Simpson Desert Crossing - Must Do Tracks


As Overlanders we all have our bucket list of places to visit and experience. In Australia the Simpson desert is in almost every overlander's list. This certainly was in my case. In 2017 I had the pleasure of doing this crossing.

We drove up from Adelaide to Coober Pedy and then took the Oodnadatta track to Dalhousie. This is the start of the Simpson crossing from the western end. The Eastern end point being Birdsville.

The track is much more challenging when crossing from East to West. Being the first time for me (and those else in the convoy) we thought we'd rather take the less challenging direction. Having said this, it is still quite a task crossing the 1200  transversing sand dunes. Good four wheel driving skills are a must. Not to mentioned a well maintained four wheel drive. 

The best time of year to traverse the Simpson Desert is from April to October, during the cooler months when temperatures are more manageable. It's important to remember that even during these months, temperatures can still reach over 40 degrees Celsius and adequate water and shade provisions are crucial.

There are two main tracks that cross the Simpson Desert: the French Line and the Rig Road. The French Line is the shorter and more direct route, but also the more challenging with deep sand and dunes. The Rig Road is a longer but more gradual route with fewer dunes and better facilities along the way. Both routes require a high level of off-road driving experience and a fully equipped 4WD vehicle.

Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to see and do. The Simpson Desert is home to a rich array of wildlife, including kangaroos, camels, Dingos and numerous bird species. The desert is also home to several significant cultural landmarks, including the historic Dalhousie Springs, which were once used by Indigenous people as a source of water.

Other highlights include the iconic Purnie Bore, a large spring-fed waterhole, and the unique parallel sand dunes with Big Red being the tallest sand dune in the Simpson Desert on the Eastern end.

Dalhousie springs

It's also important to note that the Simpson Desert is a remote and inhospitable environment, and visitors should be prepared for the challenges of outback travel. This includes carrying adequate food, water, fuel, and communication equipment, as well as being aware of the risks posed by heat and vehicle breakdowns.

Which ever side one decides to start the journey from there are a number of routes travellers can take to get to the start of the Simpson crossing. Some of these are:

  1. From Alice Springs: If you're starting in Alice Springs, you can reach the Simpson Desert via the Stuart Highway and head towards Birdsville, then turn onto the Dulkaninna Track and follow it to the start of the French Line or Rig Road. This route will take you through some of Australia's most stunning outback scenery, including the iconic MacDonnell Ranges.

  2. From Adelaide: If you're starting in Adelaide, you can reach the Simpson Desert via the Eyre Highway and turn onto the Oodnadatta Track, then follow it to Birdsville and turn onto the Dulkaninna Track to reach the start of the French Line or Rig Road. This route takes you through the Flinders Ranges and the iconic outback town of Coober Pedy.

  3. From Darwin: If you're starting in Darwin, you can reach the Simpson Desert via the Stuart Highway and turn onto the Tanami Road, then follow it to the turnoff for the French Line or Rig Road. This route takes you through the heart of Australia's remote central desert.

Simpson Desert Australia Camping

Regardless of which route you take, it's important to check for road conditions and carry adequate supplies, as many of these roads can be isolated and remote. Also, make sure to plan your trip in advance and let someone know your itinerary, as mobile phone coverage can be limited in some areas. Taking a SAT Phone or a similar communication device is highly recommended. 

In conclusion, traversing the Simpson Desert is a challenging and very rewarding experience, but it requires careful preparation and a respect for the unique environment. By taking the time to plan ahead, visitors can ensure a safe and unforgettable journey across one of Australia's most iconic outback destinations.

If you require any further information please write to me. always happy to help.



Duncan Udawatta

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