If there's one place that many think of the South Australian Outback, it's Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, a South Australian national park best known for its iconic Wilpena Pound, a large naturally formed amphitheatre. On top of Wilpena Pound, the park contains some paleontological sites, hiking trails and lookouts. Since April 2021, it has been on the tentative list for world heritage for its rich fossil collection along with the two nearby parks of Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges and the relatively new Nilpena Ediacara (formerly Ediacara CP).
The Flinders Ranges have been a part of Australian culture and is the typical "Outback scene" that many associate Australia with. It is perhaps the best-known national park in the Outback (excluding Uluru-Kata Tjuta) and many travellers from all over the world come to see this park when road-tripping in South Australia or the west of New South Wales.
Until 2016, it was known as Flinders Ranges National Park.
Flinders Ranges, Flinders Ranges National Park, Wilpena Pound or Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park?
The park is called an array of different names, and with no proper one consistent name, the name of the park can be a confusing one. However, these are the few terms you may encounter:
The park was established in January 1, 1945, making it one of the earliest national parks in South Australia, named after the explorer Matthew Filnders who scaled Mount Broen in March 1802.
In the summer of 1839, Edward John Eyre with a party of five men further explored the Flinders Ranges. They left Adelaide on May 1, 1839 and the expedition set up a resupply point near Mount Arden, and from there they explored the surrounding region and upper Spencer Gulf, before heading up the Murray River and returning to Adelaide.
There are records of settlers living in the nearby Quorn District since at least 1845 and the first grazing licences were issued in 1851. William Pinkerton is considered the first settler to find a way through the Flinders Meadows via the Pichi Richi Pass. The surrounds of the Flinders Ranges continued to be farming areas, until the mid-20th century where the area's significance decreased with the Ghan's last run via Marree in the 1980s.
However, the Wilpena Pound was deemed a place not suitable for agriculture, and nearly all attempts of farming have failed. The potential for tourism quickly came to realisation and today, it has become one of the most iconic landscapes in South Australia.
Today, the park does not have many remnants of the pastoral and colonial times of the region, though there were former stations in the park, but today, all that remains of those stations are just ruins from early European settlement and Indigenous Adnyamathanha rock art sites.
Most of the park is composed of folded and faulted sediments of the Adelaide Geosyncline which is of thick sequence of sediments were deposited in a large basin during the Neoproterozoic on the passive margin of the ancient continent of Rodinia.
About 540 million years ago, the area underwent the Delamerian orogeny where the geosynclinal sequence was folded and faulted into a large mountain range. The area has undergone erosion since then resulting in the relatively low ranges in what can be seen today.
Flora and faunaEdit
- See also: Australasian wildlife
The park is one of the last areas where the yellow-footed rock kangaroo can still be commonly found. Since dingoes disappeared from the park and permanent wells were built for livestock, numbers of the red kangaroo, the western grey kangaroo, and the wallaroo have increased and can be seen on hiking trails. The brush-tailed kangaroo rat was extinct in this national park for some time, but was reintroduced in the early 21st century. Other notable animal species in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park include the emu, the wedge-tailed eagle, and the Gould's monitor lizard.
As Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is in the middle of the Outback, it gets hot especially during summer while it gets quite cold during the winter. However, unlike other Outback parks, the heat is somewhat tolerable in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, thanks to its altitude.
However, some trails are closed during the summer season (usually between Nov 30 and Mar 1). Check the SA Parks[dead link] website for which ones are open and which are closed.
Generally, the ideal time to visit Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is either during autumn (mid-March to May) or spring (late-August to late-November). The winter temperatures get cold, while summer temperatures can go up to 45°C.
Visitor information centreEdit
There is a single visitor centre in the park, at the Wilpena Pound Resort.
- 1 Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre, Hawker-Wilpena Rd, Flinders Ranges, ☏ +61 8 8648 0048, firstname.lastname@example.org. Dec-Feb: 8:30AM–5PM; Mar-Nov: 8AM–6PM. Inquire about camping permits, and national parks access permits. Tour and scenic flight bookings can also be made at the visitor centre, and there is a large collection of maps and trails if you're going to go out in the bush.
Otherwise, if you're looking to get park information or contact the park management, contact the Port Augusta National Parks Wildlife Service office by either calling ☏ +61 8 8648 5300 or by emailing DEW.SAALOnlineBookings@sa.gov.au.
