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. 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.
About the Track
The Oodnadatta Track is a legendary unsealed outback road that follows the original trading route from Marree to Marla. It runs through a semi-desert and is a route dotted with waterholes and springs fed from the Great Artesian Basin. It became the chosen route for the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan Railway Line, creating lots of unique historic sites along the track.
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 outback tracks in South Australia, making it a perfect adventure for any intrepid traveller.
To view the full Oodnadatta Track map in Google Maps, click here.
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. 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 Itinerary & Must-See Stops
Marree to William Creek (204 kms // 2.5 hours)
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 on 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.
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. Look out for the two towering airplanes and giant metal dingo that sit at the entrance to Mutonia Sculpture Park.
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.
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.
Margaret Siding Ruin
Make a pit stop at Margaret Siding ruins to see a crumbling 1800s fettlers cottage. Fettlers were groups of men that 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.
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 the 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.
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/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.
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.
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. 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. This is also where you can turn off for a detour toward Lake Eyre and Halligan Bay.
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)
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.
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.
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 that passed during gruelling railway construction.
Oodnadatta to Marla (217 kms // 4 hours)
This namesake town is a true icon of the outback. 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 in 1980 and the town has had cult status ever since. Travelers from all over journey to the historic desert roadhouse for mud maps and insider info.
The roadhouse is a good place to stop for a beer, 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.Pink Roadhouse. Photo via Pink Roadhouse
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?
To 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.
Is the Oodnadatta Track OK for caravans?
With the right preparation, the Oodnadatta Track can be doable in 2WD campers and caravans. But the road is unsealed, heavily corrugated and is best suited for off-road campers and trailers. Some travelers 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 travelers 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.