There’s something about Aussies and getting away. We’ll jump an international flight at the drop of a hat, but rarely do we explore our own backyard. How about this: the next time you’re taking a break, don’t look to SkyScanner. Instead, consider hiring a 4WD, grabbing a handful of quality mates and scoping out some of the craziest, most amazing land in your home state. It’s a rite of passage.
Did you know: Outback trips take a lot of prep, and going unprepared can be dangerous, even deadly. Make sure you read our survival guide before you decide to make the trek out west.
Who knew NSW had a red desert? Sturt National Park is 1,504km north-west of Sydney, peeking into the top left-hand corner where it meets South Australia and Queensland. Not that it doesn’t take forever to get there: by the time you reach the park, you’ve been driving for almost 20 hours, making several stops. You’ve driven through Dubbo, Cobar, Cubba and Wilcannia, and you’re just about to pass beyond the mythical black stump. (We hope you synced enough Spotify playlists to last the distance.)
Now you’ve reached Sturt, continue on to the Jump Up Loop Road. Get out and stretch your legs with a hike at Jump Up walk, making sure to take in the singular surrounds: gibber-laden landscape of desert wonders, this is a sight you thought you’d only ever see in the NT. The arid climate here has contributed to rock formations, including the Granites, a chain of granite boulders between 400 and 450 million years-old. Ancient eroded mountain ranges? Tick! Plains that reach beyond the horizons? Tick! Red sand dunes that roll on and on? Tick, tick, tick. It’s also home to the longest fence in the world – the 5614km Dingo Fence, almost double the length of its rabbit counterpart in the west.
Jump back in the car and continue on to Mount Wood and reward yourselves with a picnic. By now you’re ready for a good sleep. Comfortable accommodation is at the ready at Mount Wood Homestead, which offer an authentic frontier pastoralist’s experience.
If you only do one drive the next day, then it has to be to Cameron Corner, aka Corner Country, the divided territory that’s part of three-states at the same time. (It’s said to have a Queensland liquor licence, a New South Wales post code and a South Australian phone number.) Here you can play Tri State Golf (9 holes in three states) at the iconic Cameron Corner Store, which is run by the town’s only permanent residents, Fenn and Cheryl Miller.
The drive from Mount Wood takes you past the super-smooth Waka Claypan through to Fort Grey, a stockade built by Charles Sturt (who gives the park his name). Sturt had ventured out to find Australia’s fabled inland sea, or saltwater lake in the middle of the country. You can imagine his excitement at finding Lake Pinaroo after days of travelling on horseback through the desert. You might relate, if you happen to catch the lake after a rare fall of rain when it magically fills and becomes a momentary mecca for every living thing within a dozen kilometres.
Did you know: Choose your travelling seasons wisely: autumn, winter and spring are the best times to visit Sturt to avoid the sweltering heat. And make sure you pack enough water. Beer and wine are nice to have around a campfire but won’t actually quench your desert thirst.
The land is arid here but there is a sense of peace and solitude that’s hard to find anywhere else. It is such a part of the Australian psyche, the outback. Maybe travelling to the centre is for us a rite of passage. And as stark and lifeless as this place might sometimes seem, there’s a lot of life here (and not just in the shape of Fenn and Cheryl Miller).
Go, breathe in the desert air and contemplate the infinite nature of it all. You’ll feel surprisingly refreshed. Then when it’s over, get back in your 4WD and rush back to the city, because the silence out here is deafening.