As with most other national parks in South Australia or even Australia as a whole, getting to Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is best done by car, and only for those who are willing to put up with more than a four-hour drive – which is actually not that much when compared to other parks in the Flinders Ranges. While there is an airport at Hawker, it is only used as a Royal Flying Doctor Service base.
From the South Australian capital of Adelaide, take it M2 North-South Motorway up north and then exit onto A1 Port Wakefield Highway. After about 2½ hours, just before Port Augusta, turn onto B83 Flinders Ranges Way and continue northeast up until Hawker. Once you're at Hawker, turn onto the unnumbered Flinders Ranges Way for an hour until you've arrived at the park.
From Broken Hill, head west onto A32 Barrier Highway for about 270 kilometres until B79. Once you're at the B79 turnoff, turn onto B79 Petersburg Road up until Peterborough. Once at Peterborough, turn right onto B56 and continue onto B56 up until B80. Once at B80, continue for about 140 kilometres up until B83. Once at B83, turn right and then continue northeast up until Hawker. Once you're at Hawker, turn onto the unnumbered Flinders Ranges Way for an hour until you've arrived at the park.
The closest airport is in Port Augusta (PUG IATA), which has flights from Adelaide and Coober Pedy but few take the airport given that you will need to then end up driving from Pt. Augusta.
Fees and permitsEdit
You will need to pay a vehicle entry fee and needs to be paid prior to arrival. Bookings can be made at the SA Parks website and is usually the preferred method. Otherwise, emailing DEWDesertParks@sa.gov.au is another alternate way of making an online booking. As of 2022, the fees are usually $12 per vehicle and $10 for concession holders. The fees do not cover camping, and additional fees apply for camping.
If you would prefer to pay in person, you can get your pass at one of the South Australian Parks Office booking offices listed here.
There are two main important roads in the park that you will need to know when visiting the park. The main road is Flinders Ranges Way, the only sealed (paved) road crossing the park from north-south with mostly 110 km/h speed limits but you may have to slow down to 45 km/h (28 mph) or 55 km/h (34 mph) on bends. The second road is the road to the resort. It too is sealed, but a very short road, and the only place with supplies.
Both roads are well-signposted, and if you do happen to somehow get lost driving, if you are on a sealed road, you're likely on one of these two, most likely on Flinders Ranges Way.
Other smaller roads – including scenic drives are often just gravel roads. However, they're often smooth, and so it's possible to do around an 80 km/h (50 mph) on the gravel roads. There is no signposted limit, so the South Australian default at 100 km/h (62 mph) applies, but you should drive only at the speed of what you're comfortable with.
Roads can close in the park without any notice due to extreme fire danger. Check the CFS website for up-to-date information on fire danger.
- 1 Arkaroo Rock, Arkaroo Rock Trail. A group of rock art with drawings of different things including ochre and charcoal images and have been carbon dated to be around six thousand years old and is a culturally significant site to the Indigenous Adnyamathanha people.
- 2 Cazneaux Tree, Flinders Ranges Way, Flinders Ranges. Named after Harold Cazneaux, an Australian photographer who believed that all images should be a piece of art. Unfortunately, outside South Australia, Harold Cazneaux is not very well known. There's nothing so special about this tree, but it's the most prominent tree for kilometres on end.
- 3 Sacred Canyon, Sacred Canyon Rd, Upalinna (13.5 km off Flinders Ranges Way). A canyon as the name says, a sacred one. Unlike most canyons where you would rather be looking down, in this one, you go down through the canyon and look up instead. There are regular tours run by the Wilpena Pound Resort with an Indigenous Adnyamathanha tour guide and details can be found here.
- 4 Old Wilpena Station (Old Wilpena Station Precinct), Wilcolo Track, Wilpena. An old station used in the early colonial period by the Europeans. Today, only some of what was originally there in the 19th century remains but with many interpretive signs installed.
- 5 St. Mary Peak (Ngarri Mudlanha). The eighth highest peak in South Australia with a height of 1,189 metres, this peak gives views of the natural amphitheatre and of the park that are quite not what you expect of the South Australian Outback. The peak and its surroundings may be accessed via a walking trail from Wilpena Resort along the northeast edge of the range outside of Wilpena Pound, or via a longer trail through the middle of the pound. However, keep in mind that the Adnyamathanha people find this mountain sacred and ask not for it to be climbed – however, the choice of whether you'd like to climb up or not is up to you.
