Tour Description

Oodnadatta Track

(Combined Departure)
Eight Days: 1 – 8 July 2021

Twin Share: $3495 per person. Sole Use: $3975 per person.

Included in the tour:
  • Home pick-ups & set downs (most metro areas – please contact us for details)
  • Picnic-style morning teas & all meals as per the itinerary
  • All accommodation & admissions to all attractions
  • Experienced & informative tour driver/guide.

 

Join us for a special tour of the Oodnadatta Track, as we follow a section of the original Old Ghan Railway between Maree and William Creek. We travel through the picturesque Flinders Ranges, before joining the Track and exploring many of the highlights of Outback South Australia. We enjoy goodies from the wood-fired oven at Farina, appreciate art at a unique sculpture park and take in the colours and patterns of Lake Eyre, before trying our luck in the opal mining town of Coober Pedy. Don’t miss this opportunity to join us on some of the roads less travelled!

 

Day One – THURSDAY 1 JULY 2021

(includes light lunch and two course dinner)

We depart this morning after home pick ups (limited areas). While settling in and becoming acquainted with those around us we quickly leave the suburbs of Adelaide behind. Heading through towns such as Dublin, Two Wells and Port Wakefield, we stop for morning tea along the way.

We continue along the Princes Highway towards Port Pirie which is situated on the Spencer Gulf. This will be our lunch stop today before this afternoon’s drive through the southern Flinders Ranges.

We take the Pichi Richi Pass to Quorn and arrive in Hawker by late afternoon. Once a thriving railway town, it is now a tourist hub for those wishing to explore the Flinders Ranges.

A prominent tourist attraction for the region is the Jeff Morgan Gallery. An internationally acclaimed artist, Jeff has lived his entire life in the Flinders region and is inspired by the landscapes that surround him.  His gallery features a number of artworks, but the highlights would have to be the panoramas. The Wilpena Panorama measures 30 metres and is a circular painting that provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the magnificent scenery from St Mary’s Peak, the highest point of the Wilpena Pound. The more recent addition is the Arkaroola Panorama, which is a huge 46 metre by 5.5 metre mural. We have time to soak up the beauty of these exceptional works as we listen to special sound effects of native birds. There are prints of fauna, flora and Flinders Ranges scenes, plus other memorabilia that can be purchased.

From here we meet our wonderful hosts at the Outback Chapmanton Motor Inn (Ph: 08 8648 4100), where we settle in for dinner and a good night’s rest.

 Day Two – FRIDAY 2 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

This morning we continue our journey north, but rather than take the highway, we take the scenic route through Flinders Ranges National Park (weather permitting). Proclaimed in 1945, this 94,908 hectare park protects one of the oldest landscapes on Earth. Renowned for its natural, cultural and geological

significance, the Adnyamathanha people believe it was shaped by the ancient serpents and giants of the Aboriginal Dreaming. As we travel through the park we appreciate the beauty of this country – the rugged ranges, spectacular gorges, sheltered creeks lined with river red gums and abundant wildlife.

We will enjoy the views from lookouts on our way to Blinman where we arrive in time for lunch. This town began with the discovery of copper in the 1850’s, followed by the opening of a mine in 1862. Today, Blinman has a population of just 22, but offers services  to the surrounding pastoral community.

Our drive this afternoon takes us through the spectacular Parachilna Gorge. As we wind our way through the rocky gorge, you will notice the Parachilna Creek that has cut its way through the landscape. While there may not be water in the creek, its path is obvious from the majestic river red gums that line the banks at the bottom of the gorge.

The original township of Parachilna was surveyed in 1863 about 10km away from its present location. It was when the Great Northern Railway was built that the settlement moved. Today the town has a population of 7 and there are few buildings that remain, however the most famous is the Prairie Hotel. The hotel’s unique menu and location make it well known with travellers throughout Australia and it wouldn’t be right to journey through Parachilna without stopping to visit!

