The Outback is a name for the large regions covering most of the centre of Australia, including inland areas of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It is a very large area, and in many of the jurisdictions of Australia, it is formally designated in signs, where population decreases, and where communities are much smaller than those closer to the coast.
New South Wales
Cities and major towns
- Alice Springs
- Broken Hill
- Coober Pedy
- Mount Isa
- Tennant Creek
- Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve
- Great Sandy Desert
- Mungo National Park
- Simpson Desert
- Tanami Desert
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The Outback is a term, like the bush, which local inhabitants have used for a long time to describe – initially after European settlement – the unexplored regions, and since it has all been explored – the big area where settlements or occupied locations are spread across vast distances. Intensive agriculture on the coastal areas has animals per hectare, in the outback, it is hectares per animal. The outback is often characterised as 'dry', but this is not always true: in the tropical north, the outback areas are wet as you can get anywhere on the planet. Additionally, in the east like Dubbo, it isn't always dry due to the Warrambungles being nearby.
The easiest way is to drive or join a tour. Most larger regional towns have airports, but lack car hire facilities, and the airports are often several kilometres out of town, so unless you intend to stay in one place the whole time, hiring a car in a major city and driving yourself out there is your best bet.
Another avenue to get to an outback destination is to fly in with an air charter company like Kirkhope Aviation. There are many air charter companies that provide small group tours, usually 6–10 people. Small group air tours and charters flying to destinations throughout outback Australia usually start from a major city Airport. Flying into remote locations is possible when travelling in a small airplane. Air Charter services provide tour guides and most always include accommodation, tours, camping, food and entertainment.
For the average person, in more remote parts of the Outback, the only way to get around is by car. Make sure you read up on staying safe. If you can afford a bit more, consider chartering a helicopter.
If you want to try your luck hitch-hiking, depending on remoteness, make sure you ask around at the local pub rather than standing by the roadside. Some roads receive less than a car a week, or even longer, and given the semi-arid to desert climate, you could dehydrate and die in a matter of hours.
- The beauty of the wilderness
- Lake Eyre
- Gibb River Road
- Gunbarrel Highway
- Oodnadatta Track
- Stuart Highway: crossing Australia north-south
- Strzelecki Track
- National Route 83
- Tanami Road
- Red Centre Itinerary
Most towns have small grocery stores with basic essentials. Almost every town has at least one pub. In some places you can also try "bush tucker". Bush tucker doesn't always refer to traditional Aboriginal food. A certain bush tucker restaurant in Alice Springs serves camel and cat (both of which are feral pests in the area) alongside traditional bush foods such as kangaroo, emu and a large variety of bush fruits.
Lots and lots and lots of water. Most towns have pubs, but alcohol is banned in many Aboriginal communities, especially in the Northern Territory. When travelling, carry lots of water with you.
Pubs often offer cheap accommodation.
There are towns in Outback Australia that are easily accessible on well trafficked sealed roads, with effective breakdown services. Cities like Broken Hill, Alice Springs and Charleville require only normal precautions, and you can easily drive or fly there. Even the Nullabor Plain is a drive that anyone can undertake once they are aware of the distances involved.
However, it is always important to plan your trip carefully. Many areas have very few inhabitants and very little water. You should observe standard safety precautions for desolate regions:
- get good quality maps and plan your route
- tell someone where you're going and when and where you should arrive; they should have instructions to raise the alarm if you do not appear soon after your intended arrival time;
- carry at least 10 litres of water (in several small containers) per person per day, including an allowance for any days you may be delayed or broken down.
- take food and any prescribed medication needed to last at least several days
- take matches or a lighter, which can be used in an emergency to provide warmth and indicate your whereabouts
- travel in a recently serviced, reliable, sturdy vehicle that has good ground clearance; and
- have clothes that can protect against cold, as well as clothes suitable for extremely hot weather.
Keep in mind also that the Outback is very large, much larger than desert regions in most other western countries. You could easily end up twenty hours' drive away from emergency help, or isolated entirely in the case of rain.
In the event of an accident or mechanical problems, do not leave your vehicle, as it is easier to locate from the air than a person or people on foot. If you leave your vehicle you are likely to be the subject of a sad news story about the rescue services finding your car and not you. In any case, your vehicle is where you're storing your immense amounts of water.
You should also think about carrying a satellite phone or other means of contacting emergency services.
You should talk to the police in each town about your journey and the condition of the roads and your vehicle. Be careful - even locals die out there.