It would take months or even years to see everything there is to see in the Flinders Ranges. So why create a list and tell you to do this, that, and the other?
My intention for this site is for you to fall in love with the Flinders Ranges if you haven’t already. I want you to return to the area repeatedly, establish traditions, make lasting memories, and become enamoured with the area’s intangible essence.
However, it must be acknowledged that some people are either short on time, visiting for the first time, or both. Others may be overwhelmed by the geographical extent of the Flinders Ranges and the sheer amount of things to do.
This list of Flinders Ranges attractions is by no means exhaustive. It’s for people who have seen it all before and can’t get enough. It’s also for people who don’t know their deserts from their desserts.
Each place to feature in this article has been selected based on its location, wow factor, and proximity to accommodation, facilities, and other areas of interest.
Here are nine of the best things to do in the Flinders Ranges.
Southern Flinders Ranges
The Southern Flinders Ranges extend from the small farming town of Crystal Brook (around 200 kilometres north of Adelaide) to Quorn, about 30 minutes northeast of Port Augusta.
The ranges are discontinuous and more like rounded hills at their southern extremity. But as you travel north, you’ll notice that they jut out of the landscape with force and impose themselves on the coastal plain to the east of Spencer Gulf.
1. Alligator Gorge
Oh, how I love Alligator Gorge. The gorge – which is thankfully not home to any alligators – was the first section of Mount Remarkable National Park to be protected.
And it’s not hard to see why.
After you take a steep set of steps down into the gorge itself, you’ll be greeted with towering red quartzite cliffs, relatively lush native vegetation, and a running creek in winter and spring or after heavy rain.
Unlike the broader Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges, Alligator Gorge is a much more enclosed space and there are some sections where it narrows to only a metre or two.
Alligator Gorge is popular with hikers and anyone else who believes they can make the steep return trip to the carpark in one piece. The place can be busy due to its proximity to Adelaide, but do not under any circumstances let that deter you!
A few things to keep in mind. There is limited phone reception once you leave the Wilmington road, so ensure you’ve paid the national park fee beforehand.
Also note that the road into Alligator Gorge is steep and narrow and one will also have to navigate the frequent spoon drains which act as a speed deterrent.
The access road is half the fun and the views of the untouched bush make you feel a world away from anywhere. Nevertheless, the terrain makes the 12-kilometre road unsuitable for buses, camper trailers, and caravans.
2. Discover the charm of Quorn
Quorn was once located on the major east-west and north-sound railway lines back in the day and was thus a hive of activity. But Quorn, like its railway town counterpart Peterborough, suffered a decline when the Ghan route was diverted in 1956.
Quorn later relied on farming and to a lesser extent tourism, but for a time it was often a place where people stopped on their way to somewhere else. Think Wilpena, Blinman, Parachilna, and beyond.
Today, in 2024, I’m happy to report that the town is starting to thrive. Linger a few days in the Quorn Caravan Park, soak up the rural ambience, and have breakfast and/or lunch at the Quandong Café.
Quorn’s native flora
If you’re a native plant lover, Quorn has you covered. Start in the Pithi Kawi Bush Food Garden (near the town pool) and then take a short drive up to the Quorn Native Flora Reserve where a pleasant 30 minute loop walk awaits.
Once back in town, a similar experience can be had in Powell Gardens. The gardens were established in 2005 by native plant enthusiast Brian Powell and only features species that occur within a 30-kilometre radius of Quorn.
Pichi Richi Railway
No trip to Quorn would be complete without a ride on the Pichi Richi Railway which huffs and puffs between Quorn and Port Augusta via Woolshed Flat.
Outside of the fire ban season, the steam locomotives whistle frequently and give the town an old-world ambience you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
Here is more information on what to do and where to stay in Quorn.
3. Experience the old and the new in Melrose
Some 45 minutes down the road from Quorn is Melrose, a town located at the base of Mount Remarkable (949m) but with a different vibe entirely.
Melrose was first settled by pastoralists in the 1840s and is reported to be the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges. Copper was also mined in the area over subsequent decades, but after several attempts, it was deemed unviable.
The town has numerous heritage-listed buildings such as Jacka’s Brewery, the Melrose Courthouse and Police Station, and the Mount Remarkable Hotel.
Most were built at a time when Melrose was the commercial and governmental centre of an area called the “Far North”.
Juxtaposing this history is a modern vibe that makes Melrose the most trendy and progressive of all the towns in the Flinders Ranges.
Try Over the Edge Sports, a self-confessed funky bike shop with some of the best coffee and breakfast for miles. You can also rent mountain bikes from the knowledgeable staff and ride the more than 100 kilometres of nearby trail.
For something more leisurely, take the short but scenic drive out to Bartagunyah Estate winery. Why not stay the night in the winery’s adjacent bush camp and enjoy the spoils of your tasting under the stars?
