Things to see in Central Australia
Mt Dare Hotel
Mt Dare Hotel
The Central Australian region has much to offer and experience.

Simpson Desert

Covering approximately 150,000 sq kms, a system of parallel red sand dunes align NNW/SSE.

Dr Cecil Madigan commenced an expedition across the Simpson Desert in 1929 by a Westland Wapiti aircraft that was supplied by the Royal Australian Air Force. Photo's where taken every five minutes by a hand held camera and a vertical camera.

The Simpson Desert was named after Allen Simpson who was then the President of the S.A. Branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (1925-1930)

Madigan, along with a party of Scientists crossed the Simpson Desert in May 1939, 19 Camels carried all of their supplies from Andado to Birdsville. The Madigan Line is marked on some maps, but is not a formed track and is seldom used.

Dr Reg Sprigg was the first person to drive a vehicle across the Simpson Desert from Mt Dare to Birdsville, in September 1962. He and his company (Geosurveys) did much of the preliminary exploration work for oil drilling. A number of companies have created a network of seismic tracks across the Simpson of which we drive on today, for without these tracks the Desert would not be so accessible.

In 1966 the Leyland Brothers crossed the Desert in 2 Land Rovers from Andado to Birdsville. They returned in 1970 to cross it again on 3 wheeled motorcycles, this time from Dalhousie to Birdsville. The 1970's was the beginning of tourism with Rex Ellis of Transcontinental Safaris leading the first commercial tour across the Desert with the ABC television series "A Big Country".

In January 1986 a footrace was organized between Tony Raferty and Ron Grant, the 373 km race started at Alka Seltza bore and finished at Birdsville. Running well into the night to avoid the 47 Deg Summer temperatures Grant won arriving in 3 days 17 hours and 55 minutes, Raferty arrived some 10 hours later. Both runners admitted that the Desert is a dangerous place in Summer.

The Simpson Desert Cycle Challenge held every year in October, was first held in 1987. It starts at Purni Bore and finishes in Birdsville covering 550 km in just 5 days. The event mostly travels along the Rig Road but it was first intended to be held along the French Line but it was deemed to be too difficult.


A Desert Parks Pass is required to cross the Simpson Desert.

The cost for a "Desert Parks Pass" is $150 per vehicle; this is valid for one year and can be used for all Desert Parks in South Australia, they can be renewed at a discounted rate for an additional 3 years consecutively. The new 2013 Desert Parks Pass has been updated to include more colour illustrations, information and Simpson Desert Maps.  This is now a smaller A-5 version and isn't as bulky as the previous version and it still contains the maps.

Mt Dare - Witjira National Park

Witjira National Park - derived from the Lower Southern Arrernte language referring to a paperbark tree (Melaleuca glomerata) that is found around many of the springs at Dalhousie.

Witjira N.P includes one of Australia's largest artesian springs. (Dalhousie Springs)

wood fires of any kind are now prohibited within the witjira National Park, this includes the Dalhousie Springs, 3 O'clock Creek and Purni Bore.  Camp fires are still permitted at the Mt Dare Hotel Camp Ground.

The pastoral property of Mt Dare station was purchased by the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife in 1984. It covered 7770km2, it was acquired to protect and rehabilitate Dalhousie Springs.

Mt Dare Hotel lease is 400km2, now owned and operated as a tourist destination by David and Melissa Cox.

July 2003 Mt Dare Bird List (within 2 kms)

Black Shouldered Kite
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo
White-winged Triller
Whistling Kite
Red-backed Kingfisher
White Breasted Wood Swallow
Brown Falcon
Variegated Fairy-Wren
Black-faced Wood Swallow
Australian Hobby
White-winged Fairy-Wren
Pied Butcherbird
Nankeen Kestrel
Southern Whiteface
Australian Magpie
Crested Pigeon
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Australian Raven
White-plumed Honeyeater
Richard's Pipit
Rufous Whistler
Zebra Finch
Little Corella
Magpie Lark
Welcome Swallow
Willie Wagtail
Tree Martin
Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike
Rufous Song Lark
Australian Bustard
Spotted Harrier
Brown Song Lark   
Diamond Dove

Purnie Bore

This bore was drilled by the French Petroleum Company in its exploration for oil in 1963, the water was used to build the Rig road and other tracks.  it was capped but that rusted away allowing it to flow at 18 litres per second (1.5 million litres per day). The water temperature is near boiling as it leaves the bore head and cools as it flows to create an artificial wetland.

