sandy outback road
Home > Oodnadatta Track Overview

Oodnadatta Track Facts

The best Outback adventure in South Australia


The Oodnadatta Track (OT) is certainly the most historic Outback track in Australia, hence it should be on top of your South Australia travel itinerary. The track is classified as an easier route, so it is just right for anyone with no Outback experience.

ruin of a railway cottage
Wangianna ruins about 35km west of Marree
The ruins are the remains of cottages used by railway worker along the track in the 19th century


The track follows an ancient trail used by Aborigines for ochre trading for thousands of years. Artesian mound springs supply water in this arid region. Aborigines relied on this water source as well as the European explorers who used the route to build the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan railway lines in the late 19th century.
This was the time when the story of the Australian camels began. Without the ships of the desert exploring the vast Australian inland would have been even harder.

The OT takes you into true Outback country - you will find stony plains, rocky hills and wildflowers after good rain. You have to cross several creeks and river systems, most of them are usually dry.

"Sandy creeks that flow nowhere, Excepting when it rains"...
This line from a Slim Dusty song really fits. Everywhere in the Outback you'll recognize dry waterways by the stands of river red gums and coolibah trees along the dry creek beds.

These days the Oodnadatta Track is a well maintained gravel road of approx. 620 km that begins in Marree. It is a great route to travel from South Australia to the Northern Territory, and it is much more interesting than the sealed Stuart Highway.

Advertisement

Come on, join me on a fantastic journey along the historically most interesting Outback track. Get the information needed to plan a safe journey.

Quick Facts

Length of track: 617 km from Marree to Marla
Location: Northeast of South Australia
Distances from major cities:
Marree is 650 km north of Adelaide and 1850 km northwest of Sydney, Marla is 455 km south of Alice Springs
Facilities along the track:
Accommodation, fuel, basic supplies can be found in Marree, William Creek & Marla
Basic campground at Coward Springs
Permits:
As long as you stay on the main road you don't need any permits. A Desert Parks Pass (valid one year) or day/overnight permit is required for Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, Lake Eyre National Park and other parks in Outback SA.
Road conditions:
Click here to read about conditions on the track with useful tips by Outback Guide readers.
Before you go, visit Outback Roads South Australia, Ph: 1300 361 033 for the latest updates.

Advertisement

How to get there

Coming from the south take the Hawker-Leigh Creek Road that passes by the Flinders Ranges. The bitumen ends in Lyndhurst.

On my last trip to this region a few years ago roadworks were in progress, and locals in Marree told me that the route from Marree to Lyndhurst is going to be sealed very soon. However, although there are a couple of sealed sections between Lyndhurst and Marree now, there are still long stretches of unsealed road. The distance from Lyndhurst to Marree is 79km.

Don't miss the Ochre Pits and the ghost town Farina on your way to Marree.

If you come from the north along the Stuart Highway, there are several ways to reach the Oodnadatta Track.

  • The start of the track at Marla is roughly 160 km south of the South Australian border.
  • From Cadney Park via the painted desert to Oodnadatta.
  • From Coober Pedy goes a track to Oodnadatta and one to William Creek.
  • The Borefield road finally starts in Roxby Downs and meets the track 69km west of Marree, or 135km east of William Creek.
  • If you get the chance make a detour to the Painted Desert from Oodnadatta. This is sheer Outback beauty, and truly worth the visit. You can also use the painted desert track for a short cut to Australia's famous opal capital, Coober Pedy.

Partner Link

Travel Universe

Click on the image to get the road atlas or map for your trip!

The route step by step

Look at this map of the Oodnadatta Track - it opens a new window for your convenient reading and planning.

  • Marree To William Creek (204 km) - in my opinion the most diverse part of the track. Lake Eyre, mound springs, several ruins of former Ghan railway sidings are among the highlights.
  • William Creek to Oodnadatta (202 km) - see more relics of the Old Ghan, including the huge Algebuckina railway bridge.
  • Oodnadatta to Marla (211 km) - Both the Ghan and the Overland Telegraph Line leave the track north of the township Oodnadatta. So on this last leg you won't see much history, just beautiful Outback landscape.
Use the links below to read more about the route. Don't forget to come back to this page for more essential info.

