Big Desert & Ngarkat Conservation Park

The Big Desert is Victoria's first declared wilderness area and is considered to be the best single area in Victoria for reptiles, with over 50 species of lizards and snakes recorded. Nearly 100 species of birds have been recorded in the Big Desert including the extremely rare Western Whipbird. Look out for Mitchell's Hopping Mouse, Sand Goannas, Dragons, Emus and Kangaroos.

The park is very popular with 4WD groups and Red Bluff is a popular day trip from Kaniva. However one to two days is recommended to see the whole park. There are bush campsites within the Big Desert at Red Bluff Reserve on the Border Track and in the Ngarkat Conservation Park. Some sites have a toilet and fireplaces, but make sure you carry in your own supplies including plenty of water.

From Kaniva, travel through Telopea Downs and turn left at Red Bluff Track (approx 45 km north of Western Highway). See Hindmarsh Touring Map. The best time to visit is April through to October. Summer is not recommended because of sandy roads, high temperatures and risk of fire.

Access is only available by four-wheel drive and best accessed by experienced drivers in groups. The Border Track is renowned by 4WD enthusiasts and provides a variety of challenging sand dunes and driving experiences. It is particularly worth visiting for anyone planning a bigger outback trip. Map, compass, satellite phones, GPS and CBs are also recommended. Also worth a drive is Red Bluff via Chinaman's well through to Nhill. 

The Border Track

Caution: Unmaintained Track. Drivers require a high level of 4WD experience. Vehicles require a high ground clearance and must carry adequate fuel, food and water supplies. Deflate tyres to 105 kpa (15 psi). There are no vehicle rescue services in this area. Travel in groups with appropriate 4WD equipment. It is a notorious drive, especially after rain, and a section of it is one way only. Care needs to be taken and travel with another vehicle.

If you have a 2WD vehicle, or are towing a caravan, then your only options are Pertendi Hut and Comet Bore camping areas, both situated on the Pinnaroo to Bordertown Road. Pertendi Hut is well set up, with clearly defined sites, toilets and shelter. Comet Bore is less so, but there is still room for caravans. There is rainwater at both of these sites, but don't rely upon it. Both are good for birdwatching, especially when the low lying area at Comet Bore has water. Pine Hut soak, south of Pinaroo off of Rosy Pine Road, also has access for 2WD vehicles, toilets and well defined sites. The road leading into this area is unsealed and can be a bit boggy after rain.

The other areas mentioned all require a 4WD, although the Baan Hill Track that travels through Ngarkat and Mount Rescue Conservation Parks, is not particularly challenging but it is a great drive.

Camping

Make sure you carry in your own supplies including firewood and water. These are not serviced campsites, so ensure you take all your rubbish home with you. There are bush campsites within the Big Desert at Red Bluff Reserve on the Border Track (no fees payable). The site has a toilet and fireplaces. 

For more detailed maps, Victoria's Deserts by Westprint Maps if quite comprehensive.

Bore water is also available at Big Billy Bore and Broken Bucket Reserve.

The roads are extremely sandy in places and the Border Track contains many clay pans. Most tracks are not signposted.

The Big Desert is best accessed by experienced 4WD groups. Map, Compass, Satelite Phones, GPS and CBs are also recommended as there is no mobile coverage (except for the top of Red Bluff).

Downloads

Big Desert Mud Map

Ngkaret Conservation Park