Australia’s Roughest Off-Road Tracks
1. The Canning Stock Route, WA
The world’s longest historic stock route is also one of the most testing four-wheel drive tracks on Earth. Covering 1850km from Wiluna to Halls Creek in Outback Western Australia, the CSR cuts through country that’s both remote and unforgiving, including the Gibson Desert, the Little Sandy Desert and the Great Sandy Desert.
The track itself alternates between a variety of desert terrain, but what is most memorable are the severe corrugations that punctuate the entire trip. With that in mind, tall tales of vehicles being shaken apart while attempting to traverse it suddenly don’t seem so far-fetched. That reputation, combined with a lack of facilities – there are only two supply points along the length of the track – undoubtedly makes the Canning Stock Route one of Australia’s most gruelling tracks. If you plan on attempting the CSR, ensure you have a mechanically-sound 4×4, adequate supplies and plenty of off-road experience – you’ll need every bit of it during this epic drive, which can take up to three weeks.
2. The Madigan Line, NT
The Simpson Desert is the largest parallel dune desert in the world, so it makes sense that there are multiple options when it comes to crossing it. The most challenging and remote of these is the northern Madigan Line, which makes the better-known French Line look like a highway in comparison.
The route links the camps of Cecil Madigan, one of the last true explorers, from his 1939 expedition across the windswept dunes of the Simpson. Nowadays, the track itself is a pair of wheel ruts cutting through a sea of red, and the drive can sometimes feel like a cross-country bump to the finish line. You’ll encounter the north-south Hay River Track before continuing south-east towards Birdsville: an outpost in the desert where travellers stock up and swap stories, each one coming on a unique journey to sit in the Birdsville Pub or taste a camel pie at the Birdsville Bakery. The Madigan Line however, with its rough terrain through testing conditions, might just be the most memorable way to get there.
3. Munja Track, WA
The Kimberley was once a wild frontier, but today is largely accessible to tourers of all kinds. There are, however, still challenging tracks that are only accessible to experienced four-wheel drivers. Perhaps the best example of this is the Munja Track, which takes travellers from Mt Elizabeth – accessed off the Gibb River Road – to the remote coast of the Walcott Inlet.
The drive is a slow and sometimes painstaking process, with multiple jump-ups that require skill and patience to negotiate. Inexperienced travellers are discouraged from attempting the trip to the inlet, as one wrong move along some of its steep and rocky sections could end in relative disaster. The reward for making the journey, however, is the peace and scenic beauty that the Walcott Inlet affords. Not only is it one of the most remote destinations in the entire Kimberley, but it also offers excellent fishing and opportunities to discover the area on foot.
4. The Anne Beadell Highway, WA
Built by the famous surveyor and Outback explorer Len Beadell – who named the ‘highway’ after his wife – the Anne Beadell Highway is 1325km of truly testing desert driving. Wild and unmaintained, the track runs through numerous Outback landscapes, each of which requires a sturdy 4×4 and off-road nous to tackle.
The Anne Beadell lives somewhat in the shadow of the Canning Stock Route, which often means it’s less trafficked. Combined with slow travel times for the duration of the trip, the journey along the Anne Beadell Highway is a gratifying challenge to rival any in Australia.