At the heart of South Australia's bushland is the Flinders Ranges, a fantastic center for hill-walking, rock art and sweeping views
DURATION: 10 days
BEST FOR: Hill-walking, rock art, sweeping views
ROUTE: Adelaide • Mount Remarkable • Quorn • Wilpena Pound • Arkaroo Rock • Blinman • Parachilna
WHY DO IT: Trace a trail through the Flinders Ranges via heritage towns, Aboriginal history and ravishing rocks
An immense, craggy belt of red-hued peaks unfurling for 267 miles, the Flinders Ranges represents one of Australia’s most impressive natural sights. These crags are also among its oldest, dating back a whopping 540 million years. Here, you’ll be treated to a timeless spread of gorges, ridges and lofty escarpments – a bush-hiking paradise, though serious walkers should come between May and October, when temperatures are coolest; during the Australian summer the mercury rises above 40°C.
Driving up from Adelaide, Mount Remarkable National Park is likely to be your first stop-off – it offers some great looped day-walks, including one through beautiful Alligator Gorge. The adjoining town of Melrose is the oldest settlement in the Flinders, with a rich copper-mining heritage. You can follow the chain of the Flinders Ranges south to north. Call in at the town of Quorn to ride the steam-powered Pichi Richi Railway before reaching the mountains proper.
There’s heritage of a different kind farther north, meanwhile, in the form of Wilpena Pound – one of the highlights of the entire range. A crater rim forming a monumental natural amphitheatre, it has long associations with Aboriginal culture. That’s also true of nearby Arkaroo Rock, where a gallery of age-old art has been preserved. The region is particularly colourful in springtime (September to November) when it’s festooned with wildflowers – one of the reasons the Flinders draws so many photographers and painters.
Continue up through the mountains, gum trees and gorges to round off your travels at the hill-ringed towns of Blinman and Parachilna, both of which are stocked with inventive restaurants and atmospheric hotels. The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna combines both heritage and culinary class – you can even toast your trip here with ‘feral antipasto’ such as smoked kangaroo and emu pâté.
The whole area is threaded with excellent bushwalking trails. Three great options are: the Wangara Lookout Hike (3.5hrs), along which you can gaze down onto Wilpena Pound; the St Mary Peak Hike (6hrs), a challenging climb to the Flinders’ highest summit, topping out at 3,841ft; and Aroona to Youngoona (7hrs), which offers breathtaking views and varied rock formations.