Wonderful winter 4WDing experiences across Australia
From the winter beauty of the Victorian High Country to the warm sunshine, red dust and secluded waterholes of Australia's top end, 4WDing in Australia offers a range of unforgettable experiences during the winter months.
What are some of the best 4WD tracks you simply must experience in winter? Let's take a look.
The Birdsville Track, South Australia
Established as a cattle route, there are two tracks that make up the famed Birdsville Track: the Inside Track follows the original stock path, while the Outside Track - created by travellers as a safer route - avoids the Diamantina floodplain.
The track surface is primarily a stony track with large pebbles and sand. While it's not a particularly difficult surface to drive on, sudden braking can get you into a bit of trouble because the larger pebbles don't offer a lot of traction. Cattle grids, wandering livestock, emus and kangaroos add to the list of potential hazards.
Fans of the trip recommend watching the sun rising over the Birdsville Billabong, a visit to Lake Harry Ruins, the Burke & Wills Tree and a drive up the Big Red Sand Dune.
Birdsville Caravan Park, Clayton Station, Maree Caravan and Campers Park - as well as numerous bush camps along the route - provide sensational camping and accommodation options for families and, if you're there in September (technically not winter, we know), the annual Birdsville Races attracts punters from across Australia for a unique once-a-year meet and quintessential Aussie thoroughbred racing experience.
Victoria's High Country
Around two-to-three hours from Melbourne is the famed Victorian High Country, considered by many aficionados to be among the best places for off-roading adventures in Australia, let alone Victoria.
Alongside some truly challenging off-roading tracks - like Mount Terrible, Ryan Spur and the Davies High Plains - the Great Alpine Road and Mount Buffalo National Park, as well as the Ned Kelly Touring Route and the Lake Eildon Loop, give new off-roaders a great chance to explore the region's gourmet food experiences and picturesque camping grounds such as Lake Catani and the Howqua Valley.
Completing a 4WD driving course is recommended before setting out to explore the more extreme High Country tracks. Don't leave home without packing your recovery equipment, and remember to stay calm and patient when you're behind the wheel.
The Blue Mountains, New South Wales
The Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, and its 1,200 kilometres of connected tracks and roads, is an awesome part of Australia to explore in any season but, for many people, the winter months bring out its best.
The Mount Hay Road is one of the most popular 4WD routes in the area. Beginning in Leura, it's an impressive drive that concludes with amazing views of Sydney and the Grose Valley. As well as the sights, it's also a great place for some mountain biking or hiking.
The Six Foot Track is also another renowned Blue Mountains 4X4 adventure. The 20-kilometre stretch between Cox's River and the Jenolan Caves Road is loaded with history and crosses Little River in the three separate places, adding an additional challenge or two for those who love their off-roading. If you're not in any rush, set up camp at Cox's River camping ground and take a walk across the swing bridge for some unforgettable views.
As well as Wolgan Valley, Kings Tableland, the Three Sisters, Echo Point and the Waradah Aboriginal Centre in Katoomba, Scenic World and the Newnes Plateau that takes in the Newnes Campground in the Wollemi National Park, the Blue Mountains has some amazing off-roading adventures suitable for drivers of every 4X4 experience level.
Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland
Like most of the Northern Territory and the northern half of Western Australia, Queensland's warm winter temperatures are a huge drawcard for outdoor adventurers living in the southern half of Australia hoping to escape the winter chills, particularly during the mid-year school holidays.
With its scenic headlands, white sand beaches and some of Australia's best camping spots, it's no surprise that 'Straddie', as it's affectionately known, is hard to toss as a winter 4X4 destination.
Minjerribah's off-roading tracks don't require hours of 4X4 driving experience to negotiate them safely but a run of poor weather can make them tricky. No matter what your off-roading experience may be, preparing well, taking things easy and making sure you're familiar with the finer points of beach and sand driving (and recovery) is a must in order to enjoy all that North Stradbroke Island has to offer.
Dove Lake, Tasmania
If Tasmania is blessed with some of the best 4WDing experiences in Australia, then Dove Lake in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park is arguably the pick of the bunch.
In terms of geography, Dove Lake is close to Devonport and Launceston, and is the more conventional way to get there. Opting instead for the four-hour road trip experience from Hobart to Dove Lake is a fantastic excuse to enjoy some of Tasmania's stunning natural wilderness, and to understand why Australia's environmental movement fought so hard to prevent commercial logging and plans to Dam the Franklin River in the '70s and '80s.
Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain have ample accommodation choices, from camping to more refined lodgings, and it is an awesome way to spend time exploring the National Park's stunning hikes and walking trails, especially the six-kilometre-long Dove Lake circuit walk.
Gibb River Road, Western Australia
Taking you through the heart of the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Gibb River Road is 4WD touring's Mecca.
Stretching from Derby to Wyndham, the Gibb River Road is filled with secluded swimming holes, fresh water gorges and waterfalls, like Bell Gorge and Mitchell Plateau. There are also picture-postcard outback landscapes, sprawling cattle stations and sacred indigenous sites and rock art to explore at Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre.
A large chunk of the Gibb River Road is corrugated track and, because of the popularity of this iconic 4WD experience, it's very busy during the peak months of May through to September. April and October are options for experienced off-road and 4X4 drivers only.
Stretching more than 660 kilometres, The Gibb River Road is the ideal road trip for 4X4 drivers of all experience levels.
The Snowy Mountains Region, New South Wales
Home to Mount Kosciuszko and the ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte's Pass, the Snowy Mountains and the Kosciuszko National Park is, without doubt, an excellent winter 4X4 destination.
The Snowy Mountain Highway, which takes in Tumut to Cooma, is a great base for many people who want to explore the nearby snowfields, or load up their Instagram feeds with images of Black Perry Mountain, Bogong Mountain Range, Landers Falls Lookout and the Talbingo Reservoir.
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way is ideal for exploring the southern parts of the Kosciuszko National Park and the Thredbo Village and Perisher ski fields. If the ski slopes aren't your thing, then the towns of Berridale and Jindabyne - with their gourmet food choices, campgrounds and trout fishing - might be more your speed.
At the heart of the Snowy Mountains region is, of course, the Kosciuszko National Park. As well as off-roading adventures, the Island Bend, Gungarlin, Ngarigo and Thredbo Diggings campsites rate highly for people keen to mix some snow adventures with mountain biking, fishing and hiking, or taking in the amazing scenery.
You don't need to be a 4WDing expert to safely enjoy driving in the Snowy Mountains but you must carry snow chains. There are a few off-broadway 4X4 tracks within the national park that are also closed during the peak winter months and should be avoided.
So, there you have it! While it may be tempting to stay home in front of the heater, the winter months are as good a time as any to use up some hard-earned holiday time, pack up the camping gear and explore the seemingly endless choice of 4WD tracks and off-roading adventures to be found in Australia during winter.
As well as winter 4X4 destinations, our guide to the best 4WD Touring Trips in Australia is chock-full of experiences that highlight the fun and adventure of off-road touring. And, if you're new to 4WDing, check out our 4X4 Packing Checklist to make sure you get the most out of your next off-road holiday.