In 1987 the Bore was capped again to control the flow, reducing it considerably to approximately 4 litres per second, (432,000 litres per Day) for environmental reasons. This still maintains the wetland that many animals and birds rely upon to survive.

Over 50 bird species have been recorded at Purnie Bore. Some of the most common are:

Australian Shelduck
White-backed Swallow
Pacific Black Duck
Willie Wagtail
Wedge-Tailed Eagle
White-winged fairy-Wren
Purple Swamphen
Singing Honeyeater
Crested Pigeon
Zebra Finch
Australian Magpie-Lark
Rainbow Bee Eater
Australian Magpie

The camel (camelus dromedaries) is a free ranging and common inhabitant of the deserts of Central and Western Australia; where it has by far adapted to life in the desert, it has enough fat reserves in its hump to sustain itself for months.


The water is not suitable for human consumption but can be used for washing dishes. There is a long-drop toilet and a shower that uses hot water straight from the bore (Allow shower to run for 10 to 15 min to get hot water) and a trough (laundry sink).

French Line

In 1963/4 the French Petroleum Company constructed the first major access into the Simpson Desert ? so called the "French Line"; they bulldozed a line as straight as a ruler from a point east of Dalhousie Springs to Poeppel Corner. It is still one of the major desert routes linked to Birdsville by the QAA Line.

This route is the most difficult track across the Simpson Desert but is commonly used by the adventurous 4WD enthusiast.

Both the French Line and the QAA Line have deteriorated somewhat in the last few years, mostly due to some vehicles failing to reduce their tyre pressure to a level suitable for sand (18-20psi).

Vehicles towing camper trailers also contribute; this has caused bad corrugations and rutting of the sand dunes making it a very slow trip - (15/20 km/hour)

It is not advised to tow trailers across the Simpson Desert, it is very demanding on the vehicle and the trailer.

Allow 3 to 4 days for crossing.


Animals found throughout the desert:

Wedge-Tailed Eagles
Brown Falcons
Zebra Finches
The Australian Bustard

Rig Road

The Rig Road is about 250 km longer than the French Line but with equally impressive sand dunes it is the easiest crossing.

The track was built to carry fully loaded semi-trailers. Some of the dunes have been cut through and the road has been surfaced with clay, but it has deteriorated over the years and sand has blown over the road in some places.

A single Coolabah tree has been given the name "Lone Gum Tree" which is found on the Rig Road, at the end of the Erabena track. Its origin in this part of the Desert is unknown - it's worth a visit.


Poeppel Corner

Borders South Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory.

Surveyor - Augustus Poeppel.

Augustus Poeppel started the QLD-SA Border Survey in 1878. Timber from the Waddi tree (Acacia Peuce) was used as mile posts.

The position of the first post was located in Lake Poeppel a few hundred metres from where is stands now, the reason for the moving of the post was because Poeppel?s surveying chain stretched resulting in an error of that distance of the present position.

Larry Wells was to re-survey the border from near Birdsville. He started in January 1884 and he relocated the peg in February close to where it is now.

The original Peg/Post was removed by Reg Sprigg during his survey of the Simpson Desert during the 1960's and replaced it with the present concrete post. The original was taken to Adelaide for preservation the post is now on display in the State Library of South Australia. Some of the original mile posts still stand from the Poeppel survey.


QAA Line

The QAA line was originally part of an oil survey line used for access by oil drilling crews travelling between Birdsville and Poeppel Corner. It is no longer maintained. Deviations have been made around some of the larger dunes but a 4WD with lowered tyre pressures is still necessary.


