Last Updated on June 13, 2023

Formerly known as “Nappanerica”, the Big Red sand dune is the largest and most famous dune in Queensland’s Simpson Desert, located 33kms west of Birdsville.

Big Red is a truly unique and spectacular place, and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the Australian Outback. It is a place of great beauty and cultural significance, and offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy.

The area comprises over 1100 dunes and is a paradise for 4WD off-road drivers, sandboarders, and desert dwellers venturing into the Australian Outback.

Sunset view from Big Red sand dune. Simpson Desert, Queensland, Australia.
Sunset view from Big Red sand dune. Simpson Desert, Queensland, Australia.

The Simpson Desert

Birdsville is one of those remote, isolated, lonely and generally dead-end outback towns. It’s located just over the border to South Australia, 200-odd kilometres from the nearest town.

Birdsville lies on the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, a region the size of Uruguay (176,000 km²) that is completely uninhabited.

There are no roads across the desert, except for precarious roads opened in the 1960s and 1970s in the search for gas fields.

One such road is the so-called French Line, a four hundred kilometre long sand track that crosses the desert from east to west on which there is nothing but spectacular scenery, and of course dunes. Lots of dunes. Lots and lots of dunes.

About twelve hundred dunes, running north to south across the desert for hundreds of kilometres and kept stable by the vegetation that grows on them.

The Big Red

The dune called “Big Red” is the first and tallest dune you encounter coming from Birdsville.

Big Red is a tall, red sand hill, named after the dune’s reddish color and impressive height of over 40 meters. The dune sits approximately 90 meters above sea level and is 35 meters above the surrounding plain, although its height can vary due to winds and movement of the dune.

The former name, Nappanerica, roughly translates to “water that takes a long time to dry up“, was given because the dune lies on the western edge of Lake Nappanerica.

Cycling on the Big Red sand dune. Simpson Desert, Australia.
Cycling on the Big Red. Simpson Desert, Queensland, Australia.


The Big Red is popular with 4WD riders although it can be a bit of a challenge for inexperienced off-road drivers. A nearby dune, appropriately called “Little Red” is generally more suited for beginners.

Other recreational activities in the area include dirt biking, sandboarding, hiking, camping, and desert photography.

The area is especially known for its beautiful sunsets, and many people visit Big Red to watch the sun go down over the dunes.

We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance. Activities covered may change based on your destination and country of residence.

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