Are you planning a South Australia road trip and looking for ideas for your self-drive Flinders Ranges Itinerary? Maybe you’re wondering how many days you need in the Flinders Ranges? Will you need a 4×4 for the Flinders Ranges? What are the best things to see in the Flinders Ranges?
With its ancient, rugged mountain ranges, geological history, hidden gorges, aboriginal rock art and abundant wildlife, the Flinders Ranges is one of the most unique and exciting places to visit in all of Australia. From scenic drives to stunning hikes and peaceful campsites, this is an outdoor adventurers paradise.
We have been travelling Australia for almost three years in our self-converted campervan. After having some van troubles on the Oodnadatta Track, we had to skip the Flinders Ranges and head back to Adelaide. We actually back-tracked almost 3,000km because we heard the Flinders was just that good. We were not disappointed!
The most famous and most visited part of the Flinders Ranges is the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. In this post you’ll learn all the best things to do and find all you need to plan your perfect Flinders Ranges Itinerary.
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Getting to the Flinders Ranges
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is located in outback South Australia, around 400km north of Adelaide. The actual Flinders Ranges are much larger, and begin just north of Port Augusta. You can drive from Adelaide to the Wilpena Pound (the central hub of the National Park) in a day and the roads are sealed all the way.
Most people will drive on the main highway via Port Augusta and then turn off along the Flinders Ranges Way via Quorn and Hawker. A less travelled route takes you through the Barossa and Clare Valley wine regions before heading through the farmland around Jamestown, Orroroo and Cradock.
If you’re coming from the Northern Territory you’ll travel down the Stuart Highway via Coober Pedy to Port Augusta and then turn up the Flinders Ranges Way. Alternatively, you can travel down the Oodnadatta Track (unsealed) to Marree, then the Outback Highway.
There are several routes into Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park from the Outback Highway, although they are all un-sealed. We drove in or out of the park via Parachilna Gorge, Brachina Gorge and the Moralana Scenic Drive.
You will need a car to get around the Flinders Ranges, unless you’re planning to join an organised group tour. If you’re not travelling with your own vehicle, you can hire a car from Adelaide. Be sure to check the rental agreement to see if you can drive on unsealed roads.
While the main north-south road through the park is sealed, many of the most spectacular sights are along unsealed roads, with varying conditions. Road conditions also change throughout the season and many roads may be closed after rain. At times these roads will only be open for 4×4 vehicles.
Flinders Ranges Itinerary Map
Click on the image below to open in Google Maps.
Where to stay in the Flinders Ranges
If you want to stay within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, there is the Wilpena Pound Resort which has a variety of camping options (powered and unpowered) along with cabins and lodge style accommodation.
Parks SA runs several “bush camps” that are basic, most with just long-drop toilets. These cost $11 per person per night. Be careful if you are booking a bush camp, as some of them are walk-in only! We stayed at the Dingley Dell Campsite for one night, which was fine. You can book the Parks SA campsites online.
We stayed outside the National Park for a couple of nights at the Rawnsley Park Station. This is a working sheep station which also operates as a caravan park/resort. We stayed in the unpowered, unallocated area, which was really comfortable. An unpowered site here costs $30 per night.
There is also camping and cabin style accommodation at the Skytrek Willow Springs Station, and Uppalina Station.
The closest free camping to the Flinders Ranges is the Nooltana Creek Rest Area north of Hawker on the Outback Highway. There is also free camping all along the river at Parachilna Gorge.
We stayed in one of the closest camps to Blinman as we were driving out of the Flinders Ranges. The next morning when we continued on towards Parachilna we saw other, much better places to camp.
Flinders Ranges Itinerary
This Flinders Ranges Itinerary describes a loop from Adelaide, up and through Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park and then back to Adelaide.
