Outback Australia is a must-see destination for all Australians to see, but much of the outback is a long way for most of us to travel to. There is a place in South Australia that has many of the classic outback features such as the iconic red sand dunes, 4WD only tracks and fantastic remote camping, and is not all that far away from Adelaide. This place is Googs Track in Western South Australia.
Goog’s Track heads north from Ceduna to the Trans-Australian Railway at Malbooma. It transverses through the Yumbarra Conservation Park and Yellabinna Regional Reserve. There are about 363 sand hill crossings as well as rocky sections and areas of dense mallee scrub. There are two designated camping areas along the track including some great campsites at Googs Lake with a pit toilet, and some great remote camps amongst the dunes.
Goog’s Track is named after John (Goog) Denton who got the nickname “Goog” since he used to sell eggs (Googy Eggs – get it!). Goog had a property called Lone Oak just north of Ceduna and had the idea of making a road from his property through to railway siding at Tarcoola to benefit the farming community in the region. He was also keen to explore this area so in 1973 he commenced building a road northwards.
Goog commenced from his farm boundary using a Fordson tractor fitted with a front blade to clear scrub and light timber as well as levelling a rather rough track. A Toyota two wheel drive utility was used for supplies. However the going quickly go too tough for the tractor and two wheel drive ute, so a bulldozer and four wheel drive were employed for the job. The 4WD was built from spares from the farm and work on the road was only conducted on weekends. The whole family were involved nearly every weekend for almost three years and one could only imagine how hard and dirty the work was for them. This included driving the bulldozer, bringing up fuel and equipment in the rebuilt 4WDs and clearing stumps and loose sticks. After purchasing a grader, Denis gave the track a more levelled surface making it more suitable for regular traffic. It wasn’t until August 1976 when Goog’s Track finally met up with an existing track to the north near Mount Finke.
Googs Track is a great introductory drive to the South Australian outback. The dunes are not as steep or challenging as the Simpson Desert, but the track still requires 4WD and sand driving skills. It is in a remote area and precautions are prudent, including alternative communications options such as carrying a satellite phone and/or PLB for emergencies.
Before heading to Googs Track you will need to book your campsite/s online via the SA National Parks website. There are two designated camping areas on Googs Track – Googs Lake and Mt Finke. The campsites at Googs Lake can be booked via this link: https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/booking/details#/accom/85966 and the campsites at Mt Finke via :
There are also numerous other campsites between the dunes alongside the track, but I believe you are only supposed to camp at the designated sites. Googs Lake is only spot with facilities with a new pit toilet and some picnic tables.
Googs track starts at Ceduna which is a great place to stock up on supplies and fuel. The Ceduna tourism centre has plenty of information about the area and is worth calling in to get some first hand
information on the current conditions. Check out their website here: https://cedunatourism.com.au/.
Start of Googs Track
From Ceduna take the Eyre Highway north for 5km to the Kalanbi Road which continues north as the Eyre Highway turns westward. Follow the road to the Yumbarra Conservation Park Entrance, which is a good spot to air down and lock in the hubs ready for the coming sandy track and dunes. Also put on a sand flag and switch your UHF to channel 18 which is the designated channel for Googs Track.
The track starts with a few small dunes and then passes through the dog fence – make sure you close the gate once through. There are some information boards here that are worth a look before continuing northwards on the single lane track. As the track continues you will notice plenty of bush campsites at various locations, and you will also observe the dunes getting progressively larger the further north you head. There is plenty of scrub in this section of the track, and a feature of Googs Track is the anticipation of what is coming up next as you climb each dune. The next major attraction is the memorials to John (Goog) Denton and Martin (Dinger) Denton at the turnoff to Googs Lake.
The two monuments contain a plaque honoring the tremendous effort made by Goog and Dinger to construct Googs Track. It is a fitting tribute to the two men and I’m sure that they both would be pleased to be recognised and remembered in this way.
From the monuments it is only 4km to the impressive Googs Lake. The main lake is approximately 15km long and 1km wide, and makes an impressive sight. There are some great campsites here and is one of the two designated camping areas on Googs Track. I would recommend booking the Callitris Campsite as it is the closest site to the toilets and has some nice flat areas to setup camp as well as a picnic table.
Once camp is setup it is worth exploring the surrounds of Googs Lake either with your vehicle around the perimeter or on foot across the wide expanse of the salt lake. There is a fantastic lookout just a few hundred metres north from the main campground.
