Are you only in Adelaide for a few days but want a taste of the Outback? Read this review of the 3-day Flinders Ranges tour offered by SA Eco Tours – it might just be exactly what you need.
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If you had asked me a month ago about travelling to the Flinders Ranges in summer I would have recommended against it. Too hot, I would have said! Everything closes.
But Mick from SA Eco Tours challenged me to find out!
I’m not one to refuse a challenge, so I jumped aboard one of his fortnightly, 3-day tours to the Flinders Ranges from Adelaide.
Day One – Adelaide to Wilpena Pound
The tour conveniently leaves from Adelaide, and pickups are arranged for each group depending on where you are staying. We made our way to the Holiday Inn Express where some of the other tour participants were joining.
We were picked up by our driver and tour guide Steve in the 4WD tour bus. It can comfortably seat 16, which meant with only seven people on board we had plenty of room to spread out. It also meant there was plenty of room for the abundance of snacks and cold water to keep us going on our trip.
Our group included three people from Australia, and four international guests, so as we left the city Steve regaled us with stories and information to get us excited for what was to come.
This commentary continued over the whole tour – crazy stories and interesting facts were peppered throughout.
The first part of the trip had us driving along the main highway heading north from Adelaide towards Port Augusta.
We had a brief stop for coffee in Port Wakefield and detours through Lochiel for its pink lake and the “Lochiel Monster” and Snowtown with its infamous history.
For lunch we pulled in at Harry’s Homemade Fine Foods a popular highway stop, part cafe, part shop, selling small goods and local produce.
The owners have an Italian background, so their salamis and pepperonis are delicious. They’ve experimented with Australian meat though, so look out for the camel Mettwurst!
This is also a good place to pick up my favourite Smoky Bay oysters, Humpalicious camel milk and ice cream, and the biggest pickled onions I’ve ever seen.
Back on the highway, we drove into the coastal town of Port Germein, home to the second-longest wooden jetty in Australia at more than 1500m. It used to be the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, but a wild storm destroyed a good chunk of it.
Steve gave us the option of jumping out and going for a walk on the jetty, but the day was heating up and staying in the bus seemed like a better option.
I have walked out to the end of the jetty before, and it’s a nice walk, especially early in the morning when the weather is calm and not so hot.
Our drive continued until we reached Quorn in mid-afternoon. After a quick lap around the town in the bus to get our bearings, we were given about 45 minutes of free time to look around, and I already knew where I wanted to go.
And luckily, it was inside, because the heavens opened just as we stepped inside, as a big, tropical storm cloud passed overhead.
I have been following along with the story of Flinders Gin since it started a couple of years ago and was very excited when they opened their tasting rooms in the old stables last year. I just had to call in so that I could taste they quandong gin.
Quandong, for those who don’t know, is a native fruit, sometimes called a wild peach, and I love it. It’s an acquired taste, a little like rhubarb, but perhaps more tart.
I grew up with quandong trees in our front yard and we would snack on them continuously during the fruiting season. They grew better than any of the introduced fruits in our almost-desert area.
We tasted all four of the gins produced here, and yes, I liked the Quandong Gin. The Outback Lime & Lemon Gin was also delicious – and the preferred choice of the international guest with us.
I got chatting to Alby, the mastermind behind Flinders Gin and he gave me a quick sneak peek of Myrtle, the beautiful still that makes everything possible. If you want to learn more, they do offer tours here too, which I think will be on my list next time I’m in the area.
If gin isn’t your thing, then you can also take a stroll around Quorn. Some of the members of our group went to take a look at the small Railway Museum which is open in the Visitors Centre year round.
Back in the bus, we made our way to Warren Gorge, about 20km out of Quorn. This is a popular camping area with some fantastic hikes. There’s plenty of wildlife around, even the elusive yellow-footed rock wallaby can be found here.
As we arrived the sun came out and it was in full force, it felt every bit of the 36 degrees (100F) that had been forecast.
