A railway siding in the desert between Port Augusta and the Western Australian border
One of the many sidings on the Trans-Australian Railway, Ooldea is located 1169 km west of Adelaide and 863 km west of Port Augusta. It is accessible by road on a 143 km dirt track which runs north from the Eyre Highway between Yalata and Nundroo.
Ooldea's importance is based on its proximity to permanent water in an area where the average annual rainfall is below 200mm. This supply of water meant that during the construction of the Trans-Australian railway line Ooldea became an important camp.
It is thought that the word 'Ooldea' is actually a local Aboriginal term for a meeting place near water. Certainly the area has been an important meeting place for Aborigines for many centuries. It was discovered by Europeans in the mid nineteenth century and the explorer Ernest Giles, on his epic 1875 journey from Beltana to Perth, used the waterhole at Ooldea (along with other waterholes on the Nullarbor Plain such as Wynbring and Ooldabinna) as a vital stopping point.
Ooldea's main claim to fame occurred when Daisy Bates arrived in 1919 to care for the local Aborigines. She stayed in Ooldea for sixteen years and wrote about it extensively in her book The Passing of the Aborigines. In the 1950s, as a result of the atomic bomb trials at Maralinga, the local Aboriginal community was moved further south to Yalata.
Accommodation and Eating
There are no accommodation or eating facilities in Ooldea.