The Dutchman’s Stern Hike! Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

View from the Dutchman's Stern Summit, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
View from the Dutchman’s Stern Summit, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

The Dutchman’s Stern Hike

‘Visit the Crazy Horse – but not on Monday’ the log book entry read.

Why, with the magnificent 360° panorama from the summit of the Dutchman’s Stern hike surrounding them, would two German hikers be reminded of an Adelaide nightclub 300 kilometres away? (Note to self – what IS the Monday deal at the Crazy Horse, anyway??)

Devils Peak and Mt Brown from Dutchman's Stern Hike, South Australia
Devils Peak and Mt Brown from Dutchman’s Stern Hike, South Australia

Good question.

Did they have ANYTHING in common?

Surprisingly, YES.

The Dutchman’s Stern has dominated its small Conservation Park only marginally longer than the Crazy Horse has dominated the west end of Adelaide’s Hindley Street.

And that’s the only connection I can find between the two!!

When I first climbed the Dutchman’s Stern in 2010, reading the summit log book was almost worth the effort of completing the 10.5 km circuit. A pot-pourri of names, dates, weather reports, wildlife sightings, and surprisingly high number of countries of origin was supplemented by a range of comments both comical and asinine.  I’ll let you decide into which category the one above falls!

Another Dutchman's Stern Summit View, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Another Dutchman’s Stern Summit View, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

But disappointingly, 7 years later on my 2nd ascent, the log book comments had lost that edgy zing. You know, the one that made you wonder what a hiker was thinking to record the exact time it’d taken to reach the summit.  I mean, I could just write in a random time too, right?

In fact, the log book made for such dull reading, I was forced to admire the view instead.  The endless panorama of rolling mountains, rocks and totally deadly-looking roads was a LOT more gripping than the log book.  And it’s not every day you see a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles somersaulting through the air at eye level.  Photos?  Sorry, no.  Too busy watching. You’ll just have to make the climb and see them for yourself!

Dutchman's Stern Summit Hike! South Australia
Yet another view from the Dutchman’s Stern Summit Hike! South Australia

But even back in 2010 a log book full of intriguing oddities wasn’t enough to detract from the jaw-dropping view.  It’s almost a complete 360º.  From the west, there’s Port Augusta and the top of Spencer Gulf; Devil’s Peak, Mt Brown and the Richman Valley further south; Quorn (nearest town) and Wilpena Pound, the Elder and Yappala Ranges to the north.

Apparently, both times we attempted the Dutchman’s Stern Hike we got lucky – according to the log book the view has been blocked by fog more than once! I would have been seriously peeved to climb steadily for 4.2 km to see NOTHING!

Especially when if you CAN see something, it’s such a spectacular, stupendous something!!

Grass Trees and Rock Ledges, Dutchman's Stern Hike, South Australia
Grass Trees and Rock Ledges, Dutchman’s Stern Hike, South Australia

The medium-grade hike to the 820m high Dutchman’s Stern summit isn’t so much difficult as lengthy.

Quorn Wattle and Salvation Jane, Dutchman's Stern
Quorn Wattle and Salvation Jane

Unsurprisingly for a hike up a mountain, it’s a relentless 4.2 km climb to the summit.  And if I say it’s not a hard walk, you can depend upon it – I’ve got a well-documented aversion to excessive energy expenditure!

But it would’ve been too embarrassing to record the exact length of time it took to reach the summit in the log book.

So no one will EVER know how long it took us – either in 2010 or in 2017!

Let’s just say it’d take some doing to knock me off my ‘world’s slowest hiker’ pedestal!

On our first ascent, Pilchard and I meandered the ever upwardly zig-zagging trail through low grassland, purple with introduced weed Salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum) and dotted with the endemic Quorn Wattle (Acacia quornensis).

Kangaroos on the Dutchman's Stern Hike, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Kangaroos on the Dutchman’s Stern Hike, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Although the 2017 climb followed the same route, it was too early for those flowers, but we got a LOT of grass trees instead.

And a LOT of kangaroos in the grasslands.

I’m not sure what’s better!

The trail then passes through Sugar Gum woodland, before reaching the spring wildflower extravaganza (still flowering in October 2010) of the heathland.

Red on the Dutchman's Stern hiking trail, South Australia
Red on the Dutchman’s Stern hiking trail, South Australia

Finally, it rises through the more sparsely vegetated rocky outcrops towards the summit.

And although there weren’t quite as many wildflowers on our June 2017 climb, there WERE lots of grass trees, along with bright red Heath and a few small pink orchids.  Apart from a few landslips, the track was almost exactly as we remembered.  And it was nice to know that the passage of 7 years hadn’t slowed us down.


Bluff and plain on return hike from Dutchman's Stern, South Australia
Bluff and plain on return hike from Dutchman’s Stern, South Australia

Even the scary bit (if walking a dodgy narrow track along a steep hillside with the ever-present danger of plunging down a gorge gives you the cold shivers like it does me) was still doable – just as well, because it’d be a long way back round the other way if I’d lost my nerve.

