Updated: Mar 31, 2019
Trip duration: 5-9 days
Distance from Adelaide (Coober Pedy): 850km
Approximate total trip distance: 1,800km
Best time to visit: July school holidays
Central South Australia. Some might think of the vast and desolate interior of Australia's driest state as the most boring and uninteresting part of the country! They might actually be surprised! Central South Australia contains some of the most unique locations and landmarks in the country - if you know where to look!
I started my Central South Australia Road Trip at Port Augusta, about 310km north of Adelaide. On the way to Port Augusta, be sure to stop at some of the awesome costal towns on Spencer's Gulf, such as Port Germein - home of the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere! The actual town of Port Augusta has so much to offer itself!
Make sure you check out the Wadlata Outback Centre and go through their "Tunnel of Time." This awesome walkthrough experience showcases the history of Outback of South Australia, starting off with the geology and formation of the outback, through to Indigenous Australian times, European colonisation and modern technological developments.
The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is another must-see! Situated just outside of Port Augusta, this 250 hectare garden shows off some of Australia's natural arid plants beauty. All the plants grown in the garden come from places in the Outback which receive less than 250mm of rain per year - so these plants are pretty tough! There is a range of caravan parks and campgrounds to stay at in Port Augusta.
Woomera & Roxby Downs
About 190km north of Port Augusta is the town of Woomera. Woomera lies on the edge of the Woomera Prohibited Area, a restricted space that takes up about one fifth of South Australia's area. This restricted space was used throughout the Cold War by the British and Americans to test rockets, missiles, bombs and even atomic bombs! The restricted space is still used today and you can't go out and see what happens. However, you can visit Woomera and see the awesome displays they have on offer such as real rockets that have actually been to space, old missiles and so many other awesome things. You can stay at the Woomera Traveller's Village and Caravan Park, which used to be the sleeping quarters for high-ranking officials! Now that's pretty awesome!
Just 75km north of Woomera lies Roxby Downs, a mining community that houses employees and their families of the Olympic Dam Mine, just 20km away. Roxby has all the facilities and amenities that a city has to offer - right in the heart of Central South Australia! If you're staying a night in the area, be sure to head to the Arid Recovery Project's reserve. This huge 12,000ha fully fenced and enclosed reserve aims to repopulate the endangered arid species native to Central South Australia that are under threat from introduced predators; such as bilbies, bettongs and a range of other native animals.
*If you are not able to drive on unsealed roads, I'd recommend turning back from Roxby and heading up the bitumen Stuart Highway (A87) to Coober Pedy - about 400km from Roxby Downs. If you can go off-road, read on!*
Driving about 100km northeast along the Borefield Track from Roxby will bring you to the Oodnadatta Track. This iconic Australian bush track has tonnes of activities along its way! Turn left at the intersection (towards the town of Oodnadatta).
The historic Curdimurka Railway Station (host of the Outback Curdimurka Ball) is just off the Oodnadatta Track - a pretty cool spot to stop at! Also, just a little further from the railway station is a lookout looking over Lake Eyre South - the lowest point in Australia.
Be sure to stop at The Bubbler, in the Mound Springs Conservation Park. This place is a hot springs that pumps fresh bore water from the Great Artesian Basin onto the surface. And, every so often, bursts of bubbles like a volcano pop bore water into the pond!
Then, be sure to stop at Coward Springs Station, a privately owned station just a little further up that has a hot spring-fed spa! A beautiful Outback treatment to wash yourself off!
William Creek is an outback service town in the middle of the Oodnadatta. Be sure to stop there, fuel up and have something to eat in the iconic William Creek Hotel. Flights over Lake Eyre are also available from William Creek.
Take the 50km track (recommended for 4WD only) from the Oodnadatta Track (about 5km east of William Creek) to get to Halligan Bay Campground, in the Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre National Park. Lake Eyre the largest salt lake in Australia (approx. 200km long and 100km wide). Camp a night in the Lake Eyre National Park and venture out onto the vast and desolate lake. Staying at Lake Eyre gives you a real sense of isolation and the stars are just phenomenal! If you time it right, you can stay during the flooding season, where amazingly, Lake Eyre fills up and brings with it a vast array of wildlife!
Head from Lake Eyre back to William Creek, before taking the William Creek Road (or the Stuart Highway if coming straight from Roxby Downs) for a 150km journey west through the Woomera Prohibited Area to the opal capital of the world, Coober Pedy! There is so much to do in Coober Pedy and the surrounding area - I would recommend staying 2-4 nights. Because it gets so hot during summer at Coober Pedy, a large number of homes and businesses are actually located underground. The naturally hard sandstone is perfect for walls, floors and ceilings!
I camped at Riba's Underground Caravan Park - a very unique caravan park! If you're staying in a tent or swag, you can actually camp underground! There is also self-contained motel rooms available underground too! It's nice and warm under there and would be nice and cool in summer! The caravan park also offers nightly tours through an old opal mine, where you are taught the basics of opal mining and learn about the history of Coober Pedy - a must do!
Also, be sure to head to Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, right in the heart of the town. Check out the FREE museum display and learn why Coober Pedy is the opal capital of the world. You can also go on a tour through interpretive displays, underground homes and an opal mine! It really is an awesome experience.
For sunset, head out to the Breakaways, about 10km east of Coober Pedy. The Breakaways are beautiful naturally formed hills carved out of the environment. As the sun sets, the Breakaways glow bright red (just like Uluru) - a beautiful finish to a day at Coober Pedy.
If you have time, head out to the town of Oodnadatta (about 190km northeast of Coober Pedy) by heading up Kempe Road (unsealed). Oodnadatta is another iconic Outback town!
On your way back home to Adelaide, camp a night at one of the many rest areas off the main road. I stayed at one about 50km south of Glendambo; there was plenty of room and toilets! You can finish of your road trip with one more real outback camping experience!
Trip Map - approx. total 1,800km