Remote, yet truly awe-inspiring, the iconic Oodnadatta Track is a must-do road trip for all 4WD enthusiasts and lovers of the Australian outback.
The Oodnadatta Track is a 600km South Australian odyssey between Marree in the south, a railway outpost where the Birdsville Track also starts, to Marla in the north, where the track loops back to meet the Stuart Highway.
For travellers commuting between the Flinders Ranges or Adelaide and Alice Springs, it is by far the more interesting route when compared with the blacktop of the Stuart. And while it traverses some truly breathtaking and remote outback country, it’s generally a very accessible, good quality gravel track perfect for 4WD beginners with factory-standard vehicles and suitable also for those who are towing offroad trailers.
Of course, track conditions should always be checked ahead of any journey, and the Oodnadatta does close during extensive rain.
The track forms a section of the Old Ghan Heritage Trail, running alongside disused railway lines, crumbling old sidings and railway outpost ghost towns. This makes for an interesting element, learning the fascinating history of this major railway artery linking opposing ends of our hulking great continent.
Named in honour of the Afghani cameleers brought to Australia to help unravel the mystery of her vast interior, the track was rebuilt several hundred kays to the west where flooding was less of an issue; a death certificate for many of the little villages that had cropped up to service the line. Where crumbling bricks and swallows now reside, the imagination places publicans, railway workers, stockmen, desert-hardened women and kids who’ve never seen the ocean.
The Oodnadatta skirts past the southern shore of Lake Eyre before climbing to the scorching black rock gibber plains further north. It traverses undulating red sand hills, passes thermal springs that feed surprising micro-wetlands (Mound and Coward Springs) and takes in quirky post-apocalyptic sculptures at Mutonia Sculpture Park.
Cold beer, hot food and fuel can be found at several points along the way, including the iconic William Creek Hotel and, of course, the unmistakable Pink Roadhouse.
The much-loved Pink Roadhouse is a welcome lifeline for many a weary traveller that has navigated the Oodnadatta Track. Since 1983 the Roadhouse has acted as a meeting point, rest-stop and refuel station, with original owners Adam and Lynnie Plate wanting to create a place that made visitors to the desert feel comfortable and safe.
They also dedicated a great amount of time into making the Roadhouse a destination in itself, with powered caravan and camping sites, internet access, hot showers, cold beers, groceries, meals (the famous Oodnaburger is a menu highlight), mechanic services AND pink merchandise just some of the facilities the Roadhouse offers.
It’s this all-welcoming philosophy that is being carried on by new owners Neville and Adriana Jacob, who are clearly humbled to be at the helm of this outback icon. As friends of Adam and Lynnie, they took over the job after Adam’s tragic death, making them more than suitable to ensure the longevity of the Roadhouse. So next time you’re on the track, make sure to pop in at the Roadhouse, share a yarn and a coldie with Neville and the gang, and hit the road a little more energised.