As we rolled out of Port Wakefield and turned onto the Princes Highway, it felt like the road trip had really just begun. We’d made our first pit stop to pick up some ice, and we were all ready to go. We had the music queued up and a full itinerary for the five days ahead in the Flinders Ranges. Our Flinders Ranges road trip was underway!
I chose the destination – The Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park and surrounding areas offer ancient landscapes, rugged mountain ranges, native wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. It’s a totally rad road trip destination in my opinion, and with the state of border closures at the time, it was a great option for us.
While preparing for this road trip, I spent a good few days researching the heck out of the Flinders and planning an itinerary that would encompass the best sights and experiences the Flinders Ranges had to offer. I wanted it to be the ultimate in Flinders Ranges road trips. My aim was to show my fellow road trippers (my teenage niece & nephew) the best of the Flinders Ranges, and the best of road tripping the way I enjoy it. That is – windows down, music loud, hitting all the most scenic landscapes, and wherever possible, taking the road less traveled!
If you’ve got itchy feet, these next six months might be the perfect time for to hit the road and explore your own backyard before international visitors make it back to Australian shores. Here’s our Flinders Ranges road trip itinerary. All the sights we saw, as well as highlights of the sights you absolutely must see while you’re there!
ItineraryDay One: Adelaide to Melrose
Day Two: Melrose to Flinders Ranges NP
Day Three: Flinders Ranges NP
Day Four: Flinders Ranges NP
Day Five: Flinders Ranges NP to Quorn
Day Six: Quorn to Adelaide
If you don’t have time to check out our itinerary now, why not pin it here for later.
Our first day on the road saw us touring a few highlights of the Southern Flinders Ranges, before stopping for the night in the quaint country town of Melrose.
- The first scenic stop we made was in Lochiel, in hopes of seeing the bubble gum pink hues of Lake Bumbunga. It’s an Instagrammer’s delight – especially if you’re there at the right time of year to see all the pinks! (Autumn or early Spring).
- As we continued North, we made a couple of other stops in Snowtown and Wirabarra to see some examples of the water tower and Silo Art becoming so prevalent throughout country Australia these days.
- We checked in to the quaint country town of Melrose. Nestled beneath Mt. Remarkable, it was the perfect spot to stop for our first night on the road!
- We then headed on out to Alligator Gorge. This is the ABSOLUTE MUST SEE of the day! We only had the last few hours of daylight to explore. You could easily spend the entire day explore the highlights of Alligator Gorge. Make sure you hike down into the gorge to get the best perspectives on this spectacular place. You absolutely mustn’t miss checking out The Terraces’ slick rock platforms or hiking through the Narrows section of the Gorge Circuit hike. We were there in the late afternoon and were rewarded with the rich reds of the quartzite walls popping as the last rays of afternoon sun shifted towards the horizon.
On Day Two, we went a little off the beaten track, taking a scenic detour via a couple of abandoned towns on our way north towards the Flinders Ranges National Park and our accommodation at Rawnsley Park Station.
- We left Melrose and quickly headed off the beaten track to explore the towns of Bruce and Hammond. These towns served the original railway line from Peterborough to Quorn but are now essentially abandoned.
- After a few more little off the beaten track adventures, we found ourselves in Hawker right around lunchtime. We highly recommend the Flinders Food Co. Cafe for a fabulous meal!
- Before leaving Hawker, we made one last stop at the Jeff Morgan Gallery. We saw the stunningly beautiful countryside of Wilpena Pound and Arkaroola depicted in painstaking detail in two 360 degree panoramic paintings.
- We checked into our home for the next couple of nights – cozy self-contained cabin accommodation at Rawnsley Park Station.
- DON’T MISS a sunset view over Wilpena Pound. We headed up the steep corrugated track to Pugilist Hill Lookout, where we enjoyed stunning panoramic views of Rawnsley Bluff and the Chace & Elder Ranges as the sun set.
Day Three was our first full day exploring the Flinders Ranges National Park
- We spent the morning hiking in Wilpena Pound. The Pound Gap trail meanders alongside the Wilpena Creek, beneath towering red gums and through the natural gap in the pound walls. Once we were inside the Pound, we took the short but slightly steep spur trail to Wangara Lookout. It’s worthwhile for the spectacular panoramic views of the interior of Wilpena Pound.
- Post-hike (and picnic lunch), we hit the road to explore the Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive. This is NOT TO BE MISSED!! The corrugated dirt road winds its way across undulating outback landscapes. There’s a couple of out of this world lookouts you simply must stop at before dropping down into the valleys of the Heysen Range.
- We stopped for a little stroll along the Bunyeroo Creek Hike before heading to Brachina Gorge.
- We for a quick drive along the geological trail through Brachina Gorge. Drive slowly, and be on the lookout for the elusive Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby in the gorge. (late afternoon is when they’re most active). We shrieked with delight when one of these little beauties hopped right in front of our car!
- Hucks Lookout was on our way back ‘home,’ and we stopped for some perfect panoramic sunset views of Wilpena Pound. The last of the late afternoon light created a special kind of magic as it lit up the Ranges!
Day Four was our second full day in the Flinders Ranges. We took the opportunity to drive a bit further north and explore a couple of other scenic drives.
