Looking for the best things to do in Flinders Ranges? From flying over Wilpena Pound to seeing Aboriginal rock art, this is what to do in Flinders Ranges!
To me, the Flinders Ranges is what South Australia is all about. It’s this raw, rugged place that just captures the imagination in every way.
With deep red mountains and those dusty desert vibes, the scenery is simply stunning. It’s one of those places that keeps pulling you back for more and more. Dare I say it, it’s almost ethereal. I think that has something to do with the Aboriginal connection to the land.
Also, this is the most accessible outback in all of Australia with so much to see and do. The hardest decision you’ll have is choosing the best things to do in Flinders Ranges for your holiday here because there’s a lot!
One of the things that I loved about Flinders Ranges was the Aboriginal connection to the land. Here you can find Aboriginal rock art that dates back 30,000 years (yes, you read that right!)
This is ancient land that dates back 600 million years ago, and you really get a sense of that when exploring the dusty red rocks. You really feel it beneath your feet.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Flinders Ranges, then this is the guide for you.
From flying over Wilpena Pound to going on a 4WD sunset safari, I’ll tell you what to do in Flinders Ranges. I’ll also go into the best Flinders Ranges accommodation including a hotel like no other.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed exploring this part of South Australia. I really hope you love it here as much as I did!
Where are the Flinders Ranges?
In typical Australian fashion, the mountain range is huge. They start about 200kms north of the city, and then continue for another 430km up the state. Because of that, you could easily spend a week in Flinders Ranges and still not see everything it has to offer.
That’s why I’m only going to focus on the top Flinders Ranges attractions. These are the ones that first time tourists like you and me do when visiting the area.
Just as a quick note, the traditional name for the Flinders Ranges is Ikara-Flinders National Park. This is what the Adnyamathanha people called this land thousands of years ago.
One of the things I love about travelling around Australia is road trips like this one. Once we made it to the town of Hawker, the landscape completely changed. From there, the driving was just spectacular. It’s easy to see why this is one of the top places to visit in South Australia.
It’s also worth noting that some of the roads in the Flinders Ranges are little more than dirt tracks. That’s why it’s really important you have the right car – ideally a 4WD or an AWD. I wouldn’t really recommend bringing your tiny Toyota Yaris that’s for sure!
Here are some of the driving times from Adelaide:
- Adelaide to Port Augusta: 310km or 3.5-hour drive
- Adelaide to Quorn: 337km or 4-hour drive
- Adelaide to Wilpena Pound: 440km or 5.5-hour drive
Flinders Ranges map
Here is a map of the Flinders Ranges with some of the top places to visit in South Australia along the way. This is the map we followed when travelling around here.
If you are doing a big South Australia road trip, then follow the link for an amazing guide by Wanderlust Chloe. This is the road trip we did while travelling through South Australia.
Best time to visit Flinders Ranges
You can probably guess the best time to visit Flinders Ranges – shoulder season. This is usually the months either side of peak summer when temperatures can be scorching.
Usually, the months of April & May, and September & October, are best. This is when the temperatures are much more manageable. Also, when the temperatures are cooler, you’ve got a much better chance of seeing wildlife too which is a big bonus.
When I was in Ikara-Flinders National Park, it was just after all the rains (which was slightly unusual for Australia). However, this meant that the whole area was a lush green. Apparently it was the greenest the region had been in over 70 years, so it was a special time to visit!
Things to do in Flinders Ranges
Take a scenic flight over Wilpena Pound
It’s hard getting the size, shape and scale of Wilpena Pound, the natural rock amphitheatre that’s been sculpted by time over millions of years, from ground level. That’s why one of the top things to do in Flinders Ranges is to go on a scenic flight over the mountains.
From here, you get the most amazing aerial views of Wilpena Pound. It’s incredible seeing the red rocks from above, and you really get a sense for the landscape and just how unique it is.
There are a few operators offering flights in Flinders Chase. The most popular are Chinta Air at Rawnsley Park Station, and Wrightsair near Wilpena Pound Resort. Also, the flights are surprisingly cheap too. It costs around AU$196 per person for a 20-minute scenic flight of Wilpena Pound. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it really is the best way of seeing the mountains.
