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Outback South Australia

Landscapes as different as the Australian Outback


Outback South Australia covers about 80 % of the state's area. Population? Less than 1 % of South Australians live in these remote regions. It is a harsh and dry land, nevertheless, the South Australian Outback surprises with grandeur and timeless beauty.

Huge areas of glistening salt lakes, stony deserts, rugged mountain ranges, and the vast treeless Nullarbor plain are only a few highlights that await you.

South Australia is my home away from home. I have explored many beautiful places, and always love to return.
Let me invite you to explore the diverse wonders of this fantastic country with me.

salt lake
Salt lake near Woomera on the Stuart Highway

Where exactly is the South Australian Outback?

Well, I don't say you will notice when you get there, this would be rude:). Actually, the Outback in South Australia covers the entire north of the state. The region on a line north of the Eyre Highway to Port Augusta to Yunta is considered Outback.
Look at the map on the bottom of this page to get an overview.

Let's start in Adelaide, South Australia's capital. For me it is the gateway to the Outback anyway. There are several routes to the north, which one is the best depend on where you want to go.

The Princes Highway is part of highway 1 that goes all around Australia. It is the shortest connection to Port Augusta, the cross-roads of Australia. From here highways lead to Perth (west coast), Sydney (east coast) and to Darwin in the north.

The Main North Road out of Adelaide, and further north the RM Williams Way, are the straightest routes to the Flinders Ranges and Hawker. It is a leisurely drive through South Australia's Mid North which is, along with the Eyre Peninsula, the main agriculture district of the state.
Now that doesn't look much like Outback, right? But wait!

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Outback South Australia - the north east

Once you arrive in Hawker, the small town that is called the hub of the Flinders Ranges, you are on your way to the most famous Outback tracks.
But wait! Take your time to explore the stunning ranges. You can travel north within the Flinders, and then join the main Hawker to Leigh Creek road through one of the gorges. It is worth the detour.

Leigh Creek, with its huge open-cut coal mine, is the last town of any size in South Australia's north east. Stock up with food and water here.

The bitumen ends in Lyndhurst. Now you really hit the dust of the Outback. The Strzelecki Track to Innamincka begins here, a route that takes you finally to the southwest of Queensland.

From Lyndhurst is roughly 80 km to Marree. The tiny township offers you many relics from a glorious past as a railway town. Did I tell you Marree is my favourite Outback town?

From Marree you have the choice of two famous tracks. The Birdsville Track takes you into the far south west of Outback Queensland and its stunning channel country.

Are you eager to learn about the history of the old Ghan railway line? Then you need to follow the Oodnadatta Track. This route leads you to the Stuart highway, the main road from Adelaide to Darwin.

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Outback South Australia - Stuart Highway

The Stuart Highway is the main south to north route through the centre of Australia. The road divides the eastern & western parts of the South Australian Outback. It's a long drive on this well-maintained bitumen road from Port Augusta to Alice Springs (1225km) in the Northern Territory, even longer up to Darwin (2720km)!

Is it boring? No way! There is so much Outback scenery to take in! See the lakes on the map? These are usually dry salt lakes that glisten in the sun. Smaller salt pans closer to the highway are always worth a stop. Along with the red earth and the blue sky you have the chance to take amazing photos.
The Outback's beauty is all about colours. Did I say that before? I think so.

Around Woomera was the testing area for long range missiles in the cold war. It is still a strategic defense post used for aerospace activities. The rocket debris displayed in William Creek came from here. Womera now welcomes visitors, however, a huge area west of the highway is still restricted.

Roxby Downs, 83 km off the highway, is said to be the most modern town in the Australian Outback. The town was built in 1987 to serve the Olympic Dam mine. In my opinion, it is a rather artificial settlement. There are some great sand dunes around Roxby, and the small opal mining town of Andamooka is really worth a visit.
From Roxby Downs the Borefield road goes to the Oodnadatta Track.

The most interesting town in this part of Outback South Australia beyond doubt is Coober Pedy. The opal capital of the world is a must see place. Interested in Australian opal? Australia's national gemstone is a true beauty.

Outback South Australia - the lonely west

Huge parts of the area west of the Stuart Highway are either Aboriginal land or belong to the Roxby Downs prohibited area.
A few tracks constructed by Len Beadell in the 1950s and 60s are known as the "bomb roads", as they were built to service the rocket test area. These tracks are very remote, but they cover some of Australia's most scenic desert country.
You have to be very well prepared and independent to travel these tracks.

Between Glendambo (Stuart Highway) and Wudinna (Eyre Peninsula) is another area of rugged mountain ranges - the Gawler Ranges. Ancient volcanic structures, called organ pipes and the vast, glistening Lake Gairdner make this area a great destination for 4WD enthusiasts.
Mount Ive Station is the only place that accommodates travellers in this beautiful wilderness.

The south western end of Outback South Australia is covered by the Nullarbor Plain, the treeless plain, that stretches over 1200 km into Western Australia. The Eyre Highway runs close to the coast, and you can see some spectacular scenery.
The cliffs of the Great Australian Bight are amazing. The power of the sea is immense. It is as if the southern ocean would eat up the Australian continent.

agricultural area in south australia
Mid North of South Australia
remains of an old bridge
Old Ghan bridge along the Oodnadatta Track
animal tracks in the sand
Animal tracks in a sand hill near Woomera
organ pipes rock formation
The organ pipes in Gawler Ranges National Park
steep cliffs on the nullaror coast
Nullarbor coastline at the great Australian Bight

road map south australia

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the South Australian Outback. Wherever you go, take care, and have a wonderful time.

For more information on Outback South Australia check the following pages.

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