Barnesy’s Travel Tips

Each year, thousands of travellers visit Birdsville to experience the Australian outback. But, it’s important to be aware of how desolate and remote the area is, and how rough the tracks can be. However, if you’re well-equipped and have accurate information about the area, then both the drive and its destination are truly rewarding.

Insurance and Roadside Assist Cover

We cannot advise strongly enough that anyone embarking on an outback trip should invest in the highest available RACQ cover or your state’s equivalent (RACV, NRMA etc). When something goes wrong on an outback road – even something as simple as too many punctured tyres or running out of fuel – recovery and assistance can be expensive. However, if you have the highest RACQ cover, you will be able to easily contact us for help. Your vehicle will be recovered and all resulting costs will be covered including towing, unanticipated accommodation while you wait for the delivery of parts and, in the worst case scenario, the cost of trucking your vehicle to a major city and flying you home. For roughly $250 per year (depending on your provider), we think it’s a bargain and an absolute necessity when travelling. Please note that your cover does not cover breakdowns in the desert as you are not travelling on a gazetted road.

Vehicle Preparation

Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition before you leave home. Ensure that it’s serviced shortly before your trip by a reputable mechanic who is familiar with 4wds. Also, avoid travelling with old or worn-out tyres. Tough, undamaged tyres and a lower-than-usual air pressure is preferable. Always carry one or more spare tyres for both your car and trailer or caravan.

Vehicle accessories like roof racks, bull bars, spare wheel carriers and jerry-can racks can be useful, but make sure they’re supplied and fitted by a reputable manufacturer and not overloaded. We recommend TJM and ARB for all of your 4wd requirements. 

Do not bring everything and the kitchen sink. Please. If your vehicle or trailer is carrying too much weight, you will be much more likely to damage parts, break down, have difficulty climbing sand dunes and ruin your holiday. Dual-cab and extra-cab utes and campers are particularly prone to bending chassis rails if they’re overloaded. This is even more likely if you have air-bag enhanced rear suspension. We see so many cases like this but there’s not much we can do to fix it out here.

Outback Driving Tips

  • Check the road conditions before you leave home, and regularly along the way. See our Road Conditions page for further information.
  • Make sure you are happy with your level of insurance cover. Contact RACQ, or the equivalent in your respective state, for information, assistance and insurance cover. 
  • Think about hiring a satellite phone – there is no mobile phone coverage on most outback roads. In Birdsville, only Telstra and Optus mobile coverage is supported. At the Birdsville Roadhouse we sell phones and mobile credit for both networks, as well as phone cards for phone boxes. 
  • Make sure your trailer is tough and appropriately packed for rough driving. Don’t overload it!
  • If you’re towing a caravan or trailer, cover your rear window with cardboard.
  • Make sure your roof rack is sturdy and carries minimal weight.
  • Carry your fuel in safe fuel containers. We sell approved jerry cans at the Birdsville Roadhouse.
  • Make sure the underneath of your caravan is protected from rock damage.
  • If you’re crossing the Simpson Desert or planning on visiting Big Red, you can purchase a Birdsville 4×4 Club sand flag and Desert Parks Pass from the Birdsville Roadhouse.
  • Be aware of wandering stock and wildlife on all outback roads and tracks, particularly at dawn and dusk. 
  • Slow down and enjoy the scenery! You’re on holiday so there’s no need to rush. Dirt roads can be dangerous and vision can be impaired. We don’t mean to preach but we’ve seen vehicles roll, spin out and hit bumps so hard that it’s caused damage, all because their drivers have been speeding.
  • When passing an oncoming vehicle or passing a slower vehicle on a dirt road, slow down and get off the road almost completely. Otherwise, flying rocks can severely damage your windscreen.

  • Barnes'y knows the desert like the back of his hand.
  • Call the Birdsville Roadhouse for vehicle recoveries around Birdsville. Photo: Peter Barnes
  • Barnes'y getting vehicles out of trouble in the desert. Photo: Peter Barnes
  • Always make sure you carry spare tyres and that your vehicle is well prepared. Photo: Bronwynne Barnes
  • Watch out for road trains when driving on outback roads. Photo: Bronwynne Barnes.
  • Roads can sometimes close due to weather. Make sure you check road conditions before you travel. Photo: Bronwynne Barnes
  • The Birdsville Roadhouse can repair and supply tyres, as well as conduct auto repairs. Photo: Bronwynne Barnes