7 Reasons to Drive and Car Camp with the Family around the Flinders Ranges, SA

View Larger Map

The Flinders Ranges refers to three main areas, namely, the Southern Flinders around the Mount Remarkable National Park, the Central Flinders and Flinders Ranges National Park, and North, including the Gammon Ranges National Park. Each is as distinctly different from the other, and a must see especially on the road.

  1. Drive to many places in the Flinders and discover even more areas of interest along the way, including well-preserved heritage towns that you can stop over for some much appreciated poking around, even a train ride or a walk through miner's sites.
  2. Although enjoyable alone, bringing the family along especially for some car camp bonding is even more amazing!
  3. Immerse in some culture. Discover fossils and aboriginal art while on the trails.
  4. Scenic flights by balloon or biplane - just take your pick! The view will still be magnificent either way...
  5. The Range is a photographer's paradise, with so many dramatic scenes all over. Your camera may run out of memory way before you run out of places to ogle at so load up to 32GB if you can.
  6. Explore the wild, well-supplied! A General Store exists even in the midst of the Range, not to mention a whole lot of other amenities and accommodations. Flinders is not entirely an escape that's far from civilization, rather it merges these comforts with the land. There's even a paradise, that's Wilpena Pound Resort, standing so beautifully in the midst of this wilderness!
  7. The Flinders Ranges offers a walk through some of Australia's best and entirely unique landscapes, shaped by the semi-arid environment that's filled with life and colour despite the sparse vegetation.

250 kilometres north of Adelaide from Crystal Brook and continuing another 500 kilometres northward to Mount Babbage, the Flinders Ranges is a haven of adventure consisting mainly of Precambrian rock, folded and raised by faults for over 500 million years, believed by our Aboriginal brethren to have been created by ancient serpents, slithering through the land to create humbling rock formations and a seemingly unworldly locale.

Utterly dramatic, the red-coloured ambience dominates any given afternoon; a stark contrast to the retaining blue skies and greenery; the home of eucalypts, native pines and river red gums that tell the tale of water: growing on dry creeks and waiting for floods.

Gorges exist here and there, with scrub that's so relatively sparse and easy to go through. Many walking trails are marked, catering to all levels of interest, taking you from the low grounds to high lands and summits you can conquer just before dinner. The walks range from easy to hard--the drives roughly the same--taking as short as two, three, five hours only, or as long as a week both on and off the tracks.

Things to do:

For those who seek for even more out of their outdoor adventures, the Flinders Ranges can be explored in a variety of ways. But the top 3 in our list are the following:

Fly Flinders Ranges. Photo from outbackballooning.com.au.

1. Walk

This is the foremost way to go. Two feet allow you to peruse into even the corner-most parts of the Flinders, via many stunning trails like the Heysen that stretch 1,200 kms, covering almost the entire Range. It might take awhile this way, but only through walking can one summit peaks like St. Mary's, bushwalk Mount Remarkable South, or traverse the Arkaroola Wilderness to discover its blooming wonders.

2. Fly

You can choose a biplane or hot air balloon to get a view from the top, and see how special the enormous natural amphitheatre that is Wilpena Pound from up high, taking a lazy moment to enjoy Flinders' magnificence with the family and just being thankful for bonding opportunity it brings.

3. Ride

Two or Four-wheeled? Caravans, cycles, motorbikes and self-drives are a good way to enjoy the Flinders Ranges, for those who don't want to walk all the time, but still want to make good, leisurely pace during their escapade. See historic towns like Lobethal and Birdwood, old mining areas in Kapunda and Burra, or tackle steep back trails, wetlands and the old Ghan railway route. Taking a vehicle along allows for you to likewise pack all you need with you, to take as many stops as you want, and to see as many locations without fear of being left with no means of transportation.

Itinerary

Driving the epic kilometres of the Flinders Ranges often requires 6 to 7 days, but can be shorter, depending on the length of stay and the number of sights you'd want to see in the Ranges. Note: We mark the itinerary in parts instead of days, because one may really need to make more time while in Flinders Ranges to see all its hidden and not-so-hidden beauty.

Part 1: Adelaide to Wilpena Pound

Distance: 455.0 kms
Duration: 5 hours 6+ minutes; longer with stops

Taking the so-called road less travelled north, the drive will take you straight into the heart of the Flinders, which is Wilpena Pound. But not before passing some of the most picturesque towns, taking stops of discovery and an immersion into our rich heritage littered with forgotten mine sites and trains.

Our Recommended Stops:

Fruit picking tradition in Clare Valley. Photo from fruitpickingjobs.com.au.

Clare Valley

Stray out of the way for some wine tasting in one of the country's oldest wine regions. Venture through a 40 kilometre trail strewn with over 40 cellar doors of Aussie's best wineries, charming restaurants and inviting pubs. If you've taken your mountain bike along, cycle through its gentle woodlands with the kids, past cottages to some amazingly secluded picnic spots. There are galleries and museums in the area too.

