Over the past few days, I’ve officially ticked off a bucket list item — to visit the Flinders Ranges and outback.
Well-known as one of the most beautiful destinations in SA, our road trip adventure kicked off in Melrose — located only 3.5 hours away — before continuing on straight through the guts of the Flinders.
The only thing that ever stopped me from visiting before was that I’m not a natural camper. So here are 10 “must-do” tips and tricks to create our version of the perfect Flinders Ranges and outback road trip (without the swags)…
Make friends with the locals
We took it upon ourselves to befriend as many locals as possible during our three day adventure, and why? Because they’re the ones with all the good stories!
The locals are proud to live where they do (for proof, see the below pic of the “Galloping Grannies” who greeted us at our first stop), and are keen to share their wisdom. Plus, as an added bonus, they all have a great sense of humour which makes learning the history so much more fun. During our stay at Rawnsley Park, we invited Ranger Kim to have dinner with us in exchange for his witty stories, which varied from the original ownership of the land, to the reason that one of the lookouts was named after a professional boxer… just be sure to clarify which stories are factual, and which are old wives tales from years gone by!
This one’s simple. You haven’t seen the Flinders Ranges in all its glory until you’ve travelled to the top of a hill and turned in a slow circle to experience the wow-factor of 360 degree views that seem to stretch forever. From up above, the area looks untouched and remarkable, with a special kind of beauty that’s reserved for our sunburnt country. Luckily, most accommodations and camping grounds in the area have taken this into consideration, and have tours, walking trails and 4WD routes for you to get climbing .
Speaking of four-wheel driving… part of the Flinders Ranges experience comes from the fact it still feels a little bit unexplored. There’s a thrill in jumping behind the wheel (or in the passenger seat) of a big land cruiser to climb up hills and circle around cliff edges. We opted for the passenger option and took the Rawnsley Park 4WD tour with Ranger Kim, which had us shrieking with joy as we (very safely) explored outside of our comfort zone.
Classic Aussie food, served up by classic Aussie establishments — now that’s what we like to hear! If I had to live off of a good chicken parmy for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy (although possibly undernourished) gal. Because eating and drinking is one of our favourite hobbies, we made sure to jam in as many meals as possible. This is great news for you, because now we can give you a proper run down…
North Star Hotel in Melrose – classic and hearty, these meals will leave you full and satisfied. For our vego friends, you’re safe and sound with the HUGE veggie burger, and for everyone else, you’ll be satisfied with any of the fan-favourites and a glass of quality SA wine. Built in 1854, this local watering hole has everything you need to fuel up for a big outback adventure — there is accommodation if you’re looking to rest up before another long drive, and there are some great things to see and do, like explore on two wheels along one of their bike tracks, or check out the 75 year tennis tournament if you’re there at the right time! During our time at the North Star Hotel we also met two lovely girls who have started a business that is after our hearts — Grazier! Building delicious platters is their passion, so if you’re in Melrose and looking for a picnic to take with you, make sure to hit them up.
Woolshed Restaurant in Rawnsley Park – well, I didn’t expect that! For a restaurant plonked down in the middle of Rawnsley Park’s 30,000 acres, the Woolshed provides delicious and elegantly presented meals. One hot tip from me to you — order all of the sides! They’re YUM!
Prairie Hotel in Parachilna – if you’re an adventurous eater, then you’ve got to make the trip to the Prairie Hotel for lunch or dinner. Their menu is based around “feral food”, which is a risk that you absolutely should take. You’ll be given the opportunity to sample some stranger menu items such as crocodile, emu and kangaroo, or you can find comfort in the classics such as fish or curry.
Quandong Café – the name speaks for itself… you can’t stop in at this established café without sampling some of Pat’s classic quandong themed recipes, such as her cheesecake or jam on some freshly baked scones. It’s also a great spot to grab a refuelling coffee on the long drive home.
Just because you’re not officially “camping”, doesn’t mean you have to skip out on all of the benefits of sleeping amongst nature. Sure, you might want to pass up on some of the creepy crawly insects, but why miss out on a sky full of stars? Whether you pick the Prairie Hotel, that sits on the edge of a field with no pesky lights interrupting your stargazing, or you pick the Eco-Cabins at Rawnsley Park with their sliding skylights, you’re bound to get a glimpse of glittering sky.
We actually managed two sunsets and a sunrise… not that we’re bragging or anything! The sunsets and sunrises are second-to-none, with uninterrupted views and a landscape that was MADE to turn a vibrant gold. While it’s pretty spectacular from anywhere, we suggest hilltops or flat land to really take in the beauty (with a cheese platter and a cold bevvy, specifically).
For those animal lovers out there (me), you’ll be in heaven. There are three different types of kangas cruising around the area, plus some wallabies and wallaroos. We also came across an echidna — what a thrill! — and some emus that were just hanging out on the side of the road. This feels like a good time for my inner Safety Officer to remind everyone to drive with care and keep your eyes peeled, because you never know what might appear in the middle of the road!
A little bit more unusual, but just as exciting, were the camels that we were actually able to ride! This is a totally unique experience that’s on offer through Camel Treks Australia, and includes all the things you could possibly dream of. You can camp out under the stars, meet fellow travellers from all over the world, you can travel through the orange sand dunes walking next to OR on top of amazing camels for a few days, and you get to feast on the best tasting food from a Michelin Star chef! It’s immediately obvious how much Karen and her team love and care for their camel crew, and the camels health and wellbeing is considered at all times.
The Flinders Ranges and outback has so much untapped, natural beauty just waiting for you to explore. Next time you’re looking to jet off for a family holiday, we encourage you to explore the amazing outback that’s sitting right in our backyard first!