Nothing sets apart Australia like the Outback. With rugged mountain ranges and vast, brown open spaces that seem to stretch on forever, the Outback represents the essence of Australia.
Known as the ‘back of beyond’ and ‘never-never,’ the Outback covers the majority of Australia. It is mostly uninhabited, with 10 percent of the total Australian population occupying the lands. It has great cultural value, as the Australian Aborigines still live there in all their traditional glory.
If you are visiting Australia and want to explore the Outback, here’s what you should know about it:
The Outback is huge
Do not underestimate the vastness of the Outback. The distance from Adelaide to Alice Springs through Uluru approximates to 2000 km. This is as long as the journey from Istanbul to Berlin. The massiveness of the Outback makes it hard to navigate. Therefore, you need to plan your trip keeping the distance in mind. It may not be realistic to visit every tourist spot if you have a short trip. So, pick your preferences and enjoy the ones that you can visit. Sometimes flash flooding and bushfires can create transit problems. Hence, keep a few buffer days in your itinerary.
When it comes to counting the must-see places in the area, everyone has different opinions. Our top three on the list are as follows:
1. Uluru (Ayers Rock): Located in the hottest area of the Outback, Uluru is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural significance. The unique feature of the mountain is that it changes colour at different times of the day. During sunrise and sunset, it turns a striking orange-red colour.
2. Akadu National Park: With over 12,000 species of diverse plants and animals, the Kakadu National Park is a vast reserve of protected wilderness. It is the ideal spot for nature lovers.
3. Kings Canyon: A photographer’s paradise, Kings Canyon is the prime attraction of the Watarrka National Park. It is an ancient sandstone canyon that ascends on top of dense palm forests.
The Outback boasts rich wildlife with some rare species, including cockatoos, red kangaroos, wild horses (Brumbies), and budgerigars. The endangered dingo is one of the oldest animals found in the region, introduced more than 3,500 years ago. They form an essential part of the desert’s ecosystem. To prevent dingoes from entering the agricultural areas, the Dingo Fence was constructed in the south-east part of the continent.
Another bizarre-looking creature is the armoured spiny devil. The small grooves of its hard, spiky skin provide moisture to the mouth, keeping it hydrated. In the winter, you will also come across several species of lizards and snakes basking in the sun out in the open. In the summer, however, these creatures are not seen as frequently.
Besides the wild animals, the Australian Outback has a renowned fossil site as well – Riversleigh. In 1984, it was deemed a World Heritage site. It contains fossils of ancient birds, mammals, and reptiles of Miocene and Oligocene age.
Visiting the Outback
The Outback entertains the majority of the people from May to August (peak seasons). However, during the off-season, you can have more freedom to explore. This is the time when campgrounds are less populated, and you will get to see most sites all by yourself. Plus, less crowd means that you won’t have any trouble finding a good spot for setting up a camp.
Now that we’ve got you excited about visiting the Outback, here are some tips that can help make your trip enjoyable:
Start your journey early in the day: The ideal way to explore these desert areas without tiring yourself is to get up early before the temperature goes up. By the mid-afternoon, the temperature can go up to 30 degree Celsius. Therefore, start just after sunrise and then proceed depending on the weather.
Road conditions: Find out the status of the roads you are about to take beforehand. Are they open for travel or not? Driving on a closed road will be a law breach and can get you a fine. Therefore, get in touch with the road transport authorities, before you set on for the trip, to inquire about the road conditions.
Enjoy the sunset at Uluru: Sunset viewpoints fill up quickly. So, try to find a spot before the sun sets down to be able to get good pictures.
Sensible footwear: If you are going to make several pit stops during your trip, make sure to select your footwear accordingly. Choose shoes that cover your entire feet, so that they are protected from the heat and insects. If you are going to stay inside the car, flip-flops may work in warm weather.
Wear fly nets: To save yourself from mosquito bites and bruises, wear fly nets. They may not look cool, but they will keep you safe from hoards of mosquitoes and flies rampant in the area. They are easily available everywhere. However, if you buy one from a non-tourist area, it will cost you less money.
Stay sheltered: Aussie sun can be brutal. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to prevent yourself from sunstroke. Try to find broad-brimmed hats. They will not only protect your face but your neck and ears as well.
Emergency equipment: Carry a satellite phone with you if you are planning remote travel. You can rent these from the Outback Visitor Information Centres. This will send your location to someone at all times. Also, carry recovery gear with you to keep yourself out of trouble. Water and non-perishable food items should be a part of your emergency gear too. Every person should carry 4-5 litres of water because you won’t be able to enjoy the trip if you are not adequately hydrated. Most importantly, don’t forget a first-aid kit.
Spares: Carry a spare for all the essential items, like shoes and fly nets. Keep spares for your vehicle supplies as well especially fuel, fan belts, hose clamps etc. You don’t want your car to collapse in the middle of nowhere and ruin your trip.
All set to explore the Australian Outback? Have fun!