The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive, South Australia

The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive, Flinders Ranges and Outback, SA. © SATC & Peter Fisher

The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive, South Australia

Experience life as a drover on part of a biennial cattle drive along the Oodnadatta Track, in South Australia’s outback. Every second August, you can trace the trail of Australian pioneers who forged their way through these raw, powerful landscapes. Meet modern-day droving legends and feel like one yourself, after a day herding 500 head of cattle from horseback. Ride through the expanse of an Australian cattle station and alongside the old Ghan railway line. At night, trade campfire tales, dine on delicious meals and sleep in luxury tents beneath a star-filled desert sky. The entire five week cattle drive follows the Oodnadatta Track, from Marree to Oodnadatta, overlapping with both the original Ghan rail line and an ancient Aboriginal trading route. It’s a big journey with a rich history.

You can join the cattle drive on a five day tour from Adelaide or the nearby opal mining town of Coober Pedy. The cattle drive campsite is set up on a remote spot near the tiny town of William Creek. This is a good place to forge some pre-campfire friendships and take in the epic outback scenery. After a welcome lunch at the campsite, you’ll be teamed with a horse right for your riding experience, even if you’ve never been in a saddle. You’ll also meet your precious cargo - the huge herd of cattle.

Each day after breakfast, you’ll steer cattle around 14km, past deep red dunes and sweeping plains, gum trees and stony tableland. Learn about the ‘boss drovers’ of old from your droving team, the hardy horsemen and women who continue their legacy. Listen to stories of the Aboriginal people who worked on cattle drives, and their sacred connection to these uncompromising landscapes. Trace the old Ghan rail line and see remnants of the Overland Telegraph Line, the single copper wire that once connected England with Australia.

The cattle drive showcases the outback’s true extremes. Meet all 10 residents of William Creek, one of Australia’s smallest towns, at the timber and corrugated iron pub. Then head through some of the 24,000 square km expanse of Anna Creek Station, still a working cattle station. You’ll discover more dramatic outback landscapes on one of the many optional tours. See the sun melt in fiery layers at the Breakaways, and visit an underground opal mine in nearby Coober Pedy. Take a scenic flight over vast, salt-crusted Lake Eyre, the Painted Hills or the natural artesian pools of Dalhousie Springs.

In the evening, compare notes with your fellow explorers over the roaring campfire, or over a buffet of bush tucker in the marquee. The stockmen of a century ago would have been in heaven in this luxurious campsite, with its modern bathrooms, kitchen of top caterers, bar and library. After a long and exhilarating day in the saddle, it’s hard to beat a hot shower, camp bed and carpeted tent.

At the end of your tour, return to Adelaide or swagger into another outback adventure. Stay in tiny pubs in classic outback towns such as Marree and Roxby Downs. Do a camel trek through Coongie Lakes National Park or camp near Dalhousie Springs in Witjira National Park. Hire a 4WD and set off on the challenging Birdsville, Oodnadatta or Strzelecki desert tracks. You can even drive through to Alice Springs and onward to Darwin in the Northern Territory on the epic Explorer’s Highway.

Your droving adventure will expand your horizons and show you how much more is possible.

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