Known Trails:

The Riesling Trail - 35 kms through Clare Valley's main wineries, it is one of the first rail-trails developed in South Australia!

The Kapunda Heritage Trail - 10 kms through town, past Clare Valley's historic places and some of the most ornate and well-preserved buildings in the region.

For more information, visit the Clare Valley Tourism Site.

Spalding

A short distance from Clare Valley is the intriguing town of Spalding with its many friendly local businesses and spots. An old farming town, there are many historic stone buildings to be seen (and photographed), but if you're already tired of all the meandering, try your hand in some fly fishing in the Broughton River or let the kids run along in the playground located in the middle of town. There are also some trails to walk.

Known Trails:

Heysen Trail - this 1,200 kms long distance hiking trail starts here and passes through numerous landscapes and environments, traversing coastal areas and some beautiful pine forests and bushlands and the whole of Flinders Ranges. Although the trail is challenging, what with some moderate incline as well as irregular surface, you may take the family along. Just plan ahead. Visit their site for more information.

Hiking the Heysen Trail. Photo from warrenfield.wordpress.com.

Mawson Trail - 900 kms, this section is very enjoyable and best appreciated on mountain bikes. Good for some solid riding, the breathtaking climbs and continuously changing terrains will require some hard work, but is rewarded with fantastic vistas and some incredibly unique flora along the way.

For more information on Spalding, click to visit.

Burra

An old mountain town, Burra is said to be one of the most well-preserved towns in Australia. Formerly known for its copper mining, it now makes a worthy stop while on the road in the Flinders Ranges. Look for art or antiques, or grab a delightful guidebook and your own key and drive through its best defining trail. There's also the Apoinga ruins to visit a half-hour drive away. Or stay in town for some short walking trails, accommodations and even a golf club that's just in the heart of town.

Known Trail:

Heritage Passport Trail - running some 11 kms, you and your family of adventurers can self-drive past 49 sites and discover for yourselves why Burra was once South Australia's copper centre; perhaps poke around some of the dugouts along the riverbank of Creek Street. Taking this trail also provides access to three museums in town, all stunningly interpreted for your enjoyment.

Check out what else Burra has to offer; click here to visit the Official site of the Regional Council of Goyder.

Bundaleer Forest

If you want to break out that backpack for a hike, drive 220 kms through Clare Valley and Spalding and stop by Bundaleer, exploring the historic birthplace of forestry in Oz. Walk, picnic, sightsee...there are accommodations available in the Curnow's Hut if you would like a longer stopover, or car camp in designated spots all around. For further information, click here to visit the South Australian Forestry site.

Jamestown and Peterborough

Through the seasons in Dragon's Rest. Photo from Dragons Rest Habitat Garden.

Jamestown and Peterborough both offer a rich insight into Australia's railway heritage so feel free to stop over and soak up some of the rustic views, or get a glimpse of how it used to be back in the olden days when trains were your only means to get around these parts!

For starters, you and your family can visit the Jamestown Railway Station National Trust Museum where an interesting array of historical items relating to these engines stand on display, including a former railway ambulance and some other machinery related to the era. Literally take a walk in the town's well-maintained cemetery, digging for history and discovering the ancestors that made Jamestown what it is.

Hungry? No problem. Jamestown holds some of the best food stops in the Flinders, dishing out the most scrumptious meals from home made cake to seafood specials (in the outback?). And for other things to do in Jamestown, click here.

Now Peterborough has its own charms. Some great visits include the Dragons Rest Habitat Garden that's a garden habitat for lizards converted from what was once a 10 acre horse paddock, and the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre which offers tours day and night through these beautifully restored 1920's steam engines, and the tracks they once rolled.

Stay in the Saint Cecilia Heritage Mansion Hotel for a night while in Peterborough, and enjoy a Murder Mystery Banquet to thrill and amuse the whole family; or pitch that OZtrail tent for some Camp time at Willangi Bush Escapes, getting “back to basics” just 16 kms from Peterborough. 4WD self-drive tracks available, as well as family car, Caravan and RV accesses.

Looking for more adventure, check the other available attractions in Peterborough here.

Orroroo

Conservative, boring and shy...not! This dusty little town is more than just stop on the road to Wilpena and the Flinders, and if you don't intend to just pass it on through, there are some recommended things you can do while in Orroroo.

The 'magnet' marking Magnetic Hill. Photo from Roo72 on commons.wikimedia.org.

Start with a detour to the state's largest river red gum, a beauty of 900 years in age, and measures some 34 feet in circumference and 20 feet up before the first fork in the trunk stretches out to lofty branches. Cross the Red Bridge, go to Tank Hill Lookout or visit Lion Park for a picnic before slinging that daypack over one shoulder and walking to various places of interests by the trails there. Aboriginal carvings can also be scrutinized; thousands of year old beauties made by the first people who have conquered the land.

