PINK ROAD­HOUSE, SA the in­fa­mous oodnadatta pit-stop

An out­bAck icon And A life­line for trAv­ellers on the re­mote oodnAdAttA trAck, the Pink roAd­house hAs en­tered into A new PhAse of its his­tory.


a bit iso­lated,” said Neville Ja­cob, the new owner of the iconic Pink Road­house in Oodnadatta, SA. His re­sis­tance to hy­per­bole is fairly typ­i­cal of the no-bull­shit folk you’re likely to meet out here. About 1000km north of Ade­laide, Oodnadatta is Aus­tralia’s hottest, dri­est town with a pop­u­la­tion of just 80 peo­ple. It’s a bit iso­lated, yes.

But Neville is quick to point out that he meets a great many peo­ple as the pro­pri­etor of the much-loved Pink Road­house, and that’s hardly sur­pris­ing, given its lo­ca­tion on the pop­u­lar Oodnadatta Track at the south­ern gate­way to the Simpson Desert. For those who don’t like tar­mac, it’s the log­i­cal way to get from Ade­laide to the Red Cen­tre and the road is usu­ally in good con­di­tion, mak­ing the trek per­fect for be­gin­ners and suit­able for the tow­ing brigade. With that in mind, Neville reck­ons there’s never a dull mo­ment at the Pink Road­house.

It was cer­tainly hop­ping when we pulled in, sting­ing for a taste of the fa­mous ‘Oodnaburger’ af­ter three days of meat and tinned veg in one dry creek bed or an­other along the track. We found a flurry of ac­tiv­ity as mud-cov­ered cars lined up for fuel, ladies lined up for the loo, and hun­gry mouths lined up for name­sake burg­ers.

Pun­ters shared sto­ries of Simpson shenani­gans and Oodna mud­slides, the diesel bowser a scut­tle­butt where advice and warn­ings were re­ceived by the ex­cited wide-eyes of trav­ellers only half­way there. There had been

a lot of rain the week be­fore and the track had only just re­opened. The lay­ers of mud on each ve­hi­cle were as­sessed with ad­mi­ra­tion, like fully dis­played pea­cock feath­ers as vis­i­tors rolled into the un­likely pink oa­sis. We might’ve been in South Aus­tralia’s most re­mote town, but com­pared to the vast ex­panse of vi­brant noth­ing­ness we’d been travers­ing for days, this was the height of civil­i­sa­tion.


Neville pur­chased the Pink Road­house with his wife Adri­ana three years ago and they re­lo­cated to Oodnadatta, but the two were no strangers to out­back life, hav­ing lived 200km south at Wil­liam Creek. By out­back stan­dards, that’s just down the road and, as such, the Ja­cobs were friends with the pre­vi­ous own­ers, Adam and Lyn­nie

Plate. Af­ter Adam’s tragic death in a car ac­ci­dent in 2012, Lyn­nie sold the busi­ness and re­lo­cated to Ade­laide. That’s when the Ja­cobs made the de­ci­sion to carry on the legacy of this out­back icon that has been much-loved by trav­ellers and lo­cals for decades.


So why on earth is there a bright pink road­house in the mid­dle of the out­back any­way? That’s a valid ques­tion, and to an­swer it we have to travel back to the 1970s.

Adam and Lyn­nie were self-con­fessed hip­pies on a soul-search­ing sab­bat­i­cal, walk­ing the desert down the tracks of the old Ghan with camels, don­keys and horses. In 1975, they rolled into the lit­tle Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity of Oodnadatta af­ter some ten­sion in their tour­ing party, the cou­ple de­cided to stay on for a while to re­group. They never left.

The town was rowdy but the peo­ple were friendly, and there was some ac­tiv­ity and vi­brancy

as the Whit­lam gov­ern­ment of the day poured money into Abo­rig­i­nal hous­ing. Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple here were al­lowed to drink and vote, and Adam and Lyn­nie quickly be­came a welcomed part of the com­mu­nity.

