The Flinders Ranges is the most extensive mountain range in South Australia. It is one of the country’s iconic outback destinations. We absolutely fell in love on our first visit in 2018 and made sure it was on the list when we started travelling full-time in 2021. Read on to discover why they should be on the top of your list when considering an outback South Australian adventure.
Where are the Flinders Ranges?
The Flinders Ranges start about 200 km north of Adelaide and continue for over 430 km from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna. When we first visited the area in 2018, we had no idea how big the Flinders were. The ranges are, in fact, much larger than the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park area that most people think of. In fact, they span the Mt Remarkable National Park, the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park, Mount Brown, Telowie Gorge, and The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Parks. There are also many highlights to explore on privately owned stations and other properties, many of which are open to the public.
What is special about the Flinders Ranges?
The Ranges are characterised by unique and stunning geological features of folded and faulted sediment layers. In some areas, these layers resemble the pages in a book. Interestingly, the terrain can be read like a book about the history of the earth’s formation. Remnants of the earliest signs of life have been found in the area, including a collection of fossilised animals. Scenic landscapes include the Germein, Brachina and Alligator gorges, the Wilpena Pound Depression, and the Arkaba Hills.
The Flinders Ranges is one of those places that constantly leaves you with a stunned look on your face. We lost count of the number of places we visited, leaving us speechless and in awe of the landscape.
How many days do you need in the Flinders Ranges?
Like most places in Australia, you could spend a lifetime exploring the area and not see it all. Suppose you plan to explore the entire region from Mt Remarkable in the south through to the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park and Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the north. In that case, we’d recommend a 2-week trip. You can easily break this into shorter trips and explore each section separately.
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is home to the famous Wilpena Pound, incredible hiking and walking trails, indigenous rock art, gorges, and spectacular views. You could explore the park in 3-4 days and see many of the highlights, but you won’t regret it if you’ve got a couple more days. Our highlights within the park are Arkaroo Rock, Wilpena Pound Lookout, Cazneaux Tree, Bunyeroo Scenic Drive, and Brachina Gorge.
Where to stay when visiting the Flinders Ranges?
The accommodation options are as diverse as the area itself. There are a variety of station stays, farm stays, National Park campgrounds, and some free-camping options. If you’d like to see the location of our favourite campsites when visiting the Flinders, check out our interactive map.
When visiting the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, there is a well-managed National Park campground near Wilpena Pound. Several station stays not far away, including the famous Rawnsley Park and Willow Springs stations, offer a range of accommodation options. Further north, there are some basic National Park campgrounds with limited facilities. Our pick is the Brachina East camping area, a beautiful open, informal camping area in the river bed surrounded by giant river gums.
Further south from the National Park is one of our favourite campsites in Australia at Blue Range Station, not far from Quorn. Basic camping at its best with impressive views of the range and spectacular walking options right from camp. A challenging and breathtaking 4wd track takes you to one of the highest points in the Flinders Ranges. This drive was one of the highlights of our visit in 2021.
Do you need a 4wd for the Flinders Ranges?
The Flinders Ranges are mainly accessible to 2wd vehicles. Although many of the roads are unsealed, they are generally well maintained.
With that said, the region is renowned for its 4wding tracks with steep, rocky climbs leading to incredible views. It’s a unique destination for 4wders and not just because of the ancient landscape and impressive topography. The majority of the 4wding in the area is on privately owned stations. Although many are open to the public, you will need to pay a fee to access them. This fee varies but is typically anywhere between $20 and $80. This can really start to add up if you’re planning to tackle multiple tracks. It’s not something we’ve encountered in many other areas of Australia, but it has become the ‘norm’ in this area.
We haven’t explored some of the better-known 4wd tracks, such as Skytrek at Willow Springs Station or some of the options at Rawnsley Park. If you’re looking for a less well-known but exceptional drive, we recommend checking out the track at Blue Range Station.
What is the best time to visit the Flinders Ranges?
With summer temperatures regularly reaching well into the 40s (that’s celsius, for our American readers), it’s no surprise the best time to visit is during cooler months. April to October is considered the best time to visit but avoid school holiday periods if you can. While the daytime temps during this time of year are generally relatively mild and perfect for hiking and exploring, keep in mind, it can get freezing overnight.
There are no large towns in the Flinders Ranges region. There are basic supplies available at Quorn, Hawker, and Blinman. We’d recommend stocking up on fuel and groceries on your way there and then topping up when in town. Services are generally more limited once you start heading north. Access to drinking water is also limited, so plan ahead. Keep in mind some areas in the Flinders are pretty remote and rarely have phone service, so make sure you’re adequately prepared.