Here's another interesting thing to try while in Orroroo: Black Rock's Magnetic Hill (that's interestingly marked by a large magnet structure on the side) where you can park your car at the bottom of the hill, put it on neutral, and feel the vehicle move...up!

Caravans and camping parks exist in the case you crave some of it, as well as Bed and Breakfast, hotels, motels and dining out restaurants. Visit the town's official site here for more details.

Hawker

Hawker is a great outback town that's filled with adventure for those stopping over -and we advise you do! This district offers a mix of natural and cultural attractions, with walks, lookouts and rides available. Accommodations are also not a problem: 5 Caravan Parks and 9 Camping spots are accessible in Hawker, with hotels, motels, self-contained facilities and Shearer's Quarters options around. See the full selection here.

Part 2: Around Wilpena Pound and Flinders Ranges National Park

Area: 100 kms

Most spectacular of three areas, the Flinders Ranges National Park is the most popular to visitors, and reaching Wilpena Pound brings you to the heart of it all, can be enjoyed in a day, but best explored for a few more if you truly want to experience all the grandeur of this stunning centre. See the rich wildlife as well as culture the land has to offer as some of the most excellent bushwalking opportunities to behold are here.

Our Recommended Stops:

Some 13 walks exist in the Pound, so if you're ready to head out, take your pick of location and get ready to explore the finest in the Pound. Here are some suggestions:

A large natural marvel at old Wilpena. Photo from nigel-and-nancys.blogspot.com.

Old Wilpena Station

Distance: 3 kms
Duration: between 1-2 hours
Walk level: easy

This important pioneering spot in the Wilpena has had a long working life of 135 years before it was retired, standing today as one of Oz' most significant pastoral settlement sites, with a well-preserved wealth of heritage, not to mention, a spectacular backdrop, that any wanderer can be proud of. Go on self-guided tours with the family, and meander the historic Station Precinct among others.

The Old Homestead and Wangara Lookout

Duration: between 1-2 hours
Walk level: easy

An easy trail that goes through the Pound's Gap, pass the old Hill Homestead and experience the simple life of pastoralists. Wangara Lookout, on the other, has a panoramic view across the Pound, with many an aged gum as well as wildlife. Bring your camera along. You will want to take lots of pictures.

Mt Ohlssen Bagge

Duration: 2-3 hours
Walk level: hard

A challenging walk upwards, this rather exhausting trek offers awesomely good views of the Pound floor and a chance to encounter some wildlife along the way. Lizards slither every now and then here and there. See more here.

Art of the ancients. Photo from robbiearoundoz.wordpress.com.

Arkaroo Rock

Distance: 15 kms from Wilpena proper
Duration: 1-2 hours
Walk level: easy

A short drive is all it takes to get to this location. Leave your vehicle at the foot of the 5000 years old land formation, bringing along some essentials, walking the trail to get to the site that's home to some well-known Aboriginal art. Explore fine illustrations of how our past ancestors saw the world around them: of emu and bird tracks, snake lines, circles or waterholes, leaves and people created in shades of red ochre, yellow, white and charcoal.

Rawnsley Park Station

Distance: 23.1 km, South
23 minutes away

Once described by many as an ‘unoccupied waste land', Rawnsley Park Station grew from what was a single self-contained cabin accommodation into a destination for horse riding treks, hired mountain bikes, a range of 4WD tours, sheep shearing demonstrations and flights over Wilpena Pound. Also offers a variety of other staying options such as camping, caravan, family and group tent pitching in case you change your mind and would like to stay the night instead.

Visit the site for information on what you can see in Rawnsley Park.

The most pictured tree in the Flinders and Australia. Photo from open.abc.net.au.

Cazneaux Tree, Wilpena Eating House and Surrounding Nature

Just off the Blinman Road is the ancient beauty of the most photographed tree in Wilpena, and is one of the most famous trees in Australia. Photographed by Harold Cazneaux back in 1937, this iconic 'Spirit of Endurance' (which was named after him) has withstood the test of time, stood a witness to many adventures in the Flinders, and has aged rather gracefully with the change of the seasons.

Nearby is a mound of stone, which is all that remains of what was once a thriving business serving the passing trade before the place was totally abandoned. This is the remnant of the Wilpena Eating House, built in 1862, and is a stop for many photography enthusiasts due to its somehow sentimental view.

You can also explore the variety of flora and fauna around its area, or just close to camp. There are always desert peas, mallee, gums, acacia and casuarinas around with the red kangaroos, yellow-footed rock wallabies, 18 species of snakes, 60 species of lizard, dingos, emus, and wedge-tailed eagles a plenty along paths and trails. But “Do not feed the animals”. They have a tendency to take advantage of the situation real fast.

Recommended Stay:

Wilpena Pound Resort is a beautiful accommodation in the heart of the Pound, graciously developed to be the most comfortable base for all your meanderings in the Pound and in Flinders Rangers. Camps and Campgrounds exist to cater to your needs in the resort. There's a pool, a restaurant, a bar and a General store so you can stock up on supplies. Lost, looking for information or wanting to book a tour? The National Park Visitor Information Centre is also conveniently located in the Resort's premises to assist you...

