Top 10 Aussie Outback Tracks

We're blessed with some of the world's best remote offroad drives. How far will you go to go your own way?

Words: Gregor Stronach

The Great Southern Land is home to all manner of terrain perfect for exploring in a 4WD vehicle, but nowhere is better for truly getting away than the vast, arid centre. Midnight Oil might have called it 'The Dead Heart', but the truth is, few environments can make you feel more alive. It's a grand, gnarled landscape, where the Milky Way presses softly against the earth, and lonely campfires have borne witness to dodgy fireside yarns for over 40,000 years. A vast, unpretentious kind of paradise.

A paradise you owe it to yourself to visit.

Early explorers and pioneers cut tracks through the Outback more than 100 years ago, and those roads have turned into some of the most iconic remote-area drives in the world. They range from the very easy to the near impossible, but they're all worth exploring as soon as you get the chance.

1. The Gibb River Road

Where: Kununurra to Derby (WA)
Length: 660km
Minimum drive time: 3–4 days
Season: May to September
Best for: Shaking the fillings out of your teeth

The Gibb River Road meanders through the far northwestern Kimberley region and is about as unforgiving as a road can be. You'll see pretty much everything the Kimberley region has to offer in terms of landscape and local characters. A word of warning, though… there are miles-long stretches in places where the corrugations are so bad it feels like a constant cattle grid.

2. Cape York Track

Where: Cooktown to Seisia (QLD)
Length: 848km
Minimum drive time: 6–7 days
Season: May to October
Best for: Paying close attention to the crocodile warning signs

Once a staple of the "I've been everywhere" 4WDing crowd, the Cape York Track is, sadly, something that's becoming easier and easier as the QLD government continues to seal large chunks of the road heading north. But the good news is that there is still plenty of rough 'n' tumble 4WDing to be done along the way, especially on the numerous sidetracks heading out to the unspoilt gems this track offers to experienced off-roaders. A word of warning, though–the saltwater crocodile population has boomed in the past few years, and they're always up for a feed. Be sensible.

3. Canning Stock Route

Where: Wiluna to Halls Creek (WA)
Length: 1800km
Minimum drive time: 10–12 days
Season: May to August
Best for: Being as far away from people as possible

This one's a bruiser and not to be tackled on a whim. Driving the Canning Stock Route takes a lot of preparation, research and driving skill. It's amongst the most remote roads on the planet and offers by far one of the most significant challenges for any would-be Outback explorer. The joy of driving through some of the best desert landscape in the world runs a very close second to the joy of simply surviving the trip.

4. Birdsville Track

Where: Marree (SA) to Birdsville (QLD)
Length: 534km
Minimum drive time: 2–4 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Getting bogged on Big Red

A relative sprint compared to some of the longer Outback drives, the Birdsville Track is perfect for anyone who wants to have a proper Aussie Outback adventure, but can't be away from work for more than a week. You'll have a choice to make when you set out: you can take the original 'Inside Track', which follows the historical stock route, or the safer 'Outside Track', which skirts the edges of the Diamantina floodplain.

This track has the added bonus of being home to Big Red–the famous sand dune of mind-boggling proportions, which has seen many a weekend warrior heading back to camp with their tail between their legs. It's a monster of a dune and when the conditions aren't right, making your way to the top is like trying to paddle a kayak up a waterslide. With chopsticks.

"Big Red, the famous sand dune of mind-boggling proportions, has seen many a weekend warrior heading back to camp with their tail between their legs."

5. Anne Beadell Highway

Where: Coober Pedy (SA) to Laverton (WA)
Length: 1,325km
Minimum drive time: 4–7 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Cracking glow-in-the-dark jokes

Legendary desert surveyor Len Beadell named this track after his wife, and the fact that it's a long and difficult road to travel raises some doubts as to how old Len actually felt about his better half. It's solid, rocky and literally in the middle of nowhere, but you will get to see the site where Britain tested its atomic bombs at Emu Claypan, and visit what is probably the world's most isolated roadhouse at Ilkurlka.

6. Gunbarrel Highway

Where: Yulara (NT) to Wiluna (WA)
Length: 1,420km
Minimum drive time: 4–7 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Ticking Uluru off your bucket list

Another of the great Len Beadell's roads, this one runs from out near Uluru and onward through some truly gnarly terrain. The track itself is a mix of washaways and heavy corrugations, along with more tyre-puncturing rocks and stones than you could possibly imagine. It ends in Wiluna, a once-bustling gold rush town that has seen better days. But it's got a pub and the beers are cold … and perfect at the end of a long, difficult, satisfying drive.

7. Tanami Track

Where: Alice Springs (NT) to Halls Creek (WA)
Length: 1,035km
Minimum drive time: 4–7 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Filling every orifice with bulldust

The Tanami Track runs from just outside Alice Springs, heading northwest into the desert to meet up with the Canning Stock Route, somewhere near Halls Creek. It's renowned for being a difficult track to drive, thanks to the extremely poor condition of the road and the vast patches of ultra-fine bulldust, which you'll be finding in your 4WD (and your hair) for at least a month after you've made it home.

8. The Oodnadatta Track

Where: Marree to Marla (SA)
Length: 620km
Minimum drive time: 2–3 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Popping your 'Outback trek' cherry

The Oodnadatta Track is arguably the finest beginner level drive in the entire Australian Outback and the perfect way to introduce yourself to remote area driving and camping. It's a very easy drive–provided the track's dry–and you'll most likely be sharing it with a number of folks hauling caravans and the like. Things to do along the way include swimming in the artesian hot springs and exploring the remnants of the original Ghan railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs.

9. The Strzelecki Track

Where: Innamincka to Lyndhurst (SA)
Length: 460km
Minimum drive time: 1–2 days
Season: April to October
Best for: Making it further than Burke and Wills

The Strzelecki Track is a fun, short adventure drive through some of the most historically rich Outback terrain in the country. The track was originally used by renowned cattle thief Harry Redford before inland explorers Burke and Wills conveniently put the region on the map by dying on their way back from the Top End. Seeing the famous Dig Tree, where the last of their supplies were buried, is a highlight of the drive.

10. The Corner Country Track

Where: Broken Hill (NSW) to Cameron Corner (QLD)
Length: 469km
Minimum drive time: 1–2 days
Season: March to October
Best for: Pretending you're Mad Max

The track from Broken Hill out to Cameron Corner–the junction of the Queensland, New South Wales and South Australian borders–is an absolute corker of a drive. It's relatively easy on both driver and vehicle, allowing you to explore the remote northwest of New South Wales. From time to time, when the rains come through, the desert wildflowers bloom in massive numbers–a sight well worth seeing if you can time it right.

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