For those seeking remote 4WD tracks in South Australia, the Strzelecki Track provides a great introduction to remote-area travel. It isn’t one of those epic desert adventures like the Canning or the Gunbarrel.
Don’t get me wrong, you are still in a harsh and remote part of this beautiful country that needs to be treated with respect. The Strzelecki Track is the perfect place for a desert-crossing initiation.
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STRZELECKI TRACK HISTORY
The Strzelecki Track owes its name to the Polish explorer Pawel Strzelecki, but is perhaps best known for its links to a famous cattle rustler, Harry Redford.
Back in 1870, Harry decided that the property he was working on near Aramac in Western Queensland, had a few too many head of cattle. One thousand of them actually and they needed to go for a little walk to South Australia. Thing is, Harry didn’t tell his boss! Harry used a stock route through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert to Innamincka.
From here, it was along Strzelecki Creek to Blanchewater Station, where he sold the cattle. This path roughly follows the route we now know as the Strzelecki Track. When apprehended in 1872, and tried in Roma, the jury was so impressed by his achievements, they acquitted Redford of all charges!
WHERE IS THE STRZELECKI TRACK?
The Strzelecki Track is possibly one of the most remote 4WD tracks in South Australia. Located in the far north east of the state, it links Lyndhurst at the southern end with one of Australia’s most isolated towns, Innamincka in the north.
This 475km trek through the Strzelecki Desert will have you passing through a variety of different landscapes. With the flat open country and the distant rocky hills of the Flinders Ranges in the south, the sandhills of the Cobbler Dunes halfway along, to the longitudinal dunes in the north, there is no escaping the fact that you are in desert country.
STRZELECKI TRACK CONDITIONS
Typically, the Strzelecki Track is of a very good condition. However, just like any outback 4WD track in South Australia, this can quickly change after rain. The Strzelecki is often closed to minimise track damage.
Beware of potholes, corrugations and sections of bulldust, and remember to drive to suit the conditions. This track is used by a lot of road trains, so give them the space they deserve.
A dusty Strzelecki Track may soon become something of legend and folk lore, as the South Australian Government has plans to seal the road all the way to Innamincka and beyond, to the Queensland border. If you want to beat the bitumen, best you start planning your trip sooner rather than later.
Several rest areas and a couple of already sealed sections of track dot the southern part of the route. The rest areas even have shaded picnic tables.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Before embarking on your journey along the Strzelecki Track, make sure you plan ahead to be self-sufficient for the entire trip, which includes drinking water. While the 475km from Lyndhurst to Innamincka can be done in a day, why would you? There is plenty to explore and most travellers will camp at least overnight along the track.
The closest major town to the start of the Strzelecki Track is Leigh Creek, just to the south of Lyndhurst. Leigh Creek has a Foodland/IGA Grocery Store to stock up most provisions. There’s also a service station with diesel and unleaded fuels.
At Lyndhurst, there’s a truck stop for fuel and the Royal Hotel provides cold beer, hot meals and a place to camp before tackling the Strzelecki.
There is no fuel available along the track until you get to Innamincka.
However, relatively new to the landscape is Cooper Parks, which is 35km to the south of Innamincka. Cooper Parks is a privately run facility primarily for the mining sector, but can also be accessed by the touring public. Fuel is available here.
STRZELECKI TRACK PERMITS
While there is no permit required to drive the Strzelecki Track, a Desert Parks Pass enables you to access the Innamincka Regional Reserve. This pass also allows access to several other desert parks within South Australia and is valid for 12 months.
Alternatively, individual day entry and camping permits are available for Innamincka Regional Reserve and Coongie Lakes National Park.
STRZELECKI TRACK CAMPING
A trip along the Strzelecki isn’t complete until you’ve spent a night under a blanket of stars along the route.
Thankfully, you have more than one option available. If you are in no rush, you might just want to pitch the tent at all of them.
Located approximately 135km from Lyndhurst on the banks of MacDonnell Creek are the ruins of Blanchewater Homestead. Blanchewater was one of the earliest stations in the area, but as with many others, suffered at the hands of terrible drought.
It was here that Harry Redford sold his 1000 head of stolen cattle for £5000.
Today, the remains of the homestead continue to crumble away and provide a great backdrop for an overnight stop.
If you’re chasing that ‘oasis in the desert’, then look no further than Montecollina Bore. Located a short distance off the main track, Montecollina Bore is a relatively flat area set amongst the small sand dunes. An ideal place to set up camp.