OutdoorOz has a detailed article featuring Wilpena Pound and all it has to offer. To read more, click here.

Part 3: Wilpena to Blinman

Stay at Good 'ol North Blinman Hotel. Photo from worldisround.com.

Distance: 63.5 km, North
Duration: 57 minutes to 1 hour away
Named as the highest town in SA, the most surveyed as well as the largest resource of copper in the Flinders until 1907, Blinman, is now a historic reserve, and the remaining pug and pine huts as well as stone buildings can be explored via available self-drives as well as guided tours.

Our Recommended Stops:

Great Wall of China

A unique natural formation that bears much resemblance (though smaller) to that of Asia's original Great Wall, this rocky bridge-like ridge stands proudly on the road between Wilpena and Blinman, and is a favourite for climbers looking for a good view. Located a short drive before the copper town and along the way out of the Pound, the Northernmost part of the Wall is adorned by a rocky cairn that serves as a prominent feature on that part of the ridge line.

Bunyeroo Valley

Just North from Wilpena, drive the scenic Bunyeroo Valley dirt road with its impressive razorback ridge and lookouts for a 30 kms trip. A 4WD is recommended as some turns are sharp and some areas are extensively rough especially after it rains. The drive though, is filled with spectacular views you cannot complain about, and a trip through the Bunyeroo Gorge itself, ending with the Geological Trail, is worth all the tumble.

Places to stay:

Camping Grounds Acraman and Cambrian can be found along the drive trail and are both recommended sites to pitch a nice tent for a while, and to meet fellow riders who are also on their own lengths of adventure.

The Geological Trail

Actually part of an unsealed road, the Geological Trail extends through Wilpena, Blinman, Hawker and Parachilna in one go, branching out with numerous crossings that can be explored at leisure. You may notice informational signs along the trail, telling you of the age and names of certain rock formations along the way. There's even one over 600 million years! These formations create such stunning contours and colours, scattered with trees, rocks and wildlife to make a ruggedly beautiful landscape. It also traverses through the known “corridor through time” of Brachina Gorge, which is another interesting drive to do.

Places to stay:

Numerous campsites can be found along the trail, including that of Brachina East, that is a popular place to stop for 2WDs and 4WDs. Campfires are allowed (out of Fire Danger Season) but water is limited so bring loads along.

Brachina Gorge. Photo from thesentimentalbloke.com.

Brachina Gorge

This important refuge for many species of birds and reptiles as well as the yellow-footed rock-wallaby is also one of the most popular and spectacular tourist attractions in the park. The so-dubbed Corridor through Time, driving your way through this gorge allows for some 130 million years of history, complete with trail signages that tell the story of the area. Many secluded spots can be found throughout, including some wet creeks, dry beds, and some areas rich with visible fossils.

Aroona Valley and Ruins

Aroona Valley is one of the most scenic locations in the park, settled on a permanent spring and surrounded by vegetation. Above the spring are the remains of Haywards head station, ruins beloved by many visitors. The place also has strong links to the renowned Australian landscape painter Sir Hans Heysen, and was said to have a beer on top of the range by the end of the day.

Places to stay:

East of “the Corridor”, campsites are available for those stopping over for the day. There are the Aroona and Koolamon campgrounds, within the Aroona Heritage Site, that cater to vehicles. Both have facilities but limited water.

Known Trails:

If you're still up for some action, many walks leaving Aroona are available for wandering feet. The Yulana Hike, in particular, is an 8 km circuit that takes through various landscapes and terrains including a creekbed that looks lovelier when alive with water. Flat during the majority of the walk, there are some narrow climbs on some points, making it take about 4 hours to finish with the children. Another trail leads up the range opposite ABC and Heysen,and provides a particularly gorgeous view of the Valley. It may take some effort, but its well worth doing.

Motorbikes and ruins. Photo from advrider.com.

Wilkawillina Gorge

A sandy, isolated location this part of the Flinders Ranges is Wilkawillina Gorge, which can be reached further South on the Wilpena-Blinman road. Additionally, there are shortcuts one can venture, but it pays to have someone knowledgeable on these trails, otherwise, it's better to take the longer route. Wilkawillina can be considered rather remote and people do get lost along the way. There's also a need to carry adequate provisions.

Now chances are the Gorge may be dry, but when chanced upon during wet seasons, the creek is a haven for wildlife especially with water in it, and becomes a very peaceful spot for meditations. If not, it's good for spotting fossils. Wilkawillina after all is home to these ancient remains, much like those on Brachina Gorge. Some tourists can even book a tour walk with an expert geologist to further discover these olden treasures.

