Away from Australia's coastal regions, large parts of the country are desert. Together they cover 1,371,000 km² and occupy nearly a fifth of the continent. Far from being something to avoid, the deserts are one of the greatest natural attractions of the country. The five largest Australian deserts are the Great Victoria Desert, Tanami Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Simpson Desert and the Gibson Desert. Smaller ones include the Little Sandy Desert, the Sturt's Stony Desert, the Strzelecki Desert and the Tirari Desert. The latter three are located in the border area of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, while the others are more to the central and central western parts of the country, which forms a much larger continuous area of desert landscapes.
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The Great Victoria desert is a large arid area in the southern part of Australia and the largest desert in the country. It covers part of the west of South Australia and some eastern parts of Western Australia. It mainly consists of many small sandhills, grasslands and salt lakes. It is bounded by lots of other subregions including deserts like the Tirari and Sturt's Stony to the west, and the Little Sandy and Gibson to the northwest and north. The famous Nullarbor Plain is to the south, forming a transition zone to the ocean. It is just sparsely populated but there are several Aborigines (native Australians) living in different groups. The Mamungari Conservation Park form part of the South Australian Great Victoria desert as well and is a world biosphere reserve.
It's possible to travel across parts of the Great Victoria desert, including the Great Central Road which basically connects Western Australia with Uluru and further on to Alice Springs. There are even plans to make this road suitable for all vehicles and during all weather circumstances. Even now, it is possible to cross it in a regular car, but it's preferred to take a high clearance vehicle like a 4wd. It is advised to be full selfsufficient and bring food, water, fuel and spare parts, and travelling with at least 2 vehicles is recommended but not strictly necessary. Also arrange the permits you will need to cross Aborigines land. For more information check the Great Victoria Desert website.
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The Great Sandy Desert is located in the northwest of Australia, entirely in Western Australia in between the Pilbara and Kimberley rock formations. It's a rather flat area, bounded by the Little Sandy desert to the south and the Gibson desert to the southwest. To the east is the Tanami desert. There are several seasonal salt lakes like Lake Dora and a great park, Rudall River National Park. It's sparsely populated with scattered Aborigines people living in separate groups. As the term suggest, there are large areas of sandseas (ergs) in some parts. Although it might receive much rain for a desert (usually over the limit over 250 mm), the evaporation is extreme and much higher compared to precipitation. Temperatures are warm to extremely hot yearround and only in the south bordering the Gibson Desert the occasional frost might be possible one a day or so a year, usually in June or July.
The Little Sandy Desert is also located in Western Australia, south of the Great Sandy Desert and west of the Gibson Desert. It doesn't form one with its bigger neighbour though and thus is a seperate desert. The area and its flora and fauna are quite similar though and both deserts are crossed by the famous Canning Stock Route, one of the most challenging 4wd routes in Australia and only recommended with more vehicles and being totally selfsufficient which means enough fuel, spare parts and water and food. A GPS is also recommended as is reporting the authorities of travelling along the route.
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The Simpson Desert is a huge desert in the central east of Australia, and covers parts of Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. Its boundaries are the Finke River and Mabel Range to the west, the Adam Range to the north ,the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers to the east and Lake Eyre to the south. The Simpson Desert is an erg which contains the world's longest parallel sand dunes, reaching in hight between 3 and 40 metres. Although there no maintained roads across the deserts, several rough tracks can be navigated by well equipped 4wd vehicles, but it is advised to carry extra supplies and recommended to travel with 2 vehicles. Access points to the desert include Oodnadatta in South Australia and Birdsville in Queensland.
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The Gibson Desert is located in the central eastern part of Western Australia, south of the Great Sandy desert, east of the Little Sandy desert and north of the Great Victoria desert and is large still pristine area. Lying between Lake Disappointment and Lake Macdonald along the Tropic of Capricorn, it consists of huge areas with sand plains and dunefields and low rocky and gravely ridges. It is very thinly populated, only several groups of Aborigines live here and the climate is harsh with low rainfall, high evaporation and temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months (November to March). Travelling here requires a 4wd vehicle and all the necessary things you need like fuel, food and water. It's a rewarding trip to if you cross the desert along one of the tracks, like the Gunbarrel Highway.
The Tanami Desert is located in the Northern Territory and traversed by the Tanami Track. It's a rocky deserted place with small hills and one of the more adventurous places to travel to in the Northern Territory.
The Strzelecki Desert is located in the north of South Australia, the southwest of Queensland and the north of New South Wales, northeast of the Lake Eyre Basin, and north of the Flinders Ranges. Both the Birdsville Track and the Strzelecki Track cross the region. Birdsville is one a few places to spend the night if travelling across the desert. It has fantastic massive dune fields and wilderness areas and is preserved within the Strzelecki Regional Reserve.
The Tirari Desert borders the Strzelecki Desert and is located in the far north of South Australia, featuring sand dunes and salt lakes. Located east of Lake Eyre, it is mostly located within the Lake Eyre National Park. The Birdsville Track between Marree and Birdsville crosses the desert.
The Sturt's Stony Desert is also located in the far north of South Australia and is located east of the Simpson Desert and northwest of the Strzelecki Desert. To the south west of Sturt's Stony Desert is the Tirari Desert. Like the name already suggests, it is a rocky stony desert and also crossed partly by the Birdsville Track.
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