He sowed the seed of an Aussie 4WD ad­ven­ture last month. Now Gary Cooper of­fers up some spe­cific places to visit.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Words and photos by Gary Cooper.

Fi­nally got per­mis­sion and have some time and money? Here is a sum­mary of three out­back tracks/routes we dis­cov­ered on our big lap. All of these can be done as ei­ther a short break, i.e. fly in, hire a 4WD and fly out, or be added as part of larger life­time ex­pe­ri­ence. Many of the out­back routes in Aus­tralia are more about re­mote out­back tour­ing and camp­ing for well-equipped 4WDs rather than hard-core 4WD trips, but never un­der­es­ti­mate the need to be 100 per­cent self-suf­fi­cient and that the tracks change quickly es­pe­cially af­ter rain.

Western Aus­tralia: The leg­endary “Gibb River Road”


The Gibb River Road is a 660km cat­tle route through the South­ern Kim­ber­ley. An al­ter­na­tive path be­tween Broome and Dar­win (or Derby & Ku­nunurra as closer ma­jor towns) it cuts through the best and eas­i­est sec­tion to ac­cess, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to nu­mer­ous amaz­ing gorges, beau­ti­ful wa­ter­falls, scenic ranges, Abo­rig­i­nal rock art, fan­tas­tic hikes and off-road ad­ven­tures and camp­ing. If you have the time and an even big­ger sense of ad­ven­ture, plan a visit to Mitchell Falls in north­west Kim­ber­ley as this is an ab­so­lute must!


The Kim­ber­ley is very re­mote; to put this into per­spec­tive it is roughly the same size as Cal­i­for­nia (423,000sq km, NZ is 270,000sq km) with a pop­u­la­tion of just 40,000 peo­ple! So if you want to get away from it all – this is the place. Hav­ing said that, the Gibb Road can at times be busy, dusty and badly cor­ru­gated. So

above all go pre­pared and be self-suf­fi­cient. Most roads are cut off and closed dur­ing the wet sea­son (Novem­ber to April), with July to Septem­ber be­ing the best time to visit. Nearly ev­ery gorge has an as­so­ci­ated or nearby camp­site; some are rus­tic whilst oth­ers of­fer rel­a­tive lux­ury with pri­vate ar­eas and toi­lets! If you want the lux­ury sites best book in ad­vance as they are pop­u­lar es­pe­cially at El Que­stro or Home Val­ley Sta­tion. You can fly into Broome or Dar­win, hire a 4WD and do a one-way trip. To do this you will need at least two-three weeks or, if you have a lit­tle bit more time, “The Great North­ern High­way” to the south can be used as a loop­ing route back to your start­ing point avoid­ing of­ten ex­treme one-way rental fees plus al­low­ing you to add ma­jor at­trac­tions such as: The Bun­gle Bun­gles in the World Her­itage Pur­nu­l­ulu Na­tional Park, an area fa­mous for bee­hive-shaped sand­stone domes with dozens of walks and canyons to ex­plore. Halls Creek which is fa­mous for two rea­sons, both in­volv­ing the Wolfe Creek Crater, the sec­ond largest me­te­orite crater known on Earth (the other be­ing Bar­ringer Crater in Ari­zona) and a hor­ror film lo­ca­tion.


The ul­ti­mate Red Cen­tre ex­pe­ri­ence, you can fly into Alice Springs, rent a 4WD and re­turn back to Alice. Plan on two-three weeks to com­plete this 1,200km cir­cuit, a red earth out­back high­way al­ter­na­tive to tak­ing the tar­mac (you can’t avoid the black stuff com­pletely) not a hard 4WD trip (un­less its wet) and un­ex­pect­edly for us the lesser known at­trac­tions on this drive were much bet­ter than we ex­pected namely:

West MacDon­nell ranges which are close to Alice Springs and have cool scenic gorges which are great for walk­ing and swimming the high­light be­ing Simp­sons Gap.

Kings Canyon with its 300m sheer cliffs cut into the ground is a must visit, the canyon has a three to four-hour rim walk past spec­tac­u­lar rock for­ma­tions and even a palm-fringed swimming hole in the mid­dle of the desert!

Uluru or Ay­ers Rock. For many a place of pil­grim­age, we en­joyed the base walk which is about 10kms around but be

warned the mid­day sun is fierce. The high­light was “The sounds of si­lence sunset din­ner” in the desert watch­ing the sun gen­tly set over Uluru whilst lis­ten­ing to a didgeri­doo. Yes it’s a bit touristy, but still a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Kata Tjuta or The Ol­gas. This was more im­pres­sive to us than Uluru with its huge weath­ered rock domes. The eight km “Val­ley of the Winds” walk is another must do. We ex­pe­ri­enced a rain­storm like no other, which is rare, and the dry val­ley be­come a tor­rent of knee deep wa­ter in a mat­ter of min­utes. As an al­ter­na­tive ad­ven­ture you can leave the na­tional park and drive through the Great Vic­to­rian Desert on the Gun­bar­rel High­way to Western Aus­tralia!