So rather than a long walk, we took a short stroll along the road, hiding from the sun under the huge gum trees and towering red cliffs.
We didn’t stop in the town of Hawker, but kept going straight through to Wilpena Pound, with more patches of rain along the way.
We arrived around 6 pm, with time to get our rooms sorted before enjoying dinner.
I did consider a quick dip in the pool, but it really would have just been a minute or two, so I passed, choosing instead to sit and watch the ring-neck parrots and magpies playing on the lawn.
Dinner is served in the main dining room of the resort, with a great variety of items on the menu.
Day Two – Exploring the Flinders Ranges
The plan this morning was to walk from WIlpena Pound Resort into the Pound itself, so we were up nice and early to beat the summer heat.
Now let me warn you, this is a decent walk. To the Hills Homestead is a 6 km return trip, add on an extra kilometre if you are going to the Wangara Lookout.
It’s an easy, mostly flat walk to the Hills Homestead, on a great path through the gorge. Most of the time we were in dappled shade, walking alongside a small creek.
The Hills Homestead is a historic home that was once used by a family of farmers who had both wheat and sheep inside Wilpena Pound. Now it’s part of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. It has toilets available and it’s a good place for a quick rest.
Some of our group continued towards the Wangara Lookout. The path gets a lot harder here, mostly it’s just rocks, and since we’re going to a lookout, it’s all uphill. It’s another 500m, but once at the top, the views inside the Pound are worth the effort.
There is a lower lookout about 100m along the path that will give some views into Wilpena Pound too.
Back on the bus after our walk, we were off to Blinman.
On arrival in the town, we checked in at the Blinman Mine Tour office for our tour. We had time to take a look through the historical Miner’s Cottage before heading to the pub to put in our lunch order so that it would be waiting for us on our return.
It was then off to the Blinman Mine site to meet our guide, Susan, who took us underground into the mine to learn about the mining history of Blinman and some of the characters who worked here in incredibly tough conditions.
After going back to the pub for lunch, we were on the road again just as the rain started to fall. It was so heavy that I did worry a little that we might not be able to get to our next highlight, driving through the stunning Brachina Gorge.
The road in these parts can be a little unpredictable, especially after rain, but our 4WD bus was able to negotiate it well. (The following day the road closed because of the rain, so we were lucky).
I just love this drive through Brachina Gorge, and then on to Bunyeroo Gorge. It’s all about the scenery, this is where you find some of those classic Flinders vistas.
One of my favourite stops was the rocky home of the yellow-footed rock wallabies in Brachina Gorge. They are well-camouflaged and hard to spot, but once we got our eyes in, we saw about 20 of them.
The Razorback Lookout on the Bunyeroo Gorge road is another favourite. I’ve stopped here several times in the past but this view never gets old.
It was after 6 pm when we arrived back at the Wilpena Pound Resort. We all enjoyed our last dinner here before falling into bed. It had been a busy day.
Day Three – Wilpena Pound to Adelaide
This morning our task was simple. Pack up, have breakfast and get on the bus!
Breakfast both days was in the dining room at the resort. It was buffet style, with a range of hot foods, fruit, yoghurt and cereal, breads and pastries, juices, and of course, coffee and tea.
I’m not a huge breakfast eater so I’m easily pleased with Vegemite on toast and a cup of tea, but everyone else enjoyed the variety on offer.
Overnight there had been some more heavy rains, and as we drove south, the deluge was obvious. Where the road passed through creekbeds it was strewn with debris, in some places the water was still running across the road.
In my previous trips up here, these creekbeds were bone dry, so this was a nice change to see, and completely unexpected in summer.
As we made our way down the RM Williams Way highway, we made a brief stop at the Big Akubra in Cradock, ticking another of South Australia’s big things off my list.
Our first proper stop was in the sleepy town of Orroroo – where everything happens a little slower on Sunday mornings. We were lucky to discover one of the coffee shops open, but with only one staff member, we had plenty of time to look around.