Central Flinders Ranges
The Central Flinders Ranges – from Quorn to about Blinman and Parachilna – is where many of the most popular attractions are located. But it’s relative remoteness means you can find some peace and solitude at certain times of year.
4. Marvel at Wilpena Pound
If there was one Flinders Ranges attraction no visitor should miss, then it has to be Wilpena Pound.
The Pound dominates the landscape of the central Flinders Ranges – particularly from the south where its jagged western peaks are visible 65 kilometres away just before you hit Hawker.
How was Wilpena Pound formed?
The pound is a natural amphitheatre of Rawnsley Quartzite that has resisted erosion while softer sedimentary rocks have worn away. Do not let anyone try to tell you that Wilpena Pound is an asteroid impact site or volcano!
The amphitheatre is shaped like an oval or tear-drop comprised of two separate mountain ranges. On the eastern side is St. Mary Peak (1171m) – the highest peak in the Flinders Ranges which can also see snow in the winter.
How big is Wilpena Pound?
Wilpena Pound is approximately 18km long and 8km across at its widest point. It covers an area eight times as large as Uluru.
To me, it seems smaller in person. But then I’m reminded of how large Wilpena Pound is when I walk through its centre or look at images of it from space.
Things to do
Hiking is one of the most popular activities, and there quite a few to choose from. Check out my list of the ten best Wilpena Pound walks here.
To acquaint yourself with the area, start with the Hills Homestead walk. This mostly flat walk follows Wilpena Creek into the Pound itself with plenty of shade provided by enormous river-red gums. Such is the admiration you’ll have for these beauties that you’ll easily develop a sore neck.
For something more adventurous, hike to the summit of Mount Ohlssen-Bagge (942m), Rawnsley Bluff (943m), or Tanderra Saddle (943m) for commanding views of the surrounding hills, valleys, and mountains.
To go higher still, book a Wilpena Pound scenic flight with either Wrights Air (from Wilpena Pound resort) or Chinta Air (from Rawnsley Park Station). I highly recommend a flight first thing in the morning. You won’t regret it!
5. Take a lookout tour
If you love a good lookout, the Central Flinders Ranges has you covered.
Here are my top five picks and the best time to visit them:
Just east of Hawker in the Yourambulla Range is Jarvis Hill.
You can drive your car most of the way to the top before a short and not-so-steep walk to the summit at 540m. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with 180-degree views to the east over the Hawker township and the adjacent mountains and plains.
Razorback Lookout is the most photographed lookout in all of the Flinders Ranges with postcard views of the road wending its way down into the Bunyeroo Valley.
Visit early to see the Heysen Range illuminated a vibrant red by the rising sun, or enjoy the view at sunset to see the valley in all its golden glory. Note that will you have the sun in your eyes at certain times of year for sunset.
Stokes Hill is the most elevated lookout in the central Flinders at 739 metres.
Located near Willow Springs Station on the Wilpena-Blinman road, this lookout offers 360-degree views that include Wilpena Pound, Bunkers Conservation Reserve, Chace Range, and Druid Range.
The road up is steep, rocky, and uneven and is not suitable for towing vehicles. But it’s perfectly doable in a 2WD sedan if you’re careful.
The best lookout for views of Wilpena Pound (south-eastern section) and the Chace Range. Be up there before sunrise to see stupendous red tones drape themselves over the mountains.
Pugilist Hill is a less visited Flinders Ranges lookout and is located on the opposite side of the road to the Rawnsley Park Station turnoff.
The summit is unloved with no shade or signage, but don’t let this deter you. Like Stokes Hill, the road to the top is steep and unsuitable for towing vehicles.
Also watch out for sheep on the dirt access road!
Hucks is not particularly prominent as far as lookouts are concerned. But it does afford superb views of the eastern side of Wilpena Pound and thus St. Mary Peak.
Sunrise is magical here. You’ll see a foreground of Xanthorrhoea lit up first as purple and indigo hues hover above the distant summits. Wait a few more minutes you’ll see the eastern face of the Pound in all its orange and red glory.
Sunset is also nice, but you’ll find that much of the foreground is in shadow well before the sun actually sets.
6. Drive through Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorge
Gorges, like lookouts, are plentiful in the central Flinders.
So which ones should you prioritise?
Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge are the two most people pick. The good news is that both can be experienced on a wonderful scenic drive that could also incorporate lunch at the Prairie Hotel and a return via the Moralana Scenic Drive.
Let’s start with Bunyeroo Gorge. It’s arguably the least spectacular of the two, but if I’m honest, it does have some pretty stiff competition.
Bunyeroo Gorge is well worth a visit if you’re going to visit Razorback Lookout anyway, and once you’re down in the gorge itself, it’s easy to find a quiet spot for a cuppa and listen to the wind in the trees.
There are also a couple of hikes to consider. To access Bunyeroo Gorge proper, park in the cleared area just before the road turns up a steep hill and out of the creek bed.
From there, hike in the gorge for 5 kilometres or so before you emerge at the other end and return the way you came.
