By John Pedler
Last updated on: November 16, 2018 at 2:42 pm
Day-to-day, the family 4WD is probably more attuned to school pick-ups in clogged suburban streets, but its skills go way beyond awkward 8-point turns during the school rush-hour.
Gawler Ranges National Park
Surprisingly, the Gawler Ranges have remained largely undiscovered by outback travellers.
These hills are so old that single-cell organisms were likely the only lifeform on Earth when volcanic activity formed the region’s bizarre organ-pipe-like structures.
Visitors will enjoy a wildlife bonanza, and if springtime is generous the ranges become a colourful outback garden.
The main road through the park can be travelled in a conventional vehicle – with suitable ground clearance – but you’ll need a high-clearance 4WD to tackle the more exciting tracks to places like the Kolay Mirica Falls.
Several Coorong crossings lead to the beach that extends along the wild and woolly Southern Ocean coastline.
Although some of these are impassable until late summer, the 42-Mile Crossing is the most reliable year round access.
Pitch a tent behind the foredunes in the designated camping areas, and have a go at catching monster mulloway, salmon and even the odd gummy shark.
Low tide and low tyre pressures are the keys to safe beach driving, and great care must be taken to ensure the sea doesn’t gobble up the 4WD.
Something to note: To protect the Hooded Plover, the beach track north of Tea Tree Crossing in the Coorong National Park is closed to vehicles from 24 October to 24 December each year.
From relatively easy drives, like the road through the twisted and tortured bluffs of Brachina Gorge, to the narrow, hilly tracks beneath the mighty ramparts of the Gammon Ranges, the Flinders has trails to suit all skill levels.
The Public Access Routes (PARs) to the Nuccaleena Mine ruin, old Artimore Homestead and Patawarta Gap, present challenging off-road conditions for more experienced campaigners.
There are also plenty of privately owned, user-pays tracks that reach into parts of the Flinders not accessible on public roads. These range from gentle outings through delightful scenery to “what was I thinking?” scrambles up steep, shaly mountainsides.
Big skies, big dunes and big camels – the Simpson Desert is proof that true wilderness experiences still exist.
Only a couple of days’ drive from the mocha-lattes and factory-outlet sales of the city, travellers can tackle hundreds of dunes en route to the remote outback town of Birdsville.
A desert crossing should only be attempted by experienced off-roaders in high-clearance 4WDs that have low-range and are fully equipped for remote area travel.
Plus, you’ll need a Desert Parks Pass from National Parks SA, and the ability to sleep through outbursts of dingo howling.
Something to note: Due to extreme weather conditions over summer, the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Conservation Park is closed from 6pm Friday, 30 November 2018, to 6pm Friday, 15 March 2019.
Access and camping permits apply to all National Parks. For more information, visit the National Parks South Australia website.