7 Days in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia – A Beginners Guide
The serrated peaks zig-zag dramatically across the skyline – the unmistakeable silhouette of a 430 km (265 miles) line of mountain ranges that jumps from a standing start right out of the vast outback plain. Blindfold me and drop me in the middle of it and I’ll know EXACTLY where I am.
Praise be I’m in South Australia, so I’ve pretty much got that killer Flinders Ranges landscape all to myself!
St Mary’s Peak, 1171 metres (3842 ft) above sea level and highest point, is pretty low by world standards. But from the plains below, it soars to the apex of a 17 km (10.5 mile) stretch of jagged pinnacles forming the outer rim of Wilpena Pound, best known attraction in the Flinders Ranges.
Cars on the road below, dwarfed by these ancient landforms eroded over millenia to a fraction of their original size, will rust into oblivion before these timeless ranges turn to dust.
Yes, channelling my inner philosopher while travelling the folds and faults of the Adelaide Geosyncline forming these ranges is WAY too easy!
It’s also WAY too easy to admire the staggering Flinders Ranges scenery, especially because there’s no amazing view that can’t be enhanced by an awesome scenic loo! IMHO. But even if you’re not an amenities admirer or dunny detective like me, it’s got enough mountains, gorges, historic sites, wildflowers, rock formations, lookouts, 4WD tracks and wildlife to keep you busy.
SO … if you HAVEN’T been here, you’ll be wondering where to start, right?
DON’T PANIC! All you need to do is follow my ‘How to spend 7 days in the Flinders Ranges’ guide!
This 7 Day Flinders Ranges itinerary is mostly based in the Central Flinders Ranges, and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
That’s because I’m being gentle with you – after all, it’s your first time!
There are LOTS of Southern, Northern and Central Flinders Ranges things to do, but you can’t do everything in 7 days, right? So I’ve made it it easy for you with a week’s worth of some of my favourite activities and attractions in three great Flinders Ranges destinations.
You can thank me later.
HOW to get there:
Get started by driving to Quorn, 335 km (208 miles) north of Adelaide in the Southern Flinders Ranges. Pick whichever self-drive route from Adelaide which appeals to you the most.
Route 1 – Food and Wine trail via Clare: drive 143 km (89 miles) to Clare (detour via the Barossa Valley on the way if you like), then 193 km (120 miles) to Quorn via Laura, Wirrabara and Wilmington.
- Route 2 – Country South Australia: drive 216 km (134 miles) to Jamestown via Clare, then 148 km (92 miles) to Quorn via Orroroo and Wilmington (detour into Alligator Gorge near Wilmington if you like). Yes, this way is a bit longer.
- Route 3 – Coastal Ports (tautology alert!) via Port Augusta: drive 306 km (190 miles) to Port Augusta via Port Wakefield, Port Pirie and Port Germein (add a few extra km for detours into the ports), then 41 km (25.5 miles)to Quorn.
Be WARNED: If you’re sightseeing along the way, getting to Quorn will take nearly a full day. To make the most of the Flinders Ranges, I suggest starting your trip a day early!
Choosing THINGS to DO:
Select from my lists of things to do in each destination. Attractions and activities are split into MUST DO – my suggested top picks; and MORE Things to DO – alternative/extra activities and attractions.
And for the most pleasurable places to do your business, look out for my *Scenic Loo alerts!
Days 1 and 2: Quorn and Southern Flinders Ranges
STAY: Quorn Caravan Park (Campground, Cabins). A range of other accommodation is available in and around Quorn including Motel, Hotel, Bed and Breakfast, Cottages and Air BnB
MUST DO in Quorn:
- Pichi Richi Railway – Half-day Steam Train tours leave from Quorn every weekend, so plan your trip accordingly and book ahead
- Dutchman’s Stern – Hike the 10.5 km (6.5 mile) loop to the Dutchman’s Stern summit for spectacular views over the ranges and Gulf and fantastic Southern Flinders scenery
- Buckaringa Gorge – Drive the ~80 km (50 miles) loop (some dirt roads) through classic Southern Flinders Ranges country and historic sites of interest to Buckaringa Gorge and Lookout
MORE Things to DO in Quorn:
- HIKES: Devils Peak (1.3 km return); Warren Gorge (5.2 km loop – *Scenic Loo alert!); Mt Brown Summit Hike (15 km loop); Mt Brown Hike (11.6 km)
- DRIVES: Alligator Gorge (via Wilmington – 55 km one way); Quorn/Port Augusta/Wilmington Loop (125 km loop, sealed roads)
- QUORN: Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre; Heritage Walk (4.7 km); Quorn Native Flora Reserve (2 short walks); Cafés
MORE about the Quorn Region:
Days 3, 4, 5 – Wilpena Pound and Flinders Ranges National Park
On Day 3 drive 67 km (41.5 miles) to Hawker.
MUST DO en route to Hawker/Wilpena Pound:
- Kanyaka Homestead and Death Rock – stop at these historic sites en route from Quorn to Hawker for insights into local colonial and indigenous heritage.
- Wilpena Panorama – View this amazing 360º painting at Hawker’s Jeff Morgan Gallery of the summit view from Flinders Ranges highest point St Marys Peak (see trail notes below)
From Hawker, drive 52 km (32 miles) to Wilpena Pound.
STAY: Rawnsley Park Station (Campground,Cabins, Units, Eco-Villas); or Wilpena Pound Resort (Campground, Standard and Deluxe Rooms, Safari Tents). Other options including Station Stays and campgrounds in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park are also available in the area.
