An oasis in the desert - Dalhousie Springs
Beautiful sunsets, swimming in hot water springs and a great Aussie BBQ what more could you ask for from a night spent camping in the Outback? You can find it all at Dalhousie Springs, South Australia, the oasis in the desert Dalhousie Springs are surrounded by enough green trees and vegetation you feel you could be swimming in the tropics. However walk a few paces from the water and the scenery changes dramatically to apocalyptic floodplains and deserted desert dunes. Located in the Witjira National Park, a group of more than 60 natural artesian springs make up Dalhousie. They lie on the western fringe of the Simpson Desert 180 kilometres northeast of Oodnadatta in northern South Australia. The water in the springs rises deep from the ground on the edge of the Great Artesian Basin. Rainwater from millions of years ago trickled through the Great Dividing Range and westward underneath Australia, welling up in the Dalhousie Main Spring at around 37 degrees, making it perfect for a warm winter swim or an early summer morning’s dip. The springs were used by Aboriginal people as a source of food, shelter and medicine and are home to unique species of fish that are found nowhere else in the world. The springs are also home to many arid land birds. We reached the Dalhousie Springs travelling along the iconic Oodnadatta track through Hamilton Station. To break up the journey you can stay on the station in one of their holiday cabins and experience outback farm life. The road is rarely graded and so can be corrugated and difficult to drive especially if there has been rain recently. The nearest food, fuel and supplies are at Mt Dare Station, about 70 km away on the Northern Territory border, so make sure you take supplies for your stay. Before our journey into the outback, where phone signal can often be non-existent, I checked my CamperMate app to find out where we could stop for the night. The results showed we could camp actually right next to the springs although when we arrived we found it lacking in shade but there are hot showers, toilets, barbecues and picnic benches free to use. Approximately a 10 minutes’ drive away is 3 O’clock creek, a shadier quieter campsite come summertime. There are no facilities here except drinking water, but if Dalhousie is busy with tourists then it offers a bit more peace and quiet. We went for an early morning swim to enjoy the thermal spring’s warm temperature before the heat of the day kicked in. This was perfect – the springs were empty, we could float around, splash, swim and make as much noise as we want. Be careful of dehydration with the hot water though – I had to keep reminding myself to drink lots of cold water. It is such a serene and peaceful place, like a huge relaxing bath, you can easily forget on the other side of the bushes lies the harsh and arid desert. There are steps leading into the water if you wanted to just sit and dip your toes or are not confident with jumping straight in. Entry into Witjira National Park per vehicle is $10.00 and a camping permit is required to camp at Dalhousie Springs costing $19. Alternatively you can purchase a Desert Parks Pass online for South Australia with prices starting from $150 covering entry into national parks and camping throughout the Outback. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been in the world or ever will go again. Just travelling through the outback is an experience in itself not to be missed, but not to be underestimated either. Always make sure you have plenty of water on your journey and ensure you have at least two spare tyres due to the rough conditions of the road. Go there and experience it for yourself!