The greatest summer holiday you should consider right now is right in the heart of the South Australian outback’s Flinders Ranges.
As sacrilegious as this sounds, it’s time to talk about your default Christmas holiday plans. Why? Because the rewards of going against the summertime school-holiday coastal crush can be limitless, if you point yourself in the right direction.
Sure, you could tussle with the masses for a car park just to win a few square metres of lava-hot sand before sweating all the way back to your peak-season-tariffed rental apartment. Or you could head inwards and upwards, along uncrowded country roads, and pretty much have the immensity of the Flinders Ranges to yourself.
And to make it even easier for you, Rawnsley Park Station, an inspiring destination in the Flinders Ranges, has put together a spectacular three-day package for just $1049 pp, a saving of $480.
Here is what you can expect.
Flinders Ranges local guides (and legends)
Few people know the Flinders Rangers like fourth-generation residents Tony and Julieanne Smith, owners of Rawnsley Park Station, which is a captivating 450-kilometre road trip north of Adelaide (with a pit stop at Clare Valley wine region, naturally).
The Smiths have curated a sublime three-day Flinders Ranges highlights itinerary especially for the coming summer. It’s for those who want to explore one of Australia’s most stirring landscapes without raising a sweat, but also appreciate plenty of lazy, shady ‘me’ time, too.
The best view (and home) of the Flinders Ranges
Your home base will be one of the sheep station’s secluded one-bedroom eco villas, which sits beneath perhaps the Flinders’ most bewitching outlook: the southern face of the colossal Wilpena Pound (Ikara).
Perch on your large private veranda at dawn and dusk for VIP views of one of the outback’s most memorising natural light shows; the sun dancing up and down big, red Rawnsley Bluff.
The Advanced Ecotourism-accredited Eco Villas (members of our prestigious list of 100 Unique Stays Across Australia for their eco sensibilities) mix fine form with sustainable function, nestled tastefully and subtly into the plains on a light-touch footprint. Inside, the spacious and bright interiors, complete with recycled-wood features, are smart in both demeanour and design.
The elegant, energy-neutral space is kept cool by a combination of solar-powered air-con (the sun takes care of most of the power needs in summer) and practical eco touches, such as rendered straw-bale walls and raked ceilings with clever venting.
Best way to spend 3 days in the Flinders Ranges
Early morning, if you’re feeling energetic, rise with the sun to wander along one of the property’s seven marked walking trails. Those in for an invigorating couple of hours in the cool morning air could try Ferntree Falls walk or loop around Clem Corner.
Thread through the cypress pine and narrow-leaved hopbush that thrive around and under the Bluff – a precious ecosystem that the Smiths are committed to preserving, enshrined in a Heritage Agreement with the South Australian Government.
Less energetic mornings can be spent doing not much at all next to what the Daily Mail named as one of the world’s ‘Best pools with a view’. Dry off slowly on your veranda, equally lost in a good book and the vista. When you are ready to peel yourself away from your sanctuary – after devouring the complimentary continental breakfast – there are a few adventures in store.
First and foremost, you should not, you cannot, leave the Flinders Ranges without a morning scenic flight over Wilpena Pound. There simply is no better way to make sense of this vast, steep and deep landscape – currently under consideration for World Heritage status – than by soaring over it.
You’ll have plenty of questions but, don’t worry, your pilot is used to being peppered with queries during the 30-minute experience (spoiler alert: the Pound is not an extinct volcano, despite the uncanny resemblance).
The next day, it’s time to explore the minutia of the Flinders at ground level. Rawnsley’s full-day 4WD tour of the national park is a deep dive into the modern and ancient history of outback South Australia.
Sit back as your guide threads you through precipitous Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges. You’ll soon see and hear why these primeval corridors turn the most rational geologists into gibbering loons. Keep your eyes peeled for the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby in the shadows and remember to look up often to see huge wedge-tailed eagles shadowing you from above.
You’ll drop by proud Adnyamathanha man Kristian Coulthard’s Wadna arts and crafts gallery to experience the Flinders’ spirited and unbroken Indigenous heritage. Don’t be too surprised if you walk away with a painting, wood carving or a pair of emu-feather earrings. Naturally, a day spent touring the outback is topped off with a classic pub lunch in a classic ‘pub in the scrub’ – the 150-year-old North Blinman Hotel.
Nightlife in the Flinders Ranges is distinctly slow-burn and free-range. Freshen up with another swim and re-caffeinate from your in-room Nespresso machine before heading out to chase the retreating daylight on the Sunset on Chace tour.
Wind your way upwards to a high perch over the expansive Chace Range, pausing once or twice to let some of Rawnsley Park Station’s 2000 sheep cross your path. Sparkling wine and gourmet canapés aplenty enhance the natural visual-feast that ensues.
Eat like a king in the Flinders Ranges
Back down at the station, when you’re good and ready, the Woolshed Restaurant* beckons. The Mod-Oz menu, rich in local produce, is best appreciated out on the deck in the warmer months. The slow-cooked (Rawnsley Park) lamb tasting platter is an undoubted favourite, especially when accompanied by a few glasses of Clare Valley’s finest.
Alternatively, you can fire up the Weber on your Eco Villa veranda at your leisure. Perhaps slip into your eveningwear (the comfortable guest robes) and just do whatever it is you want to do in laid-back luxury on a breezy summer’s eve.
When the stars begin to pulse in the Flinders’ sky, it’s time to retire to the big comfortable bed and activate the over-bed skylight to let the universe in – the last thing you’ll see that day.
Not a bad place to reflect on three unhurried, uncrowded days of soaring high and laying low in the Flinders Ranges. You might even spare a thought for all those poor people still fighting for tranquillity in their overflowing holiday hamlets back down on the coast. Or not.
Rawnsley Park Station’s three-day Flinders Ranges Highlights Package
$1049pp (valid until June 30, 2022).
Price includes a continental breakfast, complimentary wi-fi, 30-minute scenic flight over Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges National Park guided day tour and Sunset on Chace experience ($480 discount).
*Woolshed Restaurant will be closed between January 17 and February 28, 2022. One-bedroom Eco Villas are not suitable for children.