The sheer size of Australia means us 4WDers are pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to remote, long and wild journeys through our huge, arid interior. Here is our favourite picks of some of Australia’s most remote 4X4 tracks.
The Canning Stock Route
Covering a huge swathe of Western Australia’s rugged interior, the Canning Stock Route makes up 1,600 kilometres of gruelling desert travel. Alfred Canning surveyed the route between 1906 and 1908, sinking 51 wells along the route so cattle could survive the incredible distance and make it to market. It takes high levels of planning and preparation, due to the rough nature of the tracks, and the sheer amount of supplies and gear one must take with them.
It takes high levels of planning and preparation, due to the rough nature of the tracks, and the sheer amount of supplies and gear one must take with them. There are opportunities to refuel at Kunawarritji (near Well 33) and Billiluna at the northern end. But still, we’d recommend you carry enough fuel for around 1,300 kilometres of off-road range, unless you organise fuel drops at other spots (Capricorn Roadhouse, Parngurr community, Wel 23).
The Anne Beadell Highway
Not as long or punishing as the Canning, the Anne Beadell runs right through the middle of Australia’s biggest desert, the Great Victoria Desert. Running between the opal capital of the world Coober Pedy in South Australia, and Laverton in Western Australia, you’ll cover over 1,300 kilometres of incredibly remote country to complete the Anne Beadell Highway.
Along this track is Australia’s most remote roadhouse, Ilkurlka. You can re-fuel here, and restock on basic supplies. But still, we’d budget on at least 1,000 kays of off-road range. You’ll also have to factor in any side trips you might want to do, like the plane wreck and bomb totems at Emu.
Like so many other tracks, the Anne Beadell Highway is the product of legendary bushman, surveyor and explorer of Australia’s vast interior, Len Beadell.
The Madigan Line
A track that has recently become a new frontier in the Simpson Desert, the Madigan Line takes an arcing run through the desert’s northern reaches. You’ll be crossing the world’s longest parallel sand dunes head-on, over 1,100 of them, as you cross the Hay River and Colson Tracks, between Old Andado and Birdsville.
The nature of the Madigan Line makes it much harder and slower going than the French Line, especially as the track has never seen the blade of heavy machinery. Progress is slow, and some of the rich red dunes in this country do get challenging. But the beauty of this country is truly staggering.
The Gunbarrel Highway
Another product of Len Beadell’s Gunbarrel Road Construction Party of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Gunbarrel Highway runs between Wiluna and Warburton, both small and remote communities. It crosses the Gibson Desert, often ‘gunbarrel’ straight for long sections.
This track, of around 830 kilometres, takes you through huge claypans, past massive rock edifices, and relics of Beadell’s years in the desert. The gunbarrel also gives you a chance to understand the incredible indigenous occupation of this harsh and unflinching country, who prospered with such little resources and so much cunning and bush smarts.
Parts of the Gunbarrel Highway are horrendously corrugated, the ensuing vibrations will find and exploit any weaknesses that your 4X4 has. Ensure it’s in good nick before heading off, and don’t forget to pack a good list of recovery and repair equipment, as well as emergency communication.
Practically all desert travel these days requires at least one permit. Often, you’ll need a handful of permits, depending on where you are travelling. What you need, and what is available does change regularly, so it pays to do your research for up-to-date information.