Big Red (Nappanerica)

Big Red is the highest sand dune in the southern hemisphere it is 90m high. There is a bypass track around this giant dune because in the warmer weather there is little chance of crossing it safely.

Dalhousie Springs

R.R Knuckey discovered the springs in 1870. He at first named them after Lady Edith Fergusson the wife of the Governor of S.A, Sir James Fergusson. They were named "Lady Edith Springs" in December 1870, Lady Edith wrote back to Knuckey and thanked him, but asked to have the name changed to her family name - Dalhousie and that's how it has remained.

Christopher Giles and A.T. Woods are also explorers/surveyors claiming "to discover Dalhousie".

The main pool is surrounded by trees, making it a picturesque area with an abundance of bird life; there are also several species of fish that live in the 30-40 degree water that comes from the Great Artesian Basin.

A swim in the warm water is a great way to relax after spending many hours in the 4wd.

Camping is available, but there is no shade and if windy it can be very dusty. In the warmer weather mossies are plentiful at night, if using Mosquito coils or candles - remember to extinguish them before going to bed, and DO NOT hang them on or use them inside your tent.

The Desert Parks Bulletin can be found by clicking on the link below;

70 Kilometres south, of Mt Dare Hotel. Approximately 1 ¼ hours travelling, longer if you are towing.

70 Kilometres west from Purnie Bore.

SERVICES AT DALHOUSIE SPRINGS: ranger station, camping, showers, rubish dumps, toilets and a public telephone (PHONE CARD ONLY).

A Desert Parks Pass or Day Pass is required to stay at Dalhousie Springs.

The cost of a "Desert Parks Pass" is $150 per vehicle; This Pass allows access to many of SA's Desert Parks including the Simpson Desert.  It is valid for one year and can be renewed for $90 per year consecutively.

The cost for an "Entry Pass/" is $10 per vehicle and camping is an aditional $18 per day per day, this is for for Dalhousie Springs only.

Dalhousie Ruins

Heading west from Dalhousie Springs, just 12km is the Dalhousie Ruins on the Pedirka track.

You are standing at the ruins; the hills roll around you for as far as the eye can see, the 100 year old Date Palms that surround you are rustling gently in the breeze, the cattle pens that stand adjacent to the old stone buildings are slowly becoming more weather beaten as the years pass.

Here you’ll see the remains of the residence/homestead, the stockman’s quarters and the blacksmiths building and over in the far corner is a lonely un-named grave, slightly built up with rock and stone bearing a single cross with no name.

The first lease of Dalhousie was in 1872, it was re-sold numerous times and eventually being abandoned in 1925 when cattle were being rationalised, a new homestead was constructed and called Mt Dare in 1933.

It is believed to have gained its name from Mount Daer 163m high and just over the border in Northern Territory. It was run by the Lowe Family for over half a century, before being sold and taken over in 1984 by the Department for Environment and Heritage and was dedicated as ‘Witjira National Park.’

Phil and Rhonda Hellier were given the first lease opportunity to run Mt Dare Homestead as a facility to the traveller. Now new owners – David and Melissa Cox have have negotiated to purchase the lease and can offer reliable services.


Old Andado

Meaning - ‘Stone-Knife’.

Old Andado is 102 kilometres north of the Mt Dare Hotel and approximately 2 ¼ hours drive, depending on the track conditions. After passing through the Northern Territory Border gate and entering Andado cattle station, you will drive for a while in amongst a windy tree-lined narrow track; this is the Finke river flood plain, the scenery changes suddenly as you leave this forest like area before coming out into sand dune country with very few trees. The landscape will quickly change from one extreme to the other.
The McDill Brothers took the first lease on the property in the early 1900’s; the homestead was eventually built in the 1920’s.

Step back into time with an overnight stop at this marvellous place now owned by relatives of Mrs Molly Clark, now deceased. The homestead has the same periodic charm as the day it was moved into by Molly and her late husband Mac Clark back in the 1950’s.