From Googs Lake there are a couple of options to get back on the main track. You can head back to the memorials or head north along the lake to the Childara Track and turn left. Either way is fine and these tracks are well signposted. Once back on Googs Track the sandhills start to get larger as the track enters the Yellabinna Regional Reserve. Many of the larger dunes have approaches that have unfortunately been dug up by vehicles spinning wheels so it is quite slow and bumpy at times. The traction is generally pretty good so providing you have dropped your tyre pressures down and take it nice and easy these dues shouldn’t pose any problems.
The scenery through this section is fantastic with vivid red sand dunes and mallee scrubland. As the track continues northwards larger gum trees make an appearance and the distinctive landmark of Mt Finke becomes visible as you crest the larger dunes.
Mt Finke dominates the surrounding area and is the highest landform in the area at 369 metres. The turnoff to Mt Finke is well signposted and is only 6km from the main track. As you approach Mt Finke there is a campground on the right, with a parking area at the base another 1km further on. A better campground can be found by following the track leading out from the carpark to the north and following this track for around 500m to a flat open area with some tables and firepits. Unfortunately there are no facilities at Mt Finke so you don’t get value for money at this designated camping area!
It is well worth climbing Mt Finke as the views from the summit are spectacular. There is no defined walking track, it is just a matter of picking a line and hopping across the rocks to the top. It is a steep climb but the reward is an awesome 360 degree view of the surrounding area with sand hills, spinifex and mallee scrub stretching as far as the eye can see. There is a visitor’s book at the base of the trig point so make sure you record your efforts by adding to the log before heading back down.
From Mt Finke take the track 6km back to where it re-joins Googs Track at some salt plains. Make sure you stick to the track here as it doesn’t take much to break the surface on one of these salt lakes and become very stuck. Googs track continues north across more sand hills before leaving the Yellabinna Regional Reserve and the sand country. At the Reserve boundary put some air back in the tyres and head the further 21km to the Trans-Australian Railway which is the official end of Googs Track. Turn left on the main road towards Tarcoola following the dog fence and railway line.
Tarcoola was once a thriving gold town with a population of around 2000 in 1900 but has no permanent residents now. There are some new transportable buildings used for servicing the nearby gold mine which is still operating, but all the facilities have long closed down. It’s worth looking through the original Railway Station and some of the empty building in the town. From Tarcoola follow the Tarcoola road eastwards alongside the railway for 80km to the quaint town of Kingoonya.
Kingoonya has a free camp with facilities as well as a camping area at the back of the hotel. There are only a couple of residences at Kingoonya but it does have a great hotel. The Kingoonya Hotel (www.kingoonyahotel.com.au) is one of those ‘must-see’ country hotels with plenty of character and a fitting place to end your trip to this fabulous part of the South Australian Outback. Have a drink under the wide veranda, perhaps stay for a classic outback pub meal, and relive your adventures of the past few days.
What to Take
Take some basic recovery equipment including recovery tracks, shovel, snatch straps and an air compressor. You will also need to take enough fuel, water, food and supplies to get you through - recommend a week’s worth to be on the safe side. The closest fuel to the north end of the track is at the tiny settlement of Kingoonya.
A UHF radio (tune into channel 18) is recommended as well as a vehicle flag, although this isn’t a requirement of the track. Toilet facilities are available at the formal campgrounds at Goog’s Lakes but you’ll need to have your own arrangements in place for the rest of the track. Please don’t leave toilet paper behind!
As this is a remote area in pays to carry communications options such as a satellite phone and/or PLB for emergencies. The only mobile phone reception is at the top of Mount Finke, so don’t rely on mobile coverage.
Best Time to Visit
Even though Googs Track is open all year round, it is recommended to tackle the Goog’s Track in dry winter weather. Not only will you avoid the heat and flies that plague the warmer months, but firmer sand will minimise the likelihood of bogging.
Googs Track and the surrounding area has all the features of the classic Australian outback with the red sands, extensive dunes, rugged landscape and wide open spaces. The trek involves some great sand driving, spectacular views, and exceptional camping. Googs Track is definitely worth a visit as part of a trip north or west, or as an adventure in its own right.
It’s worth checking out the ‘The Goog’s Track’ Facebook page prior to heading off on your journey here. A wealth of information and knowledge, it’s also regularly frequented by Jenny Denton Price who is the late Goog’s wife and author of ‘My Memories of Pushing the Goog’s Track’. You can purchase this book via the website: www.googstrack.com