Who can help you get your vehicle offroad ready?
Total 4×4 is well worth checking out. They have the gear and the expertise to have you up to spec and on (and off) the road in no time at all.