The Flinders Ranges is an iconic destination that arguably doesn’t get the accolades that many
other places in Australia get. However, this region is spectacular with magnificent landscapes,
rugged mountains, deep and impressive gorges, creeks lined with River Red Gums and abundant
wildlife. The Flinders Ranges stretches around 430kms from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna and is
South Australia’s largest and most spectacular mountain range. It is really a place that deserves a
few weeks to explore, and in this tour guide we will explore some of the southern attractions of the
Hawker is at the southern entrance to the Flinders Ranges and is a great
place to purchase supplies from the local supermarket and to fuel up at one of the petrol stations.
Hawker also has a range of accommodation options and a great gallery to visit if you have time.
From Hawker head north-east on the Wilpena Road towards the rugged ranges surrounding
Wilpena Pound and turn left after 31kms into the Rawnsley Park Station complex for your first
Rawnsley Park overlooks the southern side of Wilpena Pound and is
a great place to commence a trip into the Flinders Ranges. The station has range of
accommodation including self-contained villas & holiday units, powered caravan sites and bush
camping. Our preference is the usually uncrowded bush camping area just 500m from the main
caravan park section. With the Trayon you have all the facilities you need so you can escape the
crowds and enjoy the magnificent views of the Rawnsley Bluff and surrounding ranges, especially
at sunset when the hills light up spectacularly.
At Rawnsley Park Station there are a number of marked bushwalks including the steep and
challenging trek to the top of Rawnsley Bluff which affords views down the centre of Wilpena Pound
and to the nearby Chace Range. Rawnsley Park also has its own 4WD track called the Arkapena
Track and this is a great way to see the surrounding ranges and learn more about the area with the
supplied map & guide. There are some great lookouts with panoramic views of Wilpena Pound and
adjoining ranges, with some mildly challenging 4WDriving to top off a great afternoon adventure.
From Rawnsley Park head north for 17km to the Wilpena Pound turn-off on the left, and then drive
the 4km into Wilpena Pound.
Wilpena Pound is the most well-known feature of the Flinders
Ranges. The pound is a large sickle-shaped and naturally-made amphitheatre which covers
approximately 8,000 hectares and has the highest peak in the Flinders Ranges which is St Mary
Peak at 1170 metres.
Wilpena Pound was first settled by Henry Price who opened up and ran the 40,000 hectare Wilpena
Station in 1851. By 1863 Wilpena consisted of well over 200,000 hectares, but was nearly ruined by
the drought of that decade. The Hill family obtained the lease for the pound section in 1901 and
they decided to try farming which was something never before attempted so far north.
For several years they had some success growing crops inside the Pound, but in 1914 there was a
major flood and the road through the gorge was destroyed. Devastated, the Hill family could not
bear to start all over and sold their homestead to the government. In 1945 the tourist potential was
recognised and a hotel called the Wilpena Chalet was opened on the southern side of the creek just
outside the gorge. This chalet has been run by various private companies ever since, and now
Wilpena Pound is a major part of the Flinders Ranges National Park.
There are a range of walks available at Wilpena Pound and is a great place to base yourself for
several days if you are a keen bushwalker. However if you wish to experience the Flinders in your
4WD and camp in a more secluded place I would suggest you continue northwards.
From Wilpena Pound head back to the main road (Flinders Ranges Way) turning left and heading
north. This bitumen road winds through the picturesque ranges with the well-signed turn-off to
Willow Springs around 14km away.
The Willow Springs Station is 3km from the main road. Call in
to the office for information on camping options and the iconic 4WD track - Skytrek.
Willow Springs has a limited number of private camping sites all situated within 2km of the
homestead. Each site has a fire ring with BBQ plate, long drop toilet, and plenty of room for group
camping. There is an Amenities block near the homestead for hot showers and flush toilets, along
with a camp kitchen.
Willow Springs Station is a 70,000 acre cattle and sheep property that has been operating since the
1860s. Originally Willow Springs was known as Appealinna and settled by Joseph Wills in 1856.
The Reynolds family purchased the property in 1956 and still manage it to this day, with sheep the
main business supplemented by the accommodation and 4WD access payments.
Skytrek consists of a series of station roads, old mining tracks, and a fire break. It was first opened
in 1995 consisting of 70km of trails in and around Mt Caernarvon north-east of Wilpena Pound in
In May 2001, the Reynolds Family sold off a proportion of land to the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby
Preservation Association (YFRWPA) on the understanding that Willow Springs Station would lease
back this proportion of the Skytrek track and provide the Association with ongoing funding. It
seemed to be a good idea at the time - the mountain country is pretty unproductive grazing country,
there was a drought going on and the owner wanted to see the wallabies protected.
