Take your four-wheel drive for a spin on these two brilliant remote tracks ideal for the winter months.
Anne Beadell Highway – South Australia/Western Australia
Len Beadell, one of the last explorers of Australia, was responsible for surveying many of Central Australia’s most isolated desert from 1947 to 1963. The Anne Beadell Highway is named after his wife, and unlike many of the Outback trails he blazed that have since become redundant due to the construction of more direct roads, The Anne Beadell remains the shortest east-west route across the Great Victoria Desert.
It was commissioned in 1953 to establish what would be the Woomera rocket-testing site. Much of Beadell’s work was sponsored by Great Britain to assist in the development of ballistic weaponry after the devastating London bombings of World War II. At the time the uninhabited Australian outback was considered the ideal location for weapons testing. These tests were thankfully short lived and the site would later be utilised for space exploration.
Just shy of 1400 kilometres, the Anne Beadell is considered easy-to-moderate in four-wheel-drive terms, although the environment itself is quite extreme, linking Coober Pedy in South Australia with Laverton in Western Australia. Red dunes dominate the majority of the landscape as it passes through bone-dry desert that can surpass temperatures of 50°C in summer, as well as arid, scrubby territory in Western Australia, making winter the ideal time to drive it.
Although there’s a ‘highway’ in its title, the terrain consists of disused tracks, often very narrow and winding. Vegetation occasionally impinges on the track and road surfaces vary from hard corrugations to very soft sand. Knowledge of sand driving and remote outback travel is highly recommended. There is a stretch of approximately 750 kilometres without fuel access between Coober Pedy and the Ilkulka Roadhouse, so long-range fuel, food and water allowances need to be made.
Several permits are required, with some taking a month or two to process, and you’ll need a good itinerary laid out before departing. Note that camping restrictions vary throughout so check with the aforementioned authorities before setting out.
Oberon Stock Route – Blue Mountains, New South Wales
The Blue Mountains combine some of Australia’s most iconic vistas with an excess of four-wheel drive tracks, especially striking under brooding winter skies. The Oberon Colong Historic Stock Route combines this scenery with historical sites over a reasonably easy course with a few moderately difficult descents and water crossings. The route begins as Mount Werong Road veers left off Shooters Hill Road 32 kilometres south of Oberon, running through the hazy undulations of the southern Blue Mountains World Heritage area before arriving at Yerranderie Regional Park just under 70 kilometres on.
The track tiptoes along ridges that rarely drop below 1000 metres in altitude. For most of the route, the unpaved road roughly traces the boundary between the Blue Mountains and Kanangra Boyd national parks. In fine weather most of the road can be traversed in a standard sedan, but this is not recommended due to flood hazards at water crossings – a four-wheel drive vehicle is definitely required after prolonged rain.
The last third of the track passes through rolling grazing land and remote homesteads, then a winding section around broken sandstone tablelands before arriving at the old ghost town of Yerranderie. In the early portion of the 20th century Yerranderie was a silver-mining town home to more than 2000 souls. By the 1950s it had faded into an eerie, vacated assortment of decrepit structures.