The 517 km (321 mi) Birdsville Track is a rough unsealed road connecting Maree in north-eastern South Australia with Birdsville in south-western Queensland and traversing three deserts in the process – the Strzelecki Desert, Sturt Stony Desert and Tirari Desert.
Opened in the 1860s to walk cattle from northern Queensland and the Northern Territory to the nearest railhead in Port Augusta, the track passes through one of the driest parts of Australia with an average rainfall of less than 100 mm annually.
Despite recent improvements, this iconic Australian road is still a demanding, remote-area trek with limited services.
And that is if you intend to drive it, the hurdles are increased ten-fold for a cyclist.
Originally only suitable for high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles, it is now a graded dirt road and a popular tourist route with more than its fair share of cattle trucks carrying livestock using it on a regular basis.
Of extreme importance, it the knowledge that the area is extremely barren, dry and isolated, requiring that you carry all your water and supplies for many days cycling and then some extra for emergencies.
The track may not be as rugged as it once was, but the rough, stone covered surface is still a monumental challenge.
For making the attempt, you will be rewarded with plenty of time to contemplate your navel, take in the horizon-to-horizon views and a huge blue sky.
- Name: Birdsville Track
- Region: South Australia and Queensland
- Start: Maree, South Australia
- Finish: Birdsville, Queensland
- Length: 517km
- Time: 7-8 days plus any time you want to rest up at Mungeranie Roadhouse
- Type: Linear
- Difficulty: Extreme
- Suitable for: Off-road, touring or mountain bikes and the mildly insane cyclist
- Terrain: Generally flat but with a few “bumps”
- Surface: Stony gravel
- Hazards: Almost everything, but heat and dehydration in particular
- Signage: The main track is well sign posted
- Points of Interest: The spectacular Koonchera Dune just north of the junction with Walkers Crossing Track.
- Best Times: Not in summer, the heat will fry you. Late autumn to early spring would be the recommendation
- Permits and Fees: None required
- Clayton River:
- Cooper Creek:
- Tippipila Creek:
- Maps: Hema’s Great Desert Tracks Eastern Sheet