Places to stay:

On the road to Blinman, Dingley Dell is a suitable camping spot that's perhaps the easiest to access, especially if you're just doing a direct route to the copper town. It lies simply on the Wilpena to Blinman Road, eliminating the need to travel over rough dirt roads or negotiate rocky terrain before you can sit down and pitch. Also helps to avoid getting lost especially for first-timers.

You may also choose to drive on ahead and reach Blinman, where you can stay in Blinman Cottage for the night. This charmingly restored 1800s miners cottage comes complete with authentic gas lighting, electricity and fresh linen among other luxuries so you and your family can wake up refreshed and ready to take on the the sights and sounds of Blinman.

Mt Caernarvon

The highest vehicle access peak in the Flinders Ranges, this point is only 36.8 kms from the copper town, and offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding ranges once you've finished the drive to the top. Take your 4WD and test the terrain; it's as enjoyable as it is challenging to do.

Other Spots around Blinman

Once you arrive to the beautiful town of Blinman, use its strategic location to explore the surrounding regions as there are plenty to visit, with the town as base. To the east there's Mount Chambers Gorge; to the west Parachilna Gorge which offers some fascinating rock pools and Aboriginal engravings as main attractions. Northward are Hannigans Gap and Artimore Ruins - both of which are popular 4WD Trek with undeniably iconic outback views. Picture this, ruins on a backdrop of a river gum lined creek. It is simply stunning!

Part 4: Blinman to Arkaroola

Distance: 154.6 kms, North
Duration: 6 hours, 8+ minutes
The drive to Arkaroola affords you and the family a chance to visit the 610 hectare private wilderness sanctuary run by the Sprigg family--one of the most spectacular sites on Oz.

Our Recommended Stops:

Sillers Lookout

Sanctuary of rugged mountains, even more magnificent gorges and towering granite peaks, taking the signature Ridgetop Tour to the top of this amazing lookout is the best way to enjoy the area. Or tag-along in your own 4WD, take guided tours or a guided bush tucker walk that are available options. Morning tea at Sillers is likewise a hit, especially after making it to the top before the early sunrise.

Arkaroola Astronomical Observatories

Another well-worth stop once in Arkaroola are the observatories where the family can spend time stargazing the Flinders sky at night. There are 3 such facilities in the area, namely, those of Dodwell, Sir Mark Oliphant and Reginald Sprigg. The first is the original domed observatory of Arkaroola; the second, is named after a famous SA physicist, former governor (1971-76) and good friend of the Sprigg family; and the third, after the founder of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, geologist Reginald Sprigg. Tours can be booked in advance; click here for details.

A sentimental view of an Arkaroola waterhole. Photo from thesentimentalbloke.com.

Waterholes

Arkaroola has various tours available, including those to the sanctuary's known waterholes at Stubbs, Bolla Bollana, Arkaroola, Nooldoonooldoona and Echo Camp. Just a thing to remember though, swimming is not allowed in these holes. Their protected beauty is given respect, and designed to give visitors the best chance to see native birds and other elusive creatures.

Places to stay:

Arkaroola has many options to choose from in terms of accommodations while in town. They have motels like the Mawson Lodge and Callitris Lodge for those looking for some extra luxury, or the Greenwood Lodge for budget accommodations. Self-contained options are also available, ideal for families and larger groups: the Euro, Wallaby and Callana Cottages they offer come complete with all necessary amenities - beds and beddings, kitchen with equipment, electricity and even TV's.

However, if you and the group want something more close to nature, and would rather break out a swag and tent outdoors, Arkaroola also offers camping style accommodations to cater to your needs. They have camping grounds, with caravan parks that do not require any booking to use. Just make sure you're parked only in designated places as camping in other areas are strictly prohibited.

Visit the official site for more information here.

Adjoining Gammon Ranges National Park comprises arid wilderness with rugged, spectacular scenery, interesting wildlife and a wealth of Aboriginal culture and European heritage. The Gammons offer some memorable bushwalking experiences.

Part 5: Arkaroola to Leigh Creek

Distance: 133.7 kms
Duration: 5 hours 13+ minutes
Leigh Creek has been known to be the Best End of the Flinders, and is an attractive town with many facilities to help ease your way back into civilization after your outback travels.

Our Recommended Stops:

Leigh Creek train at dusk. Photo from thesentimentalbloke.com.

Leigh Creek Coalfields

Distance: 22 kms from Leigh Proper
Leigh Creek is known as a mining town, and helps to generate 40% of South Australia's electricity. Visit the coal mines and see how the longest coal train in Australia travels with its load to power stations at Port Augusta, or observe how miner's trucks work the main highway.

Copley

Distance: 5 kms from Leigh Proper

The sign before this sleepy little town says “Catchya at Copley...More Services Than You Can Poke a Stick At...” and this proves to be rather true. Although often found as completely out of the way for most backpackers and travellers, Copley is a coal-mining town worth the visit. Two reasons are the Quangdong Cafe, which offers the best coffee experience in Australia (not to mention the pie) and the Copley bakery with its delicious freshly-baked bread. Looking for accommodations and provisions are no problem either, as Caravan Parks are available, as well as camping options for the weary.

