Tour Description

Oodnadatta Track

Eight Days: 28th July – 4th August 2020

Twin Share: $3395 per person. Sole Use: $3869 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’ll travel through the Flinders Ranges, before joining the Track and exploring many highlights along the way including the ruins at Farina, the old railway sidings, the outback sculpture park, and the southern end of Lake Eyre. Don’t miss this opportunity to join us on some of the road’s less travelled in Outback South Australia.

 

Day One – TUESDAY 28 JULY 2020

(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. We stop to enjoy lunch before continuing our journey in the afternoon through the southern section of the Flinders Ranges via the Pichi Richi Pass to Quorn. Late afternoon we arrive in Hawker, 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 and we’ll call in here before checking into our accommodation. Jeff is a talented artist who has created the Wilpena Panoramic. This 30 metre, 360 degree panorama is a painting of the magnificent scenery as seen from St Mary’s Peak, the highest point of the Wilpena Pound. We have time to soak up the beauty of this and other large panoramas as we listen to special sound effects of birds of the area. There are prints of fauna, flora and Flinders Ranges scenes, plus other memorabilia that can be purchased.

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

 Day Two – WEDNESDAY 29 JULY 2020

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

This morning we set off to continue our journey north. Rather than take the highway, we’ll take the scenic route, through the 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.

Around lunchtime, we’ll arrive in Blinman. 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 a 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’ll continue our journey to Leigh Creek. Just out of the town, we’ll 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 – THURSDAY 30 JULY 2020

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

As we set off on our adventure north this morning, we’ll pass the small village of Lyndhurst and it won’t be long before we leave the bitumen road behind.

We are travelling the path of famous explorer John McDouall Stuart who, after a couple of failed attempts, 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 and the red, yellow and white colours that emerge are striking. 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 history. Established in the 1880’s as a railhead, when you walk around the ruins 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 1940’s families started leaving the town until it was eventually abandoned in the 1980’s.

For several years now, a committed group of volunteers have been meeting at the site to carry out restoration works and we have 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 that was built near Hergott Springs, to support workers on the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1870’s. The settlement became a base for the Afghan camel drivers and the town developed rapidly when the Ghan Railway reached it in the early 1880’s. We will stop for lunch and the opportunity to look at the historic highlights of this outback town.

After departing Maree, we’ll travel a short distance before you may notice 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 the lake is a vast, dry expanse of shimmering salt and it’s actually the lowest point in Australia, sitting at 15m below sea level! We’ll 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’— 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 their self-contained cabins (Ph: 08 8670 7880).

Day Four – FRIDAY 31 JULY 2020

(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! We’ve arranged special scenic flights from William Creek over Lake Eyre, and it will be a superb experience! We’re flying with the highly-regarded Wrightsair, who have been flying in this area for many years. The incredible colours and patterns of the Lake are accentuated from the air whether full of water or totally dry.

We will fly over the breathtaking Painted Hills, only accessible by air due to the remote and fragile nature of the site. You will be able to see the intricate details of the beautifully eroded shelf that once belonged to the great inland sea. The Painted Hills are located on Anna Creek Cattle Station, the largest working cattle station in the world, covering well over 15 000 square kilometres. Originally a sheep station when it was established in 1863, the property changed its focus to cattle due to the loss of animals from dingo attacks. Anna Creek Station was purchased by the Williams Cattle Company in 2016, a family based company that manages seven pastoral properties in the far north of SA totalling 45 000 square kilometres of land.

This afternoon we depart William Creek and travel west to Coober Pedy. This remarkable town owes its existence to the opal discovered in the area. Taking its name from the Aboriginal word “kupa” (an uninitiated man or white man) and “piti” (hole), it was here in 1915 where 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.

We check into our accommodation at the Desert Cave Motel (Ph. 08 8672 5688).

Day Five – SATURDAY 1 AUGUST 2020

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

Today is a chance to look around the unique opal mining town of Cooper Pedy and the fascinating country that surrounds it.

Following breakfast we’ll head out to the Breakaways. This striking rocky landscape was once covered by inland sea over 70 million years ago. Today, the flat-topped mesas are home to a variety of flora and fauna who have adapted to this harsh environment.

Back in town, we will visit Tom’s Working Opal Mine, a walk-in underground mine. Here we will gain insight into what it is like to be an opal miner. During this interactive tour we see opal seams in the wall and learn how a blower and a tunnelling machine work. We can drill holes into the ground, experience a ride on the Bosun Chair, or try our hands with divining rods and noodling if we wish.

We’ll stop to enjoy lunch before taking time to visit some of the more unique attractions of Coober Pedy this afternoon. One is the Serbian Orthodox Church, an inspiring structure with rock carvings in the walls, a high roof and stained glass windows.

In the afternoon we return to our motel with time to freshen up before dinner.

Day Six – SUNDAY 2 AUGUST 2020

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

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’ll 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. Most people know of Olympic Dam due to its production of uranium, but the mine also produces significant amounts of copper, gold and silver.

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

Day Seven – MONDAY 3 AUGUST 2020

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

Departing this morning, we travel back through Woomera and this time we’ll stop to explore. Established in the 1940’s 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 and we’ll enjoy our morning tea here before continuing our journey.

We continue south, arriving at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just 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’ll have time to look around the gardens after lunch before a short drive into Port Augusta and our accommodation for tonight at the Standpipe Gulf Motel (Ph: 08 8642 4033).

Day Eight – TUESDAY 4 AUGUST 2020

(includes cooked breakfast and two course lunch)

After a memorable tour along the Oodnadatta track, today is our final day of travel. Of course, we’ll take the scenic route home!

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

As we continue south, we’ll pass through the town of Wirrabara, where we will see one of the more recent additions to the growing network of silo art. Finished in October 2018, this 28 metre high canvas was painted by Australian artist Smug, aka Sam Bates and depicts a wood cutter and red-capped robin.

After admiring the work, we’ll journey through Gladstone and onto the beautiful Clare Valley where we will stop to for lunch and the opportunity to reflect on our travels over the last week.

By late afternoon the scenery becomes familiar as we near the outskirts of Adelaide and make our way back home with unforgettable memories of our adventure on the Oodnadatta Track.