The road stretches in a straight line to the horizon where it disappears under the silver shimmer of heat waves… a road trip through the Australian outback is the only way you can truly appreciate the size of this humungous country.
It’s over 800kms from Adelaide to Coober Pedy and I was Designated Driver and unofficial Tour Manager for our special mother-daughter desert adventure.
Flying from Brisbane, we collected our hire car at Adelaide airport, (convenient and easy), set ourselves up with sat-nav and water bottles, cranked the AC and hit the road.
My boyfriend said we’d have a more comfortable ride in a mid-sized car and our Camry was smooth with plenty of power and stacks of room for our gear. Being an automatic it was easy driving for me too (I usually drive a manual). The roads are sealed the whole way so no 4WD needed.
The speed limit
Yes, even the open road has a speed limit! 110kms seems crazy low to me (it’s 130km in the Northern Territory) and I often found myself drifting above this. It doesn’t actually feel fast at 120kms when the road is so long and straight and the traffic so sparse. You can see other vehicles long before you reach them and the roads are in excellent condition (no pot holes). But you need to keep in mind that cows, sheep, emus and kangaroos may wander onto the road so you can’t get complacent. Every second vehicle is a big truck (road trains are boss) and every 3rd vehicle is a 4WD pulling a caravan (thousands of ‘grey nomads’ head north when the weather gets cooler in the south).
I was so glad I broke up our drive to Coober Pedy with an overnight stay in Port Augusta. I would’ve struggled driving it all in one day, but if you have 2 people sharing the driving you could make a big push and save yourself the cost of extra accommodation. We stayed at Oasis Majestic Apartments in Port Augusta where our twin room cost $150.
There are a couple of places to refuel on route to Coober Pedy. We topped up the petrol tanks at Port Augusta and Glendambo (which is the last place to refuel before Coober Pedy – 253kms with no servo). There are 3 petrol stations in Coober Pedy (Shell is the most expensive we were told). In total we paid $173 for petrol for the trip (which also included Clare Valley and the Adelaide Hills).
If you’ve already done some driving through the outback you might find the scenery boring and monotonous, but for me it was simply spectacular. Burnt orange dust mixed with thorny scrub bushes, black skeleton trees stand out like crazy emus, and iridescent salt lakes shimmer like the moon. A big dump of rain 2 weeks earlier meant there was actually some greenery around too. The best time of day for photos is dawn and dusk, when the colours are amplified by the soft light. Look for road signs with a camera symbol to see the best photo stops along the way. And be warned, your patience will be tested the second you step out of your car, the flies take a nano-second to find you!
My top tips for driving from Adelaide to Coober Pedy
- Opt for a mid-size car for a more comfortable ride (rather than a small car)
- When you pick up your car take a note which side the petrol tank is on.
- Make sure you have lots of water with you, just in case…
- Don’t forget your sunglasses, you will need them!
- The speed limit is 110km and even though you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, we did see cop cars on the road.
- Watch out for roaming cows and sheep, the big farming properties (known as stations) are unfenced so cattle can find their way onto the road.
- Stay hydrated (hours of air-con can dry you out) and take lots of breaks to stretch your legs (my Mum’s feet swelled up after so much sitting).
- Turn your lights on during the day so you can be easily seen from a distance.
- Take your camera, the scenery is spectacular!
- There are lots of dedicated rest areas along the way, but they don’t include toilets.
- Mobile phone coverage will drop out but you can get a signal in the towns along the way.
- The one-finger-wave is the local way to say hi as you pass other cars on the road, simply raise the index finger on your right hand.
I hope this post encourages you to plan your own road trip, it’s a great way to see Australia! You can find more of my travel photos on Instagram, and don’t forget to join me on Facebook for lots of travel stories and inspiration. Eat Well Travel Often my friend!
Shannon Gordon is a travel writer and award winning photographer who shares her life mission to Eat Well Travel Often. Her wanderlust has taken her from the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the Galapagos Islands. Subscribe to her newsletter for travel photos and inspiration as she works through her bucket list. She also hosts fun events for women who like to wine and dine eatwelltraveloften.com.au