From here the road heads west to join the Stuart Highway, the main north south link, or far more interestingly, to the east lies Dalhousie Springs the eastern marshalling point to tackle the Simpson Desert.
The Oodnadatta Track is one of my favourite Outback drives as it is generally an easy 2WD run with a string of interesting points along the way, as well as several historic and well worth stopping at, watering holes - namely outback pubs. There is a great pub at the bottom of the track at Lyndhurst, while possibly my favourite pub in Australia would be the William Creek Hotel, roughly half way up the track.
Further north is the Oodnadatta Transcontinental Hotel, but the biggest thing in and around Oodnadatta is the Pink Roadhouse. Run for many years by Adam Plate and his wife he decided to put Oodnadatta on the map, and did so by painting his roadhouse bright pink. In the years that followed there was a pink Volvo, and dotted all round the area are hand painted road signs, providing advice, all put there by Adam as a courtesy to travellers. Many of these signs are visible beside tracks and offer smart advice, just in a very Australian way.
The track is mostly graveled dirt, with areas that have been formed with gravel and apart from times of heavy rain, you won't ever need 4WD. From Marree to Marla on the Stuart Highway the distance is 620kms. If you are not in a hurry allow 2-3 days to travel it.
In 1870 the transcontinental Overland Telegraph was constructed along a line of springs between Marree and Oodnadatta. The Great Northern Railway followed it in 1895.
The landscape is mostly flat, brown wind polished gibbers, punctuated by low ranges, saltpans and sandy outlets. The track today follows a succession of mound springs, as well as the crumbling infrastructure associated with the railway. Despite the area being well travelled, there remains plenty of evidence of days gone by, with crumbing telegraph stations, old sidings, water tanks, and the marvelous Algebuckina steel railway bridge that spans Neales River north of William Creek. Despite being decommissioned it remains the longest single land bridge in South Australia.
Along the route there are numerous signs of the old railway. While most of the railway sleepers have been taken for city gardens, or for outback campfires, the route of the railway is generally easy to see, along with numerous ruins. The Curdimurka Railway siding is a well preserved area and idea place to take a break.
Marree caters for most needs, with pub, general store, and fuel available. The grand two-story hotel stands testimony to the once great importance of Marree as a staging point and base for Afghan cameleers. An old Blitz truck of famed outback postman Tom Cruze is also on display.
The track goes close to the southern edge of Lake Eyre South and there are good views of this massive salt lake. Currently it is full of water and the best way to see it is by charter flights operating out of Marree, William Creek and Coober Pedy. William Creek claims to be South Australia's smallest town with a population of just 10. It is surrounded by a number of large cattle properties, with Anna Creek Station half thee size of Tasmania alone! The old Ghan line runs past William Creek and trains ran last in 1980. Explorer John McDouall Stuart named the town.
The William Creek Hotel is a welcome oasis in a large desert and is the only 'watering hole' on the Oodnadatta Track. The timber and iron clad pub dates from 1887, and today not only provides cold beer, but excellent meals and a handy camping area out the back. The town also boasts an airstrip, a little museum and charter flights are available and camel safaris. Every April the town comes alive for the William Creek races. The best time to travel it is between May and September when if you are lucky daytime temperatures will be below 30 degrees!
Difficulty: Moderate, unless wet
Road conditions: Unsealed dirt road.
Fuel availability: Diesel and unleaded at Marree, William Creek Hotel, The Pink Roadhouse and Marla Roadhouse (Stuart Hwy)
Information: Northern Area Road Conditions hotline, Ph. 1300 361 033
Tourist information Leigh Creek Ph. 08-86752056, Coober Pedy 1800 637 076
The Pink Roadhouse Ph. 08 8670 7822, William Creek Hotel Ph. 08-8670 7880
Camping information: National Parks SA, Ph. 1800 816 078