Day 1 – Adelaide to Rawnsley Park Station
Head north from Adelaide via Port Wakefield. Stop off at Lochiel to check out the pink Lake Bumbunga and the “Loch Eel”. Sadly every time we’ve driven past this lake the wind has been howling, so we haven’t been able to put the drone up. We did see a spectacular pink sunset there once though. There is a great free camp beside the Lochiel Town Hall.
Stop off in Hawker to refill your fuel tank and grab any last minute food supplies you need. You may also like to visit the Jeff Morgan Gallery to see his panoramic paintings of the Flinders Ranges (along with his rock collections and car memorabilia).
From Hawker you can drive up the Flinders Ranges Way directly to Rawnsley Park Station (sealed road to the Rawnsley Park Turnoff), or take the Moralana Scenic Drive.
Moralana Scenic Drive
The Moralana Scenic Drive is an alternative route into the Flinders Ranges. From Hawker, continue 38km up the Outback Highway towards Parachilna. You will see the turn off to the right just after the Mern Merna Station turnoff.
This road is unsealed and when we drove it, it was quite corrugated. We did not let our tyres down, nor did we need to engage 4wd. There were a few dry river crossings, so definitely check the road conditions if there has been any rain.
The scenery on this drive is spectacular. If you time it to do this drive in the afternoon, you’ll have great light on the south side of the ridge of the Wilpena Pound. The gums along the dry river beds are beautiful river gums.
We saw plenty of wildlife on this drive, several kangaroos, beautiful parrots and many emus. We wanted to get some video footage of the emus running, and eventually saw a dad with two chicks running up the road in front of us. You can check out all the Emu action on our Flinders Ranges YouTube video
Actually we thought it was mum, but we later learned the mother emu lays the eggs and sits on them till they hatch (not eating!), and then the father emu raises the chicks while mum recovers her strength.
The Moralana Scenic Drive re-joins the Flinders Ranges Way just south of Rawnsley Park Station which is where we spent two nights.
Rawnsley Park Station
Rawnsley Park Station was originally settled as a wheat farm in 1851. In the 1920s the focus changed to sheep farming. Tourism was originally a side venture but is now the main focus of the Station. The total area of the station is currently 29,000 acres.
There is a range of accommodation at Rawnsley Park, from luxury Eco-Villas to the unpowered bush camp, which comprises over 4 acres. There are also basic cabins and accommodations in the homestead.
We stayed in the bush camping area, which is 4 acres of open land, pick your own spot. It’s a bit of a walk to the amenities building, but the showers are hot and welcome after a big day out in the park.
TIP: If you’re towing a caravan, we recommend staying at Rawnsley Park Station for two nights, as you’ll want to leave your caravan behind tomorrow for the scenic drives. Alternatively, you could spend these two nights at Wilpena Pound Resort and Campsite though it’s a little more expensive ($46 vs $30 at Rawnsley for unpowered when we visited in October 2023)
Day 2 – Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park Scenic Drives
Leave your campsite after breakfast and stop off at the Rawnsley Bluff Lookout. This lookout is outside the boundary of the National Park so we were able to fly our drone and capture some beautiful shots of Rawnsley Bluff. Mornings are the best time for photography here.
Enter the national park and if you haven’t booked your Parks SA pass online, make your way into Wilpena Pound where you can purchase one over the counter at the Visitor Centre. The pass costs $13 per vehicle per day (less for concession card holders), or you can buy two-monthly and annual passes online.
Wilpena Pound Resort and Visitor Centre
This is the central hub for the Flinders, and most of the walking trails leave from here. There is accommodation here, along with a restaurant and small IGA supermarket. The Visitor Centre here is a great place to get up to date information on the roads and walking trails.
There are several guided tours which leave from here. We had hoped to do an indigenous culture tour, but there wasn’t one running when we were here.
This red river gum was made famous by photographer Harold Cazneaux who photographed it in 1937. It’s actually on the National Trust of SA list of significant trees! The photo entitled “Spirit of Endurance” won him international recognition.