You may also choose to drive on ahead. The bigger towns and cities are not that far away after all...

Part 6: Leigh Creek to Parachilna

Distance: 65.6 kms
Duration: 40+ minutes to 1 hour
Further on the road home, travel to Parachilna and perhaps treat yourself to some more luxurious delights - a great way to ease those muscles and relax.

Parachilna Gorge. Photo from campingsouthaustralia.com.

Our Recommended Stops:

Prairie Hotel

This famous Parachilna landmark welcomes visitors to a bar and its award-winning menu of “feral” food that includes anything from kangaroo, emu and yabbie to quandongs, native limes and delicious bush tomatoes. It's also a hub for a growing number of international moviemakers who come into this beautiful place, drawn to the hauntingly beautiful outback landscape.

Parachilna Gorge

If you're up to some more roughing out before heading on home, head off to Parachilna Gorge in your 4WD where some 11 kms of dirt needs to be covered by your vehicle before reaching the scenic, hilly country around the gorge where rock pools and flowing water can be seen after the rain, and where red cliffs, pale trees and pale coloured creeks all contrast beautifully throughout the day.

Places to Stay:

Parachilna's is a good place to stay, but if you want to be outdoors, that option is also your for the picking. On your way entering the gorge country, you will find lots of camping spots just down the road! Tent, set, go!!

Part 7: Parachilna to Quorn

Distance: 155 kms
Duration: 1 hour 47+ minutes
A famous township and railhead in the Flinders Ranges, most travellers choose to either start or end their journey in Quorn, but not without trying out a few of its many attractions.

The steam engines of Pichi Richi. Photo from users.nex.net.au.

Our Recommended Stops:

Pichi Richi Railway

All aboard! Visit Pichi Richi and book an authentic, child-friendly ride in the 115-year-old “moving museum” train of the Afghan Express. Enjoy a six-hour trip to and from Port Augusta, passing by historic sites, sights and locations along the rail, all while experiencing the ambience of this 19th Century transportation. Visit their website here for more information.

Sunset Camel Ride and BBQ Dinner

The best way to end your visit in Quorn is to take a 1 hour sunset ride on a camel (like how caravaners used to do it), taking in the subtle fragrances of the afternoon, the warm breeze and the scent of vegetation. Then finish up with a gourmet BBQ dinner, the ingredients of which are picked fresh from the surrounding plants that have been the food source of our Aboriginal ancestors for ages. Click here for more information.

Our Recommended Trails:

Arden Hills Props

Duration: 1 or 1 and half hours

Just in the vicinity of the area, Arden Hills holds two distinct trails to try out: the first is the Arden half day self drive; the second is the Nathaltee track which you can drive or walk on. All you'll need is a sense of adventure, a well-maintained vehicle or bike and lots of water, ending the day with a stunning view of the surrounding areas.

Devil's Peak Walking Trail

Duration: 1 and half hours

A recommended bushwalk for experienced and fit walkers, make this trek to the top of Devil's Peak to an area that's 670 metres above sea level with a large variety of wildflowers, birds and native vegetation making up the panoramic view of the summit. The Trail is open anytime, except from 1st November to 15th April due to fire danger season.

Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park

This park gets its curious name from the fact that its most prominent feature, the Bluff, resembled the stern of olden Dutch sail ships. Two distinct trails cross the park, taking walkers through floral landscapes, rock formations and other breathtaking views. The Heysen Trail, Oz' longest trail, also passes through some 12 kms inside the park.

Activities in Dutchmans Stern include hikes, backpack camping and even overnights. Vehicle-based camping is not allowed though. Accommodations are available near the park's entrance, but bookings are required.

Preparation for the Flinders Ranges

Before heading off on your adventure, make sure to prepare especially if you'll be bringing younger children along. Here's a checklist to help you do just that:

Ready for this? Photo from flindersexperience4wdtours.com.au.

1. Road Conditions

Check Road Conditions before heading out so that you know exactly what you'll be dealing with before heading out. We recommend these two helpful sites because they are constantly updated according to road changes:

ExplorOz.com - offers road condition updates across all Australian territories including the Flinders Ranges. Even offers information on the various tracks in the Range, including those you may follow taking your car.

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) - even ExplorOz recommends checking this DPTI site for any warnings especially on Outback Roads. If there's a change in road conditions, warnings or eminent danger, their website immediately gets the updates up for drivers.

2. Car Conditions

Check your car if it is up to speed, including the tyres, brakes, steering, lights, wipers and windscreen. Mirrors, driving documentations, the car's water and oil are also essential. Make sure there are spares, a toolkit and an emergency kit available.

Even if you're considering hires, double-check the car's overall performance so as to avoid any mishaps along the way. Be very sure as getting stuck in the Flinders can be dangerous. Remember, the locations you might be heading out to are isolated, and you may come by very few people so help is not readily at hand when needed.