Back on the Outback Highway, we continue our journey to Leigh Creek. Just out of the town, we detour to Aroona Dam, a huge 5,000 megalitre dam that was built across Scott Creek to provide water to the nearby town. A huge community effort has brought life back into what was a badly degraded area, as it became home to feral goats, rabbits and foxes. Now, in the place of those feral pests there is a reintroduced colony of the shy and timid Yellow-footed Rock wallaby, as well as a variety of other animals, birds and native plant species. The wallabies, which became extinct in the area in 1980, were bred at the open range zoo at Monarto and were reintroduced to Aroona in 1996.

We travel the short distance into town where we check into the Leigh Creek Resort (Ph: 08 8675 2025). Established as a company town, Leigh Creek provided housing and services for the people who worked at the nearby coal mine. With the closure of the mine in November 2015, the population is now less than 250 people.

Day Three – SATURDAY 3 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

As we continue our adventure north this morning, it is not long before we pass the small village of Lyndhurst and then leave the bitumen road behind. We are travelling the path of famous explorer John McDouall Stuart. After a couple of failed attempts, he made the first successful crossing of Australia from south to north and return, in 1862. It was his route that was later used to construct the Overland Telegraph Line in 1872 and inspired the construction of the Transcontinental Railway line which later became know as The Ghan.

Just out from the village are the Lyndhurst Ochre Pits. The pits have long been used by the Aboriginal people to extract ochre used for ceremony and trade. The red, yellow and white colours that emerge are striking and the pits are still used by the local indigenous people today.

Not far from Lyndhurst is Farina and while the town itself is no longer inhabited, it’s a testament to a group of very civic-minded people who are keen to preserve its history. Established in the 1880s as a railhead, when you see the ruins now, it’s hard to believe that in its ‘hey day’ the town had a population of 600. The copper and silver mine closed in 1927 and from the late 1940s families started leaving the town until it was eventually abandoned in the 1980s.

For several years now, a committed group of volunteers have been meeting at the site to carry out restoration works and we are lucky enough to be here when the old underground wood-fired oven is firing and the baker is in town! This is definitely the perfect spot for morning tea and there will also be time to look around the ruins.

Continuing our journey, we will see the John McDouall Stuart Memorial before arriving in Maree. Once  a major railhead and the starting point for the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks, Maree grew from a camp near Hergott Springs, that was built to support workers on the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1870s. The settlement became a base for the Afghan camel drivers and the town developed rapidly when the Ghan Railway reached it in the early 1880s. We stop for lunch and the opportunity to look at the historic highlights of this outback town.

After departing Maree, we travel just a short distance before noticing something emerging on the horizon. As we near ‘Plane Henge’, it will become more obvious that this is a work of art—part of an unexpected ’sculpture park’ in the middle of the outback! The work of a Victorian mechanic, Robin ’Mutoid’ Cooke, he makes the journey each year to add a new sculpture created from recycled material.

As we near the southern end of Lake Eyre we may not see water, but either way, it’s a spectacular sight. Officially known as Kati Thanda, Lake Eyre, when not in flood, is a vast, dry expanse of shimmering salt and it’s actually the lowest point in Australia, sitting at 15m below sea level! We stop at the lookout to take in this inspiring, natural phenomenon.

Our final destination today is William Creek. This remote outback town is home to the William Creek Hotel, campground, air strip and the ‘museum’, which is an outdoor collection of artefacts from the Old Ghan Railway line and Woomera Rocket Range. What it lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in character and hospitality, and our accommodation for this evening is in the self-contained cabins (Ph: 08 8670 7880).

Day Four – SUNDAY 4 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

Yesterday we saw Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre from the lookout on the Oodnadatta Track—today we see it from the air! This morning we take a scenic flight from William Creek over Lake Eyre, and it will be a highlight! Our flight is with the highly-regarded Wrightsair, who have been flying in this area for many years. Whether it’s full of water or totally dry, the incredible colours and patterns of the lake are accentuated from the air.

We will fly over the breathtaking Painted Hills, located on Anna Creek Cattle Station, the largest working cattle station in the world, covering well over 15,000 square kilometres. The Painted Hills are only accessible by air due to the remote and fragile nature of the site. We will be able to see the intricate details of the beautifully eroded shelf that once belonged to the great inland sea.

