Top 5 classic 4WD trips

Gibb River Road There are some four-wheel-drive journeys that used to be spoken of in hushed tones around the campfire at night, legendary journeys carved out of the harsh Australian landscape by intrepid explorers. From the Anne Beadell Highway to the Gunbarrel Highway, many of these routes were built by the legendary Len Beadell, known to many as the ‘last Australian explorer’.

Of course, with the upgrades in four-wheel-drive technology, many of these routes are not the perilous journeys they used to be. But don’t underestimate them – these trips are still rough-as-guts, and are fantastic adventures for the modern-day explorer.

To celebrate the release of 4WD Survival Guide by John Basham, we’ve picked our top five classic four-wheel-drive trips. Let us know what epic four-wheel-drive journeys are on your bucket list by sharing with us in the comments section below.

1. Anne Beadell Highway: Laverton, Western Australia to Coober Pedy, South Australia – One of the highways built by Len Beadell, this remote trip passes by atomic bomb test sites and salt lakes. Crossing the edge of the Nullarbor Plain, this is a journey through a part of Australia where you won’t find many other people. You need a travel permit for this journey.

Birdsville Track2. Birdsville Track: Marree, South Australia to Birdsville, Queensland – This track passes through the Sturt Stony Desert and is justifiably famous for its difficult travelling conditions, although the track is now accessible to most well-prepared four-wheel-drives.

Starting in South Australia and finishing in the famous outback town of Birdsville (be sure to stop by the iconic pub), you’ll need to be prepared for a journey without much phone reception or other amenities. This is a popular journey for four-wheel drivers in the cooler months of the year.

Wild camels, Canning Stock Route3. Canning Stock Route: Wiluna to Halls Creek, Western Australia – The route has a deserved reputation as one of the most difficult four-wheel-drive trips in Australia, with sand dunes, saltpans, rocky patches and more.

The Canning Stock Route was originally surveyed as a overland cattle route and passes by Aboriginal rock art, old cattle wells and the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater. Make sure to stop for the attractions when you do see them, because it can feel like a while between points of interest on the trek.

Cape York Development Road4. Cape York Peninsula Development Road: Cairns to the tip of Australia, Queensland – The development road is only accessible in the dry season, and is one of the best-known four-wheel-drive tracks in Australia. You’ll meet plenty of other travellers on the road, all heading up to see the tip of Australia.

The trip features difficult creek and river crossings, so be well prepared before undertaking the trip. Unlike many of the other famous treks, this trip doesn’t traverse sandy deserts, but is a drive through the lush rainforests of upper-north Queensland, and is one of the last wilderness areas in the country.

5. Gibb River Road: Derby to Kununurra, Western Australia – Possibly the most spectacular trip on this list, the Gibb River Road passes through the Kimberley along some extreme corrugated roads, although most well-prepared four-wheel-drive vehicles can undertake the trek.

Passing by three different mountain ranges, you’ll be awed by the size and majesty of this region, including the impressive gorges and wide river crossings. You’ll also find some incredible camping spots along the route, such as the El Questro Station and Home Valley Station.

Image credits: Gibb River Road, Tourism Western Australia; Birdsville Track, Tourism Queensland; wild camels, Canning Stock Route, Tourism Western Australia; Australian 4WD track, Tourism Queensland

  • Red Nomad OZ

    Wow! These really ARE extreme!! Although I’d LOVE to do some (or all!) of them, we’d really need to upgrade our rig. Actually, completely replace it … But thanx for the inspiration!

    • ExploreAustralia

      They really are great Aussie adventures! But only for the VERY prepared.

  • Rumah Adat

    this cool adventure

  • Aaron

    We are planning a trip to the Kimberley next year; can’t wait. I’m surprised the gibb river didn’t make the list!