Quorn for me brings up memories of my year four school camp. We bunked in at the local school, and I remember horse riding and rock climbing. It was okay as far as school trips go, but I didn’t get back there for another twenty five years. Now my parents live nearby, so I’ve been a few times recently. What appears to be a sleepy, dusty town in fact has a lot more to it once you scratch the surface. Here is all you need to know about visiting Quorn, South Australia.
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- 1 Getting to Quorn
- 2 Why Visit Quorn
- 3 Things to Do in Quorn
- 3.1 Pichi Richi Railway Steam Train Ride
- 3.2 Pichi Richi Railway Workshop Tour
- 3.3 Camping and Hiking in Warren Gorge
- 3.4 Powell Garden Botanic Gardens
- 3.5 Quorn Silo Light Show
- 3.6 The Quorn Heritage Walk
- 3.7 Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park
- 3.8 Discover the Kanyaka Ruins
- 3.9 Explore the Ghost Town of Bruce
- 3.10 Test Your 4WD’ing Experience
- 3.11 Quorn Art Galleries
- 3.12 Check out the Movie Locations
- 3.13 Do a Camel Trek
- 4 Quorn Accommodation
- 5 Where to Eat in Quorn
Getting to Quorn
Quorn is located a little less than 350km north of Adelaide right on the outskirts of the Flinders Ranges. The best way to get to Quorn is by car. You will also need a car to get around once you are there. Most of the trip follows the main highway from Adelaide, turning off about 5km before you reach Port Augusta. The road to Quorn is bituminised, but some of the roads around the town are not.
Looking for places to stop on the way to the Flinders Ranges? Check out our driving guide
Driving from Adelaide to Flinders Ranges
Do you need a rental car to get to Quorn? I use and recommend RentalCars.com to compare prices of many hire companies all at once.
Why Visit Quorn
The settlement of Quorn was established in 1878 during the building process of the railway from Port Augusta toward the north of Australia. In 1917, the railway line that connected the east of Australia to the west was completed, and Quorn was where it met the north-south line. That means anyone travelling across the continent in either direction would pass through. In those days, Quorn was a pretty important crossroad!
The heyday only latest twenty years before the east-west line was re-routed, and by the 1950s, all trains stopped using the railway lines through Quorn. In the 1970s, a group of train enthusiasts slowly started to rebuild the damaged tracks and restore locomotives and carriages, and the Pichi Richi Railway was born.
Quorn today has a population of around 1200 people and this tourist railway is the main attraction in town. It’s not the only thing to do here though. As a gateway to the Flinders Ranges, this is a good base to explore further but still have the facilities a town affords. It’s a great place to stay a night or two if you are heading further north, through Leigh Creek or Maree. There’s plenty of history, hiking and stunning natural beauty to enjoy while here.
Things to Do in Quorn
So what are all those Quorn attractions that will keep you busy during your visit? Try these!
Pichi Richi Railway Steam Train Ride
I’ve already mentioned the Pichi Richi Railway above and it really is a must when you are in Quorn. There are train trips from Quorn station from around March until November each year. Mostly they run on weekends and public holidays, but you may also find services during the week, particularly in school holidays. Look out for some of the special services, including those on The Coffee Pot, the only remaining train of its kind in the world.
Pichi Richi Railway Workshop Tour
If you are a real train enthusiast or just genuinely curious, you can also do a tour of the Pichi Richi Railway workshop. You will get a sneak peek of the locomotives and carriages that are currently undergoing restoration before they too join those on the rails. You will need to contact them in advance and arrange a time, as the tours are on an “as needed” basis.
Camping and Hiking in Warren Gorge
Located just 20km north of Quorn, Warren Gorge is a fabulous location for bush camping and hiking. The camp grounds here are basic, but incredibly picturesque as it sits along a creek bed with towering gum trees. Wildlife will be right on your doorstep, with plenty of kangaroos, emus and bird life all around. If you are really lucky you will spot an endangered Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby too, as this is one of the areas they are being re-introduced. For information on camping fees, see the council website here.
The most popular walk in the area is the Warren Gorge Loop Walk which first takes you along the bottom of the gorge and returns along the ridge. There are fabulous views over the area, particularly from Smoke Oh Rock. Look out too for the book up here and add your name to the list of past visitors – this is possibly the strangest place I’ve ever seen a book like this! The walk is about 5km long and will take two hours to finish. It’s quite rough in places, so some bushwalking experience and good sturdy shoes are recommended.
If hiking is your thing, two of South Australia’s popular long distance trails pass close to Quorn – the Heysen Trail and the Mawson Trail. Both trails pass through Warren Gorge, making Quorn an idea base for these legs.
Powell Garden Botanic Gardens
Established by local Brian Powell, these gardens are filled only with plants that grow within a 30km radius of Quorn. They are located right in town on First Street. The gardens were established in 2005, and since Powell’s death in 2010 has become a local community project. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a walk and see much of the local flora all in a small area.
Quorn Silo Light Show
While you are in Quorn, make sure you stick around into the evening to enjoy the Quorn Silo Light Show. 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.
The Quorn Heritage Walk
Learn more about the buildings in town with the Quorn Heritage Walk. Either follow the trail around the town or just look out for the signs as you move around. Some, like the sign above, have great photos of how things were in the past which make interesting comparisons with the streetscapes today.
Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park
Just ten kilometres from Quorn is Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park. The park is dominated by a bluff that is Dutchmans Stern, and this is the destination of the most popular hike in the area. Once at the top, there are great views over the Spencer Gulf and the Willochra Plain. The hike is 10km long and you should allow five hours. There are two other hikes in the area too, both of a similar length, which show off the flora, fauna and spectacular views available in the area.
Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park also contains some accommodation options. Visitors can stay in the Shearers Quarters or the Homestead, with details available on the Parks SA website here. Camping is free within the conservation park outside of fire danger season, but there are no facilities.
Discover 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.
Explore the Ghost Town of Bruce
About 15km south of Quorn on the road to Wilmington there is a turn off to the settlement of Bruce. While this is just one of a number of small towns sitting along side the railway tracks that quickly became deserted once the trains stopped coming through, it is one of the better preserved. The highlight is the Bruce Train Station, but there are a few other buildings to look at too. At last count there were still a handful of residents, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case.
Other ghost towns nearby include Hammond and Terowie, but in fact there are dozens of small settlements around the area that existed for the railway and after it was shut down have faded away.
Test Your 4WD’ing Experience
There are some good 4WD tracks around Quorn for the enthusiast to enjoy. Arden Hills Property near Warren Gorge provide two self-drive tracks to enjoy, the first simply called Arden Hills Track, and the second is the Nathaltee Track. You will need to call into the Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre at the Quorn Railway Station to pay the access fee and pick up a key to allow you onto this private property.
If you don’t want to test out your own abilities, there are plenty of opportunities to join in with a 4WD tour. Details of some of the companies can be found here, or ask at the Visitor Information Centre for further recommendations.
Quorn Art Galleries
There are four art galleries in Quorn that welcome visitors. I recommend contacting them and checking the hours before your visit as they are likely to change.
- Carina Turner’s Studio (by appointment only)
- Junction Art Gallery
- Outback Colours Gallery
- Jonas Jaga Aboriginal Art Gallery
Look out too for the Flinders Ranges – A Brush with Art exhibitions and workshops. The 2020 program was cancelled, but 2021 is planned for September and October. At the time of writing the program is not yet available, but you can look at the 2019 program on the website to get an idea of what to expect.
Check out the Movie Locations
Quorn is a popular filming location for movies set in the Australian outback as it’s not too far from civilisation but it looks like it could be very remote. It is surrounded by a range of outback landscapes too. The first movie filmed here was Bitter Springs way back in 1949, and the latest was Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. In between there have been some real Australian classics such as Gallipoli, The Shiralee, Sunday Too Far Away and Robbery Under Arms. As you drive around the area, see if you can spot some of the locations from the movies.
Right now (April-July 2021) filming is happening around the area for a BBC series called The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan, Danielle MacDonald and Hugo Weaving, so perhaps you could do some star-spotting too.
Do a Camel Trek
This is not so much something to do while at Quorn, but perhaps it’s something to include before or after. There are two companies slightly to the north of Quorn that offer a variety of camel trekking opportunities. This is a fabulous way to explore this northern Flinders Ranges area, and to go places that vehicles cannot get to. For more details contact Camel Treks Australia or Flinders and Beyond Camel Treks.
Since you have made the journey to Quorn, why not stay and enjoy some of the other things to do in the area. Here are some suggestions for accommodation in Quorn
The Mill Quorn
Located right in the middle of town (just down the road from the train station) this accommodation is also known as the Flinders Ranges Motel. This traditional motel style accomodation is the best budget option in town, There are family rooms as well as the usual double rooms on offer. It is a short walk to cafes, restaurants and other facilities in town.
The Quorn-er House
This highly rated three bedroom holiday home can sleep up to seven people. It is an easy walk to the train station, and is pet friendly if you are travelling with your dog. It is air-conditioned, essential in this part of the world, and has BBQ facilities to enjoy that warmth in the evenings. And yes, the property is located on a corner!
Endilloe Lodge Quorn
Located on the outskirts of Quorn, this three bedroom house has outstanding reviews. It is B&B style accommodation, so breakfast supplies are provided. The house can sleep up to eight, and is perfect if you would like to enjoy the Australian bush. Visitors will often see wildlife such as kangaroos and kookaburras right outside the window. Modern facilities have not been excluded though, there is a spa bath as well as even other appliance you could want for your stay.
Great Northern Lodge
The Great Northern Lodge is 4-star motel style accommodation situated on the main shopping street in Quorn with recent renovations providing brand new rooms to stay in. Look out for Emily’s Bistro to find it. The rooms are modern and spacious, many having kitchen facilities too. There is a BBQ and garden area, free wifi, and a shared lounge and bar to relax in.
Pichi Richi Park
Located to the south of Quorn just off the main highway Pichi Richi Park is the perfect location for a family getaway. Enjoy the remote location and stunning views over the ranges while still having all the facilities to be comfortable. Each room includes a kitchen and bathroom and there is a shared lounge, BBQ and gardens.
Where to Eat in Quorn
Quandong Cafe is a good choice for breakfast, lunch or just a coffee. They claim their native Quandong Pie is one of the best, and their customers seem to agree. As we walked down the main street of Quorn we noticed a group of people looking longingly at the Quandong Cafe. They were hoping to eat there, but the Cafe was so busy there were no seats left for them. Open from 8am to 4pm every day except Tuesdays
Emily’s Bistro is a family-style restaurant open for breakfast and lunch everyday, and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday. It’s rated #1 on TripAdvisor and provides not only the usual fare, but vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options too.
Unfortunately Emily’s Bistro has closed due to Covid, but I will leave this here as they are planning on opening again at some stage in the future, first for breakfast for those staying in the attached Great Northern Lodge. I will update this again when I know more.
Teas on the Terrace
These cute little tea rooms are perfect for a quick stop for a few minutes relaxation. Along with the drinks they provides a whole range of delicious homemade light meals for breakfast and lunch. They have plenty of cakes and sweets and are well known for their delicious Devonshire Tea. Located a short walk from the Quorn Railway Station, Teas on the Terrace is perfect for a pre or post train trip visit. They also do takeaway food, so perhaps pop in before and pick up some snacks to take with you and eat on the way.
There are three pubs in Quorn, and all provide meals. Choose any one of them to grab a solid pub meal that will fill your stomach and not empty your wallets too much.
Visiting more great South Australian locations? These posts might help
Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
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Glamping South Australia – The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Style
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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.