Flinders Ranges – rugged, magnificent

by Steven Chater from Trip Plan Australia. Check out Trip Plan’s free Itinerary Planner that will help you make the most of your next road trip through regional and outback Australia.

Central Australia is a magical place. Wide open spaces with amazing features – think Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Alice Springs with it’s beautiful MacDonnell Ranges.

Less known, but no less special, is the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Surprisingly, few in the Australian population who live along the nation’s seaboards are even aware that some of the most spectacularly rugged country on earth is in their backyard – the magnificent Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges in the Northern Flinders.

Road trip planner Australia - Gammon Ranges

Gammon Ranges in the Northern Flinders

The Flinders Ranges stretches from Port Augusta, at the top of Spencer’s Gulf in the south, to Arkaroola Village in the Northern Flinders.

Road trip planner Australia - Southern Flinders

Southern Flinders from the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, Port Augusta

I’ve got two important pieces of advice to give you so that you can appreciate the Flinders that bit more when you visit:

Road trip planner Australia - Rawnsley Bluff Central Flinders

Rawnsley Bluff, Wilpena Pound, Central Flinders

i) visit the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta before you go.
As you can see above there are some bits of information displayed here and there, but really they only just scratch the surface of what this place is all about. The Wadlata ‘time tunnel’ presentation of history stretching back to the dinosaurs is fantastic and will allow you to understand and admire even further the landforms that you will see and the amazing people that have lived in the area.
Road trip planner Australia - Gammon Ranges on the Ridgetop Tour

Gammon Ranges on the Ridgetop Tour

ii) if you think that you might only get to this area once in your lifetime make the effort to visit Arkaroola in the Northern Flinders.
Having lived in Adelaide for a number of years, I’d experienced the wonderful Wilpena Pound in the Central Flinders a number of times. Seeing the mountains of the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges took my appreciation to another level – it’s truly one of Australia’s special places.

On the way up, a couple of nights stay is recommended at Wilpena Pound, or just as good, but outside the pound, is Rawnsley Station. The Central Flinders offers plenty of adventure – its tar up to Wilpena (and on to Blinman, too), but to see some of the spectacular features you need to get on to the dirt. A great drive is through Brachina Gorge, a reasonably well maintained road with fabulous scenery. Keep your eye out for the rare Yellow-footed wallaby up in the rocks on the sides of the gorge.

Road trip planner Australia - Brachina Gorge, Central Flinders

Brachina Gorge drive, Central Flinders

Arkaroola can be approached either via Blinman, which is the way to go if you have been staying at Wilpena, or via Leigh Creek, a town on the main B83 road up to Marree. Either way, don’t believe Google’s drive time estimate – by all means take your time, but I believe Google has factored in driving in bad conditions on the dirt. If the weather’s good you can do the trip in half the estimated time.

Road trip planner Australia - road into Arkaroola Village

Road into Arkaroola Village

There are plenty of drives and walks to do at Arkaroola, but make sure you go on the Ridgetop Tour, which ends up at Sillers Lookout.

Road trip planner Australia - Sillers Lookout

Sillers Lookout

The views from up there just have to be experienced.

Road trip planner Australia - view from Sillers Lookout, Gammon Ranges

View from Sillers Lookout, Gammon Ranges

The Ridgetop road is accessible only to Arkaroola Village guides. But don’t worry, if you want to take on similar terrain in your own 4WD, the back country tour is open to you! Experienced 4WD drivers only, I suggest.

The sunsets at Arkaroola are sensational too. Its not often you see a hill turn to gold.

Road trip planner Australia - Griselda Hill

Griselda Hill

I alluded to the history of the area earlier when I recommended that you visit Wadlata Outback Centre. Some famous names are associated with Arkaroola – particularly Reg and Griselda Sprigg, and even Douglas Mawson of Antarctica fame. The Sprigg family have been a huge influence in retaining Arkaroola as a wilderness sanctuary – and they have been true adventurers, being the first to cross the Simpson Desert in a motorised vehicle. If you can get your hands on it, a great read is “Dune is four-letter word” by Griselda Sprigg – what a lady!

To appreciate the aboriginal history, a great place to call into is Iga Warta on the way back to Leigh Creek.

We combined our trip to Arkaroola with a further venture up to Marree – more in the next post! We did this late winter/early spring. There is no doubt that you need to understand the temperatures that can be reached here – summer in this area in not for the inexperienced.

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Road trip planner Australia - Pt Augusta to Arkaroola Village

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