There are many Australian “tracks” that attract those wanting a taste of the outback and one of the more well-known is the legendary “Oodnadatta Track”.

Eastern end of the Oodnadatta Track.

Drive north from Port Pirie/Port Augusta and the bitumen ends at Marree. It’s there that outback drivers face one of two options : north-east just over 500kms to Birdsville in Queensland, or just over 600kms north-west to Marla via Oodnadatta, on the Stuart Highway connecting to the Northern Territory. Severe flooding further north and east in Queensland had cut the roads to Birdsville from that side so a trip to the iconic outback town for us would have been up, AND back with the real risk of being stuck once we got there. Common sense prevailed, and while the Oodnadatta Track was longer we did not have to do it in duplicate – and it tied in better with our other plans. Birdsville would be worked in later in the trip.

Starting at Port Pirie in the south, the route to Marree, beginning of the Oodnadatta Track, and on to Marla at the end of the track. “A” is Marree, “B” is William Creek, “C” is Oodnadatta, and “D” is Marla.
Queensland Road Conditions report on the roads into Birdsville – from/to Queensland all were closed. Birdsville is in the bottom left of the image, in the far south western corner of the state.

The track’s original function was to support the building of a telegraph line and later served to help build a railway ( the famous “Ghan” line ). Neither are used now ( the telegraph line and its stations redundant, and the Ghan line replaced with a new line further west less prone to flooding ) but remnants can be found at places along the route.  It’s rugged, rough in places, and extremely remote but offers one great solitude and mile after mile of flat desert sands for as far as the eye can see. 

While the route starts in Maree, the sealed road to Marree also offered some great scenery, passes through several very historic South Australian towns and more kangaroo and emu sightings than we would see on the Oodnadatta Track itself. A short detour via the Flinders Ranges provided yet more variation on the scenery than on the direct route to Marree so we tacked that on to our journey, albeit briefly.

Classic Aussie pub, Quorn.
Old railway station, Quorn
Road to the Flinders Ranges
Flinders Ranges.
Flinders Ranges.
Tracks in the Flinders Ranges
Our first sighting of an emu.

Two outback travel rules ( which we both know well ) were broken on the run to Marree – never pass a fuel bowser without filling up, and don’t drive after 4pm. The fuel bowser we relied on was faulty ( we made it, but with less margin than we like ), and we found there were WAY more animals on the road after 4pm ( nearly wiped out our first kangaroo ! ). Lesson learned.

Sun setting near Marree. As a rule we never drive this late in the day and almost hit a kangaroo in doing so.

That minor drama aside the next two days in Maree and on the Oodnadatta Track itself were amazing. Our stop in Maree gave us a chance to sample some memorable Aussie outback pub fare ( the chicken parmy was a special treat ). We  camped in the parking area of the pub voted “Best Pub in Maree” ( yes, also the ONLY pub in Maree ) – and currently the only camping option in Maree. A few stories were shared with fellow travellers especially tips on the road ahead.The Maree Hotel also has a famous museum inside – the Tom Kruz museum- that pays homage to a famous local postman bearing almost the same name as his better known Hollywood namesake. Tom’s is an interesting story  – spelled out in tales and pictures on the walls of a room dedicated in his honor. 

The road to Maree – end of the black top.
Best darn pub in Marree – Marree Hotel
Tom Kruz Room ( Museum ) Marree Hotel
Old Ghan locomotive, Marree
Track to nowhere, Marree.

If you like great expanses of almost nothing and long, endless roads then this track is your bag ! We would have liked to have done it with a few less corrugations but hey, that comes with the outback. Traffic was sparse ( as expected ) and the towns/settlements along the way ( really only William Creek and Oodnadatta itself ) offered interesting respite and some historical perspective on this legendary outback route. 

Beginning of the Oodnadatta Track
Travelling along the Oodnadatta Track.
William Creek Hotel, William Creek, Oodndatta Track
Fuel’s expensive in the outback !
Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta Track
Later on the track.
Algebuckina Bridge ruins, Ghan line, Oodnadatta Track
Rest stop by the Algebuckina Bridge.
Oodnadatta – hottest and driest town in Australia

Original old Oodnadatta station sign. The line via Oodndatta closed in 1980.
Legendary “Pink Roadhouse”, Oodnadatta
Near the end- lots of wide open spaces.

Oodnadatta Track complete, the road from Marla north to the SA/NT border was smooth blacktop, a welcome relief after over 600kms of ( at times ) bone crushing corrugations.
Shortly after the end of the OodnadattabTrack ( at Marla), we crossed into the Northen Territory. Nice to be back on blacktop !

Till next week….