Whether you’re an off-road expert or a 4WD newbie seeking a challenge, the Goog’s Track in South Australia is a worthy notch to add to any adventurer’s belt. Stretching from the Eyre Peninsula coastline to the isolated outback, we absolutely loved our experience of this fun dune-filled adventure.
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The Goog’s Track is a scenic 4WD alternative to bitumen highways from the South Australia coast to the outback. It starts from Ceduna, near the Great Australian Bight on the eastern side of the Nullarbor and runs 154 kilometres north to the Transcontinental Railroad west of Tarcoola. Winding through traditional Wirangu lands via the Yumbarra Conservation Park and Yellabinna Regional Reserve, it also crosses the Dingo Fence.
The track was envisioned and forged by Aussie bushie John Denton, nicknamed “Goog” in his youth because he sold eggs for his mum. Completed in 1976, the track took more than three years of dedicated work by Goog and his family and friends, including his son Martin “Dinger” who was tragically killed in a car accident in his late twenties. A memorial to Dinger and Goog, who died in 1996, stands on the track.
Although the winding track is a marvel in itself, keep your eyes open to spot endangered mallee fowls and sandhill dunnarts, as well as kangaroos, wombats, dingoes and even thorny devils.
For the most part, the Goog’s Track comprises a narrow single-lane path which is mostly sand driving and includes traversing around 360 dunes, some as high as 25 metres. For variety, there are also occasional rocky parts and even a clay pan to cover.
While not particularly technical, the conditions mean that high clearance 4WDs need only apply. Sturdy off-road camper trailers should be able to manage, but we’d recommend against taking a caravan. The north-south run is considered more difficult due to the steeper northern dune faces.
By far the trickiest driving for us was north of Mount Finke where the going became extremely bumpy. All throughout the track, but most particularly in this area, we could see clear signs in the form of deep ruts indicating previous travellers either hadn’t lowered their tyre pressure appropriately or had driven too quickly.
See and do
Although the Goog’s Track can technically be completed in one long day, we spent three days and two nights on it, which allowed for shorter driving days and gave us plenty of time to take in the sights.
If undertaking the more commonly travelled south-north route, your first day will be a pleasant introduction to the track and cover the easiest terrain through open country and low dunes. Pay your respects at Goog’s and Dinger’s memorial before heading east to Goog’s Lakes, which are a series of salt lakes (well and truly devoid of water at the time of our visit). The signs asking people to respect the cultural sensitivity of the area are clear, so gaze to your heart’s content but don’t add to the tyre tracks marring this beautiful landscape.
Camping at the lakes is a real highlight. It was while gazing up at the thick blanket of stars that we could truly appreciate the kind of stillness that can only be experienced when you’re far, far away from civilisation. We were also lucky enough to receive a visit from a curious and entirely unafraid beaded gecko, who stared boldly at us for more than half an hour as we gazed back in fascination.
On day two you will relish dune climbs galore and a red sand track snaking into the sandhills further than your eye can see. Up and down, up and down you’ll go, quite possibly encountering no other vehicle all day. Like us, you might experience torrential afternoon rain despite clear skies being forecast. The Mount Finke campsite is a good place to overnight and offers a wide choice of spots.
On day three you can tackle the Mount Finke walk. A reasonably short but steep uphill climb without any marked trail, the top of the first hill offers a great view and even has reception if you feel the burning desire to reconnect to the world. Follow the ridge to the second mountain and you’ll be atop Mount Finke where you can truly soak in the enormity of the drive that you’ve undertaken.
Leaving Mount Finke, your day three drive will pass through a clay pan. From here things might get bumpy, so make sure your vehicle is well packed. You’ll know you’re at the end of the track when you hit the Transcontinental Railway. Take the chance to inflate your tyres, keeping in mind there’s still plenty of corrugations between you and bitumen.
We recommend heading to the tiny settlement of Kingoonya where you can have a cold beer, a pub meal and even free camp at the town campground which offers flushing toilets and supplied firewood. From here you’re not far off the Stuart Highway.
Due to its remote location, travelling Goog’s Track is an adventure most people will need to plan for. You’ll want at least a week to cover the track and surrounding areas – more if you need to factor in a long drive to and from your hometown. Adelaide, the closest major city, is approximately 800 kilometres to the east. Direct access to the track from the south is via Kalanbi Road in Ceduna. You’ll find there’s plenty to see and do on the Eyre. Before completing Goog’s Track, you can enjoy amazing camping at Whyalla, shark cage diving at Port Lincoln, surfing at Cactus Beach or indulge in local seafood at one of the many beautiful coastal towns.
From the north, access to the track is via Tarcoola Road, west of the Stuart Highway. If coming from Central Australia, you might want to include a stop at Coober Pedy to search for opals. Or, if making your way from the eastern or western states, you might travel via Port Augusta, which is the meeting point of the Stuart, Eyre and Augusta highways.
The Goog’s is also a worthy trial for your vehicle if you’re planning to cross the Simpson Desert and its 1000+dunes.
Equipment and supplies
We recommend anyone contemplating the Goog’s Track should have some sand driving experience along with basic recovery know-how and equipment including Maxtrax, shovel, snatch straps and an air compressor. After researching, we lowered our tyre pressure to 14 PSI and completed the track in high range 4WD without one bogging.
You’ll need to take enough fuel, water, food and supplies to get you through, especially if you’re heading into the isolated outback. We’d recommend a week’s worth to be on the safe side. The closest fuel to the north end of the track is at the tiny settlement of Kingoonya. Those needing a supermarket will need to head even further, as far north as Coober Pedy or south to Port Augusta.
We’d also recommend a UHF radio (tune into channel 18) and a vehicle flag, although this isn’t a requirement of the track. Toilet facilities are available at the formal campgrounds at Goog’s Lakes but you’ll need to have your own arrangements in place for the rest of the track. Please don’t leave toilet paper behind!
Open all year round; it is recommended travellers tackle the Goog’s Track in dry winter weather. Not only will you avoid the heat and flies that plague the warmer months, but firmer sand will minimise the likelihood of bogging. Be sure to leave your travel plan with reliable people if you undertake the track in summer. The only reception is at the top of Mount Finke, so don’t rely on mobile coverage.
While Goog’s Track can be traversed at no cost, a permit is required to camp in the Yumbarra Conservation Park and Yellabinna Regional Reserve. At the time of our travels in 2018, these permits cost $12 per vehicle per night and could be purchased online at the National Parks South Australia website or in person at the Ceduna Tourist Information Centre.
We highly recommend anyone thinking about undertaking this adventure visit ‘The Goog’s Track’ Facebook page in the lead up to their journey. A wealth of information and knowledge, it’s also regularly frequented by Jenny Denton Price who is the late Goog’s wife and author of ‘My Memories of Pushing the Goog’s Track’.