- 6 The Ediacaran Golden Spike, Trezona Loop Walk, Flinders Ranges. The only golden spike site in the southern hemisphere. In mid-2022, there will be a new carpark built for easy access to the spike.
- 7 Brachina Lookout, Brachina Gorge Road, Flinders Ranges. If you want to see inside one of the finest gorges of the Flinders Ranges, this lookout along the geological trail is an excellent midway stop.
- 8 Hucks Lookout, Flinders Ranges Way, Upalinna. A lookout overlooking rocks that were deposited as sediments between a billion and 500 million years ago. Has a carpark nearby as well as a picnic area.
- 9 Wilpena Pound Solar Panel lookout, Hawker-Wilpena Rd, Wilpena. A lookout overlooking the Wilpena Solar Site, which is a fairly sizable solar farm. There's a walking trail from the lookout to get to the solar farm close up. A convenient distance from the Wilpena Pound resort.
- 10 Rawnsley Lookout, Flinders Ranges Way, Upalinna (170 metre walk from the road.). Has information about the fossil sites in the park, as well as the time when the park was once underwater as well as a general overview of the Flinders Ranges as a whole.
- 11 Stokes Hill Lookout, Stokes Hill Lookout Rd, Willow Springs. Learn about the numerous indigenous symbols and meanings found in the art sites as well as how the local indigenous group used their land in the surrounding regions on top of the easterly view of the Flinders Ranges.
- 12 Wangara Lookout. Requires a 7-kilometre hike to do, taking about three hours to do. It might seem a lot, and you do need to have prior hiking experience, but the views of the Wilpena Pound amphitheatre are quite worth the trek.
There are numerous trails in the park, as well as some scenic drives, mostly on gravel roads.
- The Brachina Gorge Geological Trail (coloured on map) is a 20-kilometre trail on gravel roads passing numerous geological formations and with numerous stops to learn about the different parts of the trail. The trail is also home to several Cambrian fossils. Similar to neighbouring Nilpena Ediacara National Park, it holds some of the world's oldest Ediacaran fossils.
- Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Trail (coloured on map) is a 30-kilometre trail only suitable for SUVs or 4WDs. The scenic trail passes through some of the higher peaks of the park on top of the Bunyeroo Gorge as the trail name says.
If you are walking or doing any of the hikes inside the park, it is advisable to download the Flinders Ranges Walks apps before you do one of them. The app has detailed walk information about six walks inside the park, along with some other walks in Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park and two nearby conservation parks. The app is available on both iOS and Android.
- The 7.9 km trail inside Wilpena Pound is a must for those wanting to get inside Wilpena Pound.
- For a much shorter walk, the Arkaroo Rock walking trail (coloured on map) is the only trail you can use to get to Arkaroo Rock.
- If you're looking to get a glimpse of the pastoral times of the park, the Hills Homestead Walk which takes 6.6 km (4.1 mi) and takes two hours return southwest from the resort will give you some of the most preserved pioneering heritage sites one could find in the Flinders Ranges.
- The Living with Land Walk is a walk that takes you to the solar farm near the resort, which is a 1-kilometre talk with several information signs on how Europeans and the Indigenous Adnyamathanha learned to survive in such the hot and harsh unforgiving climates of the Flinders Ranges.
- For a bit of a more moderate hike, the Trezona Hike is a 8 km (5.0 mi) which is one of the few trails that pass through the Heysen Range. An ideal base to start this walk is the Trezona Campground, where the walk starts. The hike takes about 4 hours to do. An interesting geological feature along the way is the Trezona geological formation, which contains some of the earliest life forms on earth dating from the Ediacaran era.
- The Boom and Bust Hike is an easy to moderate 2-kilometre hike to one of the park's most colourful flora and fauna which is a very unusual sight for the outback. It is near the visitor centre.
There is only a single convenience store in the park, and that's an IGA Xpress. You can expect to find what you'd find in a normal IGA and unusually, the park also has a small service station, so you don't have to go out of the park to fill up.