Adam set up a mo­tor­cy­cle re­pair busi­ness in 1978 to ser­vice the nearby sta­tions which used bikes to muster camels and, shortly af­ter, Lyn­nie set up a shop called the Tucker­box to sell snacks and sup­plies to the grow­ing num­ber of trav­ellers. It was dec­o­rated with a gi­ant Rolling Stone-style mouth with a tongue; they were an eclec­tic pair. The Tucker­box also be­came some­what of a soup kitchen for hun­gry kids wait­ing for their par­ents to leave the pub.

When the Ghan was re­lo­cated and the old tracks closed in 1980, it was thought Oodnadatta – like so many other towns along the track – would die. But Adam and Lyn­nie had ex­plored the sur­rounds by mo­tor­bike and knew the town was well-po­si­tioned to cap­i­talise on the grow­ing 4WD trade, po­si­tioned as it was be­tween the Flin­ders Ranges and Alice Springs. The sur­round­ing coun­try was mag­nif­i­cently con­trast­ing out­back: the Painted Desert, the Simpson Desert, hot springs at Dal­housie and Cow­ard Springs, stark gib­ber plains and un­du­lat­ing red sand hills. Adam and Lyn­nie poured their ef­forts into es­tab­lish­ing tourism, and im­mor­talised the town by nam­ing the 600km road the Oodnadatta Track.

In 1983, fuel was added to Plates’ ser­vice and the place was re­named the Oodnadatta Traders. It was Adam’s idea to paint it pink; as a for­mer art stu­dent, he knew the power of jux­ta­po­si­tion and that the con­trast be­tween the out­back and a candy pink road­house would be a talk­ing point for trav­ellers. Shortly af­ter that, it be­came known as the Pink Road­house and, to this day, is still a talk­ing point.

Adam and Lyn­nie’s phi­los­o­phy was to make peo­ple feel com­fort­able and safe in the desert. Adam poured a great deal of time and ef­fort into the Pink Road­house’s iconic ‘mud maps’ tour; quirky, hand-painted signs and maps dot­ted

along the Oodnadatta Track of­fer­ing warm anec­dotes and in­for­ma­tion to lonely out­back trav­ellers. This huge un­der­tak­ing adds so much to the trek for mod­ern day 4WDers and serves as a tan­gi­ble re­minder of Adam’s passion for the out­back and, in par­tic­u­lar, his lit­tle town of Oodnadatta. The man may have passed, but his legacy is very much alive and well. Adam’s ex­ten­sive li­brary of mud maps in avail­able to down­load at the Pink Road­house’s web­site.

Th­ese days, the Pink Road­house of­fers camp­ing, pow­ered car­a­van sites, ac­com­mo­da­tion and in­ter­net ac­cess. It has hot show­ers, hot meals, cold beer (a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion), groceries and plenty of pink cloth­ing, hats and other mer­chan­dise. There’s a me­chanic shop for ba­sic re­pairs, more than 150 tyres in stock and a 24-hour 4WD re­cov­ery ser­vice that can be called upon on UHF chan­nel 7 re­peater. As has al­ways been the Pink Road­house’s phi­los­o­phy, if you get in trou­ble out here, help isn’t too far away – a con­cept that is very much car­ried on by new own­ers Neville and Adri­ana.

Speak­ing with Neville, it is clear he is hum­bled to be run­ning this beloved out­back icon. He is warm and gre­gar­i­ous with a sparkle in his eye that sug­gests he is right at home catch­ing the grubby trav­ellers the desert spits out at him, serv­ing them up a cold beer or a hot cof­fee and listening to their tall tales and grand plans. Such is the life of a road­house owner; peo­ple are al­ways both com­ing from some­where and go­ing some­where. It’s an in­fec­tious en­ergy, and one that this quirky pink palace har­nesses to great ef­fect.

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: One of many hand-painted signs con­nected with the road­house and its fa­mous mud maps tour; Sto­ries are shared as own­ers wait to re­fuel; Although the road’s main­tained, safe passage isn’t as­sured so stay in­formed; Neville Ja­cob is proud to carry on the Pink Road­house legacy.

CloCk­wise from top left: The Oodnaburg­ers were a wel­come change to meat and tinned veg; The road­house was es­tab­lished af­ter the Ghan was closed; Mud-caked rigs are a com­mon sight around th­ese parts.

ABOVE: Warm show­ers, hearty meal and a cold beer await the weary trav­eller.

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