The Flinders Ranges & South Australian outback are often considered one of Australia’s ultimate travel destinations. From Adelaide, the ranges are a five-hour drive, and the region is dotted with a number of interesting townships. As we journey on an exploration of this region, come along with us. The diversity of history, amazing landscapes, rich Aboriginal heritage and variety of accommodation options make this region a unique experience. Along the way, you’ll marvel at ancient mountain ranges, red dusty roads and expansive craters which are iconic of the outback, resembling the scenes of another universe.
Self-drive or guided 4WD expeditions are the best way to get an overview of the wide expanses of this rusty, red landscape. The Outback Loop self-drive trip includes ten destinations recommended to capture the highlights of the region. Whether you’re looking for self-guided, tagalong or fully guided experiences, these ECO certified operators will have you covered:
- Pindan Tours & 4WD Training
- Just Cruisin 4WD Tours
- Skytrek & Willow Springs Station
- Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
If you prefer to see the region in stylish comfort, treat yourself to the luxury of The Ghan, the train which offers three routes to and from Adelaide, stopping at the outback South Australian towns of Coober Pedy, Marla and Manguri. If you like a guided experience, check out SA Eco Tours for small group safaris and tours.
Finally, there are also multi day hikes into this beautiful region – such as this one offered by Respecting our Culture certified Diverse Travel Australia – and, if you’re looking for something completely different, why not try exploring the Flinders on a camel? Camel Treks Australia’s guided camel treks offer great relaxation, fresh air and sunshine. The camel string travels slowly, far away from modern developments and the unpolluted atmosphere makes for great evenings under the stars around the campfire.
Where to stay
When it comes to accommodation in this beautiful region, you’re spoilt for choice. If you’re looking for a glamping outback experience, check out Wilpena Pound Resort. It’s located within the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park, 430km north of Adelaide. Here, you can enjoy a haven of outback hospitality with 60 hotel rooms, 15 glamping safari tents, a picturesque campground, national park visitor information centre, a restaurant, bar/bistro, swimming pool and general store. There is so much to see and do with a range of 4WD tours, guided Aboriginal cultural tours, stargazing, nature and bush walks, and scenic flights over Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges.
Outback-style glamping is also available at the beautiful Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, an Advanced Ecotourism certified hotspot known for its incredible stargazing and astronomy tours. Complete with tracks, trails and scenic flights, this is an environment with abundant wildlife and minimum human interaction. The pinnacle experience here is the famous Arkaroola Ridgetop Track, only accessible on a tour.
If you want to experience an immersive outback stay, why not try an outback station accommodation? Sheep and cattle stations have been a huge part of South Australia’s history for more than 150 years, and properties in the Flinders Ranges and outback combine traditional farm life with luxury, providing a unique experience for guests. Stay on a sheep or cattle station in shearers’ quarters, cook your own meals or join your hosts for dinner. Check out Rawnsley Park Station, with its fascinating 50-year history as a traveller’s rest spot, for lush eco villa style accommodation. Catninga offers a bed & breakfast option, or caravan and camping spots surrounded by fields (the hosts have even been known to invite guests to their deck for sunset, wine and cheese!) and Skytrek & Willow Springs Station offers accommodation in cabins, a homestead or cottages, plus camping options.
Should your travels take you closer to the Queensland border, make sure you stop off at Innamincka Hotel – it’s got accommodation, an outdoor cinema, a traditional Aussie pub vibe and Australia’s most remote mini golf course!
Things to do
There is so much to discover in this region – and the landscapes you’ll find are surprisingly varied. Check out the waterfalls at Alligator Gorge in Mt Remarkable National Park (3.5 hours’ drive from Adelaide), go opal mining in Coober Pedy or marvel at Arkaroola’s granite mountain views and spinifex-covered hillsides. Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest salt lake the lowest and darkest point in Australia, fifteen metres below sea level. To get a birds-eye view, check out Outback Spirit Tours, who include a fly over on their South Australian tours.
Another great thing to do is expand your knowledge on the state’s flora at the 250-hectare Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta. This garden was established to research, conserve and promote the wider appreciation of Australia’s arid zone flora, and today features thousands of plants and is home to over 150 bird species. You can enjoy peaceful walking tracks, stunning views of the Flinders Ranges or even an interesting guided tour. For coffee lovers, the visitor centre’s café, gift and plant shop will be a welcoming sight.
Finally, this region of dramatic landscapes is famous for its sunsets and stargazing opportunities. The Breakaways, deep orange mountains approximately 33 kilometres north of Coober Pedy, were once covered by an inland sea. Now, the spot flourishes with a vivid ecosystem of native fauna and flora and are a magical place to admire the sunset. Sunsets from the spectacular Rawnsley Park hilltop summit, a 30-minute drive away from Hawker in the Flinders Ranges, are also well worth the drive.
For star gazing, you can’t go past Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary – it’s famous for having the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere and houses Australia’s largest privately-owned astronomical observatories.
As night falls – whether you’re sprawled out on a luxurious bed in the middle of the Flinders Ranges or tucked up in a sleeping bag under the stars – you’re sure to fall asleep peacefully, with the sounds of nature surrounding you, drifting off into dreams of red landscapes and wide open roads, subconsciously planning your next trip back to this wonderful and fascinating region.