The Flinders Ranges are one of the top South Australia attractions. They are renowned for their ancient landscape and spectacular scenery. They are a good weekend getaway from Adelaide, or even better if you can spend a week thoroughly enjoying the area. While it’s great to get away from it all for a while, you will likely want something to do while you are visiting the Flinders Ranges. Here are the best things to do in Flinders Ranges to really enjoy your stay.
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- 1 Getting To the Flinders Ranges
- 2 Where to Stay
- 3 Things to do in Flinders Ranges
- 3.1 Take a Scenic Flight over Wilpena Pound
- 3.2 Hiking at Wilpena Pound
- 3.3 Learn about Aboriginal Culture
- 3.4 Hike to Arkaroo Rock
- 3.5 Eat Feral Food at Parachilna
- 3.6 Look at Some Really Old Rocks
- 3.7 Spot Plenty of Australian Animals
- 3.8 Learn about the History of Mining at Blinman
- 3.9 Stay and Play at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
- 3.10 Ride a Steam Train on the Pichi Richi Railway
- 3.11 Enjoy the Quorn Silo Light Show
- 3.12 Watch the Sunset at Pugilist Hill Lookout
- 3.13 Step Back into Time at the Kanyaka Ruins
- 3.14 Hike in Alligator Gorge
- 3.15 Climb Mount Remarkable
- 3.16 Visit a Museum or Gallery
- 3.17 Stay for a Local Event
- 4 Important Notes about Visiting the Flinders Ranges
Getting To the Flinders Ranges
Located in the middle of South Australia, the Flinders Ranges cover a huge area. They start about 200km north of Adelaide, then continue northward for another 430km, so depending on exactly where you are planning to go, it can be a short trip or it can become a real road trip. For access to all the areas in the Flinders Ranges a 4WD car is recommended, but it is still possible to see a lot with only a 2WD. My last trip up there was in a 2WD and we didn’t feel we missed out on anything.
The most convenient way to get to the Flinders Ranges is to drive. You really do need to have a car to get around the area. Usually you can cut a few hours off the trip by flying into Port Augusta from Adelaide and hiring a car there, but at the moment flights are not running due to the impact of Covid. Keep an eye out for details on flights in the future on the Rex website here. There are also buses available to Port Augusta and some of the towns in the region. See the Stateliner website for details.
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Where to Stay
My top suggestions on where to stay in the Flinders Ranges are the towns of Melrose, Quorn or Blinman or at the Wilpena Pound Resort.
There are a wide range of accommodation styles available though. There are plenty of pubs, motels and B & B style options for all budgets. Don’t expect five star luxury and facilities, but you will find many very comfortable and hospitable places to stay. Station stays in the Flinders Ranges are becoming ever more popular and are a great way to support the local people too. Camping in the Flinders Ranges is also popular, but make sure you learn about restrictions on places to camp before you go. And if camping is just a bit too basic for you, you can add a bit more luxury to the experience by going glamping in the Flinders Ranges instead!
Here are just a few suggestions to get you started on your search:
- For Melrose, I suggest Yates Cottage AirBnB or for a romantic break try The Cottage at Bluey Blundstones. Just out of town is the Kookaburra Creek Retreat which has some unique accommodation options such as the budget Bedford Bus which could be a fun place to stay.
- In Quorn I like to recommend The Quorn-er House, a fabulous holiday rental for family groups. You could also try The Mill or the Great Northern Lodge for motel-style accommodations
- Blinman does not have as much accommodation right in town, but there are many station stays not too far away. In town try Blinman Cottage, a holiday house for up to six people. There are hotel & motel style rooms available at the North Blinman Hotel. For a station stay, give Skytrek Willow Springs Station a go.
Other towns to consider are Hawker and Wilmington, or The Prairie Hotel at Parachilna.
