"Australia - Bicycle Touring The Outback" Australia by Intrepidduck

Australia Travel Guide: 50,103 reviews and 133,436 photos

Where Is the Australian Outback?

This travel page is particularly focused on the Australian Outback - a key interest area when concerning foreign visitors. Also here you will find information concerning bicycle touring - slow and enduring, but a highly enjoyable way to see what this continent has to offer for the adventerous traveller.

While most of the population of the Australian continent live on the Eastern seaboard its "The Outback", aswell as the Australian "bush", where the true spirit of the country lies.

So what actually defines the Outback, where does it start and where does it finish? In South Australia most people say that the Outback starts once you pass Port Augusta, while in New South Wales it's fraised often "as out the back of Bourke". This remote town lies in the north central region of the state on the Darling River, a definative natural boundary between "the bush" and the Outback. However the Northern Territory, internationally famed for it's natural wonders like Uluru (Ayers Rock), has no question about it as claiming to have the "true" Australian Outback, but it also has "the Top End". This vast sub-equatorial region, where Darwin lies, is something else! The town of Katherine, some 315Km south, being the cultural diversion between "the Top End" and the Outback. Queensland, a vast state of varying geographical regions and climates, has it's "Cape", the Cape York Peninsular. Is it the Outback? It is in a way, but it's probably more of "the bush". Beyond that lies the Torres Strait Islands, home to Australia's second indigenous group. Western Australia has alot of Outback indeed, while Victoria and Tasmania don't have any where really definable as the Outback. However Tasmania's Bass Strait islands come close to some definition of Outback for their remoteness. So it is remoteness which some how and over all defines the Outback. The Australian desert also defines the Outback. With modern communications and mass tourism the Australian Outback is getting smaller and less remote. But on the other hand when concerning global warming and desertfication the Outback should be getting larger, while closer to home, that's if you happen to live on the Eastern seaboard!

Bicycle Touring the Outback

In 2002 I and a rubber duck I dubbed the "Intrepid Duck" embarked on a 4915Km bicycling trek from Melbourne to Darwin.

With 90 days on the road I was rained on 7 out of the first 10, hailed on when it wasn't raining and faced icey head winds for 4 weeks solid! A truely exhilarating experience, I becomming a seasoned traveller for the journey ahead.

Along a gravel road in the Central Flinders Ranges, well into my cycling routine, I met another cyclist Carsten. He a "former" East German who seemed crazy enough to be doing something similar to my self.

We travelled for 3 weeks en route across the South Australian desert, via the rough as gutts underground town of Coober Pedy, before heading north into the Northern Territory. Here I met one of it's many characters "Crocodile Harry", indeed once the true Crocodile Dundee. A Latvian immigree to this country in the 1950s he became a real wild man and hunter of the giant reptile up in the "far north". Since the 70's he has, like many of this heated Outback town, become an Opal prospector, living in a vast underground dugout home. It more a temple to the female form than a mere house.

It was then on towards the Northern Territory's Uluru, the monolithic Ayers Rock. However before I was to reach "the rock" I holed up in Alice Springs, it became a kind of base for me where I could catch up on some rare creature comforts such as espresso coffee and a regular hot shower.

A bus connection, bike aboard, I travelled south towards Uluru. Aftersome memorable days spent there and catching up with my German friend we made our way on two wheels as much as possible towards Alice. From there I was to trek north alone on the Stuart Hwy, eventually to Darwin some 1800Km away.

Travelling through the MacDonnell Ranges would have to be one of the highlights of "our trek". Watarrka National Park and the stunning Palm Valley are not to be missed for their unique natural grandure. 12Km of 20cm deep sand was not a total deterrant into getting myself into Palm Valley. Other splendid sights such as Standley Chasm were to follow.

During the entire course of this trek across OZ I only had three punctures, but did however have the misfortune to break my rear carrier rack. For the second time on my trek I was forced to hitch, bike and all, 180Km or so north from Barrow Creek to Tennant Creek. The first time had been with Carsten 100Km short of Coober Pedy where we were hampered by strong head winds and dwindled food supply. A family from Sydney in a 4X4 pulling a huge caravan came to our rescue with a lift into town and mobile homemade chocklate cup cakes.

In the town of Tennant Creek, were I was lucky to buy a replacement rack for my bike, I had the pleasure through shere chance to meet my second cycling companion. Simon an Aussie larrikan from Perth doing the full circle of the continent on a comfortable three wheeler recumbant. The remaining three weeks of my journey took us togeather to Darwin, from where sadly I didn't spend enough time at, thus flying home.

We travelled to some interesting towns off the main road such as the cattle station of Newcastle Waters, Daly Waters with its wild and friendly pub and Bachelor, where I would catch up with friends of friends. It is the gateway town to Lychfield National Park. This region boarders the tropical far north with it's permanant rock pools, waterfalls, crocodiles and "Magnetic" termite mounds. Prior to here we stopped off at a place called Robin Falls with perhaps one of the best free camping spots on the trek.

There is so much more to tell about bicycling Australia. If you are going to do it be prepared for almost anything, but definately go with an open mind. The Outback will take you in with open arms.

In 2006 I made a 2600KM solo bicycle tour from Queensland's Sunshine Coast to Ballarat near my home of Melbourne, where I promoted the NGO WaterAid Australia along the way. This ride was in preparation for my proposed Bicycle Touring the World for Sustainability: Cape to Cape Trek - refere to Home Page for more info.

Recently I published a short book: The Outback Bicycle Diaries. It a travelogue about my 2002 journey to Darwin. It is for sale as a PDF Download from my web site www.cape2cape.info

Pros and Cons
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  • In a nutshell:Loads of Space
  • Last visit to Australia: Jan 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (14)

Comments (14)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jun 9, 2007 at 11:46 PM

    Sean, your stories are superb! I felt like going there... Great experience...

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2007 at 4:50 AM

    What a trip! Very well presented and photographed - but better you than me! :-) Still, the tips on coffee and beer are universally valuable. :-))

  • bijo69's Profile Photo
    Oct 14, 2006 at 10:09 AM

    Great write-up! Must have been an awesome experience to croos the outback by bike.

  • pepples46's Profile Photo
    Aug 5, 2006 at 8:16 PM

    awesome reading about your journey, I am getting convinced its quite a good idea paddling around OZ.and you made very good pix. a Kea got my sandwich:-)

  • King_Golo's Profile Photo
    May 24, 2006 at 10:47 AM

    great story about your outback adventures!!! if i knew how to change a flat tyre, i'd join you... :)

  • ludogatto's Profile Photo
    Jun 7, 2005 at 1:46 PM

    this pics is gorgeouse! I want the dog!

  • Pablos_new's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2005 at 11:37 PM

    Great! I love those wild tips!

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2005 at 2:04 PM

    What an adventure! Again, great picts! My husband is very much into cycling. When our 2006 Australian trip comes up, I'll go back to your pages to check on bicycling down-under!

  • BerniShand's Profile Photo
    Jun 28, 2004 at 10:25 AM

    an excellent page, with really well written tips l am trying to plan a trip to Australia, buy its wastness is daunting

  • Jun 9, 2004 at 6:41 AM

    Sean , nice page, tips and phtographs.

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