Oodnadatta Track – Australian outback track along a string of springs

The Oodnadatta Track leads from Marree to Marla through the outback of Australia

The Oodnadatta Track is one of the most famous tracks through the Australian outback. The track is not difficult or demanding but we really enjoyed the trip along the 617 km long track. The landscape is beautiful and the camp fires under the night sky with millions of stars where terrific. If you are planning to drive the Oodnadatta Track, you can find useful tips and pictures in this blog post.

On the way to the Oodnadatta Track

After we have visited our friends on the cotton farm in Moree, we have driven deeper and deeper into the outback. Moree was also the last bigger town we have seen. We are driving on gravel roads through flat landscapes and are surrounded by dust, heat and millions of flies. The nights are cool; we enjoy our camp fires and watching the uncountable stars in the night. Every night we spot some shooting stars.

We pass the opal mining town Lightning Ridge, Bourke, Tibooburra and Cameron Corner, where the three states South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales meet. On the Old Strzelecki track we continue to Innamincka and end up in Birdsville, the Outback town par excellence. In the Birdsville Hotel and at the Birdsville Rodeo we join the locals and experience the real Outback lifestyle. We continue along the Birdsville Track and cross the Strzelecki, the Sturt and the Tirari desert until we reach Marree.

Passing road trains on gravel roads are always a risk

The Oodnadatta Track follows the disused Old Ghan Railway line from Marree to Marla on the Stuart Highway. Along the track are many ruins from the railway line and some springs that are fed by the Artesian Basin.

Outback art. A Dingo constructed with an old water tank from the Ghan steam trains and a car wreck

Trip Info

  • Distance (Marree – Marla): 617 Kilometres
  • Duration: Driving time 10 hours, we recommend 2 to 3 days
  • When to go: April to November (in summer it’s too hot)
  • Road rating: Unsealed two-lane road, 4WD recommended
  • Road conditions: some creek crossings are a bit rough with rocks; the track can be impassable after rain, check with the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centre or the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure on dpti.sa.gov.au/OutbackRoads before departure.
  • Permits: No permits are required

Route Notes

Marree (Start) / Hergott Springs

The old diesel locomotives are a reminder of the Ghan railway that connected Marree with Adelaide

The old diesel locomotives are a reminder of the Ghan railway that connected Marree with Adelaide.

Marree is a small town in the outback of South Australia, 700 kilometres north of Adelaide. For us it is the end of the Birdsville Track and the start of the Oodnadatta Track. There is a roadhouse with a shop, a hotel and 70 inhabitants in Marree. The railway line was in service from 1883 until 1980 and only a few buildings, some tracks and a few old locomotives remind of the railway connection with Adelaide.

The landscape is sparse and arid. We are surprised to find the first spring just outside of town. Herrgott Springs is named after a German botanist and is fed from the Artesian Basin.

Alberrie Creek (53 km)

The installations Plane Henge in the Mutonia Sculpture Park along the Oodnadatta Track

We travel on a flat landscape and already from a distance we can see something unusual on the horizon. As we get closer, we can see that the two crosses next to each other are two airplanes fixed upright into the ground. The installation is called “Plane Henge” and is located in the Mutonia Sculpture Park. Over the years, the artist Robin Cooke has built many pieces of art.

Curdimurka (104 km)

Lonely railway siding of Curdimurka in the middle of the outback

Curdimurka is one of the former railway sidings along the Old Ghan Railway line.

Wabma Kadarbu Springs (127 km)

The mound spring Blanche Cup forms a oasis in the middle of Australia’s arid Outback

The „Wabma Kadarbu Mound Spring Conservation Park“ features a system of springs fed by the Artesian Basin. Water filters from the depths of the Artesian Basin to the surface and formed the mound springs like The Bubbler or Blanche Cup. The water overflow has created an oasis for a variety of waterbirds.

Strangways Springs (154 km)

Ruins reminiscent of the settlement at Strangways Springs

Strangways Springs was one of the first settlements in the region and was established in 1862. Sheep and cattle were held before half of the stock died during a severe drought between 1864 and 1866.

In 1870 an Overland Telegraph station was built to connect Port Augusta in the South with Darwin in the North.

William Creek (205 km)

William Creek is a typical outback hotel and supplies travellers with basic supplies and infrastructure

William Creek is one of the typical outback outposts. Only five people are living in this place and are providing basic infrastructure for travellers of the Oodnadatta Track. It’s a roadhouse, hotel, pub, shop, visitor information, internet café, gas station and a work shop.

It’s always a good idea to stop at the roadhouse and have a quick chat with the locals. You can share the latest news and hear about the road conditions ahead. In the pub are hundreds of business cards pinned to the sealing and there are even a Swiss flag and business cards from other Swiss travellers.

Peake Siding (334 km)

The ruins of Peake railway siding in the evening light

Next to the ruins of the Peake railway siding we find the perfect spot to stay for the night.

Algebuckina Bridge (353 km)

The Algebuckina Bridge is the longest railway bridge in South Australia

The Algebuckina Bridge spans 580 Metres over the Neales River and was finished in 1892. It is the longest railway bridge in South Australia. A team of about 350 men built the bridge under extreme conditions in the heat of the desert. The waterhole has never dried up in living memory.

Mount Dutton Ruins (367 km)

A lonely grave in the middle of the Gibber Plains at Mount Dutton

A lonely grave, overlooking the gibber planes is a silent reminder of the Mount Dutton settlement.

Oodnadatta (406 km)

The Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta is legendary and worth a stop

The Pink Roadhouse is a real eye catcher along the Oodnadatta Track. You definitely have to stop here and have a look around this legendary roadhouse. If you like you can even rent a pink canoe.

Marla (617 km)

Marla is the end of the Oodnadatta Track and situated on the Stuart Highway. From here the road up north to Alice Springs is sealed.

Personal experience and tips

The Oodnadatta Track is not a difficult track. The gravel road is in good condition and there are no difficult places along the way. During dry season the Oodnadatta Track can be done with a normal car but we would still recommend a 4WD. After rain the situation can change dramatically and the track can be impassable.

Rain can change the road conditions of the Oodanadatta Track dramatically

You have to be aware that you are travelling through a very remote area. You will be on your own and supplies and mechanical help are far away. Fuel is only available at Marree, William Creek and Oodnadatta.

Tips for driving along the Oodnadatta Track

  • Make sure that your car is in good condition before leaving
  • Take enough water and food
  • Get a detailed map of the area
  • Check the road conditions before leaving
  • Tell someone about your travel plans
  • Adjust your speed according to the road conditions
  • Drive carful and watch out for wandering stock
  • If your car breaks down, stay with your car and wait for help
  • Take your rubbish with you
  • Stay on the official tracks

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