Flinders Ranges is the (almost) hidden gem of outback destinations, and so much closer than you may realise.
The red land dotted with vibrant green shrubbery, red gums and native pines – all roamed by kangaroos and mobs of emus – is one of the most spectacular sights in Australia. And that’s even before the sun sets, lighting the land on multi-coloured fire.
Set up camp at Rawnsley Park Station, in the middle of Flinders Ranges, and enjoy views of Rawnsley Bluff.
To do Flinders Ranges right, you need a few days during which you can set up camp in the middle of this natural wonderland.
That’s where Rawnsley Park Station comes in. Set against the striking backdrop of Rawnsley Bluff, you can stay in a luxury eco-villa, holiday unit or set up your own camp right in the heart of Flinders Ranges.
Not only does that make for a spectacular view as you enjoy afternoon tea on your balcony or camp chair, but it also makes it the perfect place to set out on adventures to visit Flinders Ranges highlights.
We’ve rounded up the best adventures so that you can make the most out of your holiday.
Stay in a Luxury Eco Villa at Rawnsley Park Station.
1. Experience the grandeur of Ikara / Wilpena Pound
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: 20-minute drive
You wouldn’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, and you wouldn’t go to Flinders Ranges without seeing Wilpena Pound.
Sacred to the local Adnyamathanha people, Wilpena Pound (or Ikara, meaning ‘the meeting place’) is said to have formed when two Dreamtime serpents carved up the landscape on their journey south. Photos don’t do justice to this dramatic natural formation.
There are many ways to see this 8000-hectare geological bowl – from a helicopter flight over the top, to many different walking trails.
One of the most popular tracks is the three-hour return walk from Wilpena Visitor Centre to Wangara Lookout. From the top, discover panoramic views of inside ‘The Pound’.
To get the best view of Wilpena Pound from the outside, take the nine-kilometre ‘Wilcolo Loop’ walk along part of the Heysen Trail, climbing the ABC Range to view St Mary Peak.
Hike or fly to take in the grandeur of Wilpena Pound. (Image: Tourism South Australia)
2. Take a dip in Blinman Pools
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: 80-minutes drive
The dramatically rugged country that provides a backdrop for Blinman Pools have made them a popular picnic spot for visitors since the 1800s.
The full walk is a 12-kilometre round trip, but it’s a very easy one with no climbing. Don’t forget you can go for a dip in the smaller pools along the way to refresh, and the first pool is nearly always full.
The trail starts and finishes at Angorichina Tourist Village (perfect for rewarding yourself with ice cream from the general store at the end of the walk). From there, it follows Parachilna and Blinman Creeks as they snake their way through the gorge, with the natural greens of native plants breaking up the earthy reds and oranges of the cliffs and earth.
Finish the trail at Angorichina Tourist Village, and stop into the general store for refreshing ice cream. (Image: David Clarke)
3. Discover colonial history at Appealinna Ruins
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: 40-minute drive
For a change of pace, discover the pastoral and mining heritage of Appealinna Ruins. In 1856 the land was taken up by Joseph and Sara Wills, who ran cattle.
Two years later, it became the site of the “water wars”, when copper miners moved in on the other side of the creek. A 13-year battle over who had the right to access the permanent waterhole of Appealinna Waters got nasty, we’re talking fires and jail time.
The full story of the Wills family is revealed in a series of storyboards dotted around the crumbling remains of stone stockyards and a homestead on the short, loop walking trail.
Discover colonial history at Appealinna Ruins. (Image: southoz)
4. Take a road trip through Bunyeroo Valley
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: one-hour drive
This spectacular drive follows a dirt road – a 4WD usually isn’t necessary, but is recommended – as it winds its way through a stunning section of the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park.
Peaks and valleys of rocky earth spread out as far as the eye can see, the results of a geological history dating back 500 to 600 million years. The drive takes in the iconic Razorback Lookout, a must-stop for incredible views of St Mary Peak – the highest point of Wilpena Pound, and in fact, Flinders Ranges.
Stop at the iconic Razorback Lookout for epic views. (Image: Brannon Jackson)
After Razorback, the road drops into Bunyeroo Valley and along Bunyeroo Creek. Keep a sharp eye out for yellow-footed rock wallabies, emus and areas of rippled rock that once formed part of an ancient sea floor. To explore further on foot, find the just over nine-kilometre Wilcolo Loop trailhead starting at Bunyeroo car park.
5. Fly in a helicopter to Chace Range
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: 10-minute flight
Departing from Rawnsley Park Station, take a late-afternoon helicopter flight. Soar past Rawnsley Bluff and over Wilpena Pound before landing on the Chace Range.
Take a late-afternoon helicopter flight from Rawnsley Park Station to Chace Range.
If you thought the beauty of Flinders Ranges was unbelievable from the ground, you will be bowled over by taking it all in at once from a birds-eye view. It truly appears to be in the middle of nowhere, and yet the peaks, valleys and ancient formations feel like a world of their own.
Settle in for a two-course camp oven meal as the sun sets, scorching the earth an even brighter red, while staff set up your swag and camp for the night. Sleep soundly under the stars before waking to an unrivalled sunrise view over Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. After a bush breakfast cooked over the campfire, jump back in the helicopter to return to Rawnsley Park.
Spend the night under the stars on Chace Range, and cook over a campfire.
6. Get cultured with Wadna Art Centre
Distance from Rawnsley Park Station: one-hour drive
Get some ancient culture with your ancient nature at the Wadna Art Centre. Run by Adnyamathanha man Kristian Coulthard and his wife Gabrielle, Wadna celebrates, displays and sells authentic Indigenous artwork, traditional carvings, handmade crafts, bush medicine supplies, organic jams and teas and more.
Watch Kristian carve his own traditional wooden artefacts.
Among these treasures are beautiful hand-carved traditional wooden artefacts by Kristian himself, plus jewellery and hand-sewn bags by Gabrielle.
Here, you can also take tours with Kristian to visit Dingly Dell – the site of ancient Indigenous petroglyphs, engraved by the Adnyamathanha up to 40,000 years ago. On the tour you’ll also get a taste of bush tucker and medicines, learn about local plants and animals, and learn Adnyamathanha creation stories.
Take a tour to Dingly Dell.
7. Join a Rawnsley Park Station guided walk
For those new to hiking, and in need of a little extra support, or even just appreciative of good company and a guide who can share their wisdom on the landscape, Rawnsley Park Station runs three and five-day guided walking tours.
The best part? Depending on how many days you sign up for, they include all the highlights above and more – plus you get to sleep back in your own bed each night. Well, that is except for one night under the stars at Chace Range, after a helicopter flight.
You can get more details on the itineraries, book in, or start planning your own adventure on their website.
Keep an eye out for emus wandering around Rawnsley Bluff. (Image: Anthology Travel)