This arrangement worked fine for several years until 2012, until circumstances changed and Skytrek had
to be diverted around the Conservation Reserve. The new track is still fantastic and includes some
great new tracks and lookouts, so if you have visited Skytrek in the past check out the new version
or if you’ve never been here it is well worth the entry fee and full day activity.
The complete 79km Skytrek route takes around 6 hours, and you need at least this amount of time
to experience and take in all the fabulous views without rushing. There is a curfew for commencing
Skytrek – you must leave before 10.30am so you have enough time to complete the trek.
Skytrek starts adjacent the woolshed with a prominent ‘Skytrek’ sign at the gate, reset your trip
meter here so you can use the supplied trip notes. The notes are great and along with the marked
points of interest, provide additional interest and insight into the history of the station and the area.
There is plenty to see along the way including aboriginal engravings (Petro-glyphs), fantastic
scenery, old huts, and some challenging 4WDing. At the end of Skytrek don’t forget to drop off your
key and inform the caretakers that you have safely finished your epic adventure.
From Willow Springs it is only a short drive up to Stokes Hill lookout, which provides a 360 degree
view of the surrounding Flinders Ranges. This is a great place to see sunrise, sunset, the night sky,
or just the ever-changing colors of the landscape. There is a scale model of the pound and
information signs on the area, as well as good mobile phone coverage here if you need to contact
friends or family.
From Willow Springs head back south along the Flinders Ranges Way to Bunyeroo Road and the
Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive which is a highlight of this area.
The Bunyeroo Road starts with grassy plains, covered with Native Pines and surrounded by bare
hills. Soon the purple peaks of the distant ABC Range are the dominant feature. There are some
excellent parking bays with stunning views of the Ranges, before the steep descent down into
Bunyeroo Gorge. Once down into Bunyeroo Creek, you actually drive up the creek bed, which has
been carved out of the ABC Range over 590 million years.
Emerging from Bunyeroo Creek, the road enters the Wilcolo Creek Valley and there is now a
dramatic change in scenery, with immensely steep hills, sheer gullies and pyramid peaks, with the
Heysen Range on your left and the ABC Range on your right, with dense stands of native pines and
giant River Red Gums, with many small creeks to cross. Then you are back into open and flat
country and then into a forest of native pines. After passing through one last creek, the road
terminates at the Brachina Gorge Road – take the turn left into Brachina Gorge.
Brachina Gorge meanders its way through sharp sawtooth ridges of resistant quartzite. This
spectacular gorge was once used as a pass through which bullock teams pulled their loads and is
now a favourite picnic and camping area. “Brachina” derived from the Aboriginal word ‘vachina’,
meaning cranky, refers to a mythical argument between birds over a grind stone.
Continue through the gorge to the west, with the road terminating eventually at the main Outback
Highway. Next we’ll head down south to another fantastic station - Merna Mora.
Merna Mora is a 130,000 hectare working station run by the Fels family
who has been operating this pastoral lease since 1889. The station stocks cattle and sheep, but
fortunately for us they have also diversified their business and included tourism as well. The station
has been open to visitors since 1968 and your hosts Kaye and Donald Fels (5 th generation Fels) will
make you welcome and explain the features of the property and the area.
The bush camping at Merna Mora is just fantastic, with a number of areas to choose from alongside
the picturesque Moralana Creek. With the river red gums, flat quiet campsites, and the spectacular
backdrop of the western flank of Wilpena Pound you would be hard-pressed to find a better spot to
base yourself for a few days.
Even though the camping is great at Merna Mora, the main attraction is the fantastic tracks
available throughout the station. There are four tracks which are accessible for visitors, these are
the Bunbinyunna Track, Historic Track, Lake Torrens Track and Wowee Track. Each track has its
own set of challenges and attractions, with the Wowee Track the most difficult with a real “wow”
factor. All tracks begin and end at the station, with maps and comprehensive trip
notes included for your selected track.
Supplies and fuel can be purchased from Hawker, so stock up here prior to heading to into the
Flinders as there are limited supplies available here.
Basic equipment spares and recovery equipment should also be carried.
Mobile phone coverage is patchy with service available on the higher sections of the tracks, so
alternative communication such as a satellite phone is a good option.
Avoid the hot summer months and visit between April and October for the best time to camp and
The Flinders Ranges is a great destination in its own right, with some fantastic camping and
4WDriving available at the various stations in the Wilpena Pound area. The scenery is outstanding
and this is a real outback experience you will not forget quickly. Add the Flinders Ranges to your
wish list and spend a week or so here, you certainly will not be disappointed!