New South Wales: THE ALPINE RUN
Sydney is often looked at as the dead spot in Australian 4X4ing. Too far south to head to the Cape, too far east to take on the outback, and too far north to duck off for a weekend in the Victorian High Country. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re nothing but an endless sprawl of concrete jungle (with the exception of Daniels Point Road). We have one thing hiding up our sleeves though, Mt Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia. That’s without even mentioning the entire Snowy Mountain region. It’s easy to think of the Snowy Mountains as nothing more than lycra clad snow bunnies, but in reality it’s every bit as spectacular as the Victorian High Country. Crystal clear rivers wind through rolling mountain ranges with secluded campgrounds nestled in between.
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There’s a little known campsite right on the Mexican border called Tom Groggin Campgrounds. It’ll be as far south as you can head before entering enemy territory so use that as your halfway mark before turning back north. Kick the adventure off in the Brindabella Ranges just outside of Canberra and zig zag your way down south picking up alpine huts and steep hill climbs along the way. You’ll rack up about 1400kms along the way, if your consumption is around 15L/100km you can expect to spend roughly $350 for fuel. You’ll need a park pass for the majority of the trip, although most campgrounds are included in the price. Day rates can be from $16-$27 depending on the time of the year. But factor in buying an annual pass for $190 and you’ll be covered for every park in the state with $460 left in your pocket for food and fun. In summer the area offers some of the best mountain biking in the country, while winter brings snow camping and ski season.
New South Wales: COFFS COAST
With summer right around the corner now is the time to start planning a beach run. While the great un-washed line up for their 3m² of sand at Blacksmiths Beach or the government sanctioned runway at Stockton (if the mines don’t need it that day) you’ll be beach hopping along the eastern coastline kicking back with a few good mates and a pub feed as you swap war stories from that day’s wheeling.
The area is littered with seriously fun tracks through regions like Barrington Tops, Oxley Wild Rivers, Wauchope, and Wedding Bells state forest. If you’re game there’s even more adventure to be had searching for the most hilarious parks in the area, I highly recommend a good giggle at Tuckers Nob for a start.
Unless you’re fond of screaming kids and sitting behind caravans driving well under the speed limit it’s best to head up outside of holiday season. The full loop there and back from Sydney should see you punching out close to 2000km so factor in around $450 in fuel. The area is littered with free camps in the bush and the beach leaving you a hefty $550 in your wallet for refreshments at the pubs up and down the coast. If you’re hell bent on making yourself the alpha of your group plan on spending at least a few days at Coffs itself. The surrounding area is home to some of the regions toughest tracks, so if you’re not packing the surf board you better be packing the recovery kit. With track names like Widowmaker, Broken and Commando, there’s a lot of
gnarly terrain waiting to show you who’s boss.
Queensland: CORNER COUNTRY
Part of the beauty of heading into the Outback is even the highways aren’t much better than a 4X4 track, and I mean that in a good way. If you’ve never been to the heart of Australia now is the time to do it. Get off Facebook and stop checking your emails, they’ll all be there in a week when you get back. To make it all the way to Birdsville you’ll need to cover an average of 5hrs a day. When you remember you’ll be hauling along an outback highway with red dirt rolling underneath your 4X4 and kangaroos bouncing along the horizon it doesn’t sound like that much to ask.
You’ll spend the best part of your budget in fuel alone, so get friendly with the pub owners and see if you can set your swag up out the back to keep costs down. There’s no shortage of outback pubs on this trip either. Between stretches of red dirt and jagged rocks you’ll go through towns such as Old Betoota, Quilpie, and Windorah. Some of them a little more inhabited than others.
If you’re looking for a relaxing trip with the kids riding their bikes around a manicured grass campsite this isn’t the trip for you. There’s long days, an offensive level of heat and hours upon hours of nothing but horizon in front of you. But by the end of it you’ll feel a connection to the heart and soul of this country, one born on the backs of tough men, tougher women, and their often tragic stories.
Queensland: CREB TRACK
Alright, alright. I know what you’re thinking Queenslanders, why are your trips all epic adventures? For the simple fact that you lucky buggers have some of the best 4X4ing right on your door step. There’s not too many other parts of the world that can duck off for a week relaxing on one of the many sand islands in the region, and be there in a couple of hours. Let’s face it, you don’t need to look too far for a quick weekend getaway, or even a relaxing few nights by the campfire. So if you’re heading off for a week why not make it big? It’s not exactly enough time to go up and do the Cape, even if you’re starting from Cairns, but it is enough for one of the most adventurous beach runs in the country, culminating in the iconic CREB track. With a week up your sleeve and the GPS pointing north you can beach hop every night all along the coast, there’s plenty of small coastal towns that’ll offer up a counter meal and beach to camp on, although if you can make it work it’s worth heading off the beaten track to some of the more remote spots along the way like Five Rocks, Cape Tribulation and most importantly the Bundaberg Rum factory.
You’ll be lucky to have a pocket full of change left after paying for fuel, so it’s worth scouting out the exact campsites you’ll be stopping at every night. Where you stay all depends on how far you’re comfortable driving each day. You’ll need an average of 5 ½ hours a day, a couple of transit days should be enough to get it down to a more relaxed pace and free up an extra night to take on the CREB. If you’re after a relaxing week easily in the budget, head to Fraser and kick back beach side, if you’re after a trip you’ll never forget then head north.
Tasmania: BALFOUR TRACK
We’re kicking off the Melbourne trip with what is arguably one of the best things you can do 4X4ing in Victoria, leave and go to Tasmania. Alright we kind of blew the budget too, you’ll need to spend over the $1000 allowed just on the Spirit of Tasmania alone, and all up a trip like this could run close to $2000 over the course of a week. That said, Tasmania is one of those destinations very few ever visit, so there’s no chance of turning up to a track and joining the queue like up in the Cape.