Molly took a nursing job at Mungeranie Station in 1944 where she met ‘Mac’ Clark who worked at the station as a ringer, and they became married.

In 1955, they were asked to manage Andado Station and built a new homestead 18kms west of the old H.S.

In 1978 Mac Clark suffered a heart attack whilst flying in an aeroplane and was forced into an emergency landing, while suffering no injuries in the crash he passed away the following week. The Mac Clark Acacia Reserve protects a grove of Waddy Trees (acacia Peuce) in his memory.

Molly sold the station in 1984 after the Federal Governments insistence on eradicating Brucellosis and TB on all cattle in the north, forcing her stock to be destroyed.

In 1986 Molly moved back to the old homestead and now it remains as a tourist destination.

SERVICES AT OLD ANDADO: Camping is available with showers and toilets.

Rooms are also available – please phone first on: (08) 8956 0812.

Mac Clark Acacia Peuce Conservation Reserve

Acacia Peuce (Waddy Tree) is a tall (sometimes up to 17 metres high), very hard wood, extremely long lived tree, some could be over 500 years old.

Peuce is a Greek word for ‘Pine’.

Their Locations are restricted to three widely separated areas: At Andado, the other two locations are near Birdsville and Boulia in QLD.

The timber was used for mile posts by surveyor Augustus Poeppel in 1880 when he surveyed the borders of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory in the Simpson Desert, hence being named ‘Poeppel Corner’.

Mac Clark Acacia Peuce Conservation Reserve is named in memory of the late Mac Clarke (see Old Andado for more information)


Andado Station

Andado is a cattle station, approximately 10,850km2, it is the largest privately owned station in Australia.


Lambert Centre

The Lambert Centre is the Geographical Centre of Australia; named after Dr. Bruce Phillip Lambert, it is accessible by 4WD only.

The Lambert Centre turn off is just 22 km from Finke, on the Kulgera Rd; the slow, sandy and winding track of 12 km will take about 30 min each way.

It is the centre of gravity of mainland Australia and is described, “if placed it on a pin, it would balance”. There is an Australian flag on a pole that resembles parliament house along with a visitor’s book.

Camping is allowed, please keep this area clean, and take your rubbish with you. There is a long drop toilet, look after it as no-one maintains it.


Finke (Aputula)

Established in 1929.
Visitors to Finke will see a few reminders of its railway heritage of when the ‘Ghan’ used to run through. The standard gauge line was introduced in 1980 and laid in new location 130 km west, free from flood-prone areas. After the closure of the old line all the workers and their families left Finke.

It is now an Aboriginal community called Aputula. The Lower Aranda people and their descendants live in Finke and have taken over the responsibilities of the small town.

No alcohol may be bought into the town or within its boundaries. Finke is an alcohol restricted area.

SERVICES AT FINKE: There are limited services and facilities available here for travellers. The general store with fuel has limited hours and is not open weekends or public holidays.

Finke River

The was named by John McDouall Stuart in 1860 after his friend ‘William Finke Esq.’ of Adelaide.

The river is claimed to be the worlds oldest because it has been running in its present course for longer than any other river. In the past the Finke ran continuously; now it only flows once a year and then not to its full length. The largest recorded flow was in 1974 when the Finke ran for 9 months.


Birdsville originated as a depot for surveyors working in the Simpson Desert.

E.A.Burt was the first to open a store there and it was locally known as Burtsville. E.A.Burt objected to the name which was then subsequently changed to Birdsville.

Robert Frew owned the first Hotel, by the 1890’s the town had 3 Hotels, 3 General Stores, 2 Blacksmith Shops, a school and a population of approximately 270 people. The town is renowned for the Birdsville Races that are held on the first full weekend in September, you can find Dirty Pierre there and with his famous T-shirts and other comical merchandise the races raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and other charities. The last remaining pub is the ‘Birdsville Hotel’.

