South Australia is the driest state in Australia. This becomes quite apparent once you leave behind the parklands of Adelaide and head into the interior. The Outback is as harsh as it is beautiful. Much of it consists of stony desert, salt pans, and sand hills, roamed by kangaroos, emus, dingoes, and wild goats. After spring rains the area can burst alive with wildflowers.

Only four main routes traverse the area. One of them, the Birdsville Track, is famed in Outback history as the trail along which stockmen once drove their herds of cattle south from Queensland. Another, the Strzelecki Track, runs through remote sand-dune country to Innaminka and on to Coopers Creek. Both of these tracks cut through the "dog fence" -- a 5,600km-long (3,472-mile) barrier designed to keep dingoes out of the pastoral lands to the south.

If you follow the Stuart Highway or the Oodnadatta Track, you'll pass the mining towns of Coober Pedy, Andamooka, and Mintabie, where people from all over the world have been turned loose in the elusive search for opal. Out here, too, are national parks, such as the daunting Simpson Desert Conservation Park, with its seemingly endless blood-red sand dunes and spinifex plains; and Lake Eyre National Park, with its dried-up salt pan that, during rare floods, is a temporary home to thousands of water birds.

Tip: An Outback Travel Warning

If you intend to drive through the Outback, take care. Distances between points of interest can be vast; water, gas, food, and accommodations are far apart; and fuel and supply outlets in remote areas are not often open after hours or on weekends. Properties are often unfenced in the Outback -- watch for cattle and wildlife on roads and avoid driving at night. Always travel with a good map and get local advice on road conditions before you set out. If you plan to travel off-road, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must. If you do get into trouble in the Outback, never, ever leave your vehicle. Most people who have perished in the Outback have died while trying to walk to help. Wait until help comes to you.