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  • Writer's pictureWandering Aus.

Tackling the Oodnadatta Track

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

The Oodnadatta track another one on the list of must do outback roads. Offering vast, ever changing outback landscapes with small towns popping up in the distance full of character and history.

We kicked our Oodnadatta trip off in the southern Flinders Ranges town of Cradock. A one pub and not much more sort of town. The pub, recently saved through new owners, offers cold beer, great meals, a cool little playground / obstacle course for the kids, stunning sunset views and a low cost camp with access to showers and toilets, and by low cost we mean, it’ll cost you a cold beer at the bar.

Front of the Cradock Hotel

Cradock is only a stone's throw away from Hawker, the gateway to the Flinders Ranges. Hawker is a good spot to fill up, stock up and even to grab a spot of lunch or brekky. From here it’s northbound. We popped into the famous Prairie Hotel for a look, but due to Covid19 it was by booking only. However if you’ve never been and experienced the roadkill tasting platter, then it’s a must do!

Muloorina Springs

We then headed straight to Muloorina Station. 52kms north of Marree, Muloorina is home to an amazing spring. Fresh, clean and full of bird life, an amazing spot to camp up and jump in for a dip. It was 35 degrees when we arrived so a very refreshing cool down! There are a stack of campsites and toilets available to campers and at $10 per car per night, it is absolute value for money at this gorgeous spot. Note there is only one way in and out of Muloorina, the road to / from Marree.

From Muloorina we ducked back into Marree to fill up before hitting the Oodnadatta proper. The servo / general store has pretty much everything you’ll need. The Oodnadatta track was in pretty good knick but we always make a habit of lowering our tyre pressures. We lowered down to 25 in the front and 30 in the rear. It just helps support your suspension with any corrugations and tyres through any sharp stony sections. There are a few attractons to stop in on along the Oodnadatta, the notables being Plane Henge, Lake Eyre Lookout and Mound Springs

Our first stop along the iconic track was Coward Springs. Dubbed an “oasis in the desert”, with every bit of that ringing true when you drive up the driveway. An almost forest of native pines and palm trees! Yes you read that right.. palm trees!! There is plenty of shade, which was a great thing for us, pulling in as the thermometer hit 40 degrees. We will note these temperatures are not normal for this time of year (October 2020). Coward Springs only has a limited number of sites so it’s first in best dressed kind of arrangement. At $15 per adult and $6 for children it’s not the cheapest spot to pull up, especially for a family that’s for sure, but it offers plenty. Fire pits in every site, clean hot donkey showers, clean toilets, a cool museum and of course can’t forget the artesian hot spring spa!

Lapping up the artesian spa, Coward Springs

One of the most instagram’d spots on the Oodnadatta We’re sure of it, but when you walk through the gate to the spa you can see why. Gorgeous! Bubbling away at 29 degrees even in the 40 degree heat it was so good! (note: You can also day trip to Coward Springs for $2 per person which will give you access to the spa if the cost of camping is a bit steep for you. There are a couple reasonable free camps north of Coward Springs)

After cooling down at Coward Springs we set off the next day headed to Algebuckina. Not far up the track from Coward Springs is the iconic town of William Creek. A town owned by one bloke offering camping, a pub and of course scenic flights over Lake Eyre. Although we didn’t jump onboard this time we hear it’s a must do! So is checking out the William Creek Hotel. Seeing the roof, walls and bar covered in paraphernalia from travellers gone by a cosy outback pub with fridges full of cold beer. It’d be rude not to have a least one, even if it was only 10am! You’ll find 4G Telstra Reception here so the perfect spot to upload that picture perfect shot of the Coward Springs Spa to Insta!

Algebuckina Bridge

On the road again headed north for another night's camp. It was now that the weather started to change. 34 degrees with the sun belting down, rapidly changed as the winds picked up and the clouds started to roll in. We asked the locals at William Creek about the weather, rain is on the way, could be 2mm, could be 200mm. “Play it safe”. Arriving at Algebuckina around 1pm we checked out the massive expansive bridge across the water way. The camp at Algebuckina is on the east side of the Oodnadatta track and is about a kilometre from the bridge. A good handful of campsites situated along the Neales River a normally amazing looking spot to set up. Although today was turning out not be our day. The winds were pushing 50kms plus sending dust in all directions. With the potential of rain on the way, we made the decision to keep pushing on to Oodnadatta for shelter.

