Scary, bumpy, dusty, muddy, uncomfortable, washing and Wolf Creek. These are the words used to describe four-wheel driving by people who have never ventured off the beaten track.
But ask anyone who has taken a 4WD off-road, how they feel about it and you’ll be met with words like exhilarating, fun, freedom, and adventure.
Sometimes, leaving your world of hotel stays and chauffeured trips behind can open your mind to a world you never knew existed. We know that pooping in a hole, living out of a vehicle and going a day or two without a shower may not sound like a very relaxing holiday, but there’s another side to off-road sojourns you may have never considered.
For the most part, Australians are adventurous. And why wouldn’t we be when we don't have to pull out a passport to travel from one side of the continent to the other? From coast to mountains, or rainforest to desert, Australia’s diverse terrain will bring out the explorer in you as you discover its endless hidden treasures. A high and low range capable vehicle is one of the best ways to do this.
While statistics suggest men are the prominent gender to drive large 4WDs (eg Toyota Land Cruisers), luxury 4WDs (eg Range Rover Sport) are more popular amongst middle aged females. Adding to that, one in five women take an interest in four-wheel drives and read magazines like our very own 4X4 Australia (Emma 2015), while one in four women think the ability to go off-road is an essential car attribute (AustraliaScan 2015). So why then, do we still put 4WDing into the ‘manly men’ basket?
There are plenty of people out there who don’t mind running their tyres through a bit of mud, but drive through any city on a weekend and you’ll be met with large SUVs that have never tasted dirt or met nature, except for the Guano (fancy word for bird droppings) gracing the windows.
The biggest misconception of 4WDing is its ‘roughing it’ stereotype, but this mode of travel doesn’t have to mean improvised toilets and bathing in the ocean – although you won’t quite experience anything as freeing as fully reconnecting your soul with nature.
Take a recent trip to the world largest sand island, Fraser Island, Queensland, as an example. We travelled with a group of ladies from all over Australia, and with our trusty Toyota FJ Cruiser we cruised through a two day ‘women only’ training course with Australian Offroad Academy (check out the ladies only weekends), drove from east to west, south to north, and found our way through paradise's 4WD only tracks. Sure, there were bugs, dirt got in our nails, hair got greasy and there were probably a number of snakes, spiders and dingoes within meters of us at any one time (although, we didn’t actually spot any), but there were no tents, sleeping bags, or feme-wipes.
Instead, we got to experience the other side of 4WDing – sleeping in Kingfisher Bay Resort, with access to electricity, TVs, aircon, cocktails and pools! But we barely used any of it. The luxuries on offer were so unimportant compared to the beautiful surroundings and destinations of the island; they may as well have not existed… except for the cocktails, we’ll hold on to those for the end of the day, thank you very much.
Travelling with a group of 11 other girls, we saw places that would make even the most glamorous travellers drool. Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Valley of the Giants, Pelican Bank, Lake Wabby and so much more – there’s a reason the Butchulla people, the traditional land owners, called this place K’gari (pronounced Gurri), which roughly translates to paradise.
At the end of the trip, two of the girls loved it so much, they went out and purchased 4WDs, and the rest of us boarded the barge off the island, heavy-hearted as we left the a place we had fallen head over heels for.
That’s the thing about having the capability to head off the beaten track – it’ll get you to places that even your dreams would struggle to imagine. Sure, the road may be bumpy, steep or wet, and you’ll spend hours on end in the confined space of a vehicle, but it’s all worth it for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – that moment when you reach a destination so spectacular and remote, your words will escape you and all you can do is breath. Where the skies are clear, the tranquility is whimsical and the only signs of people are the footprints left behind. It'll get you to the places you feel nature become part of your very being and steal a piece of your soul.
4WDing allows you to push boundaries, explore every inch of the earth and reconnect with life beyond metropolis. As the old quote goes, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, so tie up those driving boots and send your 4x4 to its natural habitat. And hey, it’s not like you have to give up your luxuries all together… now, where are those cocktails?
OUR PICKS ON THE BEST 4WDS FOR BEGINNERS