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. It is classified as an easier route, so it is just
right for anyone with no Outback experience.
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 camels in Australia and Afghan cameleers 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. However, you need to slow down, and take the crossings carefully, otherwise you might damage your car.
"Sandy creeks that flow nowhere, Excepting when it rains"...
This line from a Slim Dusty song really fits. Everywhere in the Outback
you'll recognise dry waterways by the stands of river red gums and
coolibah trees along the dry creek beds (like in the picture below).
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.
Come on, join me on a fantastic journey along my all-time favourite Outback track, which is actually a good dirt road, most of the times.
Read on, and get the information needed to plan a safe journey.
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 roadwork was 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.
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 impassable 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.
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
Don't miss the articles below which give you many more details about the route.
Get general facts, an introduction and overview of the track. (617 km)
Read about Marree, the town at the start of the Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks. This is my favourite Outback town
Discover the history of the early days, when the Outback was explored.
Marree To William Creek (204 km)
The first section of the Oodnadatta Track is 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.
This small town offers everything a traveller needs. You'll be surprised what you'll find in this village half-way along the track
Oodnadatta to Marla (211 km)
First discover Oodnadatta, before you go on the last leg of the track.
Both the Ghan and the Overland Telegraph Line leave the track north of the township Oodnadatta.
Road conditions along the Oodnadatta Track.
Don't forget to read this page, it also includes useful tips by Outback Guide readers.
Read about Australia's largest lake which only fills with water every couple of years. Get the latest water status of the lake.
Aerial view of the lake - photo © John Carnemolla
Where to stay
Great tips about camping & cabins, where to get fuel & food, plus other useful information
Enjoy this most interesting track in the South Australian Outback.
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Below you'll find articles to help you plan your journey.