- Countryside Rolling rocks and ranges
- Country life Walking and wildlife-watching
Australia’s most accessible outback, the Flinders Ranges – just a five-hour drive from Adelaide – serves up a wildly beautiful landscape that's home to geological wonder Wilpena Pound, aboriginal rock art and native wildlife.
To make the most of your South Australian experience, drive via the Barossa or Clare valleys, for vineyard visits on route. Once at the Flinders, you'll be met by purple-tinged rolling hills and majestic ancient rocks, an epic land strewn with twisted, bark-bright Red River Gums, inhabited by kangaroos and emus, and flocked with tune-toting birds. Social life may be limited to small, eccentric outback towns, but you'll never be short of sheep to count (sheep stations and dairy farms are big news in these parts). Get active with some trekking, mountain biking, four-wheel-drive safaris or photography (artists love this dramatic countryside); then kick back with a fine local wine. The Heysen and Mawson Trails run through this region, and Lake Eyre is within reach for scenic flights.
Do go/Don’t go
The climate in the Flinders Ranges and southern outback is usually dry and sunny year-round. Over the summer, from December to February, it can get uncomfortably hot during the day, but is pleasanlty warm come evening. In winter, from June to August, days are warm and nights cold, often dropping below zero degrees. Spring, when wildflowers bloom, and autumn, make for good trekking and camping conditions, but bring layers and prepare for the chance of rain.
Planes Fly into South Australia's capital Adelaide (www.aal.com.au), serviced by flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth and Alice Springs. International flights also swing in from Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bali and Fiji. Qantas, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific (among others? fly to Adelaide from overseas, with domestic flights (Qantas, Virgin Blue, Tiger and Jetstar) winging-in from around Australia. The airport is six kilometres west of the city centre. From Adelaide, you can take a scheduled flight north to Port Augusta every day except Saturdays with Sharp Airlines (www.sharpairlines.com), followed by a 75-minute drive to Smith stay Arkaba. Private charter flights are also available from Adelaide's General Aviation area, opposite the Main Terminal, for the 60-minute flight to Hawker Airstrip, followed by a 25-minute car transfer from Arkaba (road transfer included in rates). En route, you'll pass over the scenic Clare Valley and Mid-North wine region. You can also charter a plane from Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide, departing from either Kingscote Airport or Vivonne Bay (handy for Smith stay Southern Ocean Lodge), and taking 90 minutes to Hawker. Charter aircraft can cater for two, five or 10 passengers on which plane you commandeer.
Trains Interstate trains (the Ghan from Darwin, the Overland from Melbourne and the Indian Pacific from Sydney and Perth) chug into the Adelaide Parklands Terminal (13 21 47; www.gsr.com.au), just south west of the centre, but aren't the fastest way to get there. If you're headed on to the Flinders Ranges from Adelaide, it's best to hop on a plane or drive.
Automobiles The Flinders Ranges is around a four-and-a-half-hour drive north of Adelaide on a sealed tarmac road, or about five to six hours if you route via the Clare Valley with stops to eat or check out wineries (Smith hotel North Bundaleer makes a handy overnight stay if you want to break up the journey). The drive from Port Augusta takes about 75 minutes. The usual hire-car options are available at Adelaide Airport or in town.