The 615km Oodnadatta Track is a convenient shortcut between the Flinders Ranges and Central Australia. It also gives you a more genuine outback experience than you would get if you stick to the highway.
The track runs from Marree, 184km north of Parachilna, to Marla, on the Stuart Highway between Coober Pedy and Alice Springs. Many travellers, and several of the backpacker buses, take the track as far as William Creek and then continue on William Creek Road to Coober Pedy.
The Oodnadatta Track follows the path of the old Ghan railway and also passes by the 5,300km-long dog fence and the southern edge of Lake Eyre. Some of the small outback communities on the track provide a glimpse of Australia that few tourists ever have the chance to experience. The main towns on the track are Marla, William Creek and Oodnadatta.
Marree is the starting point for both the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks. Normally a sleepy hamlet of around 80 people, it comes alive in July when it hosts the annual Camel Cup. If possible it is worth planning your trip around this event since it is not everyday that you get the opportunity to attend a camel race.
William Creek is Australia’s smallest town with a population of only 12, but it is located on the world’s largest cattle property. At 32,500km2, Anna Creek Station is about the same size as Belgium. Scenic flights over Lake Eyre depart from here.
If you continue north along the track, you’ll come to Oodnadatta; an uninspiring place that was the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. There are a few interesting sites here including a small museum.
Despite popular misconceptions, a 4WD vehicle is not necessary to tackle the track and many people head up this way in a regular car, especially during dry weather. However it is an unsealed road so you are prohibited from taking rental cars on it.