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Snapshots of Some Arid Areas of Australia - Port Augusta to Andamooka

By Edited Jan 19, 2015 5 6

As you drive north along the Stuart Highway, you will notice the change in the countryside from shrubs to the natural bushes and trees and then it changes to the more dry arid areas.

They say that Australia severed its link with Antarctica 45 million years ago and started moving north. The ground, continually changes over these years from a green forestland, to a very arid continent.

With an annual rainfall of 212 mm per year means that lack of water makes life hard for flora, animals, and people to survive. Water is a very precious commodity in these areas, so do not waste a drop.

View of the Flinders Rangers in Australia

The backdrop on this drive takes in magnificent views of the Flinders Rangers. Travelers can camp at any of the rest areas along this Highway. Mostly on hill tops, so keep in mind the wind is very strong for camping at night, although the view is spectacular.

The Range View rest area is one of these where you can stop and stretch your legs and take in a bit of history at the same time. The view encompasses the Gibber plains covered with Chenopods or more commonly known as Saltbush or Bluebush. People grow these in most arid regions for stock fodder also these plants have fire-retardant properties because of their high salt content. Australia also grows chenopods commercially for the floral industry.

Saltbush grown for fodder

The Western Myall with yellow Wattle flowers appear around August and provides edible seeds, for bush tucker from their 3 cm flat seed pods. Its timber makes great fence posts for the farmers which they use for wood-turning. Some of these trees may live for 1,000 years.

The Range view rest area is on the Kootaberra Station. Their sheep graze on the saltbush and many other native grasses. One of Australia’s beautiful wildflowers, the Sturt Pea even grows on this property occasionally, along with the Everlasting daisy and Blue Geranium.

Australian Frilled Lizard

Animals often seen in this environment include the Red and Grey Kangaroo, Mulga or King Brown and Western Brown snakes. Lizards include the Frilled, Goanna, and Bearded Dragon. Birds include the Wood swallows, Mulga Parrots, Major Mitchell, and the majestic Wedge tailed Eagles, Australian Kestrel and Black Shouldered Kites.

Black shouldered kite



You will often see the feral animals like foxes, rabbits, stray cats and wild goats. Beware of cattle and Kangaroos crossing the road when travelling along this highway as many stations do not fence their properties.

Cattle cause road hazards
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Pimba rest area

The next town site you arrive at is Pimba, the crossroad for tourists on their way to Andamooka or branching off on the road to Alice Springs. Pimba is very small with less than forty residents. Thousands of tourists stop here every day for fuel and refreshments on their travels.

This was originally a workers camp for the transcontinental railways of Western Australia. Pimba grew when they established the Woomera village. Now they have a small hotel, with a fuel station and supply a large area for campers to stay over night with hot showers and toilet facilities.


Australian sub rocket at Woomera

Australian Sub Rocket

Six kilometres further down the road you will come to Woomera the best place to visit first is the Tourist Center. If not open, then park your vehicle, grab your camera and take a leisurely walk around the many exhibits of Rockets, missiles and planes.

Rocket range - First established in 1947 for testing their rockets, weapons and missiles as a joint British and Australian project.


Rocket at Woomera

Rocket at Woomera


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Roxby Downs

The next town you come to is Roxby Downs, built in 1987 with a population of 4000 workers.

Things to see:

Make time to visit the giant Olympic Dam Mine, which is the fourth largest copper reserve and the single largest uranium reserve. The dam, situated 9 km north of the Roxby downs town center.
Enjoy the Emu walk


We did not stop here because we could not find anywhere to park near the shopping centre with our caravan and vehicle. Whenever this happens we give that town a miss and stop in towns that provide facilities for caravan parking. Although I do understand it is a mining not a tourist town.


Opal Diggings at Andamooka

Opal Diggings at Andamooka

Andamooka is about 35 km further and is so different to the normal towns in Australia, as you drive in you will see how the settlement is spread out. Population will vary from time to time depending on the season, usually about 500. Most of the population were attracted with the hope of striking it rich by finding opals.

These days the settlement is on both sides of the creek bed, littered with underground honeycomb diggings throughout the area. The town has made a feature of some of the old miner’s shacks, still full of their old tools, cooking utensils and other interesting items. These are well worth a look to gain a better understanding of how they lived in those days.

Asolams House

If you do not have the time to try your hand at fosicking or noodling (looking for opals) then you can buy them directly from the locals or the tourist center.

There is an area for campers to stop for a few days for a small fee, near the children’s playground.

If you enjoyed this part of the trip then why not continue up the Stuart Highway by going back to Pimba and going up to Uluru or Alice Springs.


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Jan 20, 2015 3:45am
Loved your photos! This sounds like a very interesting trip, thanks for sharing. I would love to visit Australia someday.
Jan 20, 2015 3:12pm
Thanks Leigh, Australia may look small but it is a very big place to see. We have been around twice pluswe have done lots of criss crossing every where and still only skimmed the surface. Definitely a great place to visit, for at least a year.
Apr 14, 2015 2:13pm
A friend of mine took a teaching job in Australia and told me, "Sometimes, you open your door and there, right in front of you is a brown snake or a kangaroo (or something)." Guess you have to be mindful of the wildlife at all times.

Thanks for the virtual tour.
Apr 14, 2015 7:57pm
Thanks Rose for reading, no it is not really that bad. Although when traveling in the real outback or any bush areas you need to be aware that you are in their territory. In about 12 years of traveling we have only seen a few snakes. One our dog made us aware of as it was curled around our water pipes under our caravan. Not something I want to have happen again. But on the whole I think I would trust being in the bush rather than in the ocean on a boat with sharks all around me. Their bite is much bigger. thanks again.
Apr 28, 2015 9:59am
You created the scene so well - as good as going there! Thanks for the lovely illustrations and movies to add the local flavour. We had a great time in Australia a few years ago in a camper van and loved it. Uluru was my favourite. We spent the night in tents on a special excursion.
Apr 30, 2015 4:23am
Thanks Yindee, Australia is a lot bigger than it looks on the map. And so many hundreds of kilometers in between out back towns. So much so it has caught many travelers not prepared for the heat or floods. So much to see all over.
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  1. wikipedia "Roxby downs South Australia." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roxby_Downs,_South_Australia. 2014.
  2. "Arid Lands Botanical Gardens." Australian Arid Lands Botanical Gardens. 12/01/2015 <Web >

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