Outback Australia: Do You Need a 4WD?

Every month we get emails from travellers astounded at the price of car hire in outback Australia.

They come to us begging for a solution to their dilemma: they want to hire a 4WD to see the outback and they can’t believe how expensive it is.

Sadly, most of these people are planning to visit Ayers Rock or Alice Springs – and you don’t need a 4WD for either.

I guess it’s the romance of the outback… the same romance that sees so many people buy those hellishly hot, all leather fake ‘outback hats’ that no Australian ever seems to wear!

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It’s not just overseas visitors who make this mistake, either…

Many Australians also seem to think that you can’t see anything outside of our major cities without a 4WD.

THE GOOD NEWS: There’s many, many places in outback Australia that you don’t need a 4WD to get to.

It’s our mission to help you make your outback travel dreams come true.

So we’ve put together a list of popular outback destinations to help you figure out whether you’ll need a 4WD when you’re planning your outback travel.

Use this in your travel planning to save yourself money and frustration.

NB: Please note that this is not an exhaustive list -we are simply listing some of the most popular outback destinations to help you plan.

Where Do You Want to Go?

The most important factor in determining whether you need a 4WD is to figure out where you want to go.

To help you out, we’ve put together three lists of big name places and attractions – places you can reach in an ordinary vehicle, and the adventurous places where you’ll definitely need a 4WD.

Places You Can go in an Ordinary Car (2WD Sedan)

No 4WD needed to visit these places (bitumen roads or excellent gravel roads, suitable for sedans):

Alice Springs

Andamooka

Ayers Rock/Uluru (makes us cry to see so many tourists wasting money on unneeded 4WDs!)

Birdsville (from the Queensland side)

Bourke

Broken Hill

Cobar

Coolgardie

Coober Pedy

Cunnamulla

East MacDonnell Ranges

Ivanhoe

Flinders Ranges

Kalgoorlie

Kings Canyon/Watarrka (via the Lasseter Highway & Luritja Road)

Lake Ballard

Laverton

Leigh Creek

Lightning Ridge

Maree

Menzies

Mt Isa

Port Augusta

Roxby Downs

Tennant Creek

Tibooburra

Walgett

West MacDonnell Ranges (including Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen)

White Cliffs

Winton

Woomera

4WD Optional/Recommended:

This means that there is a gravel road involved, suitable for most sedans – as long as they’re not low-clearance/low profile vehicles; however, you should expect corrugations AND if it’s been raining, you won’t be able to get an ordinary 2WD through.

Arltunga Historical Reserve

Andamooka Opal fields

Birdsville Track

Borefield Track (between Roxby Downs and the Oodnadatta Track intersection)

Davenport Ranges/Itwelepwenty National Park

Gammon Ranges/Vulkuthanha National Park

Great Central Road/Outback Way (Uluru to Kalgoorlie section)

Oodnadatta Track – (the easiest ‘real’ outback track to drive. We’ve seen backpacker rental vans on this road many times)

Rainbow Valley/Ure Conservation Reserve

Red Centre Way (used to be called the Mereenie Loop)

Strezlecki Track

4WD Required:

Old Andado Track

Anne Beadell Highway

Binns Track

Canning Stock Route

Chambers Pillar

Connie Sue Highway

Dalhousie Springs

Gibb River Road

Gunbarrell Highway

Ernest Giles Road

Hanns Track

Hay River Track​

Lake Eyre

Lake Torrens

Owen Springs Reserve 4WD Track

Palm Valley/Finke Gorge National Park

Plenty Highway west of Harts Range

Sandover Highway

Sandy Blight Track

Simpson Desert Tracks

Tanami Highway (you could do it in an ordinary car as far as Yuendumu, but once you cross the WA border the road is dreadful, especially the last 200km into Halls Creek).

 Before You Click Away:

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You’ll be helping other travellers to find this information and plan their outback adventures.

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