If you don’t think that’s enough time for you, there are longer tours you can choose from that take in some other sights in the area too. Take a look and I’m sure you’ll find the right tour for you.
Go on a 4WD sunset safari on the Chase
If you’re looking for a Flinders Ranges activity like no other, then go on the 4WD sunset safari tour. This is supplied by the team at Rawnsley Park Station and it is such an exhilarating ride.
The tour is basically an off-road 4WD adventure where you take on the bouncy dirt tracks in the outback.
We followed a track past dozens of kangaroos hopping about while our guide Steve told us all about the landscape rolling past and the history of the area.
After about 30 minutes, it started getting pretty steep, so Steve put the truck in 4WD mode. You know when you’re on a rollercoaster and it’s taking you up to the highest point? It feels a lot like that – and just as bumpy!
Once we made it to the top, we had the most amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Honestly, the views from up here are just spectacular, especially at sunset.
To make things even more magical, we cracked open a bottle of bubbly. We also had a canape/cheese platter making things a little luxurious.
Delicious food + a glass of bubbles + a beautiful sunset = an amazing moment I’ll cherish forever. This really was a highlight on our Flinders Ranges itinerary, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Go on a tour with the Adnyamathanha people
The Aboriginal people that still call this place home are the Adnyamathanha. Incredibly, there are ancient rock carvings that date back to 30,000 years ago.
Isn’t that crazy when you think about it? That’s before the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians by about 25,000 years!
One of the best things to do in Flinders Ranges is to go on a cultural tour from Wilpena Pound Resort. This is where you’ll learn all about the history of the Adnyamathanha and see ancient rock carvings and cave paintings.
Our guide Isaiah was brilliant. He really spoke with passion and knowledge about his forefathers, and he told us so many stories about the Adnyamathanha.
I found it fascinating learning all about the Aboriginal people while exploring the Flinders Ranges. It really does give you such a connection to the land. It’s just one of the many things that makes this such a special place to visit.
Hike to Arkaroo Rock
This was probably my favourite hike in the area, just because it was so unexpected.
The reason this is such an amazing hike is seeing the Aboriginal rock art paintings at Arkaroo Rock. It’s thought these rock paintings date back around 5,000 years.
In most other destinations around the world, cave paintings that date back 5,000 years ago would be a major tourist attraction that you’d probably have to pay for. But here in Flinders Ranges, it’s just a casual hike you can do in your own time.
There’s no big celebration or ceremony – it’s just all about the connection between the land and the people who once lived here. Again, it’s very poignant just seeing these rock paintings, especially with no crowds around.
The 3km trail itself is very well marked, and it takes around 2 hours to do the round trip to the paintings. The path is quite rocky and a little uphill at times, but it’s really worth it. For me, this is one of the best Flinders Ranges activities you can do in the area.
Take photos of the emus
One of the many reasons I love Australia is the wildlife. There aren’t many places around the world where just driving around feels like going on a wildlife safari.
While driving around Flinders Ranges, we saw falcons flying over the trees, kangaroos hopping through the bush, but my favourite animals we saw were the emus.
There was quite a large flock of about 10 emus by Wilpena Pound Resort. The first time we saw them we couldn’t resist pulling over by the side of the road and taking some photos. It really did feel like we were on safari!
Hit the trails and go hiking
As I’m sure you can imagine from all the photos, this is hiking country and there are A LOT of different hiking trails on offer.
One of the most popular hikes is to the top of Rawnsley Bluff. Depending on where you start from, this is around 5 hours to hike. There’s a lovely clearing at the top though that’s perfect for a picnic.
Another of the top hikes in Flinders Ranges is Tanderra Saddle to the top of St Mary’s Peak. This is an 18km loop (although there are shorter versions) with the most amazing views on the way up. The walk starts going through a forest before you make your way onto rocky tracks. I would say this is a fairly difficult walk – obviously at 18km it’s a long day out too.
What a lot of people do is head for the tourist information centre at Wilpena Pound Resort and talk to the guys there. They have all the information on what trails are open and how long they take.
Check out the views at Station Hill Lookout
You quickly realise when you visit Flinders Ranges yourself, but just driving around here is a fun activity.
