Ultimate Guide to the Birdsville Track

The Sydney Opera House. Uluru. Koalas. Birdsville. In the list of Australia’s icons, Birdsville deserves its place. For years now it’s been shorthand for Outback Experience, summing up for a lot of folks just what makes rural Australia so special and utterly unlike anywhere else on earth. 

But why’s it so well-known and what can it offer today’s motorist, whether beginner or expert? Let’s take a trip over there and see. 

Birdsville – the skinny

So, Birdsville Track’s been there a long time. Ever since the 1860s in fact, when cattle drivers used it to get their pounds of flesh all the way from Queensland and the Northern Territory down to Port Augusta railhead. Since then, it’s seen a little development – for instance, sections are sealed – but not that much. It still presents a challenge for the unwary driver. 

Overall, if you’re wondering what condition the Birdsville Track is in, it’s safe to say that it’s not like your local run to the supermarket. It’s uneven, it’s dusty, it’s hot and it’s long. 

Just how long are we talking? The entire trail length is 517km. How long does it take to do the Birdsville Track from start to finish? Well, some people do it in a day. But they’re missing the point. It’s not how fast you do it, it’s what you see en route. We’ll come to that in a bit. 

Before we do though, you need to know that the track’s best for 4WDrivers. 2WDs with good clearance can just about make it but it’s not advisable due to the track’s plentiful gibbers (huge pebbles). And make sure you’ve fitted the car out properly before you get going. Oh, and fuel. There’s only one Birdsville Track fuel stop – Mungerannie Roadhouse, about halfway along. So fill up. 

What to see?

First of all, the track itself. The impact on the eye of a never-ending dirt track making its plucky way through miles of surrounding wilderness is impossible to convey. You’re just going to have to go there and see it for yourself. One traveller said it was the closest to outer space that the planet can offer. Bit easier to get to though. And no space junk zooming around, spoiling things.

Look out for whirly-whirlies dancing along the track, the old bore holes that still issue artesian water that’s miraculous amid all this sand (but, it has to be said, the water’s a bit hot!), and the poignant remains of long-closed shops that just couldn’t hack it in this vast, unforgiving landscape. 

And among all this emptiness, keep an eye out for the animals that call it their home. There’s a vast number of them, including kowaris, dunnarts, kultarrs, hopping mice, skinks, and geckos and up above you might see quailthrushes and woodswallows. 

Should you ever get tired of this other-worldliness, try these must-see sights out. Any Birdsville track itinerary has to feature these. 

Burke and Wills Dig Tree

No, it’s not just a tree. It’s a nationally important Eucalyptus, the very same gumtree that Burke and Wills camped under while on their globally-famous expedition to chart a course from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. History fans will know that things didn’t end great for this intrepid pair. Heed their warning and make sure you pack all the right gear before you go.

Birdsville Billabong

Those whose interest lies less in history and arboriculture and more in amazing animals will find much to divert them here at this wonderful watering hole. 

Birds galore can be enjoyed here, including eagles, kites, bronzewings, pelicans, ibis and cormorants, while for those who like to see animals not through binoculars but on the end of a hook will have a great time carving their way through the local fish population. 

Kayaking is hugely popular, so be prepared to spend a bit of time enjoying the views as you paddle among the ducks. 

Munga-Thirri National Park

This is 4WD heaven. One million hectares of growling, skidding, wheel-spinning euphoria. Once you’re there, you’ll not want to miss possibly the highlight – Big Red, a 40-metre high sand dune so immense you’ll be dying to conquer it, either by foot or (much better) by car. Enjoy the incredible view then bodyboard all the way down – fantastic. Just don’t forget that you’ll be needing to hike back up to the car eventually. Big Red’s not big on cable cars. 

Also well worth seeing if you’re in the area at the right time are the Birdsville Races – famous series of horse races that brings in thousands of visitors – and The Big Red Bash – a music festival like no other. 

Where to stay?

You might be tempted to think that this is the kind of wilderness in which you’ll be needing to sleep in your car or in a tent. In fact, Birdsville offers a few options. 

Perhaps the most famous is the Birdsville Hotel. This is a great spot for some refreshment, an overnight stop and a few photos – the place is legendary and has been giving weary travellers somewhere decent to stay since 1884. So it’s not just a hotel – it’s very much right up there with the best Birdsville Track things to see. 

There’s also the Mungerannie Hotel, which is where the petrol station is. This place boasts an artesian bush pool, which sounds pretty good after a hard day’s wrestling with the wheel. Also worth checking out is the heritage Marree Hotel. 

If you’d prefer to get closer to the land then camping’s a great option. There are plenty of bush camps, as well as sites with decent facilities at Clayton Station and Maree Caravan and Camping Park. The Birdsville Caravan Park gets a special mention because of its fabulous location right alongside Birdsville Billabong. 

When to go?

The best time to come here is between May and September, in order to avoid the most extreme heat. The Birdsville Races take place in September and the Big Red Bash is in July. The Munga-Thirri National Park closes between December and March.

Anything else?

Respect the landscape. 

This means that you need to be mindful that conditions can change all of a sudden, so stay alert and stay informed. Check out the information websites and talk to your fellow track users. Catch up with them at rest stops and keep in touch with a radio. And a good two-way radio is the kind of equipment you need to gear up with at a reputable stockist

It also means you have to treat the surroundings with care. The surroundings might look imperviously rugged, but it’s a fragile eco-system out there so stick to the track. 

Flock to Birdsville

So, now we’ve stuck our beaks into Birdsville, you’ll know what’s so special about it. Except you won’t really. To find out what makes it like nowhere else, you’ve got to go there. So, get onto 4×4 Autos, get tooled up and get over to Birdsville. It’s worth making a flap over. 

Give me a free quote!

Simply fill in the form below and we’ll get back to you on a detailed quote.

"*" indicates required fields

Step 1 of 10