Fascinating Woomera and the road to Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy dog fence

Crossing New South Wales and South Australia border

Our plan was to spend a night in Port Augusta and then travel to Coober Pedy via Woomera.

As we drove through the outskirts of Flinders Ranges, we were struck by the picturesque scenery. We learned that the ranges were perfect for hiking and 4WD driving and made a mental note to plan a road trip to Flinders Ranges in the future.

We had slight trouble at the state border as the quarantine is very restrictive unlike between Victoria and NSW where no one really makes any fuss. We were asked a few questions and had to surrender onions and potatoes…

We were given a small brochure that would help us check what items were prohibited before crossing borders and save us from disposing of them next time.

Hema - South Australia

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Port Augusta

Port Augusta – first Aboriginal people and dry zone

During our road trip, we made a pit stop in the charming town of Port Augusta. Although we were eager to explore its surroundings and soak in the local culture, time was not on our side as we were already booked in Coober Pedy and had a long journey ahead of us.

Despite the chilly winter weather, with temperatures dropping to a low of 10 degrees at night, we pressed on towards our next destination, Alice Springs.

One noticeable aspect of Port Augusta was the significant presence of Aboriginal people in the town. This was a new experience for us during our trip.

Furthermore, as Port Augusta is located in a dry zone, the consumption of alcohol is restricted due to the prevalent issue of alcohol abuse within the community. To ensure the safety and well-being of the residents, we were asked to show our driving licenses when purchasing alcohol.

Glendambo white cockatoos parrots

Port Augusta – the gate to the Red Center

At Port Augusta, we had to make a decision on whether to continue our journey via Nullarbor Highway to Perth or head up north to Alice Springs and Darwin. As mentioned earlier, we opted to head north and enjoy the beautiful winter in Darwin and its surroundings.

A few interesting facts about Port Augusta:

  • Port Augusta was established in 1852 as a port on the Spencer Gulf, and it is now a major shipping port for the export of grain, minerals, and wool.
  • It is located at the crossroads of Australia, with highways leading in all directions, making it an important transportation hub for the region.
  • Port Augusta is home to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, which showcases plants from the arid regions of Australia.
  • The town has a significant Indigenous population, with around 30% of residents identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
  • Port Augusta has a rich railway history and was once an important stop on the Trans-Australian Railway, which linked the east and west coasts of Australia. Today, it is still an important rail hub, with trains carrying freight and passengers passing through regularly.

After a night at a caravan park, we did some tidying up, including haircuts and washing. The following day, we took a tedious road off Stuart Highway to our next destination.

RAAF Base Woomera

We drove 10 km of the highway and stopped at Woomera for lunch.

Woomera, located in South Australia, is a unique and fascinating place with a rich history. It was originally established as a rocket range during the 1940s and 1950s to test British and Australian military weapons. Today, Woomera serves as a hub for the aerospace and defense industries, attracting visitors from all over the world to witness cutting-edge technology and innovation. Beyond its technological advancements, Woomera also boasts stunning natural landscapes, including the vast desert wilderness and stunning starry skies, making it a must-visit destination for those interested in history, science, and nature.

One interesting fact about Woomera is that the town was artificially created to cater to the operation of the missile testing range. Nowadays, Woomera has only 136 residents and is mainly used as a training facility. It is a small town with a rich history and offers visitors a unique perspective on Australia’s military and technological advancements. 

Woomera rocket
Woomera rocket

One must-visit attraction in Woomera is the Woomera National Aerospace and Missile Park, situated in the heart of the town. This park is home to a range of military artifacts, including a rocket that launched the first Australian satellite into orbit, making it a fascinating destination for history and science enthusiasts alike.

During our visit, the town felt deserted, with few people present. It was a strange feeling to explore such a place alone, but as our journey continued, we realised that we would encounter more destinations like this. Despite the lack of people, the park’s intriguing history and impressive exhibits made it a memorable stop on our trip.

Woomera Missile Park
Woomera Missile Park

We made our way back to the highway and decided to spend the night in Glendambo. It was a fantastic place, with a small roadhouse with two petrol distributors, a hotel, and a caravan park all in one location. For the first time, we felt like city people thrown in the middle of nowhere.

We felt exhausted, but we couldn’t sleep due to the desert atmosphere and the peaceful silence of the night. The caravan park was also the first we encountered on our trip that was entirely set on dirt, with no grass or vegetation in sight, just towering gum trees.

The red dust seemed to be everywhere, and we knew we needed to start getting used to it. Despite the dusty conditions, the night was surprisingly quiet, and we woke up early in the morning to continue our journey towards our first major destination:  Coober Pedy.

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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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