MUST DO at Wilpena Pound:
- St Mary’s Peak – This strenuous hike (14.6 – 21.5 km (9-13.5 miles) depending on route taken) is a Flinders Ranges showpiece. But if you viewed the panorama in Hawker (see above), you already what’s to be seen from the summit! (ps I haven’t done this hike either).
- Wilkawillina Gorge – Drive the 34 km (mostly dirt) past the Bunkers. The gorge hike is 11.4 km (7 miles) one way – even if you don’t do the whole walk, the scenery is spectacular.
- Brachina Gorge – drive about 50 km (31 miles, mostly dirt) via the Bunyeroo Valley and Gorge then along Brachina Gorge’s Geological Time Tunnel with interpretive signs and lookouts, walks and classic outback scenery. Return the same way, or via the ABC range and main road. (*Scenic Loo alert!)
- Hucks and Stokes Hill Lookouts – 10 and 13 km (6.2 and 8 miles) from Wilpena Pound. Visit them en route to Wilkawillina or Blinman.
- Bridle Gap – Part of the Heysen Trail, this 18.8 km return hike crosses the Pound and offers great views from the Bumbinyunna Range on the other side. Much of the hike is flat and easy going and is an alternative to the much more difficult St Mary’s Peak trail.
MORE Things to DO at Wilpena Pound:
This is just a sampler of alternative activities – ask for more details at your accommodation.
- HIKES: Hills Homestead (6.6 km); Wangara Lookout (7.8 km – incl Hills Homestead); Ferntree Falls (5.2 km); Pines Cave (5.4); Rawnsley Bluff (12.6 km)
- HERITAGE: Old Wilpena Station, Sacred Canyon
- DRIVE: Arkapena Track for Scenery and Lookouts, Moralana Scenic Drive
- RIDE: Scenic Flights; Willow Springs Skytrek 4WD (self-drive and escorted tours); Mountain Biking on Mawson Trail
MORE from the Central Flinders Ranges:
- Kanyaka Historic Site
- St Marys Peak
- Wilkawillina Gorge Hike
- Bridle Gap Hike
- Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges
Days 6 and 7 – Blinman and Angorichina
On Day 6 drive 59 km (36.5 miles) north to Blinman.
MUST DO en route to Blinman:
- Hucks and Stokes Hill Lookouts – stop if you haven’t already seen these (see above)
- Perawurtina Cultural Heritage Site – Adnyamathanha rock paintings and engravings
- Mt Emily and the Great Wall of China – Interesting rocky outcrops, and yet another Great Wall – this one Flinders Ranges Style!
MUST DO at Blinman:
- Blinman Underground Experience – the Blinman Mines Tour comes with a Sound & Light show, expert local commentary and a fascinating dose of the area’s mining and social history
Drive 14 km (8.7 miles) from Blinman to Angorichina Village.
STAY: Angorichina Tourist Village (Campground, Cabins and *Scenic Loo alert!). Alternatively, there’s a range of accommodation in Blinman including Hotel, Cottages, Station Stays
MUST DO at Angorichina:
- Blinman Pools Hike – Follow Parachilna and Blinman Creeks through sheer cliff faces, gorges and rocky creek beds for 10 km (return) to 1st pool, then 1 km (return) to 2nd pool.
- Glass Gorge – A 43 km loop via Blinman through the picturesque Glass Gorge
- Nuccaleena Historic Mine Site – add another 34 km onto the Glass Gorge loop and visit this remote mine. This leg is 4WD on rough, rugged roads and station tracks.
MORE Things to DO at Angorichina:
- HIKE: Heysen Trail – this 1200 km (745 mile) hike starts in Parachilna Gorge. You won’t have time to walk the whole trail (!), but take a 6 km return hike into the Gorge along the track to experience this part of the ranges
- RIDE: Mountain Biking, 4WD tours
- BLINMAN: Blinman Walking Trail (3.5 km); Cafes and Gallery, Mine Office
MORE about Blinman and Angorichina
So … now your 7 days are up and it’s time to go. But the adventure isn’t over yet.
Return to Adelaide by driving 18 km through Parachilna Gorge to Parachilna (*Scenic Loo alert!)for a Feral Mixed Grill and a Fargher Lager!
A great end to a great week.
But the good news is that if you’re not yet ready to end your holiday, you can check out the things to do in Port Augusta on your way back!!
Flinders Ranges Fast Facts:
- WHAT: The Flinders Ranges is a 430 km long region of mountain ranges in the South Australian Outback. It includes the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park; Vulkathanha-Gammon Ranges National Park, Mt Remarkable National Park, several Conservation Parks, many natural attractions and numerous sites of historic and cultural significance.
- WHERE: The Flinders Ranges are north of Adelaide. From Adelaide, it’s 335 km (208 miles) to Quorn, 400 km (248 miles) to Hawker and 508 km (315 miles) to Blinman.
- WHEN: The best time to go is from April to October. Temperatures in the hotter months of November to March can range from 30º – 45º C (86-113 F)
- DRIVING: Self-drive is the easiest way to get around. PLEASE NOTE: some of the roads and trails described in this post require 4WD or high clearance. Please check road conditions and vehicle suitability before you drive.
- FACILITIES: Meals, groceries and other supplies are available in smaller centres such as Wilpena Pound Resort, Rawnsley Park Station, Blinman and Angorichina Tourist Village. Fuel is available at Quorn, Hawker, Wilpena Pound, Angorichina Tourist Village and Parachilna.