The day we started the Oodnadatta Track was the day we finally left the Northern Territory. After 15 months, we crossed the border into South Australia and was glad to finally feel like we were moving along.
The starting point of the Oodnadatta Track and a great rest stop for travellers, Marla a very small town that sports a supermarket, hotel/motel, service station and restaurant. The word Marla actually means kangaroo, but while we were there we didn’t see any. A local aboriginal lady offered to sell us a live chicken, and we took advantage of the reasonably priced diesel ($1.90) to top up our fuel tanks.
The road to Oodnadatta was pretty good despite the occasional pot hole, and it was great to see emus again.
The first thing we did when we arrived was go to the Pink Roadhouse for a drink. We sat out on the deck and watched the sun go down as we read through their Oodnadatta Mud Map, which was full of handy hints and attractions we would be passing along the way. Before we sussed out the free camping grounds, we ducked into the Transcontinental Hotel for another drink and met Jeffery, who played the didgeridoo for us.
The free camp ground was conveniently across the road and had a sheltered picnic bench with a clean BBQ and bins nearby.
From here, we deviated from the Oodnadatta Track to head towards Coober Pedy, and returned to the track at William Creek.
A good place to stop and stretch your legs, William Creek offers public toilets and a refreshing drink at the William Creek Hotel, which was originally used as a railway siding on the old Ghan railway line.
Across the road is a tree with cats hanging from it. Initially, Juz assumed that the cats were fake, until she got closer and saw bones and teeth. She started to feel sick before reading a sign that the tree was called the Pussy Willow and was used as a prop for a film – thankfully, the cats were indeed fake. Phew!
Nearby is Anna Creek – the biggest cattle station in the world. At its peak, it was about 70 million acres! It’s now about 6 million acres, which makes it bigger than about 110 countries, including Israel, Fiji and Slovenia. The land is owned by S. Kidman and Co. Ltd, the largest private land owner in Australia (duh!). They owe this legacy to Sidney Kidman, an Aussie pastoralist from the late 1800s – and coincidently the great-great-great grandfather of Nicole Kidman. Sidney bought up as much land as he could throughout the Great Artesian Basin and he managed his business really well by moving his livestock around the millions of acres of land as the weather changed. His property was so vast, one area could be flooded while another area was in drought!
We spent the night by Beresford Dam and the nearby ruins. Once the sun went down, the mozzies came out, so we shut ourselves into the Troopy and had an early night.
Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs
This stop was unexpectedly excellent. After a short drive to the springs, we visited the Bubbler first – a round, bubbling pool of clear water that trickled down to the surrounding area. To see clear water, lush green reeds and birds in a place so barren and desolate was strange.
The next feature was the Blanche Cup, another bubbling pool atop a mound. We learnt that the water coming out is from the Great Artesian Basin and is nearly 2 million years old.
We stopped into Coward Springs to refresh ourselves in their natural spa. Pay $2 for a day visit, and have a soak in the spa, which is about the size of a plunge pool and sits at around 25°C. We met a lovely couple from Goolwa and chatted about cockling and the Birdsville Races. If you want to stick around for the night, camping fees are $12.50 per person for the night.
The lookout over Lake Eyre South was amazing. A walking track leads you to the edge of the salt flat and if you walk in far enough, it starts to get really muddy and soft underneath the thin, salty crust. The salt is so fine, that in some places it looked like fairy floss. We spotted a bearded dragon with spots scampering across the plain, and took a few silly shots before moving on.
Lake Eyre is the largest salt lake in Australia, and Halligan Bay represents the lowest point of Australia at 15.2m below sea level. It was named after explorer Edward John Eyre, and may only fill with water every three years. Its name was officially changed in 2012 to Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, to incorporate the indigenous name.
An interesting diversion from the track, Alberrie Creek features giant sculptures made from scrap. We thought the giant flower was excellent, as well as the metal people, and if you watch the two planes at the entrance long enough, you’ll find that it has been made into a home by the surrounding birds.
The end of the Oodnadatta track, this small and super friendly town of just over 600 people consists of a general store with fantastic, freshly baked bread and deep, meaty pies, Australia’s oldest mosque that was built to cater for the Afghan cameleers, and a BBQ area and museum park.
Also worth a look is the Maree Hotel, a gorgeous pub with friendly owners, great prices and the Tom Kruse Museum, which commemorate a great Aussie postie who delivered along the Birdsville Track.
If you’re low on fuel, expect to pay around $2 or more per litre for diesel.
We had heard that the Oodnadatta track is the best outback track in Australia and we absolutely agree. The track itself is in great condition, the scenery is really pretty and the points of interest are actually interesting. We recommend it to everyone…