The Birdsville Track is an old droving trail running 517km from Marree in SA to Birdsville, just across the border in Queensland, passing between the Simpson Desert to the west and Sturt Stony Desert to the east. It's one of Australia's classic outback routes, made famous by stockmen in the late 1800s who drove cattle from Queensland's Channel Country to the railway at Marree, from where they were shunted to boats at Port Augusta – about 1000km shorter than the route to the coast near Brisbane. More recently, legendary outback mailman Tom Kruse (no, not that Tom Cruise) belted his mail truck along the track from 1936 until 1963.
Meandering through the sand hills of the Strzelecki Regional Reserve, the Strzelecki Track spans 460km from Lyndhurst, 80km south of Marree, to the tiny desert outpost of Innamincka. The discovery of oil and gas at Moomba (closed to travellers) saw the upgrading of the road from a camel track to a decent dirt road, though heavy transport travelling along it has created bone-rattling corrugations. The newer Moomba–Strzelecki Track is better kept, but longer and less interesting than the old track, which follows Strzelecki Creek.
Both of these tracks are hard-driving 4WD terrain – you'll need to keep your eyes on the dirt in front of you. But when you do stop to look around, the landscape here is dizzyingly bleak and beautiful, wildlife scurrying for shade and the desert air charged with ions. Completing either of these tracks is a real badge of honour – journeys into Australia's red heart that you won't hurriedly forget.