The Great Victoria Desert is one of Australia’s hidden treasures – a vast sand dune and sandplain desert – the largest in Australia. Check out this Nullarbor expedition!
Its area is shared equally by the States of South and Western Australia, north of the Nullarbor Plain and south of the Musgrave Ranges, and is bounded on the west by Laverton and the goldfields and to the east by Mabel Creek Station due west of Coober Pedy and the Stuart Highway.
The desert was named after Queen Victoria by the explorer Ernest Giles in 1875. Its dunes trend east-west, and aside from the major palaeo-drainage basin at Serpentine Lakes it has no major watercourses. Save for a few vehicle tracks, this vast wilderness is virtually untouched by man. The international significance of the Unnamed Conservation Park that lies on the South Australian side of the desert was recognised in 1977 when it was proclaimed a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is one of the largest arid zone biospheres in the world.
Sandplains and dunefields are the dominant landforms, forming the southern part of the anticyclonic whorl of dunes that include the Simpson and Great Sandy Deserts. The dunes are longitudinal, from 5-20 metres in height and can run for up to 100kms. Salt lakes are another feature of the desert, the best known are the Serpentine Lakes, other lake systems are the Nurrari and Wyola Lakes, Lakes Maurice and Bring, and Plumridge Lakes and Yeo Lakes in Western Australia. To the south is the vast limestone Nullarbor Plain and to the south-east Tietkins Plain and the Ooldea dunefields.
This expedition travels across an extraordinary diversity of landscapes and vegetation, the scenery changing constantly. Both the Nullarbor and the Great Victoria Desert are veritable Botanic Gardens teeming with life. Departing Coober Pedy, (which is serviced daily by Rex Air from Adelaide) we travel west on the famed Anne Beadell Highway through Aboriginal Land to Tallaringa Nature Reserve.
We visit once top-secret ground zero at Emu Field, the site of the first atomic tests on Australian soil. We cross the GVD along the Anne Beadell Highway to Laverton. From the goldfields we return across the northern Nullarbor, crossing expansive and evocative sweeping plains. This program offers an astonishing diversity of landscapes and scenery.
Following station tracks we arrive at the Dog Fence, the world’s longest man made structure. Crossing the fence signifies our arrival in a desert wilderness, with the next settled land close to Laverton in Western Australia. We travel west and camp in the Tallaringa Conservation Park. T
allaringa well was a native well, rediscovered by the explorer Maurice. Len Beadell relocated the well in 1951 using astrofixes to determine Maurice’s original co-ordinates.
We visit ground zero at Totem 1 & 2 atomic sites. We check out Observation Hill where Len Beadell stood with Sir Thomas Penny to observe the first atomic detonation on the Australian mainland.
We visit the camp area and the emu clay pan before heading west to camp amongst beneath casuarinas in limestone country.
On through the desert we enter the Mumungari Conservation Park. We preferred its previous name “The Unnamed Conservation Park”, but who are we to stand in the way of progress. The park is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The vegetation is stunning, with kurrajong, acacias, hakeas and majestic marble gums.
We cross the palaeodrainage basin known as the Serpentine Lakes. We camp on beautiful red clay pans surrounded by native pines. We visit Aboriginal wells, one of Australia’s most extensive Aboriginal stone arrangements, the wreckage of a Goldfields Airways twin-engine Cessna that crash landed in 1993.
We visit Australia’s most remote roadhouse at Ikkurlka, the crossing of the Connie Sue Highway at Neales Junction, and eventually arrive in Laverton in the Western Australian Goldfields.
We will head to Lake Niagara, built by CY O’Conner - the visionary behind the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline.
No visit to the area would be complete without dropping in to the famous Grand Hotel in Kookynie. Built in 1902 it is the quintessential outback pub.
We take a walk around the Kirgella Rocks, scenic granite outcrops. We visit Queen Victoria Springs, named by Ernest Giles and gradually make our way into the Plumridge Lakes Nature Reserve.
The first Europeans to Plumridge Lakes was Ernest Giles party in 1875. The next visitors were the Elder Scientific Exploring Expedition led by David Lindsay. The lakes were eventually named by the explorer Frank Hann in 1908 after one of this travelling companions.
The Plumridge Lakes area was an important region for Sandlewood harvesting from 1930s until 1980s.
These trees love limestone and are indicative that we are gradually approaching the worlds largest limestone plain - the Nullarbor. We cross the Connie Sue Highway, another Len Beadell road and head into country seldom traversed. We drive along old rabbitters tracks through stunning rolling plains.
We are north of the Nullarbor and south of the Great Victoria Desert and there is a wonderful feeling of vastness and remoteness.
There are lots to see and do here. Once a stopover for aeroplanes en route from Adelaide to Perth, there is a historic aircraft hanger, an abandoned meteorological station and numerous buildings.
There is also an automatic meteorite tracking facility. There is also the chance of a shower to wash off the desert dust.
We stop at the township of Cook where there is a shop and small museum and continue on to Watson. We leave the railway and head north towards Marlinga - the field of thunder, where Australia conducted nuclear tests in the 1950s. We will camp at Maralinga Village.
There are some wonderful short walks to be enjoyed in the area.
Tarcoola reputedly has a population of two since the Pub, one of only two iron- clad hotels in South Australia closed. We continue on past Wilgena and Ferguson sidings to Kingoonya, where there is a pub that’s still open.
Kingoonya is reputed to have the widest main street in Australia, but since the railway was rationalised, all there really is left is the pub.From here we travel south past Lake Gairdner and camp along the road to Gawler Ranges National Park.
From Port Augusta we trek south to Adelaide arriving early evening at city hotels and the end of an extraordinary adventure.
Diamantina Touring CompanySince 1988 Diamantina have been running award winning nature based eco tours and expeditions into remote areas of outback Australia.
Our trips feature contemporary fresh Australian cuisine cooked over the open fire and fine Australian table wines.
Our tours visit some of the most spectacular and wild desert locations on the planet including the Canning Stock Route, The Gibson Desert, The Simpson Desert and the Great Sandy Desert.
Travel is in forward seating air conditioned desert equipped land cruisers. Diamantina is fully ATAP accredited and holds advanced eco accreditation.