Things to do in Flinders Ranges
Many people go to the Flinders Ranges just to enjoy being out of the city. It’s a fantastic location for families just to camp and enjoy time together doing outdoor activities. There is plenty of space to run and explore, so many different walks to do and dozens of scenic drives and look outs. While this is a great way to spend a few days, why not incorporate some of the incredible things to do in the Flinders Ranges too? Here are some of the most popular Flinders Ranges attractions and activities, as well as one or two more obscure and unique options, to fill up your time.
Take a Scenic Flight over Wilpena Pound
I was lucky enough to do this on my very first visit to the Flinders Ranges when I was a child. I had hoped to do it again on my most recent visit, but things were still opening up after the covid closures and I was a week or two too early.
Wilpena Pound (or Ikara as it is known by the traditional owners, the Adnyamathanha people) is an incredible natural amphitheatre and it really is best appreciated from the air. The above video by one of the local operators, Chinta Air, gives you an idea of what you will see on the scenic flight.
China Air takes off from the airstrip at Rawnsley Park Station. There are basic flights starting at only twenty minutes long to give you a simple look at Wilpena Pound, or there are much longer flights that show you more of the surrounding area too. There are even full day tours by plane available that will take you over Lake Eyre too. These flights are particularly incredible when Land Eyre is in flood. For more details on these – and other – scenic flights, take a look at the Chinta Air website.
There are other places that offer flights too. You can book directly through the Wilpena Pound Resort for flights that take off and the airstrip nearby. Also take a look at the Wrightsair website for options.
Hiking at Wilpena Pound
There is a good selection of hikes available in and around Wilpena Pound, the most well known of the Flinders Ranges natural attractions. There are a handful of short, discovery walks with information boards around the Wilpena Pound Resort that are great to do with kids. There is also a moderate hike to the Wangara Lookout that has some great views over the inside of the pound.
For the keen hikers looking for a challenge there are some much more serious hikes too, like the one to St Mary Peak, which at 1168m is the highest point in the Flinders Ranges. It’s not recommended that you hike to the top of the peak though, but stop just a little short of it at the Tanderra Saddle so that the wishes of the local Adnyamathanha people are respected. St Mary Peak is a significant sacred site for them. The whole hike will take around nine hours.
During summer in the Flinders Ranges things can get particularly dangerous with the extreme temperatures and bush fires. It’s always a good idea before leaving on a hike to check the local conditions and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. There is a book at Wilpena Pound Resort to fill in as you leave on your hike to help with this. Some trails are closed over the summer months as it does get very hot in this region and there is a high risk of bushfire. The rugged terrain means search and rescue is difficult at the best of times so don’t put yourself at risk.
If you prefer, Wilpena Pound Resort offers a guided tour into Wilpena Pound. Call into the Visitor Information Centre for more details and to book.
Learn about Aboriginal Culture
Spending a little time learning about the local Aboriginal culture is a must-do in the Flinders Ranges. Wilpena Pound Resort offers two different cultural walks lead by an experienced Yura guide (Yura is the name for the Adnyamathanha people).
The tours teach about the diversity of the Flinders Ranges including the native animals and plants and how that intertwines with the Aboriginal history and culture. There will also be seasonal bush tucker information too. Some of the walks also show Aboriginal rock paintings that show the dreaming stories of the Flinders Ranges.
Each evening there is also a free, thirty minute “Welcome to Country” near the flagpole outside of the reception building at the Wilpena Pound Resort. Here you will see the traditional welcome, as well as some Yura songs, stories and dance. (Unfortunately this is currently suspended due to Covid, but hopefully it will be running again soon)
While technically not in the Flinders Ranges, I also would like to recommend a visit to the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta to learn about the Aboriginal culture. There is some great information explaining the dreamtime stories of the Flinders Ranges, including the creation story of Wilpena Pound.
Another option for Aboriginal cultural experiences is visit Iga Warta in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Owned and operated by the local Aboriginal people, Iga Warta offers accommodation (including safari tents, cabins and camping grounds) as well as some fantastic experiences. You can do an overnight camping tour, learn about secret women’s business, taste some bush tucker and more. Take a look at the Iga Warta website here for all the different options.
