South Australia’s fabulous Flinders Ranges with its spectacular, rugged and breathtaking scenery is one of those places that nearly all grey nomads will mention as one of their favourite destinations.
Often referred to as the gateway to the Outback, the area’s incredible beauty and its relatively accessible location 160 kilometres or so north of Port Augusta, makes it a very popular destination during peak season.
For long-term travellers who aren’t restricted by such mundane considerations as school holidays or work, it is worth putting some effort into avoiding the crowds. Here you’ll find South Australia’s largest mountain range with St Mary Peak, at a towering 1,170 metres, the highest jewel in the crown.
The mountains were formed hundreds of millions of years ago and are reputed to be among the oldest in the world. The countryside famously inspired the artist, Sir Hans Heysen, who spent years attempting to capture the essence of the Flinders on canvas.
Among the many highlights are the ‘Great Wall of China’ rock formation, Edeowie Gorge, Brachina Gorge, Wilkawillina Gorge, Arkaroo Rock, Hucks Lookout, the Aroona and Bunyeroo valleys, Page 8 Sacred Canyon, Stokes Hill Lookout, and some fascinating Aboriginal rock art sites.
Although the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is actually divided into two sections, it is the northern Flinders that boasts the majority of the attractions. Central to this is the amazing Wilpena Pound. It’s a spectacular natural amphitheatre that is five kilometres wide and 10 kilometres long.
This is where the national park’s major campground is located, along with information centre, bar, shop and petrol station. There are some awesome bushwalks starting here and they range in difficulty from those in the pleasant stroll category to the downright gruelling. The effort is always well rewarded.
There are also more basic, and significantly cheaper, camping spots available throughout the park. The roads are bumpy and rough but, for the most part, are suitable for caravans – if carefully driven.
Not surprisingly, the wildlife is also amazing. Look out for western grey kangaroos, yellow-footed rock wallabies, a huge assortment of incredible birdlife, an assortment of snakes, and much else besides. If you time your visit right and the conditions have been favourable, you may be lucky enough to see this harsh landscape transformed by an explosion of wildflowers.
It’s heady stuff and a place you will most definitely want to linger. This is normally a dry, dry part of the world and there are restrictions on when you can have campfires. However, if you visit when they are allowed, the Flinders is a great place to do some socialising around the campfire.
In fact, the Flinders is a great place to do pretty much anything. It’s that magical.