The silo art at Wirrabara was on our list next. I just love seeing the silo art as I travel around SA, and this one by Smug at Wirrabara is quite possibly my favourite of them all.
Just a little further along the highway, we stopped at Stone Hut Bakery for lunch. This was my recommendation because I often stop in here as I pass. They make some very good pies.
It was a great opportunity for our international guests to see some of the local wildlife up close here too.
We continued on through the town of Clare to the Sevenhill winery.
This is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley and it has a really interesting story as it was created by the Jesuits as they fled from Europe in the mid-1800s. Even today they make nearly all the sacramental wine in Australia.
We enjoyed a wine tasting, choosing five of their wines to taste each. We enjoyed their Rieslings but ended up taking home a bottle of fortified wine, the Verdelho.
After the tasting we took a short walk around the grounds, visiting the original wine cellar, still-operating church and crypt. There are other buildings too, but we had to keep moving.
We arrived back into Adelaide around 5:30 pm and were dropped off in the same place we were picked up.
We waved goodbye to our new friends, a little weary, but knowing we had just enjoyed three days packed with all the things I would include if I had planned this trip myself.
Travelling to the Flinders Rangers in Summer
While this tour would be amazing any time of the year, here is what I discovered by going in summer.
It wasn’t too hot!
On the morning I was leaving Adelaide, the forecast for Hawker for the three days was 36/33/30. Rain and storms were also forecast for each day. This meant it was warm, but nicely cooled down with rain at times through the days.
There were plenty of things open
I originally wondered with so many businesses closed if we would have enough to see and do along the way, and the answer is yes, there was plenty to do. Much of the Flinders’ appeal is the scenery, and that is always available and free.
Three days was enough time for a taste of the Flinders
Of course, we were not going to be able to cover everything in three days, but there was such a wide range of activities that I didn’t feel like we missed out on anything.
Wilpena Pound Resort was great!
I’ve not stayed in the resort itself since I was a kid, I have always camped here when visiting as an adult. We were in one of the “cheap” rooms, which had been recently refurbished and was a nice size.
Meals were great, with a good range of options, including some “outback” items, like crocodile and kangaroo that our international guests were eager to try.
We saw plenty of wildlife
We could barely go 50m without seeing either a kangaroo or emu, which were everywhere once we were north of Quorn. We also spotted plenty of yellow-footed rock wallabies when we were in Brachina Gorge.
Of course, there were birds everywhere too. We didn’t see any of the wildlife we wanted to avoid – not a single snake or spider!
The tour was a great option
With everything organised, all I had to do was sit back and enjoy. The small group made things easy and everything ran smoothly and on time, but there was never any rush.
There was flexibility in the schedule allowing for a consensus vote as to what we wanted to do and to allow for weather, places being closed and other inconveniences.
That means your tour may be slightly different to mine.
There were plenty of snacks and drinks on board the bus to keep us going for the long drives, so the snacks I packed came home with me.
These 3-day tours run every two weeks so there are plenty of opportunities to jump onboard. But if you are worried about visiting the Flinders Ranges in summer, then I now say – don’t be! Just go, you will have a fabulous time.
If you only have three days to be able to see a small slice of the Australian Outback, then this is the tour to do it!
Don’t just take my word for it though, take a look at their TripAdvisor reviews here too.
You will travel on different routes in both directions so you can experience different landscapes. You will learn some of the local history, see dramatic scenery, and meet the wildlife, all in comfort.
If you can spare five days, SA Eco Tours has a second tour that includes even more great Flinders experiences, such as some time even further north at Arkaroola.
*Note – I was a guest of SA Eco Tours on this trip. As always though, all of the opinions here are my own, and I honestly believe this is a great option if you only have three days to see the Flinders Ranges from Adelaide.
Before you go…read these posts next
Adelaide 3-Day Itinerary
The Ultimate List of What to Do on Kangaroo Island
29 Top Things to Do in the Barossa Valley that Aren’t Wine Tasting
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