When it comes to offroading, our focus is usually on the scenic rather than the extreme, the spectacular over the technical. We’re about experiencing Australia’s most wonderful places and taking in the diversity of this land, rather than deliberately busting up our vehicles.
That said, we’re certainly not above testing ourselves and our rigs. Anyone who truly sets out to see the best of this country by 4WD will be engaging low range occasionally and should enjoy technical driving when the time comes.
Take a look at five of our favourite technical 4WD tracks from around the country – each set amongst totally different terrain, yet requiring equal measures of competence and confidence to be conquered.
While the Glasshouse Mountains might sound like somewhere to head for a nice family day out, Sunny Coast 4WDers know the Big Red Track is no joke. In fact, it’s one of the toughest tracks you can test your vehicle on in southeast Queensland and vehicle rollovers are a common sight out here.
LOCATION: The track is located just 20km north of Caboolture. Access is via the Bruce Highway and Steve Irwin Way.
ACCESSIBILITY: The Glasshouse Mountains are an hour north of Brisbane, whereas Sunshine Coast residents are right on the doorstep of some of the best 4WDing in the state. Easily accessible for daytrips for most southeast Queensland residents.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 4.5/5. The Big Red track should not be underestimated. This track is for high-clearance vehicles and experienced drivers only. In dry conditions, lifted vehicles shod with mud terrain tyres may manage the track without too much difficulty, however muddy conditions ensure that your recovery gear will be getting repeated use.
The Coffs Harbour area is well known for its serious offroad tracks. What isn’t as well known is that you barely have to leave town to access some of the best tracks in the area. The England Track is only about a five minute drive out of town and is a steep, slippery route that’s a worthy challenge for any vehicle and driver.
LOCATION: Just to the south of Coffs Harbour town centre, access is via Englands Road.
ACCESSIBILITY: The England Track and its surrounding network of trails are easily accessible for daytrips for New South Wales mid north coast residents. Visitors from Sydney or Brisbane should factor in an overnight stay.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 5/5. In dry conditions this slippery track is only suitable for jacked up 4WDs with big mud terrain tyres. After heavy rain even owners of the toughest 4WDs are likely to get well acquainted with their recovery gear.
The iconic offroad route to the tip of Cape York is fraught with hazards but is an absolute must-see. Conditions vary with the weather and season, but it’s always best to be as well prepared as possible when tackling a track as remote as this.
LOCATION: The track begins at Bramwell Junction in Cape York and follows the now defunct telegraph line north for 350km to the tip of the peninsula.
ACCESSIBILITY: The track is very remote – its starting point at Bramwell Junction is located 630km and around 14 hours drive north of Cooktown, the last major town.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 4/5. This track’s difficulty level gets played up as it’s sometimes tackled by less experienced 4WDers. In reality most of the creek crossings are easy during the dry season and the most difficult ones can be avoided. It gains extra difficulty points for remoteness, however.
The most direct route across the Simpson Desert, and one of the country’s great touring tracks. Expect to cross over 1200 red sand dunes and to feel as far removed from civilisation as you’re ever likely to.
LOCATION: The track extends for 437km between Oodnadatta and Birdsville.
ACCESSIBILITY: Very remote. While the crossing itself takes several days, depending on the pace of your convoy, the location itself is very far removed from all population centres.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 4/5. Most of the dunes are not too difficult to tackle, but there’s just so many of them that you’ll need to be cautious to avoid vehicle damage. Extra difficulty points for remoteness.
Tassie’s northwest is known as a tough but beautiful 4WDing destination, and the Sandy Cape Track is a real highlight. Water hazards, jagged rocky ridges and boggy sand and mud sections are all part of the fun – and also the reason that drivers need to be aware that this track is only suitable for high clearance, heavily modified 4WDs and experienced drivers.
LOCATION: The track is located just to the south of Temma, on Tasmania’s northwest coast.
ACCESSIBILITY: The region is 500km from Hobart and can be reached in around six hours drive from the capital.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 5/5. Deep water hazards, treacherous sections of boggy mud and sand as well as steep rocky ridges ensure that this is one seriously challenging track. Save this one until you’ve clocked up plenty of offroad miles and you know your 4WD is up to the task.
WORDS BY PAT WILLIAMS | PICS BY CARLISLE ROGERS