Our Wilpena Pound article holds a driving out checklist you may want to see. Click here to read.

Well on your way: prepped and set for the Flinders. Photo from exploreaustralia.net.au.

3. Gear to Take

Unless you intend to go rugged all the way, there are really just a minimal number of gear to take when embarking on a drive to the Flinders. You might want to skip on some things, especially if you have accommodations booked in advance, or if you're with an “everything included” tour that takes care of all possible worries on the road.

But then a good traveller knows this: when one goes escapading, too much can sometimes be better than just enough, especially if you have a car to pack it all into anyway. So here's our gear list!

Shelter Sleeping

Helpful to bring along in case overnights in the middle of nowhere (well, not literally) are necessary, or if night catches you on the road and you need to stop.

  • Ground cloth
  • A good-sized family tent
  • Sleeping bags for everyone
  • Pillows (if sleeping bags don't come with any)
  • Portable chairs and stools (optionals)
  • Stretchers and individual swags (optionals)

OutdoorOz presents Aussie campers with great options when it comes to swags, so if you haven't decided on what to bring yet, check our wide selection!

The Camp Kitchen

Carry as needed. You can actually spend all 7 parts of this itinerary eating in hotels or roadside restaurants that are plenty in every stop. But, again, if you intend on some modest fun at a campsite, cooking your own is a definite saver. It might also be a good opportunity to try out those camping recipes you've been learning all year.

For Cooking

    • Stove (a tested 2-burner or 3-burner should be good to go with)
    • Stove Fuel (buy only approved cartridges)
    • Charcoal and lighter fuel (if grilling)
    • Firewood and kindling (if allowed)
    • Matches/lighter
    • Cooking pots and pans
    • Extra water (to keep at your site)
    • Utensil set (including spoons, knives, forks, cooking utensils like serving spoons, knives, and spatulas)
    • Can opener
    • Cooler and ice
    • Filter or a means to clean water

For Eating

    • Cutlery or “Mess Kits” for everyone (plates, cups, bowls)
    • Water bottles (we recommend those that have filters like the Camelbak Groove)

For Cleaning Afterwards

    • Dish detergent and Dish towels (biodegradable)
    • Sponge/scraper
    • Small Basin (for washing dishes)
    • Paper towels
    • Tablecloth
    • Trash bags, Foil, and Ziploc bags (for covering, storage or organisation)
It's more fun with the family along. Photo from blog.caravancampingoz.com.

The Food Items

Prepare for the long trip on the road or between your stops, as food may not be readily available along the way. You wouldn't want to be stuck hungry while driving, or worse, with a group of whining kids on the back seat. Some recommended eats:

  • Snacks (bars, cookies, etc.)
  • Fruit (choose those that don't bruise easy as the road may not be so smooth)
  • Peanut butter and bread or the PB&J (Peanut butter and jelly - very quick and handy if your kids like it); other sandwiches
  • Beverages (juice boxes, milk, water - very important)
  • Some no-need-to-freeze Desserts
  • Chips (but go for healthy like those made of whole-grain. Remember, junk food can zap energy instead of boost them)

For camp meals where you need to sit down and enjoy with the family, there are many options to go with. According to How Stuff Works if you aren't eating in the nearby pub, you can always:

Round the fire with 4WDs. Photo from longhorntours.blogspot.com.

  • Make chili - said to be the most ideal of all campfire dinners, easy to cook and prepare.
  • Grill meats or the favourite hot dogs - oldest and simplest way to cook; but be wary, as meat spoils quickly especially under warm weather. Coolers might do the trick, but can't preserve them as well as a refrigerator can.
  • Pancakes, hotcakes or flapjacks - with syrup and butter, makes a nice breakfast or afternoon treat
  • Corn bread - easiest bread to make, and can partner with any meal; you can pre-made the mix or start from scratch in the campsite - either way is all right.
  • Bake potatoes - poke holes in the potato skin with a fork, wrap in tin foil and place on a bed of coals or line along a small fire. Serve hot with plain salt, cheese, sauce or ketchup.
  • Broil fish - might as well if you've got a trusty fishing pole along. Fish always makes a delicious meal outdoors, especially when freshly caught.
  • Hobo Pies and hot sandwiches - achievable even without a panini press. Make use of a cooking iron instead that makes do with coal and fire. Or toss that sandwich on the pan or grill. They work just as well.
  • S'mores! - because what camping trip could ever be complete without this easy-to-make delight? Make them with the kids (I especially like nuts in my S'mores, thank you), and treat them to some campfire stories while you're at it.

Read more about this selection here. But if you want a change of flavour, you may want to consider some camp recipes to highlight your every meal. The selection is endless, and the net often has tons of them that you can prepare before departing on the drive.

A tip:

You can skip some of the main or common ingredients for your meals especially if you make many stops in the Flinders. There are stores along the way that offer supplies and provisions, like the General Store in Wilpena Pound for example. This also helps make sure the components don't spoil, and that they are fresh before cooking.