This controlled bore, releases a steady flow of warm water, creating a mini-wetlands attracting a variety of birds and other wildlife. Get up early to watch the local galahs and corellas come to drink.
The water is mineral-rich, so do yourself a favour and have a relaxing soak in the warm water.
Perhaps one of the most popular camping spots along the Strzelecki Track is where it crosses Strzelecki Creek. Wheel tracks disappear in all directions to large flat, claypans with spindly trees and stunted growth on the ridges. It doesn’t take long to find your own slice of desert camping magic.
A night spent around the campfire under a billion and one stars never disappoints.
If you’ve got the time, I would highly recommend a detour to Cameron Corner. In fact, make the time and spend a night at Cameron Corner before retracing your tracks back to the Strzelecki.
Located at the junction of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia is the Corner Store. A great place to have a yarn at the bar and top up the fuel tanks.
The track takes you through some amazing desert country, with orange sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.
THE OLD STRZELECKI TRACK
The turn off to Cameron Corner will also take you to the Old Strzelecki Track at Merty Merty, where you can follow the original track along Strzelecki Creek to Innamincka.
This section of track is extremely isolated and not maintained. For those with a well-prepared 4WD, it is a great adventure with little more than a couple of wheel tracks weaving between the trees and dunes.
If you wondered earlier why I mentioned that the South Australian Government has plans to seal the Strzelecki Track, then Moomba is the reason.
Closed to the public, Moomba lies at the heart of the resource-rich Cooper Basin, servicing over 250 oil and gas fields. It’s also the reason why semi-trailers and fuel tankers are a common sight along the track.
Lying at the northern end and the finishing point of the Strzelecki Track is Innamincka. An outpost town if there ever was one. And while it is in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be surprised at how many four-wheel drives and motorbikes will be there when you arrive.
Innamincka is home to the famous Innamincka Trading Post, and the even more famous Innamincka Hotel.
Fill your vehicle’s fuel tank at the Trading Post, and your own fuel tank at the pub. It would be un-Australian not to!
Innamincka is a jump-off point for various attractions in the area including Coongie Lakes, Cooper Creek, the Dig Tree and Cullyamurra Waterhole. If you are planning on spending some time in the area, which I suggest that you do, all camping permits can be obtained from the Trading Post.
CAMPING ON THE COOPER CREEK
Located just a short walk from the pub is the Town Common on the banks of the Cooper Creek.
A two-kilometre stretch on the banks of the creek offers plenty of space for you to spread out and pitch your tent or set up your van.
Coongie Lakes National Park is located approximately 110km to the north west of Innamincka via the Coongie Track. It is part of the Innamincka Regional Reserve. The track passes through the abandoned Kudriemitchie Outstation where you can stop and explore some of the remaining buildings.
Coongie Lakes is a wetland of international significance and is home to 205 bird species. It is a twitchers (ie birdwatchers) paradise, so don’t forget your camera!
There are numerous spots around the lake to make camp.
Just 16km out of town you will find Australia’s largest billabong. Cullyamurra Waterhole is over 7km with depths reaching 28m.
The area is alive with wildlife and many species of birds. For those that like to catch their dinner, the waterhole is home to yellow belly and catfish.
BURKE AND WILLS DIG TREE
Innamincka is famous for the role it played in the ill-fated expedition of Burke and Wills. There are many reminders of this in the area.
Perhaps the most famous is ‘The Dig Tree’. Located approximate 70km from Innamincka and across the border into Queensland is where you will find a part of Australian history.
THE FINAL WORD
Once a hard and dry stock route, the Strzelecki is now a vital supply link for the oil and gas facilities at Moomba, as well as an essential transport corridor for local pastoralists and the tourism industry.
Today, you’re far more likely to pass a couple of four-wheel drives or semi-trailers, rather than a cattle rustler with a thousand head of cattle.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The cooler months from April through to October. Winter months can see minimum temperatures dropping below 0˚C. Summer is hot with temps regularly hitting the high 40’s.
When we were planning our trip to the remote 4WD Tracks of South Australia – Strzelecki Track, we used the Hema Maps – South Australia Map as well as the Hema Maps – Great Desert Tracks Eastern Sheet.
The GPS unit we use is the Hema HX-1.
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Matt. I camp, four-wheel drive, explore the outdoors and get paid to take photos.
I’m happiest when I’m doing all four at once.
Occasionally, I’ll even tap out a couple of words on my keyboard.
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