The 6.0 magnitude jolt was centered along the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory, near the community of Ernabella.
It struck just before 8:30 p.m. local time at the relatively shallow depth of only 2 miles, according to Geoscience Australia.
Large cracks in the ground were observed outside Ernabella, with ground displacement of up to 4 inches observed in some places.
Ernabella teacher Peter Ruwoldt was at home with his wife when the quake hit, and initially thought the air-conditioner must have malfunctioned.
"I thought (my wife) must have turned it on and the fan must have got out of balance and was about to fly off its axis," he told reporters.
Resident Ria Nicholls told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that houses shook and windows rattled for about 30 seconds with elderly people on her street terrified by the shaking.
The quake was the third to hit the same area in past two weeks. It was Australia's biggest quake since a 6.3-magnitude temblor was recorded in West Australia in 1997.