WORDS: Max Taylor
Central to most of the Flinders’ major attractions, Rawnsley Park Station makes an amazing base camp. In fact, it’s almost a destination in itself.
If you’re touring the Flinders Ranges, you’ll need somewhere to stay.
True, the Flinders is one of the most accessible outback locations in Australia, but it’s still a two-hour drive from the nearest city centre, Port Augusta, and a five-hour drive from Adelaide. So in order to really experience this amazing corner of the country, it’s best to base yourself centrally.
To that end, we chose Rawnsley Park Station as our base camp for our trip. With three vans and seven people on this tour, we needed good amenities, access to fuel, and it didn’t hurt that Rawnsley has, on-site, one of the best restaurants in the outback: the Woolshed.
A short detour off the highway leading to Leigh Creek, you feel immediately immersed in the South Australian outback upon arrival. The ranges loom large around the park, the rock formations gently but superbly accentuated in the soft afternoon light. Sheep graze near the gravel driveway and off in the undulating paddocks either side, and emus peck at the ground.
Overlooking the southern side of the famous Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley has been a working sheep station and tourism facility since 1968. It isn’t a garish resort; rather, it’s an extremely well-kept oasis that blends with the natural environment. It’s a place where vanners can unwind in the outback air, just a short drive from most of the Flinders’ major attractions, with all facilities close to hand.
There are plenty of powered sites available, as are unpowered sites and park cabins. Some members of our crew opted for a park cabin, rather than bunk in a van with others, and found the heating function of the reverse-cycle air-conditioner a godsend. Let me tell you: the Flinders in April has a habit of getting mighty cold once the sun begins to lower. The park cabins can sleep up to six and include a basic but functional kitchen, but no bathroom. No matter: the clean and tidy amenities block is a short walk away.
But if you’re after a touch of luxury, Rawnsley Park Station (a Top Tourist Park) offers self-contained holiday units for up to six people, each with private bathrooms, kitchens, TVs and air-con.
And then there are the eco-villas, which offer amazing views of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding ranges, and Rawnsley Homestead – a luxury two-bedroom facility offering spectacular views of the Chace Range.
The enclosed camp kitchen offers barbecue hotplates, frypans and the like, along with some couches and tables and chairs. Like the amenities, it’s regularly cleaned.
The Woolshed restaurant, however, is the place to go if you’re in the mood for something more sophisticated than chops on the barbecue. It’s a two-minute drive from the campsite proper – perhaps not quite walking distance – but, frankly, such is the quality of the food and general ambience that the Woolshed wouldn’t be out of place in inner-city Melbourne. From kangaroo steak to superb lamb cutlets, the Woolshed does it well.
The station’s reception, meanwhile, sells general grocery items, alcohol, souvenirs, ice, gas refills and fuel (unleaded and diesel). Wi-fi access can be purchased for $5 per hour.
Rawnsley Park Station (and neighbouring properties) is also home to a network of 4WD tracks – ask the staff at reception for more information – and guided walking tours and mountain bike hire are available too. But of all the ways to see this 12,000ha sheep station and the surrounding ranges, perhaps none will take your breath away quite like the scenic flights (balloon and fixed-wing aircraft). Did we mention that Rawnsley has an airstrip?
And, as day becomes night, what could be better than sipping a good red beside a campfire, surrounded by one of Australia’s most magnificent mountain ranges, and gazing at a star-pricked sky? In this respect, Rawnsley truly is a million-star caravan park.
Rawnsley Park Station is on Wilpena Road (via Hawker) in the Flinders Ranges, 439km north of Adelaide. The roads to Rawnsley are all sealed; however the station’s driveway is well-graded gravel.
Test your 4WDing skills on the station’s network of tracks, though most require high-clearance vehicles.
Enjoy an informative guided walk around the station.
Take in Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Park and the rest of the Flinders via scenic flight.
Explore the 12,000ha station by mountain bike.
Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre: www.frc.sa.gov.au/tourism or (08) 8620 0510.
Rawnsley Park Station: www.rawnsleypark.com.au or (08) 8648 0008.
Click here to book your accommodation at Rawnsley Park Station.
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