Kangaroo at rest, Dutchman's Stern Hike, Flinders Ranges
Kangaroo at rest, Dutchman’s Stern Hike, Flinders Ranges

After climbing the 4.2 km to the summit and sighting the resident Peregrine Falcon – no sign of the eagles in 2010 – we chose the longer 10.5 km loop for our return.

Take the shorter 8.4km return route if you don’t mind retracing your steps.  The 6.3 km return route we selected passes  through Drooping Sheoak and Sugar Gum woodlands into the steep, scary, scree-lined slopes of Stony Creek gorge before returning to the trail head.

And if birding’s your thing, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren’s (subspecies pedleri) appearance ALMOST made up for the Gilbert’s Whistler absence in 2010 – but we went one better in 2017 and saw them both.

Just between us though, choosing between a summit view free of fog and a rare bird sighting is a no brainer.  I’d go for the view any day!

Just don’t tell birdo Pilchard!!

This post about the Dutchman’s Stern Hike first appeared on my blog in 2010 after our first ascent.   In 2017 we climbed it again so I’ve updated and re-posted the original to include updated information along with our most recent experience. AND new photos!

Late Afternoon at the end of the Dutchman's Stern Summit Hike, South Australia
Late Afternoon – and the end of the Dutchman’s Stern Summit Hike, South Australia

The Dutchman’s Stern Hike, just one of several walks in this former pastoral lease and also intersected by the Heysen trail, is an awesome way to experience this part of the Flinders Ranges.  It was just as good the second time around 7 years later.  Check it out!

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View from the Dutchman's Stern via Quorn, South Australia
2010 View from the Dutchman’s Stern via Quorn, South Australia
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  1. Every where in Australia is beautiful. Reading about the Dutchman Stern now makes me feel like I’ve missed a lot. How can you be a slow hiker when you have these beautiful landscapes for training?? The Kangaroos though, they seem to be saying hi to me. I’d love to visit Australia. Your posts are always in depth showing the beauty of the country.

    1. Haha, the beautiful landscapes make it MUCH easier to be slow, Lydia – because I’m always stopping to admire the view!! Besides, it’s easy to be a slow hiker when you’re basically lazy like me 😀

  2. I love a good hike and this hike definitely looks like one I need to add to the bucket list. I don’t think it matters how long it takes to complete as long as you complete. How awesome that you saw kangaroos and Wedge-tailed Eagles. Any hike is always better combined with wildlife spotting. The views are pretty spectacular which makes it worth it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Haha, kangaroos are pretty commonplace in this area Cindy! In fact, you’d be REALLY unlucky if you didn’t see more than one! But the eagles were worth the whole climb 😀

  3. A 4.2 km climb is impressive!! I’m super bad at hiking, so I think I’d definitely need to train before attempting this one. Those views are worth it, though. I also love your kangaroo photos! Very cute.

    1. My hiking abilities aren’t that impressive, Rachel – it takes me at least twice the time it’d take a ‘normal’ hiker, if there is such a thing! Photography is my secret weapon – whenever I need a break (which is quite frequently) I stop to take a photo!!!

  4. I love reading summit / trail log books too! Some of them are very dull, but you get the quirky book from time to time which has some incredibly entertaining responses :D! The hike of Dutchman’s Stern summit looks beautiful, and we’re birders so right up our alley! I’m glad to hear that it isn’t so much difficult as lengthy – I can do length, I just do it slowly :D! Can’t wait to spend time hiking the Flinders Ranges – hopefully in shoulder season later this year just before summer hits 🙂

    1. Don’t tell me I’ve got another contender for the ‘world’s slowest hiker’ title, Meg!!! Don’t leave the shoulder season too late though – it can get pretty hot up that way before summer hits!!

  5. I had never heard of the Dutchman’s Stern before. It looks amazing! Love the shot of the Kangaroos. Perfect lighting. The scary bit does sound scary to me. Ever-present danger of plunging down a gorge is sure to give me nightmares.

    1. Just as well I’m a slow hiker, Shruti – otherwise my kangaroo pic wouldn’t have had that awesome late afternoon lighting 😀 Glad I’m not the only one to find a deep gorge plunge scary!!

  6. We’ve been living out of Australia for nearly 5 years now so it’s always so awesome to read blogs about the natural beauty of home. The Flinder’s Rangers are so beautiful, love that part of South Australia. Hopefully we’ll get to do the Dutchwomen’ Stern Hike when we get home!

    1. Hahaha, no woman of my acquaintance would want a stern THAT size, Guy!!! The Flinders Ranges are South Australia’s hidden secret – they never make it onto any top 10 national parks lists, and I don’t understand why! But I guess that’s good … whenever we visit, we have them mostly to ourselves!!

  7. What a beautiful hike and gorgeous landscape. I know that seeing kangaroos for Australians is not a big deal, but seeing a few ‘roos while out on a hike would be amazing. I have yet to make it to Australia, but since I now live in China, I’m a just that much closer!