There are LOADS of viewpoints by the side of the road. I feel like they’ve made things very easy and accessible for tourists travelling around here.
One of my favourite lookout points was at Station Hill. Here you get an amazing view of Rawnsley Bluff. If you can come here at sunrise or sunset then it’s even better!
Tuck into the feral food feast at the Prairie Hotel
The Prairie Hotel is like nowhere I’ve been before. It is a smallish roadside hotel and restaurant in the middle on nowhere. And when I say the middle of nowhere, I really mean it – this is the only place for miles and miles around.
Technically, the Prairie Hotel is in Parachilna. With only a few buildings, I had to ask what the population of was – it’s 11 people, 6 of whom work for the hotel. I told you this place was small!
I’ll get onto the accommodation a bit more below, but one of the reasons this has become such a destination in its own right is the restaurant.
Now this isn’t your usual restaurant. Here they have feral food, so things like kangaroo, emu, camel, and lots of native ingredients too.
While we were there, we had an amazing kangaroo steak, an emu fillet and a camel sausage, and they were all delicious. Genuinely delicious. And don’t worry, all the meat is farmed and sustainable, so it’s not like you’re eating roadkill or anything like that. In fact, kangaroo is one of the best meats to eat as there is hardly any fat on it whatsoever.
I really enjoyed our feral food feast. It was very unique, and it’s easy to see why this has become one of the top things to do in Flinders Ranges.
This was actually one of our favourite foodie experiences in South Australia. You can check out our top 10 food and wine experiences in Adelaide and beyond here.
Flinders Ranges accommodation
Rawnsley Park Station
Rawnsley Park Station is one of the biggest and best accommodation providers in Ikara-Flinders National Park. They also have a number of different options to choose from, so there’s a price point for everyone.
Nestled at the foot on Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Park Station is a 12,000-hectare working sheep station with some simply stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
At the top end of the scale are the eco-villas. These are one and two-bedroom open-plan villas. Each villa is kitted out with a kitchen, living room, and all the amenities for a longer stay like washing machine and BBQ on the terrace outside.
Then there are smaller villas which are more like a 3* motel type experience. These are obviously a lot cheaper than the eco-villas, but you still get to be right in the heart of the Flinders Ranges.
Finally, there’s an on-site RV park for campervans/motorhomes, and a camp site too. This is best if you have your own transport and love motorhoming/camping.
Also on-site at Rawnsley Park Station is the Woolshed restaurant. This offers modern Australian cuisine such as kangaroo, but I’d really recommend the lamb. They get all the lamb from the farm, so it’s local and absolutely delicious.
I loved staying here at Rawnsley Park – I just wish we had a lot longer to enjoy it all and take on a few of the longer hikes in the area!
Wilpena Pound Resort
Located in the middle of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges, Wilpena Pound Resort is the only resort that’s actually in the national park itself. This is a great place to base yourself while getting to explore Adnyamathanha country.
The resort includes 15 glamping tents, 60 resort-style rooms and a large campground with powered and unpowered sites. The resort caters for couples and families as well as event and group accommodation.
There’s also an on-site restaurant, bar, swimming pool and convenience store, so all bases are covered for your stay here. A stay at Wilpena Pound Resort offers a genuine and rewarding Australian cultural experience.
The Prairie Hotel
As I’ve already mentioned, people flock to the Prairie Hotel for the feral food menu. However, it’s a really cool hotel in its own right.
Originally opened in 1876, the hotel has undergone a recent refurbishment giving it a new lease of life. All around the hotel you’ll find paintings from local artists, unique sculptures, and a touch of the American mountain chalet vibe.
Also on site is a hipster microbrewery. I tried a few of their lineup on tap and they were great. The IPA (at a punchy 6.4% I might add) was the pick of the bunch.
If you stay here, all prices include dinner which is a 7-course affair. This is usually 3 courses of snacks/canapes in the bar, followed by a main (consisting of 3 different dishes) and a dessert. All in all, it’s actually really good value for money, especially as it’s such a unique experience too.
Tours in Flinders Ranges
This post was in association with South Australia promoting the best things to do in Flinders Ranges. As always, views are entirely my own and without bias.
Are you planning a trip to Flinders Ranges? If you have any questions about it all, you can let me know in the comments below!
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