Painted Desert

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesCoober Pedy
DifficultyDifficulty 2/5
Suitable for4WD AWD Camper Bike 
Distance231.5 km
Minimum Days1
Average Speed77.42 km/hr
Driving Time2 hrs 59 mins
Article By: Member - David O
Page Updated: 2 Feb 2014


Heading north east from the wonderful, if dusty streets of Coober Pedy, along gibber roads through country made famous in the Mad Max movies, a detour via Arckaringa homestead will take you into surely the most spectacular country in South Australia if not the entire outback.

The Painted Desert, just a few kilometres from Arckaringa features fantastic mountainous mesas and formations composed of colourful sands, pebbles and rocks that simply defy description. Photographers and painters will delight in the show of colour at sunset and dawn.

The road via Mt Barry and Arckaringa is far from boring, though it travels through some of the most featureless terrain on earth. The area where the Mad Max movies were shot was chosen because nothing could be seen for 360 degrees.

Here are in fact many interesting things to see along the way including Lollipop Lane and great areas of ground covered in large sheets of gypsum. Interesting geological formations in the Painted Desert and the country between there and Oodnadatta satisfy even the most jaded traveller.

Though it is possible to travel this route in a single day it would be a terrible shame to do so. The roads vary from well formed wide gravel to stony with occasional bulldust holes. The trek is relatively easy going even for 2 wheel drive vehicles but remote so carry sufficient water and spares.

Coober Pedy has all of the facilities of a modern centre, Oodnadatta is a good place to restock or do some repairs if necessary.

How to Use this Trek Note

Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places on each POI page.

If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
  • Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
  • You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
  • If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
  • If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.


Around Coober Pedy and along the tracks to Oodnadatta the terrain is predominantly gibber plains intersected by Coolabah fringed creek bed. The moon like appearance of thee gibber plains were used to great effect in the Mad Max movies. The Painted Desert describes the area of the Arckaringa Hills which are composed of very soft and fragile but highly coloured rock-rock seems too harsh a word to describe these fragile soils.

During the summer months the temperatures may reach 45 to 50 degrees Celsius. Travel in the region between October and March is not recommended due to high temperatures


Coober Pedy
Fourteen year old Willie Hutchison, while searching for water, discovered opal on the 1st February 1915. The worst drought in the Statep@>s history, was responsible for Willies searching on behalf of an Adelaide Gold mining syndicate. Had it not been for the drought, the opal may not have been discovered until many years later.

Lack of water proved to be the main problem for Coober Pedy during itp@>s early history. The discovery of opal at the Eight Mile in 1945 by aboriginal woman Toddy Bryant, was a turning point that helped establish Coober Pedy's future prosperity.

The history of Oodnadatta is intertwined with the history of the great north-south connections, the Overland Telegraph Line and the railway line that came to be known as the Ghan. There is plenty of this history to explore at Oodnadatta and along the Oodnadatta track.


While this is a short trek by Australian standards, visitors should be aware that this is a very remote region. Four wheel drive vehicles are not required to traverse these tracks when dry, but may be necessary following rains. All of these outback treks in remote country require high level of vehicle preparation. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended and you should carry sufficient water for 4 days, at least one spare tyre and tyre repair equipment, as well sufficient fuel.

A UHF Radio with a repeater function will offer some degree of comfort to travellers, as there are numerous repeaters in the area that will allow contact with the outside world in the event of an emergency where reception is available.

This is remote area travelling and preparations for travel should take this into consideration. If your vehicle breaks down or you have some other trouble, stay with your vehicle.

Restocking of supplies is possible at Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta. There is no opportunity to restock along the way. Camping and cabins at Arckaringa homestead would serve as a great base for those opting to stay for a while.


None required.

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel Symbol
4cyl 33 litres4cyl 37 litres4cyl 46 litres
6cyl 36 litres6cyl 50 litres *6cyl 41 litres
8cyl 36 litres8cyl 38 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Oodnadatta Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 86.52km NE
Mean Max. °C37.936.633.728.523.219.919.622.126.630.333.736.3
Mean Min. °C23.022.319.
Mean Rain mm22.932.214.310.912.711.710.08.19.913.913.017.1
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta, Camping and Cabins at Arckaringa homestead 9k from Painted Desert and 137 kilometres from Coober Pedy


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What to See

Download Trek
Save time and download all digital map data for this trek (all places are included in the trek download).
This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.
The following video prepared exclusively for by Member - George Royter will you give some idea of the sights you can expect to see along the Painted Desert trek.

Showing 3 Places

Where to Stay

Download Trek
Save time and download all digital map data for this trek (all places are included in the trek download).
This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.

Showing 1 Places


LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Coober Pedy to Giddi Giddinna Creek40.75 kmNE29° 25 min
Giddi Giddinna Creek to Kempe Rd & Arckaringa Access54.4 kmN36 min
Kempe Rd & Arckaringa Access to Arckaringa43.37 kmNW324° 34 min
Arckaringa to The Painted Desert9.82 kmNE64° 10 min
The Painted Desert to Painted Desert Road & Kempe Road Intersection32.48 kmE80° 29 min
Painted Desert Road & Kempe Road Intersection to Hookey Waterhole43.48 kmNE46° 30 min
Hookey Waterhole to Oodnadatta7.2 kmN17° 5 min
Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta231.5 km  2 hr 59 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.


Nearby ExplorOz Treks

Travel Journals

The following are links to Members' Blogs that contain the words Painted Desert. Creating Blogs is restricted to Members only. Not a Member? Join here.

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