SERVICES AT BIRDSVILLE: Most services are available;

Caravan Park with cabins - (07) 4656 3214

Hotel with rooms and restaurant - (07) 4656 3244

Service Station and supermarket - (07) 4656 3226

Police - (07) 4656 3220

Charlotte Waters/New Crown Station

Charlotte Waters is 41 kilometres to the north of Mt Dare Hotel heading towards New Crown Station, on the Mt Dare-Finke Road.

Two surveyors R.R Knuckey and McMinn were working on the Overland Telegraph Line when they discovered the waterhole in January 1871. They named the campsite for the repeater station after ‘Lady Charlotte Bacon’ and it became Charlotte Waters. It was a suitable location for the repeater station and a building was constructed in December of 1871. The building had the facilities for a store, station masters residence and a post office. There also once stood buildings for labourers, linesmen and operators, including a Police Station located nearby.

When the repeater station at Charlotte Waters was closed it was abandoned, the buildings where sold to New Crown Station where the stone was used to build their Homestead.

All that is left of the Repeater Station that was constructed in the 1870’s are some rubbly remains on the side of the track.

New Crown Homestead is 70 kilometres North West of the Mt Dare Hotel and is a cattle station.


Bloods Creek Bore

In 1931 Albert (Ted) Colson set himself up as a pastoralist on the abandoned station of Bloods Creek near Abminga.

On an expedition, Colson left Bloods Creek on the afternoon of 26th May 1936. Accompanied by an Aboriginal man Peter Ains the cameleer and five camels; He hoped to locate Poeppel’s Corner post and then follow the border mile posts’ on to Birdsville.

He was unable to find the corner post on his way to Birdsville; he thought the marker must have rotted away or been buried by sand. He found a mile post which had ‘182’ marked on it (which meant 182 miles or 291 kms) west of Haddon Corner, so the corner post was just under 10 km west of them and had been past without being seen. On his was back from Birdsville he located it on the eastern side of Lake Poeppel. Colson was the first European to visit the border post in 53 years. They had only bypassed the post on their way east by only 300 metres. The expedition travelled more than 900 km in just under 36 days.


Abminga was a rail siding for the Old Ghan line; west of Mt Dare. A small siding set in a featureless gibber plain on the western margin of the Simpson Desert.

Members of a scientific party left Adelaide on the 25th of May, 1939 by rail for Abminga, lead by Cecil Madigan and accompanying him was Colonel Thomas, the manager of the ABC who was organising national radio Broadcasts. Tom Kruse boarded the train with a vehicle at Hawker and the party arrived at Abminga on 27th May, where they were met by Fred Sharpe from Andado and Mr Lowe from Dalhousie. They drove up to Charlotte Waters where the deserted telegraph station was, and met up with a camel train of 19. A radio message was broadcasted over the ABC, stating that the expedition was ‘ready to go’. This was the beginning of one of Madigan’s trip across the Simpson Desert and is now called the Madigan Line.


This is a beautiful tree-lined waterhole in the middle of Hamilton Station. A scattering of stony ruins is the only evidence left of a homestead that was on the Eringa Lease, with the timber Homestead being relocated to its current location (Hamilton homestead) in the 1980’s; Sir Sidney Kidman purchased the Eringa lease in 1899 and the height of his career Kidman controlled and had interests in about 150 stations, totalling over 400,000 sq km.

Old Ambalindum Homestead

Located in the Eastern MacDonnel Ranges on the Binns track, Old Ambalindum Homestead originally dates back to the early 1900's and has been recently renovated, it provides comfortable air conditioned accommodation for up to 10 people.  There is also a camping ground with power, water and a camp kitchen.

There are 100's of km of private roads and tracksto offer rare oppertunities for the 4wd enthusiast.  Rugged ranges to rolling plains, deep gorges and river crossings (nearly always dry), track conditions vary and will test your 4wding skills, detailed maps are available upon arrival.  For the fit there are mountain bike and walking trails. or (08) 8956 9993.



Within Australia: (08) 8670 7835
International: 61-8-8670 7835

PMB 267
Alice Springs
NT 0872

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.