When established in 1863, Anna Creek was originally a sheep station, but due to the loss of countless animals from dingo attacks, the property changed its focus. The Station was purchased by the Williams Cattle Company in 2016; a family based company that manages seven pastoral properties in the far north of South Australia.

After lunch, we depart William Creek and travel west to Coober Pedy. This remarkable town owes its existence to the opal discovered in the area, which began in 1915, when 14 year old Willie Hutchison found the first shimmering gemstone. Since then, miners have come from more than 50 nations to find their fortunes in Coober Pedy and many have succeeded.

The town takes its name from the Aboriginal word “kupa” (an uninitiated man or white man) and “piti” (hole). We check into our accommodation for the next two nights at the Desert Cave Motel (Ph: 08 8672 5688).

Day Five – MONDAY 5 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

Today we take the opportunity to look around this fascinating opal mining town and the magnificent country that surrounds it.

Following breakfast we head out to the Breakaways. This striking rocky landscape was once covered by inland sea, but today, the flat-topped mesas are home to a variety of flora and fauna that have adapted to this harsh environment.

Back in town we stop for morning tea refreshments before visiting some of the more unique attractions of Coober Pedy. One of these is the Serbian Orthodox Church, an inspiring structure with rock carvings in the walls, a high roof and stained glass windows.

After lunch we visit the award winning Umoona Opal Mine, a walk-in underground mine. Here we will gain insight into life as an opal miner and see what it was like digging for opal in an authentic mine. We can experience underground living in the display home, and watch a multi award winning documentary ” The Story Of Opal” in the panoramic theatre. We are also able to visit the showroom which houses a range of exclusive opal jewellery, rough or cut opal, plus opalised fossils and specimens.

We return to our motel with time to relax and freshen up before dinner.

Day Six – TUESDAY 6 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

This morning we farewell our hosts and travel south along the Stuart Highway, which stretches from Port Augusta all the way to Darwin. The highway was named after the explorer John McDouall-Stuart, whose path we followed on our exploration of the Oodnadatta Track.

As we admire the rugged beauty of the landscape today, we stop in the outback town of Glendambo for lunch. By mid-afternoon we pass through Pimba and Woomera, before arriving in the mining town of Roxby Downs, nestled amongst rich red sand dunes and native pine. This town was established to support the workers of the nearby Olympic Dam Mine, known more so for its production of uranium, rather than the significant amounts of copper, gold and silver that are also mined here.

On arrival, we settle into our accommodation at the Roxby Downs Motor Inn  (Ph: 08 8671 0311).

Day Seven – WEDNESDAY 7 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

Departing this morning, we travel back to Woomera stopping to explore the town. Established in the 1940s as a site for weapons testing, satellite launches and tracking of early lunar and planetary spacecraft, access to the town was restricted to the public until 1982 when it was opened up to all. We visit the Woomera Rocket Range and Heritage Centre, where we can learn more about its fascinating history. We enjoy our morning tea here before continuing our journey.

Travelling south, we arrive at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens in time for lunch. These gardens were opened in 1996 and showcase a rare combination of arid and marine garden environments. Australia’s arid zone plant communities can be quite fragile, thriving in extreme temperatures where droughts can last for years and years. What’s unique about this garden, is that its proximity to the coast means that it also features a rich marine environment.

We have time to look around the gardens after lunch before a short drive into Port Augusta and our accommodation for tonight at the Standpipe Golf Motor Inn (Ph: 08 8642 4033).

Day Eight – THURSDAY 8 JULY 2021

(includes cooked breakfast and two course lunch)

Departing Port Augusta, it won’t be long before we detour to enjoy the stunning views around Horrocks Pass. We continue to Wilmington and Melrose, admiring the Southern Flinders Ranges landscape and stopping for morning tea along the way.

As we continue south, we pass through the town of Wirrabara, where we will see the spectacular silo art work of Australian artist Sam Bates better known as Smug. This 28 metre high canvas depicts a wood cutter and red-capped robin, celebrating the history of forestry in the town.

After admiring the work, we journey through Gladstone and to the beautiful Clare Valley where we will stop to for lunch.

By late afternoon, we near the outskirts of Adelaide and make our way back home with unforgettable memories of our adventure on the Oodnadatta Track and through outback South Australia.