GET the diaries out, load up the fourbie and tell work you’ll be back in a few days as there’s a smorgasbord of 4x4 events and activities taking place across Australia.
Regardless of where you are in this big red country – refreshing with an ale in outback NSW, crossing the Nullarbor or sussing out what’s biting in the Top End – there’ll be an event taking place that should tickle your fancy. More often than not you’ll need a capable fourbie to reach the outback locations – city slickers fear not, as we’ll list suburban events, too.
So to make life easier when you’re plotting your next off-road adventure, here’s a calendar of upcoming Australian 4x4 events and activities.
Date: July 13
Location: Milparinka, NSW
For a chance to witness skilful horsemanship head to the Milparinka Gymkhana on Saturday, July 13. The event will take place at the Milparinka Sports Grounds and is a great day for all the family.
Reflecting how highly regarded the gymkhana is, riders travel from near and far, from local stations and interstate, to compete in events such as the men’s and women’s barrel races and horse sprint events (you’ll be amazed at just how quick these horses actually are), plus there’s also live entertainment on the night.
More info: www.facebook.com/MilparinkaGynkhana
DARWIN LIONS' BEER CAN REGATTA
Date: July 14
Location: Mindil Beach, NT
On July 14, the Darwin Lions’ Beer Can Regatta will celebrate its 45th anniversary and, as you’d expect, guarantees plenty of fun and laughter in the Top End capital.
Held at Mindil Beach, there are beach events for all ages, as well as spectacular water events including the iconic boat regatta itself, where you get to marvel at the ingenuity of boat-builders who manage to get these tin-can craft to float. Entrance is by a gold coin donation.
More info: beercanregatta.org.au
BIG RED BASH
Date: July 16-18
Location: Birdsville, QLD
Yep, we’re reminding you all again that the country’s most unique – and the world’ most remote – music festival is on again, from July 16-18, and held at the base of ‘Big Red’ the mighty 40m-tall sand dune near the Birdsville Hotel.
It’s not the only mighty thing for this year’s event: Aussie rock icons, Midnight Oil, are headlining the 2019 Big Red Bash – the band’s first multi-day music festival in more than 22 years. As well as the Oils, you can rock out to The Living End, Kasey Chambers, Richard Clapton and many more.
Another part of the Bash will see the Royal Flying Doctors Service Bashville “Drags”, where entrants dress in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert inspired drag rags and race on foot from the top of Big Red to the bottom.
More info: www.bigredbash.com.au
CHRISTMAS IN JULY
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW
For those with a hankering for an eastern seaboard winter and a reverse-celebration of the festive season, the Blue Mountains is the place to go, with (potentially) snow-filled Yuletide celebrations over July and August.
This World Heritage-listed region is only an hour or so from Sydney and offers some great off-road driving in the nearby state forests, plenty of bushwalking and campsites to spend a weekend or longer. Plus, time it right and you could well nab that elusive ‘white christmas’ experience, surrounded by some of Australia’s rugged, mountainous terrain.
More info: www.visitnsw.com
LASSETERS CAMEL CUP
Date: July 20
Location: Alice Spring, NT
For a cracking day out in the Red Centre, head to Alice Springs on Saturday July 20 and the Lasseters Camel Cup. Camels running flat-out are brilliant to watch, and these big boppers are running fast for a cause as the event is also a fund-raiser.
Held on the southern hemisphere’s only purpose-built camel racetrack, the meeting has plenty of other activities too.
More info: www.camelcup.com.au
LIGHTNING RIDGE OPAL FESTIVAL
Date: July 24-27
Location: Lightning Ridge, NT
For anyone touring through the middle of Australia, this event at the famous opal town is well worth checking out, whether you stay for a day or the entire thing. The 2019 Lightning Ridge Opal Festival will run from Wednesday, July 24 through to Saturday, July 27.
The event has something for everyone, whether it’s the chance to check out the amazing opal and gem expo (there will be more than 150 stalls present), or tuck in at the gala dinner to celebrate the Opal Queen Ball. There’s also plenty to check out in the country surrounding this outback NSW town.
More info: www.lightningridgeopalfestival.com.au/
Date: July 27-28
Location: Willowgrove, Vic
This epic three-day off-road event will be jam-packed with tracks aimed at testing competitors’ skills. Teams will have to tackle everything from rally-style stages and big climbs to some cracker winch stages over the course of the event.
Held on the last weekend in July (27-28), at Willowgrove’s Bindaree Station, the Drivetech 4x4 Challenge includes food vendors and parking nearby (4x4 is recommended for the main parking area).
Saturday is the big day, with plenty of steep hill climbs and winching, while Sunday will see the event at a smaller area, ideal for spectactors to view the action.
More info: www.4x4racing.com.au
DERBY OUTBACK RODEO
Date: August 9-11
Location: Derby, WA
For travellers in the Kimberley region, the Derby Outback Rodeo (August 9-11) is well worth checking out. Touted as the biggest and best rodeo in WA’s vast northwest, the event is held at the Rodeo Grounds in Derby.
The event kicks off at 6am on the first day, and you will see a mix of local station workers and interstate competitors tackle a number of rodeo and gymkhana events (think: campdraft, breakaway roping, barrel races and even poddy rides for the young’uns). There’s also live entertainment on the Saturday night (Aug 10).
