Explorer's way road trip: Explore the Flinders Ranges and outback
Along the Explorer's Way, the outback's stunning scenery is artfully intertwined with South Australia's history. The 3000 km drive from Adelaide to Darwin passes through the Clare Valley, one of South Australia's most famous wine areas, before entering the outback via the beautiful Flinders Ranges. The immense pristine nature, the far-reaching skies, and the wide-open road rolling out in front of you are unlike anywhere else on the planet.
The Explorer's Way road adventure begins less than two hours from Adelaide, where vineyards slope towards the outback's boundaries. To toast the start of your voyage, a renowned glass of Riesling awaits you here. The Clare Valley has around 50 cellar doors, the majority of which are located between the villages of Auburn and Clare. Riesling, the Clare Valley's hallmark wine, is among the greatest in the world, and the region is home to some of the state's oldest wineries and cellar doors. Sevenhill Cellars was founded in 1851 by Jesuit missionaries and holds the status of being the region's oldest winery. Stop here to drink in the history, and a glass or two, before embarking on your own wine tour through some of Clare’s best wineries including Pikes Wines, Shut the Gate Wines, Skillogalee, Kilikanoon Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Co. Stay a night or two nestled amongst nature at Trestrail Cottage to make the most of your time, and the wine.
Clare ValleyClare Valley, Clare SA, Australia
Burra, Clare Valley
Afterwards, grab a coffee from the Watervale General Store then hit the road driving 30 minutes to Burra. On the way, stop at Martindale Hall: one of the prettiest country mansions in Australia, presenting as a miniature version of Britain’s Chatsworth House. Arriving in Burra, spend the morning exploring this historic mining town nestled between the lush vines of Clare Valley and the red dirt of the Outback. Once a thriving copper mining hub, this unique town now draws visitors for its rich heritage. Explore the town's mining heritage with a Burra Heritage Passport; see underground dugouts, long-abandoned mine sites, and the old police lockup before visiting the Burra Regional Art Gallery. Stick around for the night if you have the time; Red Banks Conservation Park, just outside of town, has some of the clearest and darkest skies in the state, making it ideal for stargazing.
BurraBurra SA, Australia
Alligator Gorge, Flinders Ranges
Set your coordinates for the Flinders Ranges and you'll be at one of South Australia's most unusual national parks in no time. Explore an ancient landscape home to Alligator Gorge just beyond the southern edges of the Flinders Ranges. Discover the Terraces, a long series of miniature cascading waterfalls or a two or four hour hike cut into the awe-inspiring rocks of the outback over millions of years. There are no alligators here, but you might run into some of the friendly locals, like kangaroos, emus, echidnas, wallabies, and goannas, to name a few. The park is also home to more than 117 bird species making it a haven for bird watching. There’s plenty of walking trails to suit all fitness levels, picnic areas and campgrounds, so if time permits pitch your tent and explore for a day or two.
Alligator GorgeAlligator Gorge, Wilmington SA, Australia
Wilpena Pound and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, Flinders Ranges
Journey deeper into the Flinders Ranges to perhaps South Australia’s most iconic national park, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Quintessential road trip and camping country, the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is a remote wilderness with towering clifftops, deep craters, jaw-dropping mountain ranges and dusty, red roads. Pitch your tent and fall asleep under a blanket of stars before rising at dawn to traverse the ancient peeks of 800-million-year-old Wilpena Pound or jump on a scenic flight to appreciate its magnitude and beauty. The Adnyamathanha people, who have lived in the Flinders Ranges for tens of thousands of years, hold tremendous cultural value, and an Aboriginal cultural walk departing from Wilpena Pound Resort is one of the best opportunities to learn about this vital heritage. Rawnsley Bluff, Bunyeroo Gorge's Razorback Lookout, and Stokes Hill Lookout are among the other attractions.
Wilpena PoundWilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges SA, Australia
Arkaba Walk, Flinders Ranges
Exploring the Flinders Ranges on foot is one of the greatest ways to appreciate this ancient landscape's rough beauty. On a three-day walking tour through some of Australia's most stunning bushland, dust off your hiking boots and hit the trail. The Arkaba Walk takes in some of the most stunning scenery, from rocky mountain ranges to dramatic gorges, as it winds its way through Wilpena Pound and 60,000 acres of private wildlife reserve. Learn about the area's old Aboriginal culture as well as the outback's distinctive geology, vegetation, and animals. Wake up to breath-taking sights after sleeping under the stars in your cozy swag camp. Kick back in luxury on the final night at the beautifully restored Arkaba homestead.
