A visit to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia wouldn’t be complete without a station stay, and one that offers a comprehensive taste of the region is Rawnsley Park Station. This working sheep station is located around 430 kilometres from Adelaide and 35 kilometres north of Hawker.
The road to the entrance of Rawnsley Park is bitumen and from then on it’s dirt to your choice of accommodation, from eco villas and cabins, powered caravan and camping sites and bush camping space. The bush camping area is accessible to non off-road caravans but you need to take it slowly and carefully to manoeuvre through some of the steeper dips and climbs, the further you go.
The beauty of the bush camping area is that you can camp as a group and still find something secluded, with breathtaking views of Wilpena Pound and other distant ranges as a backdrop. You can have campfires at night and will more than likely get visits during the day from the sheep roaming free. Even though it’s bush camping there are a couple of small ablution blocks with flushing toilets and you are still able to use the camp kitchen and facilities in the powered caravan park area.
With Rawnsley Park as your base you can then discover the iconic Flinders Ranges landscape and find plenty of bushwalking and photo opportunities nearby. There are some four wheel drive tracks and a lookout area within Rawnsley which gives you some information on the ranges visible from the station including Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Bluff, the Elder Range and Chase Range. There are a number of walks and cycle tracks you can take within the station where you may also spot emus, kangaroos and wedge tailed eagles soaring above.
For more of the Flinders you can take a scenic drive from Rawnsley Park to the town of Blinman, 75 kilometres north via the Flinders Ranges Way and find a range of things to see and do along this stretch of road over a number of days.
Just a 15 minute drive from Rawnsley Park is Wilpena Pound or Ikara as it’s known to the Adnyamathanha traditional owners. This is a naturally formed amphitheatre of mountains, with sandstone bluffs, layered rock and peaks that are more spectacular to view from the outside than from within, but from inside the pound you can take a number of walking trails to enjoy the bush environment. One of the easier walks is to an old homestead that was once owned by the Hills family, original pastoralists in the pound. The round trip trek of around six kilometres meanders through river red gum country of mostly flat ground and follows the Wilpena Creek to the restored cottage, taking around two hours to complete.
A short drive north of Wilpena Pound is an iconic river red gum known as The Cazneaux Tree which was made famous by New Zealand photographer Harold Cazneaux. This 29 metre giant was the subject of a photograph taken by Cazneaux in 1937 which brought him international recognition and has brought many visitors to this region of the Flinders ever since.
As you keep driving north you will come to two lookouts both worth driving up to see the views. Hucks lookout gives a terrific panoramic view of the pound and the winding Flinders roads below, and Stokes Hill lookout has far reaching 360 degree views of quintessential Flinders scenery. It also features interpretive signs explaining Adnyamathanha history and culture as well as a 3D scale map of the ranges in sight.
An interesting two kilometre detour off the main road can be taken to see the Appealinna ruins. The remains of the original homestead built around 1856 and other outbuildings were the property of Joseph and Sarah Wills and can be found next to the red gum lined creek.
This cattle and goat breeding property also has ruins of a once busy mining settlement on the other side of the creek. There are some substantial ruins still standing including the mine manager’s house and bunkhouse and a cooks hut with a large fireplace and chimney still intact. You can take an easy stroll along the creek to see the ruins and read about the life of these early settlers.
Returning to the Flinders Ranges Way, another standout natural feature that comes into view is Mount Emily, also known as ‘The Great Wall of China’ because of a noticeable bed of horizontal limestone that lines the ridge. A dirt road leads to a parking spot where you can see more outstanding views of this highest peak in the range and breathtaking Flinders scenery.
The last stop on this scenic drive is the historic copper mining town of Blinman. There are a number of original buildings including cottages made of native pine trees and clay walls, known as pug and pine, still standing. One of these cottages is ‘Williams Cottage’ which is now a walk through museum showing a little of how life was in the 1890s. The North Blinman Hotel is another original building built in 1869 and is still a popular spot with travellers for a drink and a meal during a busy day of touring the Flinders Ranges. Make sure to stop in and try one of their signature pies.