- Our first stop of the day was Cazneaux Tree – just on the outskirts of Wilpena Resort. Stop for some lovely views of this iconic tree, with Wilpena Pound rising from the background.
- Next up was Stokes Hill Lookout. The panoramas were magnificent – taking in Wilpena Pound and the Druid, Chace, Elder, Heysen, and Bunker Ranges. Bang for the buck, people!! At the top lookout, there’s a 3D model of Wilpena Pound and informational panels about some of the Adnyamathanha Dreamtime legends, traditional plant uses, and pictorial symbols, which we referred to later in our trip!
- Next up was Blinman, where we took a little walk to explore the town’s mining heritage. What a rugged, inhospitable place this must have been back in the day. To complete our cultural exploration, we stopped into the bakery to grab a Cornish Pasty for lunch. Note: If you’re keen to learn more about the town’s mining heritage, there are underground mine tours available in Blinman.
- We took the long way ‘home,’ driving through Parachilna Gorge and swinging past the Parachilna Pub (sadly, it was closed) before hopping back on the bitumen and heading south on The Outback Highway. Parachilna Gorge was a lot less rugged than I remembered, and if I had my time over, I would have taken the alternative Glass Gorge route from Blinman to Parachilna.
- The Morolana Scenic Drive took us back across to the Flinders Ranges Way, just south of Rawnsley Park. Don’t leave the Flinders Ranges without taking this spectacular scenic drive. The road passes between the Southern wall of Wilpena Pound and the magnificent Elder Range. We were lucky enough to have it almost to ourselves, allowing us to make lots of stops to appreciate the scenery and observe the local wildlife.
- If you’re staying at Rawnsley Park, take a walk up to Alison Saddle for sunset – it’s an easy stroll, with almost 360-degree views!
Day Five – We left Wilpena Pound behind us and headed south for our final overnight stop in Quorn.
- Before leaving the Flinders Ranges, we stopped to hike up to the archaeological site of Arkaroo Rock. This easy-moderate loop hike leads hikers to a rock shelter that has preserved Adnyamathanha rock paintings depicting Wilpena Pound’s creation.
- Headed south, we stopped to explore the ruins of Kanyaka – once a thriving sheep & cattle station. After exploring the main homestead area, don’t miss the Woolshed – a short drive (or hike) down the access road.
- After leaving Kanyaka, we decided to take the road less traveled. We headed off the highway to drive across the country past the Simmonston Ruins and onwards to Warren Gorge. It was an interesting scenic drive, with only a few emu’s sharing the roads with us.
- Warren Gorge is as spectacular as it is accessible. We drove right through the narrow gorge before parking at the other end and stepping out to stroll beneath the towering gorge walls. This gorge is a Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby habitat. If you’re quiet (and lucky), you might get to see a few of these endangered marsupials effortlessly navigate the rocky slopes of the gorge during your visit.
- After checking into our accommodation in Quorn, we took a stroll through town while waiting for the sun to set to see the latest evolution in the Silo Art phenomenon. A short animated film and images depicting the local area are projected onto the Quorn Silos each night after sunset. It’s worth checking out if you’re in town, but I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it.
Day Six – We’re headed home! We left Quorn and took a little detour down memory lane on the way back to Adelaide.
- We enjoyed the last of the stunning Southern Flinders Ranges scenery as we departed Quorn and traveled through the Pichi Richi Pass towards Port Augusta.
- On our way back to Adelaide, we took a detour via Moonta! Okay, it’s not really a little detour, but it was worthwhile all the same. We stopped for lunch at a Cornish bakery, dessert at a Gelato spot, snacks at the Olde Sweet Stop, drove past my great grandpa’s old house, and stopped for a stroll around some of the mining ruins before heading home. Not bad for a short little road trip detour – Moonta and the Yorke Peninsula could be a whole other road trip destination!
Know Before You Go!
The Flinders Ranges region actually starts around 200km north of Adelaide and stretches north just beyond Lyndhurst & Arkaroola – make sure you plan ahead and be aware of the vast distances between these locations. We didn’t have time to explore as far afield as Arkaroola (although it’s definitely on my bucket list), so we settled on exploring the landmark sights of this region – the Southern Flinders Ranges & Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park.
The Flinders Ranges and Outback Australia can be wickedly hot and inhospitable places in Summer. The best time to visit the Flinders Ranges is between April and October.
The Flinders Ranges is an incredibly remote and sometimes desolate destination, so always be prepared as you travel. Fill up your gas tank when there’s the opportunity. Always carry plenty of water and snacks in your vehicle, and be aware that cell phone reception is rare to non-existent in most of the region!
The scenic drives mentioned travel through and along creek beds in spots. We had a high clearance vehicle but didn’t need to use 4WD while we were there, however, road conditions change frequently, so always check at the visitor center before setting out on these drives.
If you’re a keen hiker, there are some more challenging hikes that you can tackle in Wilpena Pound and the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. Check out the National Parks website for more hiking information.
Check out my map of our Flinders Ranges Journey!
Looking for some other South Aussie Road Trip ideas – check out these other blog posts from my recent travels:
Any questions? Let me know!