Driving the Oodnadatta Track

After crossing the Simpson Desert off our bucket list, we were geared up and ready for the next part of our adventure – the Oodnadatta Track. The Oodnadatta Track is 620km running from Marla to Marree in South Australia. We picked up the track south of Dalhousie Springs, roughly 15km north of Oodnadatta, at the turn-off to Marla. Unlike the roads around Mt. Dare and Dalhousie Springs, the Oodnadatta track is in much better shape and more regularly maintained. It was such a welcome break from sharp rocky roads and corrugations! As the track roughly follows the Old Ghan Railway line it is therefore known for its ruins and other railway relics.


The first ruins we came across for the day were before we even hit the Oodnadatta Track – Dalhousie Ruins. The ruins are all that is left of the Dalhousie Station, now home to several crumbling buildings, yards in a state of disrepair, and some impressive palm trees.


Dalhousie Ruins
Some of the old crumbled buildings at Dalhousie Ruins


The Pedirka Siding was another quick stop before joining the Oodnadatta Track. This was the first of the Old Ghan Railway sidings we saw and was interesting to explore.


Pedirka Siding
Pedirka Siding, the first of the Old Ghan Railway sidings we saw


We stayed the night in Oodnadatta, behind the Pink Roadhouse. Phone reception was certainly welcome after being without it since leaving Birdsville. Its funny how the things we take for granted at home – even the very things we try to escape from by heading remote – become a novelty when you’ve been without them for a while! Keep in mind that while there is decent reception in both Oodnadatta and William Creek, they each only have Optus coverage. Our iPad, on Telstra, didn’t have reception until Lyndhurst, and even then it was very sketchy!


Oodnadatta's Pink Roadhouse
The Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta

The Pink Roadhouse is known for its “Oodnaburgers” – known simply as a hamburger anywhere else! The campground is fairly small, a bit on the dusty side (unsurprising given the location), and better suited to caravans than tents. The shop is well stocked with all the essentials. Oodnadatta served us well as an overnighter. It gave us a chance to catch up on emails and have a night off cooking. That said, its not somewhere we’d want to spend too many days! We were keen to move on the following morning and continue along the Oodnadatta Track.


Oodnadatta to William Creek

The Mt. Dutton ruins were next on the list to explore. This site had plenty to look at – a grave site, old car, and the ruins of a railway siding.


Old Car at Mt. Dutton ruins
An old Car at Mt. Dutton ruins


Mt. Dutton siding
Mt. Dutton siding


The Algebuckina Bridge is another well-known spot along the Oodnadatta track, due to both the impressive old railway bridge and as a great free campsite. Since there was little water around we decided to spend some time meandering around the site, even finding some nice pieces of quartz near the hill.


Algebuckina Bridge
Algebuckina Bridge


Old Peake Ruins should definitely be on your to-do list if you’re travelling along the Oodnadatta Track! While they are roughly 12km off the Track, a visit is definitely worth the short detour. The site is well signed, unlike most of the railway sidings, with the history well documented. Take the time to walk up to the copper top smelter, even if you don’t do the full mine walk.


Old Peake Ruins
Old Telegraph Station at Old Peake Ruins


Another view of Old Peake Ruins
Another view of the crumbling remains of buildings at Old Peake Ruins


William Creek is a small “dot on the roadmap” type town. They have Optus reception (not Telstra) and proudly signed this fact on the way into town. It is also one of two towns along the Oodnadatta Track where you’ll be able to board a plane for a scenic flight over Lake Eyre. We decided against doing the flight this time but are keen to return to do it in a good, wet year.


William Creek to Coward Springs

Our next sightseeing stop was Strangway Springs ruins and mound springs. Like Old Peak Ruins the site is well signed, though the turn-off is not! We drove past it initially and were a little surprised to find it was a couple kilometres off the track, as the Hema app had us believing it should be visible from the road. Allow yourself some time to properly explore this site as there’s a lot to see.


Strangways Springs ruins
Some of the ruins at the Strangway Springs historic site


Strangways Springs mound spring
A mound spring at Strangway Springs


Beresford ruins were the last on our list to visit on the Oodnadatta Track. While we’d set out on this leg of our trip excited about all the ruins we’d have the chance to explore, by this point we had to admit they were all starting to look the same!


Beresford Ruins
An old building at Beresford


Beresford water tank
Water tank at Beresford ruins


Coward Springs was our destination for the night. We’d heard good things about the campsite before the trip, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The campground is privately managed and costs $12.50 per adult per night (half-price for children). The amenities are great for the location. There’s clean drop-style toilets and hot showers powered by a wood-fired donkey water boiler. The Engine Drivers Cabin has been restored and is open as a museum which is definitely worth a look. Of course, the main drawcard of the site is the hot spring that’s been built in like an outback hot-tub! This spot sure has a lot of charm.


Coward Springs Hot Tub
The “hot tub” spring at Coward Springs


Engine Driver's Cabin
The Engine Driver’s Cabin, now a museum


Heading to Marree

Only 6km further along the Track from the Coward Springs campground you’ll find the turn-off to Blanche Cup Springs and The Bubble. We visited the site the evening we camped at Coward Springs as we had a big day of driving planned the following day. Unlike the mound springs at the Strangway ruins, these two springs both have flowing water.


Blanche Cup Springs
Blanche Cup Springs at sunset


We stopped briefly at the lookout point at Lake Eyre South. In the glary conditions it was difficult to capture a photo that conveys just how vast and desolate it really was… and it was only the smaller, southern lake!


Lake Eyre
The view from the look-out over Lake Eyre South from the Oodnadatta Track


Driving the Oodnadatta Track isn’t complete without seeing the Mutonia Sculpture Park. Here you’ll find “Planehenge”, the Ghan Hover Bus, and many other unique sculptures. Creating these pieces would have been quite a feat!


Ghan Hover Bus
The Ghan Hover Bus


The well-known “Planehenge” sculpture


Waving Sculpture
A sculpture of a waving person


Marree marks the end of the Oodnadatta Track. We re-fuelled and stocked up on a few supplies from the store, and took some time to explore the old relics.


Old Train at Marree
An old train from the Ghan Railway at Marree


The Oodnadatta Track was a great adventure and one we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others considering the trip. Without a doubt we will return after a good wet season to see Lake Eyre from the air, and in the meantime will hold onto fond memories from this trip.


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We're a married couple from Brisbane with a passion for travel - in our own backyard and abroad. Follow our blog to hear more about our travels, car modifications, camping advice and more.


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