There is a plaque where you can take your own photo. Fun fact: Harold Cazneaux was the grandfather of famous Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith.
Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive
The scenic drive through Bunyeroo Gorge was one of the highlights of our visit to Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. The Bunyeroo Gorge Road is a 30km unsealed road that leads from the Flinders Ranges Way through Bunyeroo Gorge to the Brachina Gorge Road.
The section through the gorge can be a little rough, and when we drove through it was really only suitable for a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle. There are a few water crossings along here, however the scenery is STUNNING.
If you are driving a 2wd, you would probably be fine to drive the 16km to Razorback Lookout, which is the highlight of the drive anyway. Check the road conditions with the visitor centre and other travellers before you set off.
The Gorge itself is spectacular. It’s not incredibly deep (at least not at the beginning) but the colours of the rocky cliffs, the majestic river gums and the rugged remoteness make this one of our favourite places we’ve visited in the whole country.
The Razorback Lookout is the best place in the Flinders Ranges to view the sunrise. Sadly we didn’t have a great day, with a lot of cloud along the ridge. The Bunyeroo Lookout is about 1km before the Razorback Lookout. There is more space here and you can walk around and get some great photos here.
At the end of the Bunyeroo Gorge Road, you can turn left to drive into and through Brachina Gorge. Just when we thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, it did. The rock faces in Brachina Gorge display the 650 million years of geological history of the Flinders Ranges. There is also fossil evidence here of some of the earliest animals on earth.
Stop off at the Scree Slopes and if you’re lucky you might see the rare Yellow-footed Rock wallaby up on the rocky cliffs. We would have totally missed them, but another couple of travellers stopped us and pointed them out. We don’t have a Zoom lens for our camera, but this is what we saw through the iPhone.
At the end of the gorge you’ll come to another park exit – if you continue along this road it will take you out to the Outback Highway. For today, return the way you came and instead of turning back down Bunyeroo Gorge Road, continue along this road to join up with the Flinders Ranges Way.
Stokes Hill Lookout
This is a popular place to watch the sun set behind the mountain ranges. The road up to Stokes Hill is steep and rocky. We engaged 4×4 but we did see a number of 2wd cars and vans at the top. You can’t tow a caravan up here though.
There is a communications tower at the top of Stokes Hill, and you’ll have 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape. There are several informative sign boards here, along with a relief map showing the Wilpena Pound.
After sunset make your way back to your accommodation and if the sky is clear, try some Astro photography.
Day 3 – Hiking in the Flinders Ranges
If you’re a hiker you will love the Flinders Ranges as there are so many wonderful hikes here. From short hikes along the river bed at Wilpena Pound, climbing Mt Ohlssen Bagge to the 1200km Heysen Trail. There’s something for everyone!
We’ve suggested two hikes to enjoy on this day:
Arkaroo Rock Hike
The Arkaroo Rock walk is a 3km loop trail that takes you up to an Aboriginal rock art shelter. This is a moderate walk, with uneven steps. The man at the visitor centre told us this was a 45 minute walk, although the sign at the trailhead says 2 hours. It took us 1hr 15 minutes, and we were moving quite a bit faster than usual, as we wanted to catch a sunset.
This is a significant area for the Adnyamathanha people. In a shelter under a large rock is a collection of rock art paintings telling more of the creation stories of Ikara – which means “meeting place”.
TIP: The best time to do the Arkaroo Rock Walk is in the morning, as you’ll have the sun shining onto the face of the ranges as you walk up to the rock art shelter.
Wangara Lookouts Hike
The Wangara Lookouts walk begins and ends at the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre. The trail follows a small creek through the Wilpena Pound Gap where you will see huge river gums and lots of bird life. We were amazed seeing some of the trees which had obviously survived major fire events. We passed a small waterhole and crossed the creek a couple of times.
