Darling River Run 4WD

It is a question often asked... "do I need a 4WD to travel the Darling River Run?"

While 4WDs are a great way to travel through the outback, the 4WD functionality is certain not essential when touring along the Darling River Run through Outback NSW.

You may have seen many off-road magazines, television shows and media personalities tout that it is a 4WD only track... it is not and they are just trying to sell an adventure and are misinformed about the region and what a modern SUV (AWD or two wheel drive) or passenger vehicle is capable of; after all, people have been travelling through outback NSW (and other regions) for decades well before the boom in 4WDs that has happened over the last 10 years or so.

Roads on either side of the Darling River are unsealed country roads that are used by locals on a daily basis to get around. They are not purpose built 4WD tracks that many would have you believe. In fact, many who live along along the Darling don't always drive 4WDs and they survive just fine.

What if it rains? Won't I get stuck?

When it rains, the roads are closed, so even if you have a Hummer or a tank, you won't be going anywhere because the councils in the area are very conscious of keeping the roads in good condition and leaving them open to vehicles when they are wet will only chew up the roads and make them hard to drive on when they dry out; additionally, the cost to grade a road is very expensive and they prefer to only do it as scheduled.

It is not advisable to drive on closed roads for three main reasons:

  • It is inconsiderate to those who live in the area and rely on the roads
  • If caught, the fines are very expensive
  • If you break down on a closed road, it can be a day or two until anyone comes along, so it is dangerous!

So, it is safe to do it in a passenger vehicle or SUV, but always drive to the conditions, watch out for wildlife (i.e. slow down) and if in a traditional passenger vehicle, careful of cattle grids as that can have uneven approaches/departures which can damage lower riding vehicles if travelling too fast.

Regardless of what vehicle you take along the Darling, there are some steadfast rules you should be aware of for any outback/rural/remote travel.

** Caravans and Motorhomes can also travel the Darling River Run - drive to conditions and follow the Outback Driving Guide.

Outback Driving Guide

SIGNS:

Some signs in the outback may seem peculiar to the uninitiated but most are there for a very good reason and must be abided by:

  • TOTAL FIRE BANS: Our country is precious and fires can easily get out of hand (especially in National Parks). If fires are prohibited or Fire Bans are in place, this applies to all people.
  • FRUIT FLY Exclusion Zone: necessary for protection of crops in the area. Please dispose of fruit and vegetables before entering the Zone.
  • ROAD CLOSED: Sometimes unsealed roads are closed after rain. This is for personal safety and to prevent the roads form being damaged. Fines apply if driving on Closed Roads and car insurance will void if something happens to your car on closed roads.

Things to consider if travelling to Outback NSW:

PRE-TRIP:

  • Plan and research where and when to go (Google search and maps, VICS)
  • Talk to others who have travelled the area (Online forums like ExplorOz)
  • Organise contacts/accommodation details before leaving.
  • Determine if your vehicle is appropriate for the intended journey.
  • Ensure you vehicle is fully serviced before embanking on your holiday.
  • Take spare parts that may be needed. (Fuses, tyre, belts etc)
  • Carry spare fuel.
  • Buy a fist aid kit (and pack it so it is easily accessible)
  • Do not overload your car – especially if using roof racks
  • Water – carry a large container of water. (20+ Litres)
  • Communications – Mobile coverage: Determine the coverage of your mobile and if necessary upgrade for maximum coverage for your trip. For more remote travel, consider VHF/UHF and EPIRB device.

DRIVING:

  • Remember the adage about ‘the journey and the destination’. Plan to stop and explorer the areas you are travelling through. This will break the trip up and keep you fresh. Plan to do this every 2-3 hours.
  • Be aware when approaching livestock as they will not necessarily keep off the road and can cross when you least expect it.
  • Try avoiding driving at sunrise and sunset as many native animals (Roos and Emus) will be active then and will be attracted to your headlights and can jump in front of your vehicle – and cause serious damage.
  • If you wish to overtake trucks, a quick flash of you lights is often appreciated.
  • Road trains (double semi-trailers) are long and will take twice as long to overtake than a normal truck. Plan to overtake with caution.

UNSEALED ROADS:

  • Drive at a safe speed (10-20kms less) as conditions on unsealed roads can change quickly.
  • If approaching another vehicle, slow down and move to the left as this will reduce stone damage (windscreen and paint) and reduce dust which may inhibit vision to what is behind their vehicle and yours.
  • Slow when approaching cattle grids as some may be raised or dropped and can be hazardous if crossing at speed.
  • Don’t drive on closed gravel roads.
  • If stopping for some reason, pull over and don’t stop in the middle of the road. If venturing off the main road, take care as the side drain may look dry but maybe wet underneath.
  • Approach creek crossing with caution… they may be washed out and can cause serious damage to your car.

BREAK DOWNS:

If for some reason your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck. STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. Some one will always come by.

ETTIQUITTE:

  • Country people are renowned for their hospitality but remember that their property is their home and livelihood and not all are amenable to random access of their properties; in the same way you would not be at your home or office.
  • Always leave gates as you find them not as you think they should be.
  • Ask permission for camping at the homestead. Check with the station owner before camping and let them nominate a place for you.