If you’re off-roading in Australia, you’ll always have to have the most up-to-date information. You’ll need a satellite ‘phone in case of emergency, as regular mobiles may not work. You’ll have to know how to use your vehicle’s tool kit and how to escape mud and sand. Petrol should be taken at every opportunity, as petrol stations in remote towns might not always be open. If you are yet to choose a vehicle, you should do thorough research. When you’re ready, some regions simply cannot be missed from your “to do” list.
The Simpson Desert encompasses three states: the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland. At every entrance is a large sign warning travellers to carry extra water and fuel and that a 4WD is the safest option, but if conditions are not so severe, a journey can be accomplished in a station wagon or sedan. This desert is now a rite of passage for off-roaders, but it was unknown to vehicles until seismic exploration was conducted there in the 1960’s.
There are over a thousand dune crossings and also ruins and a spring-fed swimming hole at Dalhousie Station. The Birdsville Track, a dirt track that traverses the entire desert, is as famous as Death Valley in California. The Birdsville Races take place yearly, covering 520km. You will find not only the latest cars, but much timeless advice, including the naming of the Simpson Desert as one of the top seven off-road trips in Australia.
The Cape York Peninsula, being on the northernmost tip of Australia, is known as the Tip. It’s best to visit during the dry season, which runs from May to November. In addition to tropical rainforest, there are also beautiful wetlands, rugged mountains and sacred Aboriginal sites. The principal challenge for off-roaders is water crossings. Creeks can run dry or be 10 feet deep. The area is great for not only four-wheel-driving, but camping, bird watching, fishing and bush walking. Keep an eye out for crocodiles.
The Flinders Range National Park in South Australia is country of thick, gnarled gum trees and stony creeks. Kangaroos and emus abound. There are ruins of farms established by pioneers. The mountains glow red in the sunset. Simon Pavey, a Dakar racer and off-road skills chief instructor, said it was some of the best riding in all of Australia. There are the remotest of desert tracks, river beds, stunning mountain trails and rock single lane lines. The sky is considerably bluer than in any city. Fossils found in the region led geologists to revise the Earth’s geological timeline.
The Victorian High Country is generally regarded as the best 4WD destination in Australia, but features scenery and places of historic interest. A number of high country huts are famous, including Craig’s Hut, which achieved prominence through the film, The Man from Snowy River. The land is not severe, but the steep ridges and frequent water crossings will require you to keep your mind on the job. The Staircase is a series of very steep climbs with intermittent drainage humps. There are good camping facilities at the start and end of the trail.
A road trip in Australia can be utterly liberating, and you can never be sure of what you will see next – it could be lighthouses, kangaroos, rainforest of an incredible sunset.