Advertisement

Tips to prepare your Oodnadatta Track journey

I've been asked frequently whether a 4WD is needed or if you can tow a caravan along the track. The answer is not easy.
Basically, you can go with a sturdy 2WD car when the road is dry, freshly graded and no rain is expected. However, a 4WD is more convenient and you can do a detour on a track where a 4WD is required.
Don't forget, this is a long journey and conditions can change quickly. A rain shower can make the Oodnadatta Track unpassable for a 2WD in a few minutes. The "escape" routes back to the bitumen are also dirt roads.

As for towing, using a small camper trailer for off-road travel is the best thing out there. You will certainly damage your 20ft caravan on the rough road and the frequent creek crossings along the way.

  • Never go with a 2WD hired car, you will lose your insurance cover when something happens.
  • Have your vehicle checked to be sure it is in best condition.
  • Always take plenty of water to be safe for a few days.
  • Never leave your car when it breaks down.
  • Avoid travelling during the summer months. It will be too hot to do anything else than driving in an air-conditioned car.
  • Take your time! Although you can drive the Oodnadatta Track within one (long) day, doing this would be a shame. After all, you are in this remote part of the world to admire nature and history along the way.
    Stay overnight in Marree, William Creek and Oodnadatta, and you'll have plenty time to explore each day.
When you reach Marla on the Stuart Highway, you are back on bitumen, but still in the Outback. You can either go to the Alice Springs and Uluru, or down south to Coober Pedy, Port Augusta and Adelaide.

Enjoy this most interesting track in the South Australian Outback.

Impressions from the Oodnadatta Track

Road sign showing distances along an Outback track in South Australia
Sign at the beginning of the track in Marree
Kewson Hill is an ancient mount spring
Kewson Hill Mount Spring
A water softener used to treat water for steam engines in the Outback
Curdimurka Railway Siding
The Oodnadatta Track passes the Stuart Range at Barton Gap
Barton Gap
Very dry soil in the Australian Outback
Dry soil along the track
The sun is about to come out on a cloudy day
A cloudy day
The water over road sign means to take extreme care
Drive carefully!

Find more information how to prepare a trip to the Outback on the following pages.

Advertisement

Frequently Asked Questions


Tribute to Tragedy on the Cooper Lake Eyre 
We are four old mates from Uni days and now more than 30 years on went on our own outback trip in 2 4wds, first as four blokes, then with 3 female partners …

Lake Eyre from Sydney 
Hello Rita, We are a small group of older lady travellers wanting to drive from Sydney to Lake Eyre in June this year. We would appreciate any advise …

Journey thru the most central town in Australia 
I recently traveled from Quilpie in the Queensland Channel Country to Tibooburra, North of Broken Hill, NSW. There were some concerns about flood-damaged …

Lyndhurst to Marree road conditions 
What is the road surface between Leigh Creek and Marree? On Google is looks sealed, but on most maps I have looked it, it is shown as unsealed. Reason …

Marree - William Creek with a normal car 
Hi there, Congrats for your web site, it s full of great information and I can't wait any more for my travel. I am about to do a trip from Melbourne …

Family Trip - Melbourne - Coober Pedy - Oodnadatta Track 
Hi, I am very excited to be planning a trip accross S.A, Coober Pedy and then Marla down to Marree . Our Kids are rather young, 5 and 4 at the time …

Our Lake Eyre Adventure 
May Day! May Day! May 1 was the beginning of our first real "outback adventure". We had driven to "The Alice" before, thru southern NSW and up to the …

Driving from Melbourne to Lake Eyre 
Hi Rita, first thank you for this site for intrepid travellers such as myself. I am hiring a campervan with my 12 y.o. daughter and taking her on a road …

Lake Eyre Trip 
Hello, we would like to travel to Lake Eyre now the waters are there, but would also like to visit Coober Pedy and see the Flinders National Park. We …

Do you like this page? Your friends might enjoy it too. Please share it, thank you.

Home | News | Search | Top of page

Copyright © 2010-2017 Rita Amend.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED