Travelling The Oodnadatta Track, South Australia | 2023 Guide

Cutting through the red sands of northern South Australia, the Oodnadatta Track is one of Australia’s most outback roads. It runs from Marree in the south to Marla in the north, with loads of unique historic sites along the way.

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The Oodnadatta Track is a fun alternative to the Stuart Highway and a great way to get to Coober Pedy. It’s 620 km of unsealed road known for being a little rough around the edges. But that just makes it all the more exciting. The track is the attraction itself, with a side of ruins of former Ghan railway stations, trickling mound springs and quintessential outback scenery.

We found the journey well worth the bumpy roads and dusty tracks, especially in our 4WD Troopy. It makes for an incredible route down to the Flinders Ranges or an unforgettable trip to Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake! If you’re looking for an outback track to sink your teeth into, look no further!

This guide covers everything you need to know about the Oodnadatta Track and all of its must-see stops.

The Ghan
The Ghan, Oodnadatta Track
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About The Track

The Oodnadatta Track is a legendary unsealed outback road that follows the traditional Aboriginal trading route from Marree to Marla. 

It runs through a semi-desert and is a route dotted with waterholes and numerous springs feeding water from the Great Artesian Basin; you’ll be cruising the stunning semi-desert scenery along the southern lake of Lake Eyre National Park and passing through outback settlements like William Creek and Oodnadatta. 

It became the chosen route for the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan Railway Line, creating lots of unique historic sites along the track. Some of the best-preserved ones can be found at the Coward Springs Campground, which comes with a natural artesian spa and the deserted Curdimurka railway siding.

It’s also a similar route that explorer John McDouall Stuart followed on his expedition across Australia. Nowadays, the track passes through small outback towns with rust-covered railway sidings and dusty red sand. It’s one of the more tame Southern end outback tracks, making it the perfect track for first-timers trying off-road driving in the Outback.         

To view the full Oodnadatta Track map in Google Maps, click here

Oodnadatta Track on Google Maps
Oodnadatta Track on Google Maps

Oodnadatta Track Conditions

Checking the current track conditions before hitting the road is essential, and you’ll want to come prepared. Things like reducing your tire pressure (around 25 psi is good) and slowing down for creek crossings and rutted areas will help keep the drive as smooth as possible. 

Rainfall plays a big role in the condition of South Australian outback roads where dry conditions are optimal. A 4WD is recommended over a 2WD sedan for this track. While it’s a well-maintained gravel road, unexpected challenges like washouts, sandy patches, potholes, and corrugations can pop up, especially between William Creek and Oodnadatta. After heavy rain, the track can be unpassable or only passable with a four-wheel drive. 

We highly recommend checking current road conditions and respecting all the warnings and signage. No one wants to roll their vehicle or get stuck on a track that’s clearly meant for 4WD only. Print out a mud map, pack a spare tire, and fit a UHF CB radio to cover your bases and enjoy the ride!

Oodnadatta Track
Oodnadatta Track  

Oodnadatta Track Itinerary & Must-See Stops

Marree To William Creek (204 Kms // 2.5 Hours)

Dog Fence

The famously long South Australian dog fence spans 5,400 km and protects sheep in “the sheep zone” from dingoes. While it’s not much to look at, it tells an interesting story of the history of the dingo fence and the role it has played in the local environment. 

If you’ve visited the fence near the Breakaways in Coober Pedy, you’ll see a different stretch of it just west of Marree. From Marree, you can also link up with the Birdsville Track. It’s another outback track that ventures north into the Simpson Desert. 

Dingo Fence, Oodnadatta Track
Dingo Fence, Oodnadatta Track

READ NEXT: Best Things To Do In Coober Pedy, South Australia

Alberrie Creek and Mutonia Sculpture Park

Heading north from Marree, you’ll surely notice some unique art once you reach Alberrie Creek. The former siding on the Old Ghan Railway now serves as an installation of metal sculptures made from recycled rubbish. Check out the old Ghan railway sidings, where you can explore a former rocket tracking site, visit the ruins of a telegraph repeater station, and see South Australia’s longest bridge. Also, look out for the two towering aeroplanes and giant metal dingo that sit at the entrance to Mutonia Sculpture Park.

Alberrie Creek, Mutonia Sculpture Park, Oodnadatta Track
Alberrie Creek, Mutonia Sculpture Park, Oodnadatta Track

Ghan Railway Sidings – Curdimurka

There are lots of railway sidings along the Oodnadatta Track, with some in better condition than others. Curdimurka is particularly well preserved, with a desalination tower, bridge, and railway building still standing tall. It’s a good place to stop and stretch your legs and get a glimpse into old railway history.

Max at Oodnadatta Track Trailway
Max at Oodnadatta Track Trailway

Lake Eyre South Lookout

Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia and the country’s largest salt lake. While Lake Eyre South is rarely full, the lookout is a great place to stop and admire the view. You can walk down to the water’s edge—or an empty basin, depending on the time of year—and see the iconic landmark for yourself.

When we visited in May, Lake Eyre South was glimmering from the salty crust but was almost completely dry. Even without being flooded, a scenic flight over Lake Eyre is a worthy addition to a South Australia road trip. You can catch a flight from Marree or further along the Oodnadatta Track in William Creek.

Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta Track
Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta Track

Margaret Siding Ruin

Make a pit stop at Margaret Siding ruins to see a crumbling 1800s fettlers cottage. Fettlers were groups of men who maintained the railway track while living in small remote cottages along the way. They needed to be ready to jump on repairs immediately, and Margaret Siding was one of their basecamps.

Margaret Siding Ruins, Oodnadatta Track
Margaret Siding Ruins, Oodnadatta Track

Mound Springs

Some of the most iconic mound springs in South Australia are located in Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park along the Oodnadatta Track. Thirrka (Blanche Cup) and Pirdali-nha (The Bubbler) are famous spots that are worth a stop. They hold great significance to the local Arabana people and are a habitat for many waterbirds. You can explore them easily off the main road, but swimming in the mounds is not permitted.

Mound Springs Conservation Park, Oodnadatta Track
Mound Springs Conservation Park
oodnadatta track
Mound Springs Conservation Park, Oodnadatta Track

Coward Springs

One of the larger former railway stations along the Oodnadatta Track, Coward Springs is a must-see stop. The restored station now serves as a heritage site and campground with an unexpected twist—it has a natural spa onsite. You can take a dip in the natural spring-fed hot tub for just $2 per person but time your visit wisely, as the tub is small and can only fit 2-4 people inside. 

Coward Springs sits beneath a shady canopy of date palms and athel pines, making it a great place to camp. Unlike much of the Oodnadatta Track, it also has a cell tower with 4G Optus service – a perfect spot for an overnight stay on the Oodnadatta.

Coward Springs, Oodnadatta Track
Coward Springs, Oodnadatta Track
Coward Springs, Oodnadatta Track
Coward Springs, Oodnadatta Track

Irrapatana Sandhills

The beautiful red sandhills that line this stretch of the Oodnadatta Track are outliers of the nearby Simpson Desert. The road travels right through the sandy dunes and rolling ridges that are dotted with shrubs and clay pans.

Irrapatana Sandhills
Irrapatana Sandhills

William Creek

William Creek is the smallest town in South Australia, but it’s home to an iconic pub called the William Creek Hotel. The town is a gateway to Lake Eyre via scenic flights and gets quite popular when there’s water in the basin. Otherwise, the town has a whopping 10-person population but makes for an easy overnight stop on the Oodnadatta track. 

If you can, take a side trip to the Painted Desert from Oodnadatta. It’s pure Outback beauty and definitely worth a visit. Plus, you can use the Painted Desert Track as a shortcut to Australia’s renowned opal capital, Coober Pedy. 

Located about halfway along the Oodnadatta Track, William Creek offers cell coverage, snacks, drinks, a fuel station, hotel, a pub and a campground. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and cool off with a drink before embarking on the second half of the track. William Creek is also where you can turn off for a detour toward Lake Eyre and Halligan Bay. 

william creek hotel, oodnadatta track
William Creek Hotel

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Coober Pedy, South Australia

Where to Stay: Camping at Coward Springs or William Creek 

Coward Springs and William Creek are some of the most popular Oodnadatta Track camping spots. Both have accommodation for tents and a caravan park with toilets and showers. Camping at Coward Springs is $15 per person per night, and William Creek is $12 per person. If Oodnadatta camping isn’t on your agenda, the William Creek Hotel also offers hotel rooms and air-conditioned cottages.

William Creek To Oodnadatta (201 Kms // 2.5 Hours)

Anna Creek

Just outside of William Creek, you’ll find Anna Creek, the largest cattle station in the world. It was also a former repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line and once had mound springs nearby. Sadly, the mound springs are now dry but the area is still an interesting stop along the track. 

Anna Creek
Anna Creek

Edwards Creek

Pass through this shallow, shady creek and keep your eyes peeled for the pink sign. Adam Plate, the late owner of the Pink Roadhouse, put handmade sign markers throughout the entire Oodnadatta Track. 

This one marks the official halfway point of the track with some much-needed motivation to tackle the remaining 320 km.

With Campervan Troopy in the Oodnadatta Track
With Campervan Troopy in the Oodnadatta Track

Peake Telegraph Station and Ruins

If you have a good 4WD vehicle, be sure to check out the ruins of the old Peake Telegraph Station. The track is rough and slow-moving but is a worthy detour to see the crumbling fettler cottages. All things considered, the ruins are in pretty good shape and have been partially restored by Heritage SA. 

In addition to being a repeater station, the area used to be a small village and mine. You can spend an hour or two exploring the ruins.


Easily the most photographed bridge along the Oodnadatta Track, Algebuckina is the longest railway bridge in South Australia. Spanning 578 metres, the bridge once serviced the Old Ghan Railway and was built to allow the Ghan train to cross the river during the floods.

Today, the bridge still stands tall above the Neales River, and a campsite has been established approximately 1km from the bridge on the east side of the track. The campsite is one of the few spots along the track with a permanent waterhole. Camping is free, and there are great views from the river up to the bridge, especially at sunset. 

Mt Dutton Lookout

Another siding of the Old Ghan Railway, Mt Dutton has historic ruins and a towering structure that you can see from the road. It’s also the site of an old grave, which is for the workers who passed during gruelling railway construction.

READ NEXT: Visiting Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park

Oodnadatta To Marla (217 Kms // 4 Hours)

Pink Roadhouse

This namesake town is a true icon of the outback adventure. Oodnadatta is home to the Pink Roadhouse, the little pink building that you surely can’t miss. The Oodnadatta Track was named by late Pink Roadhouse owner Adam Plate from the Oodnadatta Progress Association Inc. in 1980 and the town has had cult status ever since, completing a trilogy of unsealed tourist routes alongside the nearby Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks, an alternative to the sealed Stuart Highway if you’re travelling from the Northern Territory across Port Augusta and Alice Springs.

Travellers from all over a journey to the historic desert roadhouse for mud maps and insider info. The roadhouse is a good place to stop for a beer, a bite to eat and to connect to the world. Both Optus and Telstra users will have reception here. Plus, it’s one of the essential Oodnadatta Track fuel stops complete with on-brand pink fuel pumps. 

Those looking to spend the night can do so for $15/person/night at the Oodnadatta Caravan Park or the Oodnadatta Free Camp nearby.

Kathleen Creek

The last stretch of the Oodnadatta Track veers off from the Ghan railway line, so there’s not much to see in terms of historic sites. That said, there are lots of nice waterholes and creek crossings with cattle wandering about. 

Kathleen Creek is a peaceful, shady area with camping spots along the turn-off for Todmorden Station.

Marla Travellers Rest

The final stop on the Oodnadatta Track is the sleepy town of Marla. Marla sits on both the Oodnadatta Track and the Stuart Highway and has all the facilities any road trip needs. In particular, clean toilet facilities and much-needed showers! 

Marla Travellers Rest is a roadhouse where you can re-pump your tires, fuel up, and even swim in a pool. Plus, Marla is the only place where you can spot the modern-day Ghan train passing through on the new railway tracks.


How Long Does It Take To Drive The Oodnadatta Track?

The Oodnadatta Track begins in the town of Marree, and the drive from Marree to Marla is a 620 km journey that takes 9 hours

But this drive is more about the journey than the destination, so we recommend spending at least 3 days on the Oodnadatta Track to space out the drive and see the sights.

driving along oodnadatta track
Driving along the Oodnadatta Track

Is The Oodnadatta Track OK For Caravans?

With the right preparation, the Oodnadatta Track can be done in 2WD campers and caravans. But the road is unsealed, heavily corrugated and is best suited for off-road campers and trailers. 

Some travellers told us it’s the worst road they’ve been on; others completed it without any issues. We certainly wouldn’t recommend it for shiny new rigs, as we’ve seen plenty of travellers lose bits of their caravans on these corrugated roads! 

How Rough Is The Oodnadatta Track?

The track is certainly rough, dusty, and sandy, but it’s actually one of the easier outback tracks in Australia. The road conditions and level of corrugations are largely dependent on recent rains, so be sure to check conditions and plan accordingly.

What Is The Condition Of The Oodnadatta Track?

For current Oodnadatta Track road conditions, click here.

oodnadatta track


Have you ever travelled the Oodnadatta Track? What was your must-see stop along the way?

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