You then arrive at the Hills Homestead, which was first built in 1888 and renovated in 1995 to look like the original. There are signboards on the approach to the homestead which tell the family history of the Hill family coming to Wilpena Pound to farm the land. They grew wheat here and initially had some success before drought caused them to abandon wheat farming in favour of sheep.
The story is told from the perspective of Jessie Hill, who came to manage the household for her brother as a 12yo. Alongside Jessie’s story, are stories from Eileen Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha woman from the same time period. Her story tells how the arrival of European settlers affected their traditional way of life and changed the environment. We found these stories really moving.
Just past the homestead you’ll see a sculpture of two Aboriginal men. Make sure you walk around to the back of this sculpture to read the Adnyamathanha creation story about how Wilpena Pound was created.
There is a shuttle bus that runs from Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre to nearby the Hills Homestead. However, this Shuttle Bus wasn’t running when we were there. Check with the Visitor Centre.
From the Homestead, you can take a 700m extension trail which goes straight up hill to a series of lookouts. This trail is rough and has uneven steps, trekking poles would be helpful here especially if you have weak knees.
It is definitely worth going all the way to the upper lookout. You can see the entire pound from here. If you continue another 50m or so, you’ll reach an unofficial lookout with views back through the Sliding Rock gorge and pound gap. Just imagine those early settlers driving their stock through this gap!
NOTE: Some of the hikes in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park are closed during the hot summer months from 30 November to 1 March. Check with the Visitor Centre.
While St Mary’s Peak is a popular challenging hike for many walkers, this peak is culturally significant for the indigenous Adnyamathanha people, and they request that you don’t climb this mountain.
After a big day of hiking, you might like to take a scenic flight to see the Flinders Ranges from above. There are both fixed wing and helicopter flights available from Wilpena Pound or Rawnsley Park Station.
Following your flight head back to your accommodation. We chose to spend our third night at the Dingley Dell Bush Camp – which is a basic campsite with drop toilets.
Day 4 – Ikara-Flinders Ranges to Parachilna Gorge
An early wake up today as you head back up Bunyeroo Gorge for the sunrise at the Razorback Lookout. This is widely agreed to be the best sunrise spot in the Flinders Ranges. The parking space at Razorback Lookout is only small, so try to get there early.
There are several other lookouts from Bunyeroo Lookout down to Welsh’s Lookout so you should be able to find space at one.
After sunrise head back the way you came and turn left on the Flinders Ranges Way and head towards Blinman. On the way you will pass the Great Walls of China, a rock formation along the top of a ridge. To be honest, we found this sight quite underwhelming!
Blinman is a historic mining town just north of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Nowadays the population is just 22, but at its peak in the 1860s there were 1500 people living here. Blinman is noted as South Australia’s highest town. Blinman is situated at the end of the sealed section of the Flinders Ranges Way road.
While it’s only a small town, there are quite a few services here, a post office, general store and a great pub. There is plenty of accommodation here, both in the town and the surrounding area, and this can be a great place to base yourself to explore the Flinders Ranges.
One of the most popular activities in Blinman is the Heritage Mine Tour. You can take a guided tour through the historic copper mine. Tours run hourly from 10-3 during the tourist season (April to October) and reduced hours during the off-season (November to March). Tours cost $35 for adults, with concession and family prices available.
From Blinman, head west through Parachilna Gorge. This is another beautiful scenic drive. There is a lot of free camping available along this gorge, so pick out a good spot as you are driving through.
Parachilna Prairie Hotel
From the outside the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna looks like any outback pub, but step inside and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in a trendy inner city craft brewery in Melbourne or Sydney. But you don’t come here for the vibe. You come here for the Feral Platter!
That’s right, the Prairie Hotel serves up all sorts of feral delicacies. Choose from the grill platter or the Antipasto platter, which features Emu pate, Goat cheese, Kangaroo pastrami and Camel Salami.
Nigel took one for the team and ate the Feral Antipasto platter – he reports it was great. Luckily for me, it comes with several plant-based dips and a very generous serve of Ciabatta bread.