Arkaba RoadArkaba Road, Flinders Ranges SA, Australia
Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges
Pull up to Rawnsley Park Station and stay in a luxury Eco Villa set away in pristine bushland in the shadows of Wilpena Pound for a few nights. Each totally self-contained villa features a big living and dining area, bedrooms with over-bed skylights, and a well-equipped kitchen with wonderful views of the surrounding hills. From your own own verandah, raise a drink of bubbly and watch the scorching outback sun set.
Rawnsley Park StationRawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges Way, Hawker SA, Australia
Prairie Hotel, Outback
Ever eaten emu egg omelette? How about kangaroo tail soup or camel sirloin? After working-up an appetite in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, hit the road for an hour before arriving at the Prairie Hotel: a quintessential outback pub with a few surprises up its sleeve. Listed as one of the top 100 gourmet experiences in Australia, the Praire Hotel’s Feral Menu gives you a slightly bizarre, yet totally exclusive chance to chow into some seriously left-of-centre dishes only found in the depths of the outback.
Prairie HotelPrairie Hotel, West Terrace, Parachilna SA, Australia
Arkaroola wilderness sanctuary, Flinders Ranges and Outback
As you travel deeper into the Flinders Ranges, you will arrive at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, your next stop. Bring your car and set up camp; you'll want to stay for a few days to explore this fully recognized ecotourism hotspot noted for its untamed vistas and excellent astronomy chances. Arkaroola has front-row seats to the most spectacular lightshow on earth, with some of the clearest skies in the Southern Hemisphere and one of Australia's largest privately-owned astronomical observatories. With camping and caravan facilities plus rooms available, spend a weekend with the stars and during daylight hours, explore the 63,000 hectares of rugged Australian bush abound with wildlife and adventure.
Arkaroola Wilderness SanctuaryArkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Arkaroola Road, Arkaroola Village SA, Australia
Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre, Outback
Continue on the Explorer's Way to the largest inland salt lake in Australia. Stretching a mind-boggling 144 kilometres by 77 kilometres, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is a natural wonder. Its seemingly endless expanse of shimmering salt crystals lure travellers year-round, but the real magic happens when, on the rare occasion, the lake is filled by flood waters. A network of channels, streams, and floodplains converge at Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park from throughout Australia's four states and territories, bringing with them a plethora of animals, stunning natural beauty, and surreal pink and orange hues. On a guided tour or scenic flight with Chinta Air Tours, take in the splendor of Lake Eyre, wet or dry. Take off on a red earth runway, soar above flocks of native birds, and gaze out the window at endless, quiet water and sparkling salt crystals.
Kati Thanda-Lake EyreKati Thanda-Lake Eyre, South Australia, Australia
Anna Creek Painted Hills, Outback
And from one natural wonder to the next… Hidden in the South Australian Outback lies one of nature’s greatest and oldest masterpieces. The vast, magical landscape of Anna Creek Painted Hills is a spectacular outcrop of otherworldly deep orange mountains that emerge from the flat desert landscape. It's hard to imagine this 80-million-year-old wonder carved out of the red dirt of the Outback is actually an extinct inland sea. Only accessible by air, a Wrightsair trip departing from Coober Pedy, William Creek, or Arkaroola will let you to not only observe this ancient scenery from the air, but also land among it and explore on the ground.
Painted HillPainted Hill, Anna Creek SA, Australia
Coober Pedy, Outback
Some 800 kilometres and a few playlists later, you’ll be cruising the final South Australian stretch of the Explorer’s Way road trip. Welcome to Coober Pedy, where you can sleep deeply (underground) after your epic road trip. The backdrop to many movies, the underground mining town is famous for its sun-baked lunar landscape, fascinating history and quirky lifestyle. Discover a maze of underground houses, hotels, and even businesses as you descend beneath the ground. Crocodile Harry's Underground Nest, Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, Josephine's Gallery, and Kangaroo Orphanage are all must-sees while in town. Check out our list of the finest things to do in Coober Pedy, then retire to your 25-metre-deep bed.
Coober PedyCoober Pedy SA, Australia
Credit: Tourism Australia, South Australian Tourism Commission, Grant Hunt Photography and SATC