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  • Writer's pictureWandering Aus.

The Outback Loop

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Winter in our family growing up was always the time we headed outback, escaping the cold winters of the Barossa Valley, South Australia for the warm sunny days of central Australia.

When looking at planning our 2020 winter getaway, We were itching to find some sun and visit some iconic outback towns! With Covid19 still in effect with border restrictions, no remote permits being accepted and outback towns still closed or on skeleton staffs, only one trip fit the bill.

Starting at Hawker in the Flinders Ranges heading north through to Blinman and Arkaroola. Tackling the Mount Hopeless Road to meet up with the famous Strzelecki Track, continuing north to Innamincka. Hitting the 15 Mile Track to Walkers Crossing before chucking a right onto the Birdsville Track to Birdsville. Turning south down the ‘Shortcut’ Birdsville Inside Track to Mungerannie and back into the Flinders Ranges. AKA... The Outback Loop.

A must do for any Aussie traveller, the outback loop is the versatile, customisable trip for anyone and everyone! With endless ways to tackle the iconic loop from north to south to east to west, to full off-road to caravan accessible routes.

As we mentioned earlier we kicked our outback loop trip off proper from Hawker. The gateway to the Flinders Ranges, Hawker offers a lot for travellers, including 2 servos, mechanic, pub, cafe, a caravan park, and the Jeff Morgan art gallery. Hawker is a familiar stop for us, usually for fuel and or quick lunch stop before continuing our journeys north. Next stop Blinman!

Blinman, the little old mining town, turned center for local farmers, is a quaint little town, home to the old Camp Oven Cook Out, a beautiful pub, general store and heritage mine that offers tours of the Blinman copper mines. We stayed at Alpana Station less than 5kms south of Blinman. Alpana, a family owned and operated station has some amazing camping opportunities but also has some great facilities for caravans with powered sites and ensuites. Oh don’t forget the shearers quarters for group bookings!

Camped at Alpana Station, Blinman

From Blinman we shot up to Arkaroola, most of Arkaroola is a wilderness sanctuary so we couldn’t hang around and do much with the dog on board, but we stopped in, filled up and had a sticky beak around the small village. We’ll be back one day, without the dog to lap up the nature and wilderness this place has to offer. Arkaroola is a hikers paradise with endless walking trails to explore with so much fauna and flora to see.

Time to hit the red dirt and add another to our red dirt diary. The Mount Hopeless Road runs between Akaroola and the Strzelecki Track. It’s predominantly a station road but at the time of our crossing it was in very good conditions, which made for quickly, smooth travelling. We decided to camp before got to the Strzelecki Track, (although we had originally planned to stay at Montecollina Bore, but got word from a fellow traveller there were some dead animals stuck in the mud, as the bore had been capped off) there is very little camping along the Mount Hopeless Road, bar 1 spot we found on WikiCamps. Little secluded spot in a creek bed made for a nice night’s camp.

Mount Hopeless Road

The next day we hit the famous Strzelecki Track. White bulldust and gravel stretching as far as the eye can see (for now anyway, it’s soon to be bitumised). The Mount Hopeless Rd pops out 203 kms from Lyndhurst and 303 kms from Innamincka. The track was in reasonable condition through the mid section of the famous highway, the closer we got Innamincka the works had already begun to prepare for the dusty highway to be bitumised so was good driving. To enter Innamincka you will need to purchase a Desert Parks Pass from the Parks SA website for $11. There is Phone reception in Moomba (a small mining setup south of Innamincka).

We pulled into Innamincka around 3:30pm, heading straight to the roadhouse to fill up and get an ice cream! There are a range of camping options in Innamincka there are 7 different National Parks run campgrounds (6 of these situated on the banks of the Cooper Creek) however whilst we were there only 1 was open to due road damage. The national parks campsite will set you back $12 per nIght. here is also a Town Common campground on the banks of the Cooper Creek (and directly across from one of the Parks run campgrounds) with some beautiful sites for $5 per night. Both the Town Common and the Parks campgrounds have long drop toilets. The Town Common is the closest campground to the township, making a nice walk into town to check the local pub and sights.

Town Common Campground, Cooper Creek, Innamincka

The Walkers Crossing track runs from Innamincka to Walkers Crossing (the crossing of the Cooper Creek) before continuing on to meet up with the Birdsville Track about 110kms south of Birdsville. The Road itself is just over 200kms approximately but can be slow going in spots. We had time to kill before we were able to cross the Queensland border to Birdsville due to Covid19, so we decided to camp up at Walkers Crossing. The country was ever changing from baron plains to lush, bushy sand dunes all in a short space of time. The road itself was fairly easy going, with only a few corrugated sections and some minor washouts, could easily be tackled with an off-road camper or hybrid. The last 20+kms of the walkers crossing track is cattle country and gibber plains with little to no camping suitable, so keep that in mind if you plan to push on past Walkers Crossing.

