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To be able to experience genuine settler life away from the bright lights is rare indeed, but joining the Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive for a few days allows you to do exactly that.

Cattle drover.
Cattle drover.

Experience the Great Australian Cattle Drive

Droving, the practice of moving livestock over large distances by walking them "on the hoof", occurred in Australia for nearly two hundred years.

Although large scale commercial droving has all but ended now, every two years during May and June, some 500 cattle travel over 400 kilometres (249 miles) from Oodnadatta to Marree, in South Australia.

'The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive' aims to recreate those bygone times and offer you a truly authentic experience as a drover on a cattle dive across some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia.

One of Audley's Australia specialists discusses their experience on the Great Australian Cattle Drive

Imagine peering from your tent at the stillness of a South Australian Outback dawn free from any light pollution, with a few morning stars and the first licks of orange light reaching out across the desert horizon. You clamber into your riding clothes, smelling of saddle leather and dust, earned over the previous days’ rites of passage. Even as you pull on your boots, the cattle are stirring, lowing and stamping the red earth, and the drovers are making ready while the aroma of strong coffee laces the air. Ahead of you lies another day with the team of drovers working cattle along the famous Oodnadatta Track. To be able to experience genuine settler life away from the bright lights is rare indeed, but joining the Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive for a few days allows you to do exactly that.

The Great Australian cattle driveEvery two years during May and June, 500 cattle travel over 400 kilometres (249 miles) from Oodnadatta (‘blossom of the Mulga tree’ in the Arrernte language) to Marree. It is one of the most evocative desert trails in Australia, traversing a remarkable arid landscape of stony plains and cresting dunes, dazzling salt lakes and even watery oases with abundant date palms and birdlife. The South Australian Oodnadatta Track follows the remains of the original Ghan railway and what is left of the overland telegraph line, which were both critical in the settling of Australia’s interior.

In time-honoured tradition, the cattle drive will be given a rousing send-off by the Oodnadatta Races and Bushman’s Carnival. Along the way there are relics left by explorers, railway gangers and Aboriginal groups, but people have made their mark perhaps most enigmatically with the colossal ‘Marree Man’. This geoglyph – a design etched into the ground – was discovered from the air in 1998 and is four kilometres long, depicting a man throwing a hunting stick or boomerang.

The cattle drive has been divided into seven stages, each four nights and five days long, during which guests arrive by road or by air from either Alice Springs or Adelaide. All horse riding ability levels are catered for and all equipment — including your horse – is provided. Each tour has its own camp which remains in the same location throughout. At night, after horses have been tethered and the cattle are at rest, guests are transferred to the ‘village’ of Driving cattle at Bullo River Stationhigh quality tented accommodation, complete with carpets, showers and flushing toilets. There is great food, a bar and even a library. The intention is to taste the somewhat rough drover’s life by day and at night feel that you’ve earned an evening of relaxation to savour the day’s adventures by a roaring fire. Beneath a canopy of stars you can listen to campfire tales about both the settlers’ successes and failures, and stories of the region’s indigenous people. There is complimentary touring on offer for days three and four for anyone wanting a break from riding, and extras can also be arranged such as a one-day camel tour in the Outback and various scenic flights over the shimmering white salt flats of Lake Eyre or the remarkable yellow, white and orange sandstone hills of the “Painted Desert”.

However you choose to include it in your plans, The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive is a truly unique, once in a lifetime experience. Nothing else will allow you to immerse yourself quite so completely in history, adventure and Outback life whilst enjoying some of the most epic landscapes and skies that you will ever see.

  • Outback Windmill, Australia


    It is in the outback stations, where jackaroos herd cattle by motorbike and helicopter, that you can still feel awe at the expansive horizons and beauty that seduced the first settlers.
    View our Australia holiday ideas

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