- 1 Wilpena Pound IGA Xpress, Hawker-Wilpena Rd, Flinders Ranges, ☏ +61 8 8648 0162, email@example.com. 8AM–6PM. Includes a cafe and some meat, fruit and veg, liquor, dairy and groceries are sold here, just like in every other IGA albeit so remove. However, unlike other IGAs, Wilpena Pound IGA has fuel, and is the only place where you can fill up in the close proximity to the park.
There is only one restaurant within the park, managed by the Wilpena Pound Resort. There is also a small cafe next to the IGA (see § Buy).
- 1 Wilpena Pound Resort Dining Room, covered under #Sleep, ☏ +61 8 8648 0004. 7–9:30AM, 5:30–8:30PM. Outback dining with the usuals of Australian cuisine including bush tucker but minus the ethnic cuisines. It's the only restaurant in the park, though there is a cafe at the IGA.
- Ikara Lounge, covered under #Sleep. 5:30–8:30PM. A bar and bistro again part of the Wilpena Pound Resort. It's also the only bar and bistro in the entire park.
The sky during night is pretty clear – so clear, that it's probably much clearer than many of the Dark Sky Parks in the United States. Sometimes you might not be able to see the Milky Way in summer, but it's almost always visible during winter. However, it may be a little difficult to see in Wilpena Pound Resort area, but once you drive two or three kilometres out on either direction, it's pretty visible.
For space enthusiasts, two particularly visible constellations include the Orion and the Pleiades, both which have great significance to the Adnyamathanha. Orion represents the dreaming sacred law for men and the Pleiades represents the same but for women.
- 1 Wilpena Pound Resort, Wilpena Rd, Via Hawker, toll-free: 1800 805 802, firstname.lastname@example.org. The only lodging of any kind in the park. Prices are about mid-range, and you can generally expect to find what you would normally find in any mid-range accommodation.
There is only one private accommodation in the park, managed by the Wilpena Pound resort.
- 2 Ikara Safari Camp, Outside Track, ☏ +61 8 8648 0048, toll-free: 1800 805 802. The only private accommodation in the park, with options ranging from a safari tent, a family safari tent and a main tent. Not all options come with dining options; only the "main tent" option has dining as part of the package. from $310.
The rest are all managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia. All of them will require bookings in advance, for $17 a night. Bookings can be made here. Most of the campgrounds will require you to drive on unsealed roads and far from the resort – make sure you have enough supplies with you.
- 3 Acraman Campground, Bunyeroo Rd, Flinders Ranges. A small campground with only four campsites in it. It is convenient for those wanting to explore Bunyeroo Gorge. Suitable for tents and camper trailers and includes toilets.
- 4 Aroona Campground, Aroona Valley Road. A medium sized campground with 13 campsites which includes toilets but all the campsites are unpowered. However, it is a reasonable distance from other campsites and the Wilpena Pound Resort, so you will need to be self-sufficient.
- 5 Brachina East Campground (1 km deviation off Brachina Gorge Road).
- 6 Cambrian Campground, Bunyeroo Rd, Flinders Ranges.
- 7 Dingley Dell Campground, Flinders Ranges Way.
- 8 Koolamon Campground, Aroona Valley Road.
- 9 Teamsters Campground, Brachina Gorge Rd, Flinders Ranges.
- 10 Trezona Campground (short deviation off Trezona Loop Walk). A good base to explore the Trezona Hike, one of the only trails to pass the Heysen Range which is 8 kilometres and takes 4 hours to do.
- 11 Youngoona Campground (short deviation off Brachina Gorge Road).
Camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds.
Most roads in the park have a 110 km/h (68 mph) speed limit, similar to most other parts of the state. However, the roads in the Flinders Ranges are more windy, with more bends, and as this is a national park, there's more wildlife crossing the road, especially during dawn and dusk. Speed limits can drop heavily – you could be going 110 km/h (68 mph) and then suddenly have to slow down to 40 km/h (25 mph) on a bend.
Mobile reception in the park is generally poor, and Telstra only has coverage in Wilpena and some nearby lookouts while Optus or Vodafone do not have any coverage at all. If that's the case, let someone know that you're coming here.
For cases requiring regional duty officers, for the Flinders Ranges region, phone ☏ +61 408 378 284. The listed reasons to call can be found at the SA Parks website.
- Nilpena Ediacara National Park is a very new national park, opening to the public in early 2023 home to fossils over 500 million years old – which is older than dinosaurs