In a country as large and sprawling as Australia, with such diverse terrains and wide open spaces, it’s no surprise that 4WDing is a popular activity. For some, it’s the ultimate boys’ weekend, combined with fishing or hunting. For others, it means sublime family holidays in the outback, at the beach or on an island off the coast.
Maybe you own your own 4WD vehicle, or maybe you want to ‘dip your toe’ in off-road tours and see if you enjoy it first. Either way, there’s an opportunity for you to get down and dirty as you explore dirt tracks, muddy riverbanks and sandy coves, all on four wheels.
Owner-driver 4x4 Australia trips
There is almost no limit to the places you can go around Australia when you own a 4WD vehicle. Just ask celebrity 4WDing enthusiasts, Jase and Simon of All4Adventure. If you loved the Crocodile Hunter, you’ll enjoy these guys as they travel all over Australia in their beloved off-road vehicles. They each own a 2015 Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series Twin Turbo V8 Diesel and the TV series of where they go, how they traverse the countryside and the awkward spots they find themselves in has attracted a cult following.
If you’re a 4WDing novice, then you’ll need to start on less challenging trips, staying fairly close to amenities such as repair centres, fuel stations and emergency services.
For the more experienced four-wheel-drivers, check out 4x4earth which features more than 1,300 4x4 Australia tracks and each one lists the kind of terrain there such as ‘sharp rocks’, ‘river crossings’, ‘clay’, ‘steep ascents/descents’ and ‘mud’. There are maps, track descriptions and some of them even feature comments from drivers who have been there. They also list campsites and 4WD clubs all over the country.
Hard core 4WD expeditions
Not for the faint hearted, extreme 4WD expeditions require much experience, know-how and preparation. They can also be expensive, but the payoff is that the enjoyment and memories are profound. The Canning Stock Route in Western Australia is the country’s longest 4WD trail and runs through five determined native title areas where Aboriginals continue to live on the land. For other expedition suggestions, visit the 4x4 Australia website.
4WD driver training courses
If you really want to go 4WDing in Australia, with you as the driver, then it’s highly recommended that you undergo a 4WD driver training course. They are just as much an adventure as a learning experience and consider that if you learn to do this properly, you will be safer and smarter when you go off road. Instructors teach drivers the basics of 4x4 vehicles and how they work differently from regular two-wheel drive cars. You will also learn exciting techniques:
- Bush track driving
- River crossings
- Hill climbs
- Rock steps
- Steep descents
- Vehicle handling
- Mud driving
- Sand driving
- Vehicle recovery
- Bush maintenance and servicing
Some 4x4 Australian driver training schools are accredited, so you know you will be receiving nationally recognised competence training.
4WD escorted tours
For adventures of kaleidoscopic variety, there are lots of 4WD escorted tours you can take, that will have you fossicking for gems, picking wildflowers, swimming in natural waterholes, climbing mountains, tobogganing down sand dunes and feasting on bush tucker by the campfire. Depending on where you go, you could spot rare fauna, tour colonial ruins, fish for river trout, immerse yourself in a deep rainforest, kayak in a gorge, sleep under the stars or follow the trail of the earliest explorers.
A ‘tagalong tour’ is where you drive your own vehicle but follow experienced guides through sometimes challenging terrain. If anything untoward happens, then you will have assistance every step of the way.
Other operators offer self-drive 4WD hire so if you don’t own a vehicle, you can hire one right there. Or, you can search for ‘4WD passenger tours’ and simply join a 4WDing expedition where you are purely along for the ride and the wonderful freedom of being driven around some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery.
4WD safety tips
There’s an app for that
- First aid – Given that, by nature, 4WD trips will take you some distance away from readily accessible emergency and medical facilities, it’s important to have first aid skills. Consider doing a CPR course and also learn about treatment for cuts, burns, bites, breaks, sprains and dehydration. Purchase a first aid kit that is specifically designed for 4WD touring. The St John Ambulance organisation offers kits for many different types of scenario.
- Communication – Being able to communicate with people and services outside of your tour area is vital. Investigate the reception possibilities of where you are going and purchase or hire a satellite mobile phone.
- Navigation – It’s easy to get lost in the ever-changing Australian landscape. At the very least, you’ll need a low-tech compass. Highly recommended is a GPS device and some way of charging your batteries. Have a think about portable solar powered battery back-up.
- Food and water – You must think very carefully about quantities and types. Your food should be able to keep without spoiling and water should be plentiful.
- Shelter – Plan for all kinds of weather eventualities such as rain, storms, high winds and harsh temperatures. Be sure you take the right kind of protection so that you don’t suffer from exposure and so that your tent, cover or shade don’t fly away.
- Permission – It is illegal to go four wheel driving in some parts of Australia. For national parks, if permission is available, you may have to seek a vehicle access permit from the appropriate state governing body. There are also Aboriginal communities where access is not allowed without express permission from the land owners. Do not attempt to travel through prohibited locations without gaining permission first.
- Fire safety – Carry a fire extinguisher or fire blanket in the event of a vehicle fire.
There is a variety of apps that can help to make your 4x4 Australia trip more enjoyable, and safer. One is by Hema maps and allows you to plan, navigate and share your journey, with offline functionality as well.
The quintessential Australian journey has always been on foot, beginning with the ancient Aborigines. When the first explorers arrived, much of the footwork was done by imported camels. Today, 4WDing allows visitors to cover more territory in shorter time frames. Done with respect to safety, the environment and the people living in these outlying areas, it is a superb way to see the country from ground level.