Driving from Brisbane to Lake Eyre

by Anne - Submitted March 2011

Strzelecki Track

Strzelecki Track

Hello Rita,
My question is similar to Sara from Melbourne. I am trying to find out if it is possible to get to Lake Eyre from Brisbane without a 4 wheel drive.

My son who's 12 has never seen the outback. We have camping equipment and would travel with my brother and his 2 children. I was hoping we could travel via interesting places (maybe of historical or simply touristic significance).

How long do you think we should allow for the trip and what route would you recommend- obviously what you told Sara applies to us once we reach Marree.
Thank you for any advice or information you can give. Anne

Reply by Rita

Hi Anne,

Can you make it without 4 wheel drive? This is not an easy question to answer. It depends on when you want to go, and if someone could answer the question "When does the rain stop?"

Driving from Brisbane to Lake Eyre on the shortest routes involves more driving on unsealed roads.

The shortest routes would be either via Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, Innamincka and the Strzelecki Track to Marree, or via Charleville, Windorah, Birdsville and the Birdsville Track to Marree. Both routes are roughly about 1900km to 2000km. Via Birdsville it would be nearly half the way on unsealed road, via Innamincka a little less.

Avoiding unsealed roads would mean to go via Broken Hill and the Flinders Ranges to Marree.

The two access tracks from the Oodnadatta Track to Lake Eyre North are only recommended for 4 wheel drive vehicles. But you can see Lake Eyre South from the Oodnadatta Track, and it is almost full right now due to the heavy rains they had recently and local creeks feeding the lake.

So the problem is not only rough road conditions, but also the many creek crossings, and many creeks are flowing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to discourage you. In dry conditions it would be no problem if you drive slowly and have a car that is robust, has excellent tyres and some ground clearance. I mean a fancy sports car with spoilers and such would be not very suitable.

I took the photos above in October last year. We drove along the Strzelecki Track which was in good condition, but all of a sudden we came to a damp section where we slightly lost control over the car. After switching to 4WD mode and driving much slower we could continue. The third pic shows the Adventure Way between Nappa Merrie and the Jackson Oilfield. It was in a real mess after the rain.
But we also drove on unsealed roads in perfect conditions, although they had also been closed because of rain only a few days before ventured out.

My best advice for you is to check the weather reports and the road conditions before you decide which route you take.

Drive slowly and stay safe.

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Comments for Driving from Brisbane to Lake Eyre

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Nov 22, 2019
Be well prepared
by: Rita

Sorry for the late reply.

My recommendations:

...that your car is in the best condition,

...carry a UHF radio or sat phone,

...take plenty of water, and drink it to stay hydrated,

...don't do long walks in the bush in very hot weather.

Stay safe and have fun.


Sep 06, 2019
Brisbane to strezelecki via Cameron’s corner to lake eyre
by: Anonymous

Hi Rita , we’ll be travelling through during December everyone is warning us against this trip too hot unfortunately this is the only time we have, what recommendations would you have for this time of year?

Mar 15, 2011
About 2300 km one-way
by: Rita

Hi Anne,

if you go via Broken Hill the entire route to Marree is about 2300 km, one-way.
Cobar and Broken Hill are interesting stops. Take the short trip to Silverton and the Mundi Mundi plain lookout, it is fantastic!

Leave the Barrier Hwy in Peterborough, SA (nice old railway town) and head north to Hawker. If time allows, a detour into the Flinders Ranges is really worthwhile.

The 80km unsealed section from Lyndhurst to Marree shouldn't be a problem in dry weather.
Once you arrive in Marree, you can take a flight over Lake Eyre. From here it is about 100km along the Oodnadatta Track to the viewing point of Lake Eyre South.

The 204km section from Marree to William Creek is the most interesting section of the track with many ruins of the old Ghan railway.

How long do you need? I would say at least 15 days for the entire trip. Personally, I hate to drive more than 400km per day, but I met many people who didn't mind to be 700km on the road.
Once you reach the unsealed roads in SA you certainly have to drive a bit slower (50 to 60km/h). It depends on the road conditions and what you find a convenient speed for your car.

I don't know the area northeast of Cobar to Brisbane. Once you reach the Barrier Hwy distances between towns are about 200 to 300 km. However, there are a couple of rest areas where you can stop and the kids can run around for a while.

After all the rain the Outback is in a beautiful condition, wildflowers and water everywhere.
Even if your time, or the road conditions, don't allow to go as far as Marree and Lake Eyre. it is really worth to do a trip to west to show the kids the wonderful Outback.


Mar 12, 2011
Thanks Rita
by: Anne

Hi Rita,
Thanks for the information. We are planning to go in the Qld Winter school holidays at the end of June. If we went via Broken Hill, avoiding unsealed roads. How long do you think it would take and what are the most interesting places to stop at along the way?

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