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Flinders Ranges Home to the incredible Wilpena Pound

By Lee Atkinson

The rugged, weathered peaks and rocky gorges of the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia form some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the country. It's a place rich in Aboriginal history and home to a vast array of wildlife. Following the scenic roads, 4WD tracks and walking trails that crisscross this wild countryside will take you on a remarkable adventure.

Map of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Ride the Coffee Pot

Ride the rails back in time on one of Australia's best-known steam train journeys. Operated by passionate volunteers, the Pichi Richi Railway runs beautifully restored steam and diesel locomotives and timber carriages, including the century-old steam train nicknamed the Coffee Pot that's a favourite of trainspotters and believed to be the last of its kind in the world. They run on the last remaining operating portion of the historic narrow-gauge Ghan railway line. Built in the 1870s, this section of the line runs through deep rock cuttings, stone wall embankments and spectacular iron bridges. Trips depart from Quorn and Port Augusta. 

Explore Wilpena Pound

From the air, Wilpena Pound looks like a crater, a massive bowl almost 100 kilometres (62 miles) wide that stands above the surrounding plains. But the rim is actually made up of the stumps of huge mountains, believed to have been as high as the Himalayas, that have been eroded over millennia. There's only one way in: through a gorge 11 kilometres (seven miles) long and eight kilometres (five miles) across. It was called a pound by the early settlers in the 1850s – they thought it looked like a traditional sheep pen. The best way to see the distinctive shape is on a scenic flight from Wilpena Resort inside the Pound. It offers a range of accommodation from motel-style rooms to glamping as well as a campground and Aboriginal cultural walks and 4WD tours. You can also trek inside the Pound and climb up over the rim.

Eat a feral mixed grill

If you've never tasted kangaroo, emu or even camel, Parachilna’s famous Prairie Hotel is the best place to try some. One of the outback’s most iconic hotels, the Prairie is an authentic pub with an innovative menu, best known for its creative use of native foods. The Feral Mixed Grill of emu, kangaroo, goat and camel is the hotel's signature dish, but make sure you try the quandong pie, made from a wild native peach – it's tart but delicious. Stay overnight in one of the stylish rooms out the back. 

Do the ridge-top tour at Arkaroola

Arkaroola is a privately owned 610-square kilometre (236-square mile) wilderness sanctuary at the far northern tip of the Flinders. The scenery is simply awesome, with soaring granite peaks, deep gorges and waterholes, and it's one of the best places to see the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby. There are self-guided 4WD trails but the best way to see the countryside is the four-hour ridge-top tour that travels along the spine of the mountains to a stunning lookout. Stay in one of the comfortable motel rooms or set up camp in the campground and enjoy the stars. The lack of ambient light makes it great for viewing the night sky and there are two observatories on the property.

Watch the sun set from the top of the range

One of the oldest sheep stations in the Flinders, Rawnsley Park, on the southern face of Wilpena Pound, was established in 1851. It's still a working farm, but it's also a great place to stay, with a campground, simple cabins and luxury eco villas with stunning views of the surrounding ranges – and a glass panel in the bedroom ceiling, so you can stargaze from bed. Spend your days exploring the area on the network of bushwalking trails that traverse the property, take a 4WD tour to the top of the Chace Range and watch the sunset with a glass of local sparkling wine and some canapés before enjoying a meal of station-grown saltbush lamb at the Woolshed Restaurant. 

Sleep out in style under the stars at Arkaba Station

Do the Flinders in style at Arkaba, a former sheep station on the edge of Wilpena Pound that is now a private wildlife conservation park. It offers five-star accommodation in the historic homestead and bush camps with luxury swags (traditional Australian canvas sleeping bags with internal mattresses) on raised timber decks with uninterrupted views of mountains and the night sky, hot showers and meals prepared by private chef. Join a four-day guided walk, go on a 4WD game drive, take a scenic flight over the ranges or a helicopter safari to Parachilna for lunch at the Prairie Hotel. 

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