    1. Kangaroos nibbled the lawn in my front yard when there wasn’t much feed around in summer, Drew! They’re one of the few native fauna that have actually thrived under settlement so I think they’ll still be here when you get to Australia – however long it takes!

  8. I’ve never been to south Australia before. I totally love Australia as it has so many beautiful places, nature, swim holes and waterfalls! Can’t wait to explore the south now.

  9. Lots of great scenery here. Your pictures really make it seem worth while to sweat my butt off climbing the 4.2 kilometres to the top. We truly do live in a beautiful country in Australia with such diverse scenery.

  10. What a stunning and unusual landscape! As for ‘worlds slowest hiker’ I thought that was me. To be honest it’s quite refreshing to find someone writing about a hike I might actually be able to try!

    1. I’ll be fighting to hang on to the title, Fiona – but maybe we could have a slow hike face off one day, haha! You won’t find me on truly hard core hikes either – I’ll leave doing (and writing about) those for people who are more into pain 😀

  11. We’ve never been to Australia and spotting kangaroos in the wild sounds like something straight out of Crocodile Dundee. It does look like a beautiful hike and I totally get you that I’d be peeved if the weather was too foggy to actually see the view. I hike, but I better be rewarded for my efforts otherwise it feels pointless to me.

    1. You don’t have to hit the remote parts of OZ to see kangaroos, Jennifer! In fact, they often visit my front yard 😀 But it’s still worth doing the hike, haha!

  12. It is strange what some people choose to write in log books or guest books isn’t it? The views look well worth the climb here, I love the one with the two kangaroos in particular but all beautiful photographs!

    1. It actually looks better than the photos, Kavey! I could have spent a long time reading all the comments in the log book – but I had to descend some time!! The kangaroos are EVERYWHERE – you have to look out when you’re driving back down the track!

  13. You have such great images from your hikes! Dutchman’s Stern looks incredible. South Aus is really such a gem. I’d love to get down here and explore this territory. And glad it wasn’t foggy for you!!

    1. Thank you, Kristie! South Australia is one of Aussie tourism’s best hidden gems, imho of course 😀 I would have been super-peeved if I’d only seen fog – all that effort deserves a reward!!!

  14. This is a lovely hike, the landscapes are beautiful. The Dutchman’s Stern Summit has some really stunning views. Sighting Kangaroos in their natural habitat on the hike must surely be one of the highlights.

    1. I always forget how exotic kangaroos are to many people Sandy N Vyjay! I often have to dodge them on the road when I drive out my front gate 😀 If you do this walk and DON’T see a ‘roo, then it’s obviously not your lucky day!!

  15. My husband is trying to get me to do that walk as he has done it a few times….he might have written some of the not so zingy comments in the log book! Based on your story, maybe it’s not as bad as I imagined?

    1. If I can do it, then I bet you can too, Annie!!! My biggest problem with hiking was that I was too slow – I get there in the end, but it takes me a long time, so if I was with a person/group who wanted to go faster, then I wouldn’t bother because I’d slow them down. Now Pilchard & I are happy to be the world’s slowest hikers – he is bird watching and I am taking photos so between us we’ve got enough time for rest breaks! That’s my secret strategy 😀

    1. It’s a great introduction to the Outback, Agness! I hope you get to see the real thing – but if you do, DON’T tell me how long it took you, because I bet it’ll be shorter than my time!!

    1. Maybe I need to re-work posts more often then, TFG!!! Luckily my camera could be put on autopilot for when I was putting all my energy into walking uphill – that explains the lack of ‘zing’ in some of the pix!! That, and the partial cloud cover 😀

  16. @Gordana – Haven’t really done the West, but it’s definitely on the to-do list! Meanwhile, I’ll just have to write about my visits to the other states! Hope you can make it here soon!!

  17. This area looks so beautiful…. I wish I had spent more time on South Australia. But the south west has some pretty amazing places too. Have you been to the Denmark, Augusta and/or the Esperance area? I think that’s one of my favourite places on earth. The most amazing beaches and totally unspoiled! I can see why you love exploring Australia. I have visited Australia four times and I still can’t get enough of it.
    Keep writing about it as I need ideas for the next trip to Down Under (hopefully soon).

  18. Beautiful view – as a born-and-raised South Aussie it’s a part of the Flinders I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to. Must rectify that one day….

  19. @Jayne – Haha!! If I find out what the Monday issue is, you’ll be the first to know!
    @River – Summer up there is too hot for ANYONE!! Besides, the flowers are fab in spring!
    @Andrew – And all with a non-digital camera! AND … the one with me not wrecking it is a Pilchard masterpiece (you never know who’s looking over your shoulder!!)
    @LV – Thanx so much!

  20. A couple of your photos are seriously good, including the one, presumably you, are in. Err, not because you are in it, but you don’t spoil it either. Oh, is that damning with feint praise.

  21. That’s an incredible view. I’d have to visit in the autumn or spring, summer up there is too hot for me. I grew up in Port Pirie and didn’t notice the heat until I moved away and acclimatised to a cooler environment.

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