Australia’s outback has often been called a road tripper’s dream – vast open spaces, dreamlike rainbow skies, monolithic monuments crafted by nature and breathtaking sunsets that set the scenery alight. The hard part isn’t so much deciding to wave bye-bye to the bitumen; it’s deciding which part of our big backyard to explore first!
Over the years, we’ve traveled many 4WD outback tracks not just to test our tyres but also on personal holidays and team-building trips.
Here are our Top 7 tracks:
Length: 5 days
Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture and the pioneering spirit of early European explorers. This iconic journey will take you from the centre of Australia, Alice Springs, to the magnificent Kings Canyon and finally the most recognisable rock in the world, Uluru. While you can use a regular car and regular passenger tyres on this tourist-friendly route, a 4WD with sturdier tyres is recommended for the Mereenie Loop Road and the road to the Finke Gorge National Park’s towering sandstone cliffs.
Length: 3 – 5 days
A long-time favourite with the 4WDing community, the Oodnadatta Track is close to our hearts here at Cooper Tires because it was one of the routes we used to test and develop the S/TMAXX. At 620km, it is not the longest outback track but makes up for this with an abundance of cool things to see. Fascinating, beautiful and steeped in historical and cultural significance, it retraces the steps of an ancient Aboriginal trading route, the 19th century explorer John McDouall Stuart and the Great Northern Railway. Sand dunes, salt lakes and gibber plains are just some of the amazing sights you will see; check out Arckaringa Station’s pictures of the Painted Desert.
Length: 5 days
Another track we’ve taken to test our tyres. We started at the north of the Flinders Ranges, drove up the Strzelecki Track and took the old road to Innamincka, then passed through lonely Walkers Crossing to join up to the Birdsville Track so we could cross the Sturt Stony Desert and return to Lyndhurst. This route is not very technical, but it is a long journey on varying terrain with a lot of harsh gravel and long isolated stretches. You will pass many points of interests like the Mungeranie Roadhouse, bores into the Great Artesian Basin and Tom Kruse’s (the first bush postman) truck.
Grade: Moderate – technical expertise required
Length: 3 days
The Simmo’s best-known feature is the Big Red, a huge sand dune that has reached legendary status amongst off-road enthusiasts, but there’s so much more to this desert: unique wildlife, wildflowers and a variety of tracks to keep the drive interesting. Covering the sandy QAA line, the rough Knolls Track, the surprisingly smooth Erabena Track, the clay-based Rig Road and the recently reopened Warburton Track, this loop provides a taste of the Simpson without the time and distance commitment of a full-blown desert crossing. It’s also worth allocating some time to spend in Birdsville itself so you can check out the iconic local pub, quirky bakery and roadhouse.
Length: 3 – 4 weeks
This route is famous for its difficulty. More than 1,700km in length and taking 2 weeks just to drive (without breaks), the Canning Stock Route is isolated, arduous and altogether perfect if what you’re looking for is pure 4WD adventure and the road trip of a lifetime.
Running from Halls Creek to Wiluna and crossing the Great Sandy Desert and Little Sandy Desert, this track can easily take up 4 weeks. Ron and Viv Moon describe it as, “…a trip you will certainly remember for the challenge of the journey – but you’ll also remember the delightfully varying desert landscapes, the palpable sense of history, and the peacefulness and tranquillity of a remote, untouched country.”
Length: 4 days minimum
Gunbarrel Highway is an isolated desert track that connects Victory Downs to Carnegie Station, running through the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The track consists of around 1,400km of washaways, heavy corrugations, stone, sand and flood plains. Part of the highway, known as the Old Gunbarrel Highway, is no longer maintained due to the construction of the Great Centre Road, which provides a more direct route. The Gunbarrel Highway is a tough, isolated track and should only be taken on if properly prepared and equipped.
Length: 3 days or more
The Gibb River Road track stretches almost 660km and runs through the heart of the Kimberly Region, Western Australia. The track has scenic views of geological formations, remarkable ranges, superb rivers, vast savannahs of bushland, steep cliff faces and fascinating gorges that have been forged over millions of years. The track is often closed during the wet season due to flooding, which is typically November through to March, however; delays in re-opening the track have occurred.
The outback isn’t the place to experiment with your tyre choices. For example, Hema Maps warns that the Oodnadatta Track “can be murder on the tyres” and most rental companies will not let you take one of their cars onto the Mereenie Loop Road (or have stringent conditions attached to the rental agreement).
Adjusting your tyre pressures once you’re off-road is vital, not just for a more comfortable ride but also safety – lower pressures will help your tyres deform around obstacles like rocks and reduce the likelihood of damage.
You should also choose the right tyre for the job – all-terrain, heavy duty all-terrain or super tough – to reduce the chances of copping a puncture and having to repair or change your tyres under a midday sun in the desert.