This week’s guest post on the beautiful Flinders Ranges comes from Marion – the Red Nomad of Australian adventure. She lets us in on 10 of the best spots to visit with kids, and all the info you need to know before you go.
The Flinders Ranges
The Flinders Ranges is a 430 km long region of mountain ranges in the South Australian Outback with southern, central and northern areas full of natural attractions, historic sites and areas of cultural significance. Just some of the sorts of things that don’t impress the kids, right? But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the Flinders a great destination for an outdoor family holiday – especially if you try my top 10 family-friendly Flinders fun things to do!
1. Go Time Travelling
Taking a trip back in time is easy – if you’re in Brachina Gorge, that is – and the only time machine you’ll need is your car! It takes just 50 km through the Bunyeroo Valley from Wilpena to Brachina Gorge to travel back over 580 million years into the past. While the creatures who lived back then won’t be wandering around, they’re embedded in rock layers so old there’s not much left on earth that’s older. Check out the interpretive signs for points of interest like the rock layer formed when a giant asteroid hit.
Not up for a 4WD adventure? No problem! Time Travel at the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta by walking through Max, the Giant Ripper Lizard’s jaws and straight into prehistoric Australia.
2. Experience life underground
Discover what lies underneath the highest town in South Australia on the Blinman Mine Underground Experience tour, a 70 minute journey into the caverns and tunnels, minerals and rocks of the Wheal Blinman Copper Mine where hundreds of miners from Cornwall once worked.
When you’re done, take the self-guided above-ground mine trail, and the historic walk around (and above) Blinman itself.
3. Ride the Pichi Richi Railway
Ride an original steam train up through Pichi Richi Pass from Port Augusta to Quorn through spectacular scenery and over old railway bridges. Once part of the old Ghan Railway, the track and trains were restored and maintained by volunteers, some of whom ride the train to answer questions and talk about the rail history.
There’s time to look around the township of Quorn before returning to Port Augusta. Note that some trips depart from Quorn and not all trains have steam engines, so check the timetable carefully before booking.
4. Taste a Quandong
Traditional fruit like apples and oranges don’t grow naturally in the arid lands of the South Australian Outback – but the native quandong is perfectly adapted. Quandongs are naturally sour, but you won’t notice once they’ve been turned into jam, ice cream or dessert pies!
Try the scones with quandong jam and cream at Quorn’s Quandong cafe, or the pies at Blinman General Store. Or just settle for a quandong smoothie or quandong ice cream at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens cafe in Port Augusta!
5. See the View from St Mary’s Peak
It’s a long way to the top of St Mary’s Peak and the strenuous walk might be too far for younger children (and some adults, like me, haha). But luckily, there’s a much easier way to see the view from the summit – highest point in the Flinders Ranges – without a lengthy hike. Just call in to the Jeff Morgan Gallery in Hawker and check out his superbly painted 360 degree panorama of exactly what you can see from the summit.
6. Rock-hop in a River or Go Gorge-ing
Of course you would only rock-hop in a DRY riverbed – but that’s the bonus sometimes of being in an arid zone. Choose a massive river bed like the one in Wilkawillina Gorge, or a longer one that’s part of a walk to Blinman Pools.
While rugged peaks and rocky river beds are a Flinders Ranges trademark, it’s even rockier AND more colourful in the gorges. It’s an easy walk through native pines and red rocky cliffs into Warren Gorge in the south and you MIGHT see an endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby if you get lucky. Out to the east are the fabulously coloured and shaped rocks of Wilkawillina Gorge – it’s a long hike from one end to the other, but you don’t have to walk very far to find interesting rock formations. Up north is Parachilna Gorge – start of the Heysen Trail and a great place to explore. And that’s not all! But I’ll leave a few for you to discover for yourself.
7. Take a rugged ride to a remote Mine
Getting to Nuccaleena is half the fun on a rugged 4WD track north of Parachilna Gorge. One of the most remote mines in the Flinders, the chimney and parts of some buildings are all that’s left – above ground, anyway! Luckily the old mine shaft in the side of the hill is fenced off where it drops away.
The Sliding Rock Mine at Warraweena, about 22 km down a rugged rocky road from nearly-ghost-town Beltana is full of more ruins. They’re both interesting places to explore, so pack a picnic and make a day of it.
8. Walk into a Crater
From the air, it’s easy to see how big the 8 km wide and 17 km long Wilpena Pound crater is, but if your budget doesn’t spring to a helicopter or airplane flight, check it out at ground level. Book the Wilpena resort shuttle bus to reduce the distance and take the easy walking trail through Hills Homestead to Wangara Lookout for views across the Pound.
You can also take the Bridle Gap trail into the Pound, walk along the floor and up the other side to a lookout. But be warned! It’s a LONG hike – even longer if you didn’t book the shuttle bus to and from the trailhead.
9. Go Wildlife Watching
Grab a Flinders Ranges bird and wildlife checklist from the Visitor Information Centre (or download it from the South Australia National Parks website) and see how many different birds and animals you can spot. Double points if you see the endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby – often sighted at Brachina and Wilkawillina Gorges.
Not so keen on wildlife? Come in spring and look for wildflowers instead.
10. Stay somewhere awesome!
The campsites scattered throughout the Flinders Ranges National Park have it all – walking trails, rocky gorges and riverbeds, and spectacular scenery, with wildlife dropping in from time to time.
If you’re looking for Flinders Ranges accommodation, a truly unique spot is the old tuberculosis sanatorium – that’s what Angorichina Village used to be, and it’s a great base from which to explore the northern Flinders.
11. Go Scenic Loo Spotting!
Yes, I know I said 10 – but here’s another total freebie! Exploring the wonderful natural attractions of the Flinders Ranges is great fun – but what do you do when nature calls in a different way? Find your nearest public loo, and chances are good it’ll be in a fabulously scenic spot! Turn the kids into ‘Dunny Detectives’ and see how many they can find 😀
Flinders Ranges Fast Facts:
WHERE: Head north from Adelaide and it’s 335 km to Quorn (Southern End), 440 km to Wilpena (Central Flinders) and 508 km to Blinman (Northern Flinders).
WHEN: The best time to go is from April to October. Temperatures from November to March can range from 30º – 45º C (86-113 F) and many attractions are closed.
DRIVING: Self-drive is the easiest way to get around, but note that you’ll need 4WD or high clearance for some roads and trails. Please check road conditions and the suitability of your vehicle before you drive.
FACILITIES: Meals, groceries and other supplies are available in towns and in smaller centres such as Wilpena Pound Resort, Rawnsley Park Station, Blinman and Angorichina Tourist Village. Fuel is available at Quorn, Hawker, Wilpena Pound, Angorichina Tourist Village and Parachilna.
About the Author
Marion Halliday is an Aussie traveller, blogger and author of quirky travel book “Aussie Loos With Views!”. She loves hitting the road to explore and photograph Australia’s fabulous natural attractions and discover new holiday destinations – all the better if they’ve got something quirky, a great bakery and an awesome scenic loo! Read more about the Flinders Ranges and a lot of other great Aussie travels on her blog Australia by Red Nomad OZ.