South Australia’s Flinders Ranges

It’s said that the Flinders Ranges is nature on a grand scale. A visit there will reveal magnificent and uncompromising landscapes. Although many people think of the Ranges as being remote, they really aren’t such a long drive if you approach from the South as the Flinders Ranges begin only 220kms out of Adelaide, South Australia’s Capital.

The major drawcard of the Ranges is the unique beauty of this landscape, an area that is magnificent with its indigenous history, ancient geological formations, rich colours and textures, open spaces, clear air and abundant wildlife.  To explore the Flinders Ranges is to experience the essence of Australia.

The story of the Flinders Ranges began 800 million years ago when natural forces stretched and thinned the earth’s crust, creating a deep hollow. The sea flooded in, depositing over the next 300 million years huge amounts of rock and debris composed mainly of quartzite and limestone.

The Flinders Ranges has three distinct sections, the southern, central and northern sections, each of which is quite diverse from the others.

At the heart of all this is Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre that is17km long and 7km wide.  It has been shaped by the weathering and uplifting of land over time.  It is a significant place of many sacred Aboriginal rituals, the local Adnyamathana people call it Ikara, and their Dreamtime stories tell of its creation by huge serpents. From the rich indigenous history to the stories of the first European farmers to the region, this place has a diverse and fascinating history of human interaction with the landscape.  The structure was originally a huge dome pushed up by earth movements about 650 million years ago. The floor of the Pound is about 200 m above the surrounding plains, and the outer ring of cliffs rising 500 m from the plains is all that remains of much higher mountains surrounding the Pound, since eroded by many thousands of metres. The highest prominence is St. Marys Peak, at 1170 m above sea level.  

If you are visiting the Flinders Ranges from Adelaide and you start in the most southerly section you will find a trail network traversing spectacular scenery which allows for year-round cycling and walking. If you’re feeling energetic, be rewarded with amazing views from the peak of Mount Remarkable on a variety of well-maintained and signposted walking trails from Melrose.  Wirrabara and Bundaleer forests have great recreational trails in a tranquil setting. Or cycle the Mawson Trail or specially designed single tracks.

The Southern Flinders flavours trail features nine locations and provides food-lovers with a complete gourmet experience. Discover the delights on offer – everything from gourmet meats and olive products to soft drinks, pastries, honey, condiments, seafood and even South Australia’s very own Golden North ice-cream at the town of Laura.

The focus of the Central Flinders Ranges is Wilpena Pound, but there are many activities available in the local towns as well.  One of the most popular attractions if the Pichi Richi Railway which is an operating museum which runs heritage train journeys on the original Ghan railway line which runs between the town of Quorn and Port Augusta.

In the northern section you can visit the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.  It is 610 square kilometers in area and is run by the Sprigg Family.  Arkaroola features rugged mountains, towering granite peaks, magnificent gorges and mysterious waterholes, the home to over 160 species of birds and the shy and endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. They also have a range of accommodation ranging from motel-style to camping, and heaps of activities especially bushwalking and 4WD tours. Arkaroola is also popular with people who are interested in astronomy.  Arkaroola is South Australia’s first wilderness sanctuary to adopt a Dark Skies Policy, thus ensuring their night skies remain unpolluted by local bright white light for years to come.  They have several observatories on site, and given that the skies here are perfectly clear, it is one of the best places at which to discover the night skies.

The 94,908 hectare Flinders Ranges National Park is one of South Australia’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s world renowned for its geological history, Aboriginal rock art sites, impressive fossil remains, and ruins of early European settlement.  There is a Visitors Information Centre their and rangers on duty.  You can purchase a National Park Pass which will allow camping for up to five nights.

The Flinders Ranges offers visitors the opportunity to explore that is quite unique and which enjoys great diversity. It has been named as one of Australia’s great natural landscapes, and it definitely worth a visit.

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