Arkaba is set on a vast, private sheep station in South Australia's Flinders Ranges, within sight of Wilpena Pound, and easy reach of Adelaide.
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 Arkaba. Private charter flights are also available from Adelaide's General Aviation area, opposite the Main Terminal, for the one-hour flight to Hawker Airstrip, followed by a 25-minute car transfer from Arkaba (road transfers are 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, depending on which plane you commandeer.
Operated by Great Southern Rail (13 21 47 or +61 (0)8 8213 4592; www.gsr.com.au), interstate trains (the Ghan from Darwin, the Overland from Melbourne, the Indian Pacific from Sydney and Perth, and the Southern Spirit from Brisbane) chug into the Adelaide Parklands Terminal, just south west of the centre, although flying is faster. From Adelaide, it's generally quickest and most affordable to hop on a plane or drive to reach the hotel. The luxurious Ghan, however, does link up well with Arkaba, travelling in both directions between Darwin and Adelaide. En route you can take in Red Centre outback towns Katherine and Alice Springs, or bookend your journey with sidetrips to Smith stays Bamurru Plains, near Darwin, or Southern Ocean Lodge, on Kangaroo Island. When you book request a ticketed stop at Port Augusta, an hour and a quarter from Arkaba, and the hotel will arrange a car transfer from there.
Arkaba is 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.
If you don't have your own wheels, Genesis Tour & Charter (+61 (0)8 8552 4000; www.genesistours.com.au) runs a minibus service from Adelaide to Hawker for AU$140 return, taking about five hours with short stops en route. It departs from Adelaide's Central Bus Station at 7am Mondays and Thursdays, arriving at Hawker at 12.50pm; returning Tuesdays and Fridays at 11.20am from Hawker and reaching Adelaide at 5.30pm.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you're staying at Arkaba, make the most of the early morning and late afternoon activities, when the chance of spying wildlife is greatest and the light at its best. Guided or self-guided local walks, four-wheel-drive safaris and wildlife viewing are all top choices, with three types of kangaroo, amazing emu and wow-worthy bird sightings all common, backdropped by epic rocky ranges and rolling hills. Arkaba's passionate, knowledgable guides Kat and Stuart make trips into the outback unforgettable. You can also check out the historic Arkaba Woolshed nearby. Mountain bike rides, trips to local look-outs and Adnyamathanha aboriginal rock art sites are all up for grabs. Be sure to take a tour of amazing crater-shaped geological wonder Wilpena Pound, an ancient natural amphitheatre, 17 kilometres long by seven kilometres wide, that's now part of the Flinders Ranges National Park. Then again, you can always chill out in the Library, outdoors on the terrace or poolside with a book about local artist hero Hans Heysen and a fine South Australian wine in hand. At night, ask Stuart to host an impromptu star-gazing session – his knowledge of the constellations borders on geeky-genius.
Smith recommends teaming a Homestead stay with the three-day, 40-kilometre overland Arkaba Walk (you'll spend two nights camping out, with the third evening back at the hotel) – a jaw-droppingly gorgeous ramble through Red River Gum-dotted creek beds, over purple-hued ranges and occasionally up puff-inducing hills. It's moderately challenging, so you'll need to be fairly fit and confident about picking your way over stones, but the chance to sleep in iconic Aussie swag beds at two view-blessed camp sites, eat fab food prepared over the fire, and scope kangaroos and emus is not to be missed. Alfresco bush showers (hot, of course) and eco-loos with a view add to the sense of adventure, but fine cuisine, wine and sheepskin hot-water bottles ensure luxe comforts. What's more, you'll have 60,000 acres pretty much to yourself, as Arkaba's private land is crisscrossed only by one scenic road and the Heysen Trail, so you're unlikely to see a member of the public for days. With the walk kicking off in National Park-owned Wilpena Pound, you can take in the Flinders' most fantastic geological formation to boot, as well as rock fossils, wedge-tail eagle's nests, spectacular stripy bark and delicate flowers.
Walks depart on Thursdays (and Saturdays in peak season), following a briefing at 10am at the Homestead, for two to eight people for shared group walks or up to 10 for private groups (the minimum age for kids is 12). Day One (approximately 12 kilometres; four to five hours) starts with a road transfer to Wilpena Pound, where the walk kicks off around 11am, with the chance to ascend a look-out before crossing the epic, tree-filled bowl of the Pound and descending from its rocky lip to Black Gap camp below. Part of this walk dovetails with the famous Heysen Trail. The first night in your swag beds is spent here, with views back up to the Pound. Day Two (a more demanding 10–14 kilometres; six to seven hours) takes you through striking creek bed trails and over flower-flocked countryside towards the foothills of the Elder Range. A moderate uphill effort at the end brings you to the top of the Red Range, where orange-hued cliffs, Grass Trees and huge vistas await, before you descend to the shelter of Elder Camp. Day Three (10–14 kilometres; six to seven hours) promises a mix of habitat, from native pine and Mallee trees to river beds and hillside ridges, bringing you back to Arkaba Homestead. Guests spend the third night at the Homestead for a dash of pampering, with the choice to sleep in or enjoy a short, optional local walk to the Woolshed (six kilometres round trip) or activity such as a scenic flight on the fourth morning.
Remember though, this is glamping, so you need only bring a small day-pack to carry on the hike, along with a plastic water bottle or camel bladder, good boots, a rainproof jacket and a mix of layers to cater for all weather eventualities. Arkaba supply the five double swag beds on permanent raised decks (and tents to cover them if it rains) at each camp site, water, thermos flasks of hot tea or coffee and snacks for the trail, head torches and all food, cooking gear, bedding, towels and toiletries. Meals are a mix of campfire-cooked treats and fine-dining fare, ferried from the Homestead. Each camp has two waterless, composting toilets and two bush showers with warm water. Walks are accompanied by a knowledgable guide (with one guide for every six guests), and a second staff member in a support vehicle, who will transfer the rest of your kit (bring a soft bag), including your clothes and personal items, to the next campsite each day. Guides carry Sat phones and radios for emergencies, but don't expect your mobile to get reception. Bring a fully charged camera, as sightings of Red, Euro and Grey kangaroos are common, alongside emu and wonderful birds.
Arkaba's team can also arrange scenic, half-hour flights over Wilpena Pound, the Elder Range and the sheep station, but be sure to book before your stay. You can also combine a trip here with a scenic flight over Lake Eyre further north, where flamingos and birdlife make for friend-impressing snaps.
You're in the remote Flinders Ranges, with all-inclusive wining and dining at Arkaba or on the Walk, so don't expect a KFC to pop up in the bush! The nearest pubs are in small local country town Hawker, or you can pick up supplies at Wilpena Pound's resort food store. For good restaurants, bars or wineries en route see our Adelaide and Clare Valley desination guides, or check out our Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island options if you're planning a South Australia itinerary.