Rain­bow Val­ley Con­ser­va­tion Area. Sand­stone bluffs that have a mul­ti­tude of colours, a short 4WD track leads to the park­ing area and ac­cess to the nu­mer­ous walks.


The Red Cen­tre Way con­nects to the Meree­nie Loop and takes you from the West MacDon­nell Ranges – to Kings Canyon (Watar­rka Na­tional Park) but goes through Abo­rig­i­nal coun­try, so you will need a per­mit, then on to Uluru and the Ol­gas be­fore head­ing back via the high­way and Rain­bow Val­ley Con­ser­va­tion area.


Com­bine sec­tions of all three his­toric tracks to form one amaz­ing out­back ad­ven­ture loop that will take two to three weeks to com­plete or more if you have the time. From Ade­laide you need to bomb it 800km north to Coober Pedy, which is fa­mous for its un­der­ground homes and opal min­ing. The cli­mate is so harsh here that the min­ers used their skills to dig their homes, so they lit­er­ally do live un­der­ground! The strange lu­nar land­scape around here has been used for many movies in­clud­ing; Mad Max Be­yond the Thun­der­dome, Pitch Black, Red Planet and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The Ood­na­datta can be joined from Coober Pedy and is ac­tu­ally one of the eas­i­est out­back tracks to drive. You are ba­si­cally fol­low­ing the orig­i­nal old Ghan Rail­way route that runs from Alice Springs to Ade­laide. Con­se­quently there are plenty of his­toric rail­way sid­ings and build­ings to ex­plore, along with the mighty Lake Eyre, which is home to Aus­tralia’s low­est point at 15m be­low sea level and also the world’s largest salt lake. The track takes you past hot springs, wa­ter­holes and pic­turesque camp­ing spots

and into the town of Maree af­ter trav­el­ling ap­prox­i­mately 400km. At Maree you join the Birdsville Track which is an old stock route and takes you north up the other side of Lake Eyre into Queens­land. At least 517km later you reach the town of Birdsville (which is very close to the Simp­son Desert) fa­mous for its pub and its an­nual bush races held ev­ery Septem­ber. Head­ing south again you can join the Strz­elecki Track at In­nam­incka which fol­lows an old stock route blazed by a cat­tle thief, who drove 1000 head of stolen cat­tle from cen­tral Queens­land to Ade­laide. He was even­tu­ally caught, but when it was re­alised that he had pi­o­neered a new cat­tle route across the out­back he was let off! The track runs near Aus­tralia’s fa­mous dog fence, which is twice the length of the Great Wall of China! and fi­nally into Lyn­hurst which is es­sen­tially be­side the Flin­ders Ranges ap­prox­i­mately 750km later. The Flin­ders Ranges are known for their unique beauty, in­dige­nous history, an­cient ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions, rich colours and abun­dant wildlife this area would be a great des­ti­na­tion all by it­self, af­ter ex­plor­ing the Fin­ders Ranges it’s an easy 275km back to Ade­laide.


Start­ing and re­turn­ing to Ade­laide you can shorten or lengthen this trip to suit your in­di­vid­ual needs. You need a Desert Parks Pass to ac­cess and camp at the Na­tional Parks on route. The best time to do this loop is in the win­ter months from April to Oc­to­ber. If you want more ad­ven­ture rather than tak­ing the tar­mac to Coober Pedy, head across to Ce­duna and do the lit­tle-known Googs Track north. This track tra­verses the Yum­barra Con­ser­va­tion area and the Yellabinna Re­gional Re­serve and fi­nally gets you close to Coober Pedy af­ter some 300- odd sandhill cross­ings! These are just three ad­ven­tures, Aus­tralia is full of epic out­back road trips that with a lit­tle bit of plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion can be or­gan­ised from New Zealand and turned into the trip of a life­time!

Just do it!

Ex­plore de­serted canyons

North­ern Ter­ri­tory. “Red Cen­tre Way” and “The Meree­nie Loop”

Aus­tralia has 750,000 wild camels…

Kings Canyon

Western Aus­tralia: The leg­endary “Gibb River Road”

Fan­tas­tic scenery in The Kim­ber­leys

Gibb River Road, do it! Don’t just dream about The

South Aus­tralia.” Ood­na­datta, Strz­elecki and Birdsville Tracks and then The Flin­ders Ranges all in one hit!

Gary with a Mad Max trib­ute XA Fal­con coupe

The Ol­gas

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