There’s no shortage of destinations to head, even the locals never run out of spots, but if you’re ticking tracks off your bucket list you’ll want to head out to the Balfour Track and Climes. Both offer vastly different terrain, from windscreen deep water through to off camber rocks perched above a water fall. If you’re after serious adventure both of these tracks should be on your to do list, although be warned, you’ll need snorkels, good tyres and a mate handy with a snatch strap. If you’re planning on doing multiple trips a year it’s worth shelling out the $96 for a pass for all parks (or if it’s a one off you can get away with a holiday pass $60 for up to 8 weeks). Tasmania is one of those places with adventure down every track, from stunning waterfalls and rainforest walks through to wheel lifting fun. Bring the cheque book and have an adventure you’ll never forget.
Victoria: MURRAY SUNSET
Alright I admit it, the main reason I give Melbournites so much slack is I’m kind of jealous of the varied terrain you have down there. What you miss out on in beach 4X4ing you more than make up for with stunning alpine scenery and easily accessible red desert. From the heart of Melbourne it’s a little over 5hrs to the heart of the Murray-Sunset National Park, 6 if you’re in a British 4X4, hey gotta account for breakdowns right?
The park straddles the Murray River (funny that) so it goes without saying you’re best off bringing your kayak and going for a paddle down the river that inspired more than a few bush poets. You’ll come across winding sandy tracks and low lying desert scrub as you make your way towards the Pink Lakes, so it’s worth bringing a couple of traction aids along for the ride too. The best place to pull up for the night is Mopoke Hut, it requires a 4X4 to get to so you’re safe away from the riff raff ready to pen your own outback poem, or rise early for an iconic red desert sunrise. You’ll punch out about 1200kms over the course of a week so factor in at least $300 for fuel. Camping is free leaving plenty left in the purse for food and beverages, so be sure to stop in at a few of the pubs along the way.
South Australia: OLD GHAN RAILWAY
If you live in Adelaide you’re probably pretty bloody sick of reading the 40th article this year telling you to head to the Flinders, Robe, or Coorong National Park. It’d chap my backside too, especially with how much history and stunning scenery South Oz has to offer. If you’ve got a week off work and a crisp $1000 bill in your pocket head out to the Oodnadatta track and follow the Old Ghan Railway. Kick your trip off with a transit day and head to Maree, it’ll take a full day to get there but will knock over roughly ¼ of the kays you need to cover in the first day. From here on in you’ll follow the Oodnadatta track and the historic Old Ghan railway through some of the most isolated desert known to man. Make sure you drop in to Lake Eyre and kick back at the pink roadhouse for a pub feed and a few cold refreshments. You’ll follow the old railway through wide red deserts and inhospitable terrain right up until Marla when you’re back on the blacktop, although no trip through here is complete without spending a night underground in Coober Pedy. You’ll rack up nearly 2500kms, chew through roughly $550 in fuel and a little bit extra for camping wherever you pull up. But after a week you would have taken on a trip that most Australian’s can only ever dream of. Rope the boss into letting you off for an extra week if you can, Alice Springs and Uluru are well worth the visit. If you haven’t already got a parks pass you’ll need to factor in an extra $150 for an annual Desert Parks Pass. Hey, adventure ain’t cheap, but it’s always worth it.
Western Australia: THE WHITE SANDS OF ESPERANCE
What Western Australia lacks in Alpine Areas and mining profits it more than makes up for in stunning coastlines and crystal clear beaches. While there’s loads of 4X4ing to be had within a few hours of Perth itself the true jewel in WA’s crown is Esperance. Located halfway between Perth and the SA border, Esperance will set you back a full day’s drive both ways, although once you’re set up you’ll barely have to drive again if you don’t want to. If you’ve only ever seen Esperance in articles it’d be easy to think the whole area is nothing but a few white dunes straddling the beach front, normally with some maniac airborne in their 17in lifted GQ, the reality is the terrain varies from rocky outcrops, limestone, corrugated gravel roads, soft inland sand tracks and hard packed beach front. Short of insane hill climbs Esperance has it all.
Campsites are littered throughout the area, although a quick duck back into Esperance itself is all it takes to refill the fuel tanks and fridge. You’ll only punch through roughly $400 in fuel, leaving plenty left over for the local bakery. The whole attraction of the area is the stunning beach front and white dunes, so if you’re a surfer, fisho, or diver make sure you pack in your gear. Esperance is one of those destinations that’ll have you ringing in sick on Monday, and quitting by Tuesday – it’s that good you’ll never want to leave.
Western Australia: THE KIMBERLEY; AUSTRALIA’S LAST ADVENTURE
If you’re setting off for a week long adventure from Darwin you really do have the pick of the bunch. Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Litchfield, the red centre, the Gulf country, even right over to Cape York are all within reach. Without a doubt, one of the bucket list items every Northern Territorian four-wheel driver needs to tick off is the Kimberley. With only a week up your sleeve you won’t be able to see the whole region, but it’d be enough to tick off Kununurra, the Bungle Bungles, and a good chunk of the Gibb River road, especially if you punch out a transit day or two.
The area is one of the last great adventures in Australia so accommodation will be a swag by the side of the track, which works out well as you’ll need to budget at least $600 for fuel. Services are few and far between as well, so a long range tank is an absolute must. This is the kind of trip most of the eastern seaboard dreams of doing once in their lifetime, and for Northern Territorians it’s a week off work away. If it’s not on your to do list you’re reading the wrong magazine.