The Prairie Hotel is very popular, when we visited there were tour buses arriving for lunch, and a musician playing outside. Lunch bookings are highly recommended.
After lunch head back into Parachilna Gorge to relax for the afternoon and evening.
Day 5 – Return to Adelaide
You can drive back to Hawker either along the Outback Highway or back down the Flinders Ranges Way. If you came up via Port Augusta and Quorn, you may like to return via Jamestown and the Clare Valley.
If your visit to the Flinders Ranges is part of a longer South Australia road trip, we highly recommend heading out to Arkaroola.
Essential Information for your Flinders Ranges Itinerary
National Park Pass
A valid SA Parks Pass is required for entry into Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. The pass costs $13 per vehicle per day, and can be purchased online or from the Visitor Centre in Wilpena Pound. If you’re visiting more than one park or staying in South Australia for a while, you can buy a 2-month or 12-month pass online.
Driving in the Flinders Ranges
The main road through Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park (the Flinder Ranges Way) is sealed all the way through the park and to Blinman. Many of the side roads through the gorges are unsealed. You can check up-to-date outback road conditions on the SA Govt website.
Fuel is available at Hawker, Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Station and Angorichina Tourist Village (between Blinman and Parachilna). We use the Petrol Spy app to compare fuel prices.
Food and Water
If you are self-catering you’ll find basic supplies at Rawnsley Park Station and there is a small IGA store at Wilpena Pound. There is a restaurant at Wilpena Pound and the Woolshed Restaurant at Rawnsley Park is supposed to be very good.
Water is available at both Rawnsley Park and Wilpena Pound – check with reception if this is bore water and the quality before drinking
Phone and Internet
We found the phone and internet reception was reliable at Rawnsley Park and Wilpena Pound. It was almost non-existent everywhere else in the park except for Stokes Hill Lookout where you’ll be right under a tower. As one recent WikiCamps review said “Came for the sunset, stayed for the 4G”
Watch our Flinders Ranges Travel Guide video
Do you need a 4WD for the Flinders Ranges?
The short answer is no. The main road through the National Park is sealed, and you can see a lot of the beautiful scenery without needing to leave the bitumen. The roads through the gorges are unsealed, and road conditions vary depending on how much rain there has been recently.
We found the roads in Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges had a few water crossings and rough sections where we put our van into 4×4 to crawl through. We also used 4×4 to get up Stokes Hill, although we saw 2wd vehicles up there.
You could probably get to Razorback Lookout in Bunyeroo Gorge in a 2wd vehicle. Your vehicle’s clearance is probably more important than 4×4 – a low clearance vehicle may struggle on some of the unsealed roads.
If you don’t have a 4×4 and want to get the most out of your visit, consider joining one of the guided 4×4 tours from Rawnsley Park Station.
When is the best time to visit the Flinders Ranges?
Summers in the outback can be very hot, so the best time to visit the Flinders Ranges is in the cooler months from May to October. We visited in mid-October and the weather was really pleasant with temperatures in the low 20s during the day. Ideal hiking weather. The evenings were a little chilly though!
How many days do you need for the Flinders Ranges?
Three full days is an ideal amount of time to explore Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, and the surrounds, making it a 5 day trip to and from Adelaide.
Can I go Mountain Biking in the Flinders Ranges?
The Mawson Trail runs from Blinman to Adelaide, and passes through the Flinders Ranges. Many riders choose to just ride parts of this trail. There is also a 10km loop trail departing from Rawnsley Bluff Trail Head which we rode. However, this trail wasn’t really well marked and we did get a bit lost at one point.
Need help planning your Flinders Ranges Itinerary?
You can post any questions in the comments box below, or send us an email and we will happily get right back to you.
The Flinders Ranges is a definite highlight of our lap of of Australia. We highly recommend visiting this area and spending a good few days marvelling at the natural beauty of this unique part of the country.