There’s nothing like heading out bush for a couple of days, out into those rugged and wild pockets of the country where you can feel like you have the entire world to yourself. Here’s my pick of the best places from each state to disappear into for a couple of days, and I’ve stuck with those that won’t require a lifetime’s worth of off-roading experience just to get to.
1. Kennedy Ranges, WA
The Kennedy Range National Park lies some 170km east of Carnarvon, and about 900km from Perth, at the southern end of WA’s Pilbara region. Like much of the state’s north, it’s an area categorized by vast stretches of rugged and isolated ranges, sweeping fields of sandy dunes, incredible rock formations and stunning outback beauty.
Temple Gorge Campground is where you’ll want to head, set against an incredible backdrop of deeply eroded red cliffs, with vast arid plains stretching off in the opposite direction. It feels about a million miles from anywhere, even though you can make it in a 2WD if the conditions permit. Follow one of the gorges into the plateau to find a maze of deep canyons, shale slopes, carved sandstone monuments and huge honeycombed boulders.
2. Davenport Ranges, NT
The Davenport Range/Iytwelepenty National Park is a long way from just about anywhere, other than isolated Aboriginal communities. You’ll find them to the south-east of Tennant Creek, roughly half way between Alice Springs and Darwin. While a 4WD is recommended, it’s a pretty cruisy trip in, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning outback camping in Australia.
About 80km from the highway you’ll find the turn off to Whistleduck Creek Campground, or head another 80 and you’ll get to Old Police Station Waterhole. Set against one of the most idyllic rivers in the NT, you can camp on the grassy flats right beside the water, and fish or swim or explore the nearby ruins of the various mining and pastoral enterprises that occurred in the area.
3. Gundabooka, NSW
The north-west of NSW hides some of the most underrated outback parks in Australia, and Gundabooka, less than an hour from Bourke, is one of them. Red soil tracks, wiry black mulga, rocky ranges, vast open plains, stunning wildflowers and the meandering bends of the lush Darling River highlight this arid expanse.
As for camping, you can head to Dry Tank Campground, set amidst the red dirt and mulga scrub, beside the trailhead to Little Mountain, where there’s great views over the imposing Mt Gundabooka. Alternatively, you can head to Yanda Campground, beneath the gnarled River Red Gums beside the lush banks of the Darling. Either way, it’s a beautiful stretch of the country to spend a few days exploring.
4. Gawler Ranges, SA
A half hour’s diversion from the Eyre Highway’s long crawl across South Australia, the Gawler Ranges present an array of gorgeous outback landscapes reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges to the east, while attracting barely a fraction of the visitors. Saltbush plains and remnant woodland intercut rocky red gorges, spinifex-clad hills and incredible rock formations.
There’s 4WD tracks, a trove of European history and rich Aboriginal culture, and a heap of fantastic campgrounds to choose from. The 2WD accessible Yandinga Camp is nestled in a rugged valley near the park entrance, right beside the usually dry Yandinga Falls and not far from the incredible basalt formations of the Organ Pipes. For an even more remote experience, head to the 4WD accessible eastern end of the park, and check out Chillunie or Mattera campgrounds.
5. Diamantia, QLD
In the centre of Queensland’s vast outback, Diamantina National Park lies sprawled across a convergence of outback river systems and seasonal floodplains. Some 300km from Winton, the former pastoral land is all about the sweeping dunes, gibber plains, river channels, waterholes, wetlands, grassy plains and weathered sandstone ranges iconic to outback Queensland.
Hunters Gorge and Gum Hole are your main choices for camping, and while the tracks are marked as 4WD-only, none of the park’s main roads should present any problems in dry weather. At Hunters Gorge, it’s pretty perfect camping beside the wide stretch of river, beneath the coolabahs and with the afternoon light across the crumbling ridges above, not to mention the cacophony of the several hundred water birds you’ll likely have as neighbours.
6. Murray-Sunset, VIC
Victoria’s outback is an altogether different scene to the other states, with its desert region defined by vast dunes and scrublands, savannah mallee and mulga woodland. Occupying the state’s north-west corner, Murray-Sunset National Park is also Victoria’s biggest, and is therefore filled with fantastic remote camping, not to mention those titular outback sunsets. Some 500km from Melbourne, or 400km from Adelaide, it’s one of the only semi-arid regions in the world to remain relatively untouched by the modern age.
Huge networks of sandy 4WD trails cover the park, providing access to half a dozen isolated campgrounds, but for those lacking the necessary experience to head so far off-track, Lake Crosbie and Becking, on the southern fringes of the park, are the perfect choice. Sprawled around the edge of vast pink-hued salt lakes, they provide an atmosphere of beautiful desolation and unique scenery, as well as the decaying relics of the area’s salt mining past.