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Australia is the oldest, flattest and lowest landmass on Earth. While it did have huge mountain ranges once upon a time, millions of years of rainfall, frost and erosion have flattened it out into the incredibly ancient and unique landscape we have today.
While they don’t rival others in the world, we do still have mountain ranges. Mount Kosciuszko is our highest point, which is 2,228 metres above sea level. It forms part of the Australian Alps and High Country that sits in (and in between) New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. While it’s not nosebleed high, it’s still incredibly beautiful country that is mostly very wild and untouched.
With the highest point in mind, an obvious question soon follows. Considering Australia is also the lowest and flattest continent on the planet, where is the lowest point? Sitting at 15.2m below sea level, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is officially Australia’s lowest point.
It’s an enticing proposition for a road trip; one that shows you truly how wild, big and unpopulated this country of ours is. And it’s one that you can do, with a little planning and preparation.
With the advent of cheap airfares these days, you could mount an argument that Australians are losing the art of the epic road trip. Once upon a time, spending days at a time on the road was part-and-parcel of the Australian experience. Along with cheap airfares, we didn’t have the smooth, wide highways for fast and painless “commuting”. Roads were rougher, narrower and much twistier. We had to drive them.
The art might be lost, but the potential is still there. Sydney to Melbourne up the coast doesn’t have the same kind of grandeur it might have once had, but you can still find that sense of adventure if you look further afield. Hint: get off the motorway.
If you’re thinking about a road trip, your choice of vehicle is important. This is not something for your low-slung sports car, especially if you’re heading into the centre of the continent.
The lake is 9,500km² (with a population density of exactly zero) and has the water capacity to outstrip Sydney Harbour five to one. Despite its huge catchment area, the lake doesn’t often get water because the country is incredibly arid. The lake properly fills very rarely; the last time it filled was back in 1974, when it gets to around 5m or 6m at its deepest parts.
Interestingly, thanks to massive weather events in North Queensland and the Diamantina, Lake Eyre is currently filling up as you read this.
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Around 1,300km separates the highest and lowest points in Australia, and their 2,243m of altitude variation. If you’re driving, expect to cover around 2,000km, depending on which route you take.
Australia is huge, 8,600,000km², in fact. Our great southern land is roughly the same size as the continental United States of America, but the biggest difference is in our population. While there are 325 million in America, there are only about 25 million here in Australia.
That works out to be roughly 3.1 people per square kilometre, depending on where you get your stats from. Not many, right? It’s also worth noting the vast, vast majority of those people live in big cities on the coastline.
Although some parts of Sydney and Melbourne have over 15,000 people per square kilometre, most of the Australian landmass, which is 32 times the size of the United Kingdom, has less than 0.1 people in the same area. Australia is home to some of the most remote and quiet areas on the planet.
And on this road trip, we’ll be travelling through some of this incredibly remote, wild and barren country.
You need a bit of ground clearance and either an AWD or 4WD system will help with the incredible variety of conditions you’ll encounter along the way. You’ll also want something comfortable, and with plenty of space for goods and chattels.
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We’ve got a 2019 Jeep JL Wrangler for our journey, in Unlimited Overland specification. It’s an SUV with proper 4WD capability, along with a full-size spare and enough room for all of our gear. Having a 4WD means you can handle any tough conditions with confidence and can do some extra exploring off the beaten track.
One real beauty of this journey is the fact there is so much to see and do along the way and so many different ways to skin the cat. Camping in the High Country, or wine tasting in the Rutherglen.
Follow the history of Australian explorers along the Sturt Highway, or simply drop into little far-flung towns to get a taste of what life is like in rural and remote Australia.
Why not get behind the wheel and do it yourself? It’s a big undertaking, but is an incredible adventure to experience. All you need is an SUV or 4WD with some basic gear. Think some spare food and water, as well as a full-sized spare and some basic tyre repair gear. Don’t forget to throw in some maps, as well.
You’ll be privileged to see some incredible and remote parts of Australia, in between the highest and lowest points.