Walkers Crossing, Cooper Creek

Once we hit the Birdsville track, it was onwards and upwards, quite literally as we headed north to Birdsville. After some mucking around with border passes and the such we were soon sitting in the front bar of the Birdsville hotel enjoying a cold beer and burger! Character…. Sums up the Birdsville Hotel quite nicely. From the memorabilia on the walls to the friendly faces behind the bar the Hotel was everything and more we wanted it to be. It’s no lie famous outback pubs such as the Birdsville Hotel get some hype, and rightly so. The food was delicious, the beers were cold and after dinner we went out the back and sat round the fire talking with fellow travellers swapping stories from the road. A special moment.

Birdsville isn’t just home to a famous hotel, but 2 roadhouses, a bakery, a good caravan park and an airstrip which you can book scenic fights to check out the likes of Lake Eyre, Big Red and Goyder Lagoon from the skies. The bigger of the 2 roadhouses has all the supplies to keep you stocked up including a freezer of meat and a fully kitted out workshop to fix up any rattles you may have acquired on the way. We stayed in Birdsville for a couple of nights, giving us time to drive out the Big Red, the famously big and red sand dune. It’s only just over half an hours drive and well worth trying to catch a ‘Big Red Sunset’

Mandatory 'we made it too' Birdsville photo

Jumping for Joy on top of 'Big Red'

It was time to turn the car back around and head south, but not the way we came. That wouldn’t be a loop, would it. We planned on tackling the old section of the Birdsville Track, now known as the Birdsville Inside Track, it is the original section of the track before a new track was cut due to the lack of water available for stock. The Inside track is technically 35 ish kilometers shorter than the new section however due to very slow going, allow extra time. The inside Track is just under 150kms, the first 50kms was well maintained station roads before turning into a washed out, cattle trodden mess. It took us just under 4 hours to get from Birdsville to the intersection of the Inside Track and the Birdsville Track.

We chucked a right turn and continued south to Mungerannie. We had heard great things about Mungerannie, the pub and the artesian swimming pool. We pulled into Mungerannie about 4pm and couldn’t help but giggle as we drove in. A home of the unusual seems a fair description. The first thing we saw was the golden arches of a ‘Mcdonalds’ sign and it continued. The Mungerannie Hotel offers fuel, a cold beer, a pub feed and camping. The front bar is something you have to see to believe. If we thought Birdsville Hotel had character Mungerannie was giving it a real run for its money! The facilities were clean and tidy and the camping was tucked up next to the trees giving plenty of shade. The artesian swimming pool you ask? Well, the only disappointment of our time at Mungerannie was the discovery the pool had dried up. Closed for maintenance? We hope so!

Day… I dunno, you lose track of time in the outback. Anyway onwards and downwards? We planned on camping at Muloorina Station (about 50kms north of Maree and home to some beautiful springs and swimming spots) however due to Covid19 they were still shut. So plan B was Farina. On the way down we popped into Clayton Station who have a ripper little campsite and an artesian bath. We pulled up for lunch and a dip in the 40+ degrees waters before carrying on our merry way. (we have noted Clayton Station to stay for our next Birdsville track crossing) We popped our nose into Marree to fill up and then onto Farina Town.

Farina is an old historic town in the northern section of the Flinders Ranges, is mainly just ruins however some resourceful caravaners and history buffs have gotten together to form the Farina Restoration Project Group. They’re rebuilding the town one building at a time. Starting with the old underground oven, they now use the oven and run a bakery for 3 months of the year using the profits to fund their restoration. Unfortunately the bakery was shut but I can 100% confirm the pies are delicious. Farina offers 2 huge campgrounds with toilets and donkey showers for just $5 per night. Farina is definitely worth a stop either on your way up or down. Allow time to explore the town and if your timing is right enjoy a beautiful underground baked good.

From Farina we continued our way south to Mount Little Station near Hawker. Mount Little is a working station that open their gates to travellers for camping. Mount Little has a host of beautiful campsites sitting at the base of the Elder Range. It was absolutely stunning!

Mount Little has a stack of stuff to check out whilst you're staying there, from a range of 4wd tracks, to walking trails. We made the venture to the top of Mount Little itself and my word how impressive. Mount Little is where we finish our loop, and what a time we had! We did our loop over 11 Days, we got held up a little by some border restrictions but it meant we could sit back and take our time lapping up the beautiful scenes of the outback in all its glory!

the spectacular view from our campsite at Mt Little Station

Our recommendations? As we said earlier, have a plan B and even a C, we made sure we had a few options for camping in case we couldn’t get in. Do your research on road conditions and weather. It doesn’t take a lot of rain for any of these outback dirt highways to be shut at the drop of a hat. Otherwise make sure you have all the right gear, spare tyres, tools, extra supplies and quality maps when travelling remote, we use Hema maps for all our mapping needs.

The Outback Loop ’Must Do’s’

Make sure you check out our 4 part series of our Outback Loop trip! Part 1 below.

Helpful Resources


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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