Alternatively, hike the Bunyeroo and Wilcolo Creeks loop. This 9.2-kilometre circuit incorporates parts of the Heysen Trail and Bunyeroo Valley fire trail and begins in the same place as the out-and-back Bunyeroo Gorge hike.
Once you’ve had your fill of Bunyeroo Gorge, drive north for 13 kilometres and then prepare to be gobsmacked.
The 8-kilometre-long Brachina Gorge cuts through the Heysen Range like a scythe and in the process, provides an extensive history of the geologic forces that shaped the Flinders.
Brachina Gorge is one of those places I could wax lyrical about forever. It’s old, ancient, timeless, colourful, and a place of geological and biological significance. But the best way (as always) to appreciate the place is to experience it for yourself.
Like Bunyeroo Gorge, you can camp in Brachina Gorge and spend some time marvelling at your own insignificance compared to the timeless landscape that surrounds you. If you’re lucky, you may also spot the yellow-footed rock wallaby darting effortlessly over rocks.
To improve the visitor experience and also as part of the Flinders Ranges UNESCO world heritage application, carparks and signage have recently been upgraded along the Brachina George Geological Trail.
Northern Flinders Ranges
The Northern Flinders Ranges is the most rugged and desolate and extends beyond Blinman.
To the west, the area encapsulates Leigh Creek, Copley, Beltana, and Lyndhurst. To the east, the remote but spectacular high desert that includes Arkaroola and Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.
After more than 400 kilometres, the Flinders Ranges peter out at Mount Hopeless, a small, stony rise of 127 metres named by explorer Edward John Eyre.
7. Stay a while in Blinman
Blinman’s claim to fame is that it is the highest gazetted town in South Australia. The town is also one of the smallest, with a permanent population of 43 according to the latest Census data.
Blinman – like so many in South Australia – owes its existence to a copper discovery and swelled to around 1500 people by 1869. The metal was extracted sporadically until the 1890s before the mine closed and took the population with it.
Blinman mine tour
Today, you can tour the Blinman mine which is a little expensive but well worth the investment. Tours are offered between 10am and 3pm in the tourist period between April and October.
The mine closes for a month over the summer but does offer 3 tours daily from November to March. If you’d rather hang on to your cash, there is a self-guided walk above ground with signage and an accompanying history booklet.
North Blinman Hotel
The North Blinman Hotel is another attraction that should not be missed and is everything one would expect from an Australian outback pub.
Friendly staff, rustic fireplaces, two bars (one stuffed with business cards), and a spacious dining area replete with historical photographs describing Blinman’s history.
If you’re looking for the well-known Blinman Pools, the trailhead can be found at nearby Angorichina Village. The walk is a 10km round trip to the first pool and 12km to the second of the pools.
Allow 5 hours.
8. Visit the outback oasis of Aroona Dam
Aroona Dam is an oasis if ever there was one. The water is often mirror-like and reflects the mostly treeless hills (or small mountains) that enclose the dam itself.
What’s also interesting about Aroona Dam is the adjacent wildlife sanctuary where yellow-footed rock wallabies were introduced in 1996.
Aroona Sanctuary covers 43 square kilometres and, for nature lovers and conservationists, is worth a visit in its own right.
Major pest plant and animal species have been removed, and one can now admire a range of different woodland habitats plus over 100 bird species. To do so, take the 5.5 km interpretive hike which starts below the dam wall.
No camping is currently permitted in the vicinity of Aroona Dam, but the water is open to recreational fishing and non-motorised watercraft.
9. Cross off a bucket list experience at Arkaroola
Arkaroola is the jewel of the Northern Flinders Ranges. Remote, rugged, and relatively untouched, Arkaroola is not a town but instead a private wilderness sanctuary with accommodation, fuel, restaurant, visitor centre, and even a mechanic.
It’s an oddly convenient place for its remote location, but not so convenient that you don’t feel like you’re at the edge of the world.
The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary was established in 1968 by notable South Australian geologist Reg Sprigg. Over time, Sprigg converted the then pastoral lease into a wildlife sanctuary and became an advocate for the protection of the yellow-footed rock wallaby.
You really need at least 3 or 4 days in Arkaroola. There’s a lot to see and do in the area and you’ll want to feel like you made the most of your time there.
Arkaroola tours and experiences
The Arkaroola 4WD Ridgetop Tour is one the best ways to experience the history and grandeur of the Gammon Ranges. If you’d rather see the country from the air, various scenic flights take in the wildlife sanctuary, Lake Eyre, and Lake Frome.
With mostly clear skies and zero light pollution, Arkaroola is also a prime spot for astronomy. There are two 14-inch telescopes on site, and happily, the sanctuary offers tours and viewings when weather conditions are suitable.
Special mention should be made of the Explore the Cosmos tour, a digital-astro experience run by friendly and knowledgeable presenters whose passion for astronomy is contagious.