- Hike up St Mary's Peak for amazing panoramic views of Wilpena Pound.
- Take a scenic flight over the Flinders Ranges to experience the dramatic scenery of the Australian Outback.
- Four Wheel Drive through Brachina Gorge and see the rare Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby.
- Enjoy the 'Feral' Menu at the Prairie Hotel to taste some of the area's native foods.
About the Flinders Ranges
The Flinders Ranges is an incredibly old place and once stood higher than the Himalayas (don't ask me how we know this!). Today the Ranges have suffered about 540 million years of erosion and has whittled down to 1,171 metres at its highest point. Due to its age the Flinders Ranges has world wide fame for its geological history and fossil remains.
The Flinders Ranges stretches over 400km from the Mt Remarkable National Park to the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. The ideal place to set up base is in the stunning natural amphitheater of Wilpena Pound, which is in the centre of the Flinders Ranges. Wilpena Pound use to be thought of as a crater or an extinct volcano but is simply the merger of two impossibly old mountain ranges.
The rugged mountain terrain, Australian flora and wildlife, together with its relaxing gorges makes the Flinders Ranges a perfect hiking destination. It is also a great place to experience the harshness of the Australian Outback in relative comfort.
The best time to visit is in spring when the weather isn't too hot and the surrounds are almost green (even in spring you can experience temperatures over 35 degrees). Summer can get uncomfortably hot with temperatures consistently in excess of 40 degrees. Winter days are pleasant but nights can be cold.
How to get to the Flinders Ranges
The Flinders Ranges is 450km from Adelaide, South Australia. The easiest option, and the most highly recommended option, is to fly into Adelaide, hire a car and drive the 4-5 hours to Wilpena Pound. Having a car is, in our opinion, essential when visiting the Flinders Ranges as it gives you the flexibility to do and see what you want.
The South Australian public transport system does service the Flinders Ranges very well. There are a few buses a week that go to and from the Flinders Ranges and Adelaide but these are more suited to locals than travellers.
Things to do
1. Hike St Mary's Peak
St Mary's Peak is the highest point in Wilpena Pound and standing at 1,171 metres it commands stunning panoramic views of the Pound and the surrounding Ranges. The hike starts from the Wilpena Pound Resort and you have two routes that you can take: either through the pound or around.
Option 1 - Inside Trail: 14 kilometres and approximately 6 hour round trip
Option 2- Outside Trail: 21 kilometres and approximately 9 hour round trip
St Mary's Peak is at the opposite end of the Pound which results in the first four or so kilometres being a relatively flat walk before the trail shoots up to the Saddle. The trail takes you along the saddle of Wilpena Pound ridge before you do the last climb up to the Peak.
The trail is very exposed and as such it can get very hot, especially in summer, so bring plenty of water. The hike is doable by anyone with a moderate level of fitness.
Very highly recommended!
2. Take a scenic flight
A flight over Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges will really put everything into perspective and help you appreciate the size and beauty of the area. Scenic flights operate on demand and you shouldn't have too many issues getting a flight at your ideal time. Refer to the following website to book: http://www.airwilpena.com.au/wilpena-pound-scenic-flights/
We did the half an hour flight over Wilpena Pound which gave us incredible views over the Pound, the Elder and Heysen Ranges and Brachina Gorge. We had an early morning flight and as we were coming into land you could see 20+ kangaroos looking up at us and scattering as the plane moved above them. An experience we will never forget!
3. Arkaroo Rock
Arkaroo Rock is located a short walk from the Highway and is a small cave with Aboriginal Paintings. The paintings are pretty cool without being amazing but it is a nice short walk and a good spot to visit if you have a morning or afternoon free.
4. Go four-wheel driving at Brachina Gorge
No trip is complete in the Flinders Ranges without going on a four-wheel drive, and where better to do it than through the beautiful Brachina Gorge. The gorge is special for two reasons: 1) it is a home of the yellow-footed rock-wallaby and 2) it paints an amazing geological picture. The Geological Trail begins at the intersection of Gorge Road and Blinman Road and signage along the trail details the evolution of the Ranges.
There are many other drives off beaten paths, through old river beds and sand dunes, that are well worth the effort. Just make sure that if you have hired a car, that whatever insurance you organise covers you for any off road incidents.
If you do not have a 4WD there are many tour operators in the area that can take you four wheel driving through the sand dunes and gorges.
5. Other hiking options
There are a ridiculous amount of hiking options available but two others to be aware of are:
- Mt Remarkable
- Mt Ohlssen Bagge
The Mt Remarkable National Park is situated only 260 kilometres from Adelaide and is the closest Flinders Ranges National Park to Adelaide. The National Park has many gorges and an abundance of wildlife and standing in the centre of the Park is the imposing 960 metre Mt Remarkable. The hike up Mt Remarkable begins from Melrose, is 14 kilometres and will take around 5 hours to complete. The summit provides spectacular views of the Spencer Gulf and Willochra Plain.
Mt Ohlssen Bagge
Mt Ohlssen Bagge is located in the Flinders Ranges and is the perfect hike if St Mary's Peak is too daunting. Mt Ohlssen Bagge summit is 923 metres above sea level and has terrific views over Wilpena Pound. The hike is 7 kilometres return and will take the average hiker around 2.5 hours to complete.
6. Star gazing
Wilpena Pound is over 400km from the nearest city which means that there is almost no light pollution which allows for some incredible star gazing at night. Go for a walk after dinner and let the night sky light up above you - just make sure you bring a torch and a jumper!
Where to stay?
You have a few options for accommodation when travelling to the Flinders Ranges. There are plenty of great camping places throughout the Flinders Ranges and the most popular spots are in Wilpena Pound and Brachina Gorge.
We have stayed at the Wilpena Pound Resort on several occasions and it is in the perfect location (right at the start of all the hikes for Wilpena Pound), has a good restaurant and very clean and comfortable rooms. There are also some very reasonably priced cabins at the Wilpena Pound Resort.
Eating + drinking
There is generally limited options when dining in the Flinders Ranges. However, an interesting and unique option is the Prairie Hotel Restaurant.
Prairie Hotel Restaurant
The Prairie Hotel is famous for its Feral Menu. It sounds terrible but it is actually a collection of the areas native food including: kangaroo, emu, goats cheese and native seeds, peaches, berries and herbs. The restaurant is located in Parachilna, about 100 kilometres north west of Wilpena Pound (unfortunately nothing is close when you are in the Australian Outback).
Fun Fact: The Carnegie Station in the middle of the West Australian Outback is 493 kilometres from the nearest town which makes it closer to space than the nearest town.