sandy outback road
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Australian Outback Facts

Australia's deserts and semi-arid lands

This Outback facts page gives answers to the most common questions about the vast inland that includes also the Australian deserts. Enjoy some pictures that show you how beautiful Australia's Outback is. It is a place many travellers have fallen in love with.

salt lake with hills on the horizon
Lake Gairdner on the southern-eastern edge of the Great Victoria Desert

Is the Outback a huge desert?
If you imagine that the Outback consists only of sand and stony plains, than the answer is definitely NO!

The Outback has no clearly defined boundaries. It is the vast inland with endless horizons, loneliness and stunning nature.
For some people the Australian Outback begins some 100 km outside the big cities, others arrive when they don't see any humans on their entire trip.

Of course, there are large deserts in Australa's inland, areas of rolling sand dunes and gibber plains, but not all deserts consist of sand and stones. Actually, a desert is not defined by its appearance but by the amount of rain it receives. Additionaly, evaporation is usually higher than precipitaion (rain).

Is the Outback boring?
Not at all. By no means is the Outback flat and featureless. You'll be surprised to see the diversity of landscapes. Rocky hills, flood plains, sand dune country, red sand covered with wildflowers after rain. You will love Outback Australia for sure.

More Outback Definitions

Many Australians talk about the "bush" when they refer to the remote places of their country. Perhaps the bush is the crossing from the urbanised areas to the true Outback. Fact is, the farther west you go from the east coast, the more lonely it gets.

  • Less than 10 percent of Australians live outside the urban cities and towns that line along the coasts. Even the northern and north-western coastlines are part of the Outback, and sparsely populated.
  • The Outback is a feeling, you will notice it when you get there.
  • It is red dust, endless horizons, a canopy of stars at night.
  • It is a land of shimmering mirages on the horizon and scorching sun.
  • It is full of myths, great stories and wonderful people.
  • You arrive in the Outback when the glamour of the cities is far away, and doesn't count anymore. Guess what? That's why I love the Outback.
  • Read a wonderful poem that truly describes the Outback.

Outback Facts and Records

Australia and the Outback hold some surprising world records.

  • The longest stretch of a straight railway track (487 km) crosses the Nullarbor Plain from South Australia into Western Australia. It is part of the transcontinental railway line from Sydney to Perth. South of the railway you'll also find the longest stretch of straight bitumen road, 146.6 kms without a bend.
  • The 5531 km dingo fence runs from South Australia through New South Wales to Queensland, and it is of course, the world's longest fence.
  • Anna Creek station near William Creek is the largest cattle station in the world, it's about the size of Belgium.
  • Within 4/5th of the continent the doctor comes by plane. Yes, it is the famous Royal Flying Doctor Service that caters the wellbeing of residents and travellers.
  • Outback Australia also has the biggest class rooms in the world, where children are taught through radio communication on the isolated stations and in small bush towns.

Outback Facts - The Australian Deserts

map of australia with desert areas
Location of Australian Deserts

  • The Great Victoria Desert, located in Western Australia (WA) & South Australia (SA), is the largest desert in Australia
  • The Gibson Desert squeezes between the Great Victoria and the Great Sandy deserts in WA
  • The second largest is the Great Sandy Desert, located north of the Gibson in WA.
  • The Little Sandy Desert is west of the Gibson.
  • The Tanami Desert is further northeast in the Northern Territory
  • Most of the Simpson Desert, famous for its endless red sand dunes, is located in the Northern Territory, but it also stretches into Queensland and South Australia.
  • The Strzelecki Desert is south of the Simpson in SA, and Sturt Stony Desert lies to the east.
  • Last but not least, the Tirari and Pedirka Deserts are fairly smal deserts located in the north of South Australia.

Can anyone travel in Australia's Outback?

Yes, of course!
There are tracks and regions that require very good preparation, a 4WD and a bit of experience.
On the other hand, you can reach the Australian Outback on sealed highways with your family car as well.

Eyre Highway leads from Port Augusta to Western Australia, crossing the Nullarbor Plain.
The Stuart Highway crosses Australia from the south to north. It takes you straight into the red centre, to Alice Springs and Uluru. This journey starts either from Adelaide or Darwin.
Finally, you can travel in Queensland along the sealed Matilda Highway and its several byways, and explore towns with great history.

The routes and regions covered in this Outback Guide can be done by everyone. Plan well ahead, and you will get the most out of your trip. Being prepared is one of the most important Outback facts.

Rita's Outback Guide is here for your help. Browse around this site, find the place that inspires you. There is information about routes & tracks, as well as about Outback safety, how to prepare your car, places to stay, where to get food or a cool drink. Isn't it nice to know where to get a beer when you're going to the middle of nowhere! :)

Impressions of the Great Inland

a lonely track in the australian outback
My favourite Oodnadatta Track

marree railway area
Marree is a typical Outback town

lizard on a rock
Lizard basking in the sun

vegetaion on red earth
Vegetation in the Red Centre

outback track
Birdsville Track in South Australia

sandhills and grassland
Sandhills near Windorah, Qld

sunset in the outback
Sunset over the Mundi Mundi plain near Broken Hill

Find more Outback facts & tips to plan your trip

Copyright © 2007- Rita Amend.