TASMANIAN WHISKY WEEK
Date: August 12-18
Probably the best way to stay warm in Tasmania (well, we reckon so…) is to head south for the winter and check out the Tasmanian Whisky Week, held August 12 to 18.
More than just whisky tasting, this event takes visitors through a number of Tassie’s bars, restaurants, distilleries (of course!) and other awesome watering holes. Also included are behind-the-scenes tours of some of the Apple Isle’s famous distilleries and the chance to learn how to combine the ‘fire spirit’ with different food types – whisky and a medium rare steak, yes please!
More info: taswhiskyweek.com
Tracks and destinations
TIME FOR THE CAPE
Location: Cape York, Qld
As winter’s chill hits the southern states, it’s the ideal time for off-road tourers to look north to one of Australia’s most iconic 4x4 adventures: Cape York. The trip to the tip is not one to be rushed (we reckon at least two weeks, but ideally three to really enjoy the region) but it is well worth the time spent simply getting to the Tropical North Queensland start-point of Cooktown.
There’s loads of info out there to help with planning. Ensure your rig has had a full checkover by a 4x4 specialist, then load it up and go! Check out Hema Maps’ Atlas & Guide, written by Ian Glover and Ron Moon, for info on the best places to camp and re-fuel.
VIC HIGH COUNTRY TRACK CLOSURES
Location: Vic High Country, Vic
As winter hits full throttle, a number of popular tracks in some of Victoria’s national parks – mainly the High Country but not exclusively that region – are closed. This also applies to some of Victoria’s state forests and conservation reserves.
Each of these will have different close/open dates so the best bet to check access to these areas is to go to 4WD Victoria’s excellent website. Then plan a trip that is still viable for winter, or start looking at a cracking spring/summer trip for when more tracks will be open.
More info: www.fwdvictoria.org.au
Location: Limmen NP, NT
Limmen NP is a hidden gem in the NT’s Gulf Country, but one well worth spending a few days at – especially if you’re a keen angler.
The big park sprawls south from Roper Bar to just north of Cape Crawford and offers some brilliant campsites: Towns River, Limmen Campground, Nathan River and Limmen River Fishing Camp. As well as fishing on the Towns and Bight Rivers, there’s the Western and Southern Lost Cities, with their tower-like rock formations.
Location: Northern Territory
The southern states may be subject to track closures and cold weather, but for those with a few weeks to spare between June and the end of August we’d highly recommend having a crack at the mighty Binns Track.
The full Binns is 2230km and takes tourers through a variety of outback landscapes, including the sands of the northern Simpson Desert, the rocky gorges of the East Macdonnell Ranges, the savannah grasslands of the Davenport Ranges NP and then on to the tropical Gregory NP.
If you haven’t got time for the full track, it is super easy to drive different sections of it; if it was us, we’d start in the East Macs and finish in the beautiful Davenport Ranges NP, before looping back to Alice Springs – or continuing north to Darwin. However much – or little – you do, it’ll make you want to return to finish the job – the Binns Track really is that much fun.
HEAD SOUTH FOR WINTER
Location: Sapphire Coast, NSW
The NSW Sapphire Coast, stretching from Bermagui to Eden, is a cracking autumn/winter destination, with awesome 4x4 tracks, beachside campsites, hiking and biking trails, minus the heaving summer crowds.
For keen mountain bikers, Tathra’s renowned 50km trail network is a must, while hiking enthusiasts can tackle the two-day Light to Light Walk, starting at Ben Boyd Tower, just south of Eden, and finishing at Green Cape Lighthouse, with a midway camp at pristine Bittangabee Bay.
After some off-road exploration during the day, you can finish off with a cold beverage at the Longstocking Brewery, Bar and Oyster Bar at Pambula, or another new microbrewery at Tathra Hotel – the Humpback Brewery. And yeah, there’s plenty of fresh seafood on offer at any number of restaurants and pubs here.
More info: www.sapphirecoast.com.au
THE NORTH-WEST IS CALLING
Location: Gibb River Road
It’s that time of year to start thinking about the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road. With the region’s jaw-dropping landscape, plentiful campsites, brilliant swimming holes, great fishing and epic side-trips (the track to Kalumburu), it’s easy to see why ‘the Gibb’ is on bucket lists.
From the start-point of Kununurra to Derby – and then on to Broome and Cable Beach – you can make it as quick or as long an adventure as you like. Accommodation options are dotted along Gibb River Road, ranging from NP campsites to the luxury of El Questro Resort.
FREE CAMPSITES AROUND AUSTRALIA
For many years now, the team at the ExplorOz website has offered a list of free campsites. That list has continued to grow in size and detail each year, as members add information.
For that last-minute camping adventure, head online to www.exploroz.com and check out what digs are located near the area that you’re travelling to. The website is updated with new camp spots regularly, and punters can browse by map, place and current location. A very handy tool.
Organiser: 4WD Victoria
You can never know too much about off-road driving, regardless of how good you think your skills are. Hence 4WD Victoria runs a number of accredited and non-accredited courses covering everything from 4x4 basics through to vehicle recovery procedures, map reading, GPS use, sand driving, winter driving and track classification.
There’s even a course on chainsaw use; for those who venture into heavily timbered areas, this is a must. All these skills are pretty much essential knowledge for anyone considering spending even the occasional weekend off-road, exploring tracks and destinations.
More info: www.4wdvictoria.org.au