The Pink Roadhouse standing out like a beacon in the bush, we stopped in to top up our tanks and have a yarn with the locals. From Oodnadatta you can continue north to Dalhousie Springs or head west to Coober Pedy. Although we love and highly recommend Dalhousie, having the dog on board meant we could not visit there this time. The advice from the locals.. set up for a few days or keep driving. Unfortunately we didn’t have a few days to kill, so we looked for an alternative camp, something closer to the black top in case the weather got bad. The whole region was expecting rain but how much was anyone’s guess, from 4mm to 140mm. It makes it hard to plan, so as the locals at William Creek advised it is best to play it safe. After a quick gander at our WikiCamps App we settled on Arkaringa Station - The Painted Desert as our camp for the night… or so we thought.

The Pink Roadhouse, Oodnadatta

Heading out of Oodnadatta at around 3pm it was going to be an hour and a half’s drive to Arkaringa. It felt like the closer we got to Arkaringa the more it rained. Pushing through outback roads as they started to turn to slush, we did make it! Radioing through to the station as per the sign on the front gate, the owners replied with some more advice...”You can stay, but you’ll be stuck here for a bit, all the roads in and out will be shut in a couple of hours, our advice high tail it Coober Pedy” our reply “ahh yea roger that! Thanks, we’ll do just that” and back on the road we go, Or what was left of it anyway.

So it’s 5pm - got 150kms to Coober Pedy and it’s pouring rain. With 4wd engaged, headlights on and the wipers doing their best to keep up we pushed on. Well not before making a quick dash to the fridge to get the cheese, dip and biccies. It’s 5pm that’s happy hour!

So with a plate full of cheese, dip and jatz, the ranger slipping across the road, we worked our way to Coober Pedy.

We made it! Just as we hit bitumen we passed the outback roads sign. Closed, Closed, Closed it read. Lucky! We pulled into Coober Pedy at 7:30pm, the 150km dash took us just under 2 and a half hours. Another quick consult with WikiCamps we were soon parked up at the Old Timers Mine Museum free camp. A flat space to park up, with toilets available next to the museum. The rain had subsided just in time to knock some up a quick feed before bed.

The Breakaways

Coober Pedy, Hollywood style

A new day, and looking at the skies you’;d be forgiven for thinking that last night's weather was a dream! Clear blue skies and no wind the only evidence left was the extra weight the ranger was carrying with inches of red desert mud stuck to every millimeter of the car. We decided to take advantage of our force detour. With Coober Pedy not originally on our itinerary we set off for a day of sightseeing. We started close by The Old Timers Mine, the Mine Museum that offers a free camp for travellers. For a small fee we kicked off our self guided underground mine tour which was a blast! We headed out to The Breakways for a spectacular view of the painted desert and visited the hollywood style ‘Coober Pedy’ sign.

It was time to head south, we had a camp picked out just north of Glendambo so it was time to get moving. Driving into camp about 4pm this free camp offers plenty of room, sites with access for conventional caravans and sites further out the way. The campsites surround a small salt lake which made for a specky sunset. A good place to have our first fire, enjoy a nice red wine and steak over coals and the last night of what will be a trip we will never forget.

We’ve mentioned it before but when travelling remote extra supplies (water, food and fuel), the right gear and tools, good maps (we use Hema Maps) and plenty of back up plans are an absolute necessity. The outback is a beautiful place to explore but it can all come crashing down if you’re not prepared properly. We carry a combination of fresh food and canned food (such as soups and casseroles) in case we get stuck for whatever reason. We take extra fuel and fill up at every opportunity and we always ask the locals about the road conditions going forward, weather or advice, nothing is better than the inside word.

Didn't catch our 2 part Oodnadatta series? Catch it below!

Oodnadatta Must Do’s

  • Enjoy a cold beer at Cradock Hotel

  • Taste the ‘Roadkill Tasting Platter’ at the Prairie hotel

  • Take a dip at Muloorina Station spring

  • Check our ‘Plane Henge’ at the Mutonia Sculpture Park

  • Visit Mount Springs

  • Enjoy a spa at Coward Springs

  • Have a beer at William Creek

  • Check out Algebuckina Bridge

  • Pop into the Pink Roadhouse

Helpful Resources

Campsites and Attractions

📍Arkaringa Station - The Painted Desert WikiCamps

Please Note: We share campsites in good faith, that they will be looked after and respected so that others may enjoy them too.

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