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Flinders Ranges Travel Guide
Flinders Ranges Travel Guide

Flinders Ranges travel guide: best things to see & do

Flinders Ranges – An outback experience

If you have time for only one outback experience make it the Flinders Ranges.  I think Flinders Ranges is extraordinary in its remoteness. Then there is the sheer age of the place.  As a consequence my imagination runs overtime thinking of myself standing in a place that is 800 million years old. 

The outback is remote and getting there takes time and effort. Flinders Ranges are the oldest, largest mountain range in Australia stretching for over 430kms.  In fact Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheatre and a focus for visitor experiences.

Photo - Scott Maxwell
GETTING THERE

Flinders Ranges is 5 hours from Adelaide or 295km.  Five hours of driving through rural Australia means two days are gobbled up just getting there and back.  Australian distances can influence whether you think it is worth the journey.  You can fly to Wilpena Pound however it is not cheap. Check out

Flinders Ranges
Salvation Jane Flower, South Australian Flinders Ranges

You really do not want to drive

Recommended tour operators are listed on the official website.   Outback tours offer one week minimum group tour packages.  Time is spent traveling in a tour bus to your destination which can seem remote after a day in a bus.  Remember to check travelling distances between activities as the vast distances can cause frustration.

Weather

It is hot or hotter in summer.  Check out average monthly temperatures before deciding on your travel dates.  Always carry water in the Australian outback.   Always have a hat to protect yourself from the glare of the sun.  The heat could put you off going as it is never really cold.  The journey is worth it, even if you are hot, sticky and feeling the sweat running down your back.

What to see & do

Is the journey child friendly?

Travel times,  the heat and the remoteness could lead to scratchy children.  Plan your journey with rest breaks to pace the journey for all age groups.  It is likely that your mobile will not always work.  Your office could be offline.   The ultimate away from technology road trip.

Shopping experience Blinman
Blinman disused mine shaft

Unwind Experiences  Blinman Pools

Blinman Pools, natural pools in a rocky riverbed at the foothills of the Flinders Ranges.

Soak in rock pools in the solitude of ancient spaces, empty of crowds.  Your reward for the challenging walk 5 hours return (12km).  There are no formal paths although there is signage and places of interest along the way are flagged.  Remember to notify your accommodation provider of any walks you plan for the day.   I never wanted to get out of the pool.  It was solitude for all the right reasons.  Peace, sense of space and time with the history of the landscape breathing all around me.

Malkumba-Coongnie Lakes

Indigenous owned Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park is a water world.  Waterholes, shallow floodplains, lakes and channels encourage bird life.  Swimming is allowed however motorboats, camp fires, fishing and generators are not permitted in the park.  Another place where you simply soak up the atmosphere, literally if you are in a swimming hole. 

Witjira National Park is very popular with over 120 mound springs in the adjoining Simpson Desert).  Warm welling water is in stark contrast to the surrounding arid landscape.  

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Food and Feast experience

Hunting and gathering aboriginal practices are of interest to many visitors. Just the thought of living off the land and then where on earth is the next meal going to come from. Hence the recommendation to participate in an indigenous tours explaining the flora and fauna are available from Wilpena i Site.  I always enjoy the interaction with a passionate local who is sharing his or her place with me. It’s fun thinking about BBQ that animal over a spit.  I am very good at the spear throwing exercise as I have this disassociation between eating meat and actually killing my dinner.  I suppose it’s all that city living that has done this. 

Culture

South Australian official website lists activities as well as the Wilpena Pound i Site.

Rock art and history of land occupation 4000 years is explained.  Indigenous perspectives,  european settlers and their interaction with the land is given.  Art galleries and installations, heritage museums are in a setting of national parks and rural landscapes.  A bucket list immersion experience set in the ancient landscape around you.  It is art and messaging all rolled into an outdoor landscape.

Trekking with camels in the Flinders Ranges
Photo - Brian Hatchard

Landscapes and scenery

The Flinders Rangers are uplifted and layered colours reflecting several million years of geological history.  Simply beautiful and makes for fabulous photo moments. 

As https://www.australia.com/en/places/adelaide-and-surrounds/guide-to-flinders-ranges describes “The rugged, weathered peaks and rocky gorges of the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia form some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the country. It’s a place rich in Aboriginal history and home to a vast array of wildlife. Following the scenic roads, 4WD tracks and walking trails that crisscross this wild countryside will take you on a remarkable adventure”  

While you could hire a 4WD vehicle it is easier if you join either a half day or full day tour with a local guide.  You get to enjoy the scenery without the hassle of driving over rutted tracks.   Strongly recommended you sit back, with your handy foam cushion you have carried with you, enjoy and listen to the commentary of your guide.

Birds flock of Galahs in flight Flinders Ranges
Wedge-tailed Eagle
WHERE TO STAY

Travelling distance needs to be checked as it has taken you one day of travel to reach the Flinders.  

Wilpena Pound vicinity 

Wilpena Pound has a number of options from hotel style, glamping and campsites.

Photo - Julie Fletcher
@jaumawines

Arkaba five bedroom luxury.

All inclusive full board including tours.  Location is approximately 50 minutes or 40km from Wilpena Pound.

Farm style upmarket accommodation.

Location is 40 minutes or 30km from Wilpena Pound.

TIP : Depending on your choice of things to see and do evaluate the travelling time between your accommodation choice and your proposed itinerary.  Nothing is worse than you spend time travelling to and from activities with not enough time to enjoy the experience due to the length of time taken to get there.

Flinders National Park vicinity - accommodation options

There are a number of rural settlements such as Hawker and Blinman (see separate post) which offer accommodation choices.   Quorn Saving Bank of South Australia, Quorn is quirky and very comfortable however its location could be a deterrent at 130km from Wilpena Pound or 1 hour 50 minutes drive.

Parachilna Prairie Hotel.

The Prairie Hotel specialises in feral pies and grill featuring kangaroo, emu, goat and camel.  You can finish off with a native wild peach quandong pie.  Prairie Hotel website encourages visitors to walk to Parachilna Gorge and onto the Blinman Pools waterfall.  Visitors are invited to tramp or participate in short day walks.  

Parachilna is approximately 1 hour or 60km from one of the many Heysen Trail entrances.   

And have I tasted a kangaroo pie,  not yet.

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Photo - Lee Atkinson

Location “You’ll find Parachilna approximately 470 km north of Adelaide, South Australia on the edge of the Flinders Ranges National Park. The nearest towns are Hawker – a pastoral community 90km south, and Leigh Creek, a mining community 66km to the north”

Local activities include flights over Lake Eyre, 4WD in Flinders Ranges, fossil exploration at Nilpena Station.

Rating : classic outdoor adventure, combining landscapes, aboriginal rock art, and wildlife.

Safety :  check out road conditions before your journey,  ensure you carry water on your day excursions.

Travel pack information

Official websites:

Wilpena Pound and large tracts of the Flinders Range is in indigenous ownership. The information centre is a useful information resource as well as a place to book day tours, walks and events. 

Another information resource is the South Australian Tourism Commission.

The journey is worth it

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