Hike to Arkaroo Rock
If you would like to see a little Aboriginal Rock Art but can’t join in the tour to Sacred Canyon, there is a nearby walk to Arkaroo Rock that will allow you to see a sample of the art. The walk starts from the main highway just south of the Wilpena Pound Resort turnoff and is about 3km long. The path is quite rocky and a little uphill, but worth the effort, not just for the rock paintings, but for the views over the nearby Chace Range too. You will have a dilemma when deciding to come here though – the rock art is best seen in the morning light, but the best views over the Chace Range are at sunset! Perhaps you will need to visit twice!
Eat Feral Food at Parachilna
The Prairie Hotel at Parachilna is a well known South Australian icon, serving up Flinders Feral Food, mostly sourced from the local area. While this might conjure up images of the roadkill often seen on the side of the highway in the area, be assured the Prairie Hotel serves up top quality kangaroo, emu, camel and goat, along with many other Australian native plants and flavours. They make their own desserts, (including gelato!) and even serve craft beer and wine from the Flinders region.
Parachilna is a long way from anywhere, but luckily they do offer accommodation here at the Prairie Hotel too. To see availability and book a room click here.
The Prairie Hotel also have a brand new package available to visit the nearly fossil sites on Nilpena Station. The fossils here are Heritage Listed and internationally significant. They are among the oldest examples of multicellular organisms anywhere in the world. The South Australian government has recently bought a large tract of the land and is in the process of setting it up as part of the Ediacara Conservation Park. At the moment, the only way to see the fossils is through a private tour. Contact the hotel directly for more details.
Note: Please keep an eye on the Prairie Hotel website for information as times and services are currently restriction due to Covid. They also usually take a break and close down over the hotter months of the year from November to February as it really is too hot at that time of the year.
Look at Some Really Old Rocks
Really old fossils mean that there are some really old rocks to see in the Flinders Ranges too and one of the best ways to take a look at some of them is to drive the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail. This 20km section of dirt road is best tackled with a 4WD, although in good conditions a 2WD would likely be okay. (Do not attempt it if it has recently rained. Ask at the Wilpena Pound Resort Visitor Centre if in doubt.)
Along the way you will see interpretive signs pointing out some of the ancient rock formations, taking you back in time to 580 million years ago! You will also see some stunning scenery with viewpoints over the ranges along the trail.
While in Brachina Gorge, keep an eye out for the yellow-footed Rock Wallaby. These little guys are endangered and quite rare. Look out for them around sunrise and sunset when they tend to be more active.
For more about Brachina Gorge and the yellow-footed rock wallaby, see this post by my friends at Curious Campers.
Don’t have a 4WD but still want to visit Brachina Gorge? Take this half-day tour from Wilpena Pound Resort through Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Gorge and see the Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies along the way. Click here for prices and availability.
Spot Plenty of Australian Animals
Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby aren’t the only marsupial around here, there are plenty of others to find too. One I am excited to see sometime is the Western Quoll. They have recently been reintroduced to the area after being extinct here for over a hundred years. They are doing quite well, but I am yet to personally come across one.
What you can’t help but see will be kangaroos. They are all around the area. We even saw one right on the lawn of the Wilpena Pound Resort drinking from the sprinkler. You will see emus quite regularly parading around, even through the campgrounds. Another kangaroo-like creature you will see out here is the Euro, or more correctly, the Western Wallaroo. We saw them hiking inside Wilpena Pound, but you can see them in other areas too.
Another re-introduced species that I also have not yet been able to spot are brush-tailed possums. Hopefully these guys will also thrive and become more common again too.
Bird life is abundant. There are so many different types around. Listen out for the distinctive call of the kookaburra, especially in areas around the creeks, like in Melrose or at the Wilpena Pound Resort. You could also see the bright green ringneck parrots that call the area home.
There are also some creepy crawlies here too. On one visit in February we admired the huge webs of the golden orb spiders hanging between the trees at the Wilpena Pound Resort campgrounds. Don’t worry, these guys may build a huge web, but they are harmless to humans. Do keep an eye out for other spiders, scorpions and even snakes and give them a wide berth during your visit.
Learn about the History of Mining at Blinman
The town of Blinman in the northern Flinders Ranges was once a mining town, with copper discovered there at the end of the nineteenth century. The mining stopped in 1907, and the town of 1500 residents has dwindled over time down to just 18 permanent residents today. In 2011 the Blinman Heritage Tourist Mine was opened, with a small museum in town and the option to go on a tour of the mine site with one of the locals. If you want something special, ghost tours are also run in the evenings to give the mine site a whole new atmosphere.
Stay and Play at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
In the northern part of the Flinders Ranges you will find the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. This area has been set up as a tourist destination since 1968. This is a place for relaxing, exploring and learning about the incredible landscape. Arkaroola could be described as an “all-inclusive” location as there is not only accommodation available here, but a restaurant and pub, a small store as well as plenty of attractions.
The accommodation at Arkaroola covers all styles and budgets, from entire houses, a bunkhouse, cabins and both powered and unpowered sites for campers and caravans.
The most popular of the attractions is their signature Ridgetop Tour. This half-day 4WD tour takes you through the oldest part of the already ancient Flinders Ranges, combining the spectacular scenery with some adrenaline from traversing the remote dirt track.
Other activities include scenic flights, astrology, Aboriginal cultural tours, more 4WD tours, bush walking and more. There is something here for everyone to enjoy in their incredible Flinders Ranges location.
Ride a Steam Train on the Pichi Richi Railway
In the town of Quorn you can jump on board one of the many different steam trains to enjoy rattling through the countryside like to early settlers did when rail travel was the way to get around. With trips ranging from whole days to only a few hours there is something to suit everyone. Look out too for specialty trips with meals or evening trips with sunset views.
With the high risk of fire danger, the steam trains do not run in the warmer months, instead a diesel engine does some trips before a break altogether over the hottest summer months. Booking in advance is highly recommended as often the services are sold out.
Enjoy the Quorn Silo Light Show
While you are in Quorn, make sure you stick around into the evening to enjoy the Quorn Silo Light Show, a Flinders Ranges must see. This is one of the new Flinders Ranges things to do, starting up only a few months ago. As the sun goes down the silos come to light. While the displays are intended to change over time, during my visit they consisted of photos of some of the local trains of the Pichi Richi Railway, photos of the Flinders Ranges and surrounding area, photos of native flora and fauna, local events, and artwork done by local artists. The show lasts for about three hours after sunset.
Watch the Sunset at Pugilist Hill Lookout
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Located just outside the Ikara-Flingers Ranges National Park, this hill provides fantastic 360 degree views and is the best sunset location of the Flinders Ranges. From this vantage point there are views of Wilpena Pound in one direction, and the Chace Range in the other, so while it is spectacular at sunset, it’s just as good at sunrise too.
Another sunset viewpoint in the Flinders Ranges is Station Hill Lookout on Rawnsley Park Station. This also gives 360 degree views, this time over Rawnsley Bluff, the Elder Range and Chase Range. (Note: Even if you are not staying at Rawnsley Park it’s okay to visit the lookout)
Step Back into Time at the Kanyaka Ruins
Between Quorn and Hawker are the decaying ruins of the Kanyaka Homestead one of many historic sites in the area. This station was originally home to about 70 families so there are quite a few buildings around as well as a cemetery. Take a wander around to spot all the parts of this busy working cattle and sheep station, including cottages, workshops and the woolshed a little further up the creek bed. The site is now heritage listed.
The original founder was Hugh Proby, who died when he was thrown from his horse and drowned during a thunderstorm some distance from the settlement. Quite ironic since this area is usually incredibly dry. He was buried where he died, so you will also see a sign on the main highway to Proby’s Grave. It’s about 20km along that track before you will come to the burial sight.
Hike in Alligator Gorge
Alligator Gorge is located just outside the town of Wilmington in the southern Flinders Ranges. It is part of the Mount Remarkable National Park and offers a great bush area for hiking. There are some shorter hikes to see some of the highlights, and a longer loop hike to take in all the area has to offer.
Access into the gorge can be tricky, particularly if the road is wet. Take not of the signage on the highway, and if in doubt, speak to the locals at the service station in town. You will also need a National Parks Pass before you visit. Purchase one online in advance, or pick one up at the service station in town. Hours are limited, so online is the best option here.
Climb Mount Remarkable
If you are looking for a challenging day hike, take the trail from the centre of Melrose up to the top of Mount Remarkable. Depending on which of the two trails you take, the return walk is about 15km and takes about five hours. The trail is not too difficult apart from the fact that the first half is all uphill. Pack some snacks and water and take your time admiring the views over the surrounding flat countryside as you hike to the top.
There are dozens of walking trails in and around Melrose in the Mount Remarkable National Park, so if the climb to the summit of Mount Remarkable is a bit much, there are others to choose from. The walk to Cathedral Rock is another that offers some great views, and while there is some uphill hiking, it’s not as strenuous as the summit climb. For a gentle stroll, make your way along the path by the creek bed in town. The scrub is beautiful and full of local wildlife. I have encountered kangaroos just metres away, right near the town.
Visit a Museum or Gallery
There are a smattering of small museums and art galleries throughout the Flinders Ranges. Most of them focus on the history of the small towns they are in, but there are one of two others that focus on specialty subjects. Spend some time checking out these museums
- Melrose heritage Museum
- Wilmington Toy Museum
- Sansouci Puppet Museum and Gallery (Wilmington)
- Pichi Richi Railway Museum (Quorn)
- Fred Teague’s Museum (Hawker)
- Jeff Morgan Gallery (Hawker)
For a living gallery with an artistic history, call into the Cazneaux Tree, not too far from Wilpena Pound Resort. This tree was is a red river gum that was made famous by photographer Harold Cazneaux back in the 1930s in his work called “The Spirit of Endurance”. The tree is now listed as a significant tree by the South Australian National Trust. (Out of curiosity I searched for the location of the photograph today, and found it is owned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but it is not currently on display.)
Stay for a Local Event
Just in case you need another reason to visit the Flinders Ranges, keep an eye out for local events. Take advantage of the fantastic country hospitality and see how these people enjoy themselves as they come from near and far.
There really are too many events for me to list, but as just some examples, look out for the Quorn Races or the Wilmington Rodeo. There’s Land Speed Racing on Lake Gairdner and the Fat Tyre (Mountain biking) Festival in Melrose. You can find art shows, markets, agricultural shows, fun runs, music festivals, even air shows.
Important Notes about Visiting the Flinders Ranges
You will need a National Parks pass for the Ikara – Flinders Ranges National Park and/or Mount Remarkable National Park. Day passes are available for $11 and can either be picked up from your accommodation when you book, buy one at the Wilpena Pound Resort Visitor Information Centre or purchase online in advance from the National Parks website here. If you are a regular visitor to South Australia’s National Parks, I recommend getting an annual pass – again available from the website.
There are many roads once you reach the Flinders Ranges that are unsealed and are therefore subject to flooding and other issues in bad weather. To find out the current road conditions, refer to the Outback Road Warnings on the Department of Transport website here.
Mobile phone coverage is not great throughout this remote area so it is best to assume you will not have any coverage unless in the bigger towns such as Melrose, Wilmington, Quorn and Hawker. During my last visit to Wilpena Pound Resort, my phone using the Optus network did not have service. My husband’s phone on the Telstra network did have some service. Wifi is available only to those who stay in the motel/hotel style accommodation, but there is a wifi zone around the Visitor Information Centre for general use.
I know have mentioned it throughout this post, but I want to include it again – the Flinders Ranges can get very hot during the summer months. By hot I mean temperatures well into the 40’s (Celcius). Some areas are also very prone to bush fires at this time of year. Combine this with how remote the area is and the lack of phone coverage, it can become dangerous. Since most activities are outside, I would not recommend visiting from November to February unless it’s a last minute option and the weather is going to be a little milder.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.