Some ingredients you can carry:

    • Butter or oil for cooking as the other might melt
    • Condiments (salt, pepper, multi-spice, and mustard/catsup when applicable)
    • Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate which are perfect to punctuate the day after treks or drives
    • Milk, sugar (if needed)
    • For s'mores-making (marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate)

Handy Camp Tools

A great help to making ready your temporary campsites are camp tools. So do not forget to include them in your preparations:

  • Rope
  • Clothesline and Clothespins
  • Duct tape (for minor repairs)
  • Multi-tool/utility knife
  • Small hand held broom (for sweeping out the tent)
  • Light Sources like lanterns (at least one per tent to make the camp out much more easier)
  • Headlamps or torchlights for all

Toiletries

Even if you're roughing it out, you and your family can still stay clean. Don't forget to pack along:

  • Toiletry bags(to keep all knick-knacks in)
  • Bath towels and washcloths
  • Soaps, Hand sanitisers, Shampoo Toothpaste (choose biodegradable to uphold the LNT Principles and toothbrushes
  • Deodorant, Razor, Toilet paper and trowel as well as other personal hygiene items
  • Sunscreen, Lip balm, Wet or Baby wipes (very handy for campsite cleanup or a quick dab to take the dirt off your hands or face)

You may also want to carry a personal toilet ensuiteso you don't have to worry about waiting in line to change in the camp bathroom.

Family Medical Kit

First-Aid Kits can be readily purchased, but if you're one to put together your own personal Medical Kit, make sure it includes:

  • Bandages and plaster tapes for minute wounds (all sizes), gauze (a good plenty length) and the medical tape to hold it (preferably hypoallergenic, for sensitive skin types)
  • Ointments and treatments for Burns, Bug bites, Poison ivy itching and allergic reactions. Add in the Repellents, Antibiotic ointments or wipes, Aspirin, and other little medications. Include all medications for those with conditions in the family as well.
  • Thermometer
  • A good pair of tweezers (for removing splinters, sucking insects and ticks if you happen to encounter any)
  • Whistles and a small mirror

The Clothing Items

Like we always say, clothing items might be more or less depending on the individual, or depending on the season, the weather and the location you are heading out to. A few staples though to include for each member of the family:

  • Trail-running shoes or hiking boots (must be comfortable and your size so you don't worry about sore feet)
  • Sandals/flip-flops (for public showers or for when you want to just waltz out of your constricting shoes or boots)
  • Wool socks
  • Thermal bottoms and tops, shorts, a good pair of pants (convertibles are also good)
  • Clean Underwear (for everyday changing)
  • Extra shirts
  • Rain/wind jacket and matching pants
  • Wool or fleece sweater or jacket (vest, if the weather is warmer)
  • Pajamas or other sleepwear
  • Bathing suits (for when the occasion calls)

Hats, Sunglasses and gloves or mittens are optionals. So are walking poles, as you might not actually be trekking much during the trip. You might also bring along your helmet and knee or elbow pads, especially if you have your mountain bikes along and are bent to spend some time bicycling.

A Tip:

You can choose to pack your clothes separately, allowing the kids to carry their own stuff in their backpacks. Include some lightweight sleeping bags in the mix, individual “small kits” (containing some plaster strips, repellants, a bug spray and some ointments for tiny scrapes - you know kids), whistle for calling help, a water bottle and snacks. Combination backpack bags are also a good way to pack up.

Bring in some Extras

There are some miscellaneous items that are equally helpful during the long drive. They are:

  • Cameras (for photo opportunities), a GPS, Phone (for communications)
  • There's Internet access in the Flinders on chosen locations, so a laptop, a tablet or smartphones are also welcome
  • Reading materials, a guide book that includes maps and site information, and your camping reservation info of you're booked for the many tours and scenic flights in the Flinders Rangers.
  • Outdoor toys are also an option (Frisbee, kites, a ball, a deck of cards, board games, etc.) to keep occupied.

Now if you're bringing a baby along, make sure that the little one has his/her own gear. Pack diapers, changing pad, bug netting, a portable crib (there are many), a stroller, baby blankets, Bibs, formula, bottles, the tykes own mess kit, among others. The thing is to anticipate each need, and packing something in response to that so that you avoid the frustration and hassle. You can read more here for other ideas on what gear to bring:

Flinders through the Lenses

The Flinders Ranges Outback of South Australia

A video produced for the South Australian Tourism Commission by Simon Malcolm about Oz' Flinders Ranges and the Outback, featuring tons of beautiful highlights and destinations to please the soul.

Flinders Ranges - off the beaten track

A slideshow of teamtarcowie's trip to the Flinders Ranges, showing some less well-known locations that exist hidden in the Ranges.

Flinders Ranges Highlights

A selection of 4WD highlights by PAJURB featuring some of the best driving places in the Flinders.

For other information about the Flinders, here are some recommended reads:

Alternative Itineraries: