Flinders Ranges National Park is a place of rugged beauty and rich Australian history.
Read on to discover the best things to see and do in the Flinders Ranges or find and book accommodation in the Flinders Ranges today.
The Flinders Ranges is a place of fascination and historical significance in the outback of South Australia. The area has been officially recognised by Tourism Australia and Parks Australia as one of the country’s first National Landscapes. It isn’t too difficult to understand why, with its rugged mountains, creeks lined with red river gums and an amazing history of pioneers’ ill-fated attempts to run sheep and cattle in this harsh and unforgiving environment.
It’s believed that, eons ago, the ranges rose higher than the Himalayas, with erosion over millennia yielding the oldest fossils found in the world. Today, graded roads twist through the prehistoric vertebrae, allowing visitors to take in folded rock formations believed, in some areas, to be up to 1.5 billion years old.
To visit the Central Flinders Ranges is to travel back in time and discover a rich Australian heritage of people refusing to give up, even in the most extreme circumstances. This truly is a place of inspiration that gets into your blood — you will leave longing to return and experience it again.
The area abounds in Aboriginal history, with numerous sites testifying to the cultural heritage of the Adnyamathanha people, including cave paintings, stone arrangements, graves and ochre quarries. Cave paintings and rock engravings can be viewed at Sacred Canyon and Arkaroo Rock. Family and employment responsibilities ensure the Adnyamathanha maintain links with their traditional country. Some work in rural enterprises such as cattle stations while others work in tourism and as park staff.
The scenery is very different on both sides of the ranges, so be sure to plan sufficient time to enjoy it all. One of the best experiences you can have is taking a flight from Lyndhurst over Lake Eyre. From Lyndhurst, you can also drive out to the ochre pits and the historic ruins of Farina. There are many drives and walks in the Flinders, plus Aboriginal paintings, the Richi-Pichi railway and many scenic gorges. Three of the best 4WD loops to explore are the Bunyeroo Gorge, the Brachina Geological Trail, and the Parachilna Gorge, all offering a stunning perspective of this incredible landscape.
The Aroona Ruins are tucked between the Heysen and ABC ranges in the Aroona Valley. Though quiet now, in the 1850s the valley bustled with the noise of thousands of sheep, and traces of the early pastoralists in Aroona can still be found. The Aroona Hut — a pug and pine outstation built in 1925 — remains in surprisingly good condition. The hut was used as a base by renowned painter Sir Hans Heysen, best known for his artistic portrayal of the Flinders Ranges.
Meanwhile, a very short walk away, you’ll find the ruins of the Aroona Homestead. The homestead was built for John Hayward, Aroona’s first pastoralist, by a ship carpenter in 1854. Hayward arrived at Aroona with 3300 sheep in 1851 following the discovery of a permanent water source.
The Heysen Lookout, a one-hour return walk, provides views across the valley, while a longer walk along Bulls Gap Track will bring you to Red Hill Lookout, with its views across the southern half of the national park. This walk, however, is a three-hour (return) journey.
Almost directly opposite the Parachilna Gorge turn-off is the Prairie Hotel, an outback pub famous for its ‘coat of arms’ menu. The emu and camel burgers are delicious, but the hotel — built in 1876 and rebuilt after a fire early in the 20th century — serves traditional fare, too.
History shows the Flinders Ranges is a difficult environment to live in. Years of abundant rain are followed by prolonged drought, and the local flora and fauna reflect this fact. The sugar gum, cypress pine, mallee and black oak are all adapted to semi-arid conditions. Wetter areas near Wilpena Pound support grevilleas, guinea flowers, lilies and ferns. Reeds and sedges grow near permanent water sources such as springs and waterholes. Since the eradication of dingoes and feral goats, along with the establishment of permanent waterholes for stock, the numbers of red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos and euros (common wallaroos) in the Flinders Ranges have increased. Brachina Gorge is an important refuge for the yellow-footed rock wallaby as well as many species of birds and reptiles.
The semi-arid environment of Flinders Ranges National Park makes it a magical and dramatic place to explore and experience. The drive from Wilpena Pound through Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges is simply breathtaking and something you must do at least once in your life. Razorback Lookout is not to be missed and offers commanding views of the ranges. You will most likely see kangaroos and emus as well as the gracious wedge-tailed eagle soaring through the sky looking for prey. In spring, wildflowers abound and make for a photographer’s Mecca (which it is any time of year, really).
Its raw beauty aside, the appeal of the Flinders lies in its accessibility. A five-hour drive from Adelaide and about two hours from Port Augusta, it could be done as a pleasant diversion during a trip up the Stuart Highway. And while a 4WD would be recommended for many of the tracks, there’s a lot you can see without one, with no shortage of tourism operators offering tours by land or air.
Sealed access to the park is available via the town of Hawker and most of the roads in the park are unsealed but generally in good condition. Take extra care after heavy rain as the roads become slippery and sometimes unpassable as the creeks flood. Recovery gear is highly recommended.
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