The Australian outback. Vast, remote, a mix of contrasting landscapes and Indigenous culture, and a playground for those who want to experience the parts of Australia where you can drive for hours and not see a single soul. In fact, it's that sense of space and freedom that comes with visiting the less populated part of the country, spanning thousands of kilometres, that attracts so many visitors to Australia every year.
Most early visits to Australia by Europeans were focussed on the easily-accessible coastal areas and it wasn't until the mid-late 1800s that successful journeys across the outback took place, with John Stuart leading six expeditions from Adelaide in South Australia to the north coast of Australia and back. Early travellers to the outback used horses to explore these vast stretches of rural landscape. Nowadays, though, most travellers who want to witness the outback for themselves hire a car or a van to get that 'Aussie road trip' experience, or book a tour with one of many companies offering various experiences in the outback.
The problematic thing about the Australian outback is that, because of its vast size, you're not going to be able to see it all. Not on one trip anyway! The best thing to do is decide what kind of activities you're interested in and choose the part of the outback that suits you best. See the changing colours of Uluru in Kata Tjuta National Park, an area of deep significance in Australia in terms of culture. Experience the eeriness of The Pinnacles, three hours north of Perth, where rugged rock spires rise out of the sand dunes; a striking contrast to the deep blue of the Indian Ocean nearby. Visit quirky Coober Pedy in South Australia where outback temperatures are so high that locals have taken their community underground to escape the heat. For true indigenous experiences head to Katherine in the Northern Territory, home to Katherine Gorge National Park where taking a dip under a dramatic waterfall tumbling from the stunning sandstone cliffs is just one activity on offer.
Outback Australia is full of unique activities, seemingly never-ending horizons, and landscapes that range from lush rainforests to sparse desserts. If you want to experience the true culture of Australia, this is the place to do it.
The outback is a land of extreme weather: soaring temperatures on summer days, freezing temperatures on winter nights. Its size also means that the outback spans several climate zones so it's best to check specific weather for the area of the outback you're hoping to visit. If you're planning a road trip through outback Australia make sure your vehicle is stocked up with drinking water, just in case you get stuck somewhere. Be extremely cautious when driving at sunrise and sunset; kangaroos are prevalent in many parts of the outback, and bring a map - phone signal is almost non-existent.
There's nothing quite like an Australian road trip, so if hitting the outback has always been a dream of yours it's worth putting it in a little more effort and, instead of taking a tour, plan an adventure that involves hiring a van, choosing your favourite driving tunes, and hitting the road. Specifically, the long, 3000 km road between Adelaide and Darwin known as The Stuart Highway. This road, which will take you about 12 days to drive, takes you right through the heart of Australia; from the mountains of the Flinders Ranges, to the wilderness and bright red hues of the desert, to the gorges of northern Australia. An Aussie road trip is the ultimate outback experience and definitely one not to be missed.
Nothing beats the sense of freedom that comes with experiencing the vastness of the Australian outback for yourself. Check this item off your bucket list and see why visitors have been making the journey to the most remote parts of Australia for over 150 years.
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog, Pack Your Passport. Originally from England, she's a self-confessed Australophile and travel lover and spends most of her time drinking way too much coffee in east London, going to gigs and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @PckYourPassport.