The famed outback town of Oodnadatta is a must-see for visitors who want to get ‘off the beaten track’.
Stop for a cold drink at the Pink Roadhouse, which is a mine of information for travellers heading into the Witjira National Park and the Simpson Desert. The new facilities at the Oodnadatta racecourse are popular for large celebrations with campground, kitchen, bar and toilet facilities.
The town has a heritage-listed sandstone railway station that has been converted into a museum and provides great tales of yesteryear.
Oodnadatta took its name from the Aboriginal word Utnadata which means ‘blossom of the mulga’.
Travellers venturing into the outback can check road conditions with Transport SA on 1300 361 033.
The real outback
Lake Eyre is usually a gleaming white saltpan, set in an area where rainfall evaporates almost before it hits the ground. When rain falls, an amazing transformation takes place. Plants sprout and flower at astonishing speed to complete their lifecycle before the great drought returns. The Lake Eyre dragon, a little spotted grey lizard, skitters across the surface. Its joined by dense flocks of birds soaring over vast expanses of wildflowers. A type of water-holding frog emerges from years of suspended animation to splash about happily. Cormorants, pelicans, gulls and black swans feast on brine shrimp that miraculously appear with the life-giving water.
In 2001, thousands of birds flocked to Lake Eyre as Queensland summer rains slowly flowed south to the desert basin. It was the second consecutive year that fish, birds, reptiles and plants transformed Lake Eyre into a desert oasis – usually a rare occurrence.
The lake is the world’s largest saltpan, covering an area of almost 10,000 square kilometres. It drains a million square kilometres and was once thought to be Australia’s mythical inland sea. The salt crust is often hard enough to drive on. In 1964 speedster Donald Campbell broke the world land speed record there. The view on a sightseeing flight from nearby William Creek is dramatic. You can also fly over the Lake Eyre national Park from Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, or drive to it along the Oodnadatta Track near Curdimurka.
Activites and Experiences at Oodnadatta
- Accommodation The caravan park, attached to the Pink Roadhouse, has tent and caravan sites, cabins and a self-contained backpacker unit. The hotel also provides accommodation.