From wildlife and walking trails, to ancient fossils and indigenous culture – have yourself an Outback adventure in the easy-to-reach mountains of Flinders Ranges...
Not all mountains are created equal, and the Flinders Ranges – the largest belt of mountains in the state – are as grand as they come. “They’re gorgeous,” says Nick Baker, who explored them for himself earlier this year. “The Flinders Ranges are a proper Outback experience – exactly how you imagine the Outback is going to be.”
Super-sized and craggy, the Ranges’ saw-toothed topography and red plateaus are the epitome of Australian wilderness. Given this, you’d expect them to be remote – but they’re not. Just five hours of driving, through the wineries of the Clare Valley, brings you from Adelaide to the mountains.
For those who think of Australia as a young country, the Flinders Ranges are a vivid reminder of its agelessness. The first human habitation in the area was around 49,000 years ago, while the landscape itself dates back no less than 600 million years. “One of the gorges here is where the oldest fossils on Earth that represent multi-cellular animals can be found,” says Nick. “But if geological stuff like that isn’t your thing, it’s also home to an animal that’s alive and well today.”
He’s talking about the yellow-footed rock wallabies, once on the verge of extinction but slowly recovering, and found amid the Ranges’ high slopes. But many more species also thrive here, including emus, kangaroos, eagles, unusual lizards such as the Lake Eyre dragon and rare birds such as the grey-fronted honeyeater.
The Ranges’ indigenous heritage is another defining characteristic, with descendants of the Adnyamathanha people still living in the area. It gives an added layer of significance to dramatic natural formations such as the vast natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound – or ‘place of bent fingers’ in the local Aboriginal dialect, a reference to its resemblance to a pair of cupped hands. It’s one of many reminders of a truly ancient connection.
The Flinders Ranges have some remarkable accommodation options. The Prairie Hotel is a true-blue Aussie Outback property, with character in spades and a license dating back to 1876. Nick stayed at two other incredible places, both with their own extraordinary stories. Rawnsley Park Station overlooks Wilpena Pound and has been welcoming visitors to its beautiful, sheep-roamed plains for 50 years, while the Arkaba Conservancy is a former sheep ranch turned luxury wilderness lodge focused on wildlife conservation. “Arkaba’s idea of rewilding was literally to take the sheep off the land and see what happened,” says Nick. “What happened was that everything has bounced back, quite literally. The vegetation has sprung up, and when that happens, in come the animals.”
We’ll leave the final word to Nick, who wasn’t just wowed by the Flinders Ranges, but by South Australia as a whole. “If you’re an adventurer and you want somewhere a bit different, somewhere that feels a bit more real, it’s all there. You can have all your creature comforts and get a fix of the wilds at the same time. It’s the perfect place to go.”
Discover the beauty of South Australia’s stunning Outback
Getting under the skin of a place like the Flinders Ranges needs a bit of context – you want to see other parts of South Australia to appreciate just how different it is. A two-week escape with Trailfinders includes three nights in Adelaide, one night in the Clare Valley, two nights at Rawnsley Park Station, one night at the Prairie Hotel and five nights in Sydney, costing from £1,589 per person (based on two sharing).
The package includes 12 nights’ accommodation, five days car hire for the Ocean to Outback road trip, flights with Qatar Airways from London to Adelaide and Sydney back to London, and domestic flights within Australia.
For more info contact Trailfinders on 020 7368 1364 or visit their website.
Those wanting to follow in Nick Baker’s footsteps and enjoy the Arkaba Walk in the Flinders Ranges can do this amazing journey between April and September. This four-day private hike can be booked through Trailfinders.
Enquire for details on 020 7368 1364.