Flinders Ranges and Outback Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Flinders Ranges and Outback
The Flinders Ranges, the gradually rising northward continuation of the Mount Lofty Ranges, run from north to south through the eastern part of South Australia for several hundred kilometers. They are named after Matthew Flinders, who explored much of southern Australia in 1801-3. The hills are rich in minerals (particularly copper and uranium) and of great scenic beauty, especially in the South Flinders Ranges northeast of Port Augusta and in Flinders Ranges National Park to the north of Hawker.
The Flinders Ranges National Park in Australia encompasses the Wilpena Pound and the Peak of St Mary. Artists have often been inspired by the lush flowers and vegetation found on the park grounds.
Coober Pedy, Australia
The opal-mining town of Coober Pedy (pop. 2500) lies in the heart of the South Australian outback. The name of the town comes from an Aboriginal phrase meaning 'white fellows in a hole' - most of the inhabitants live in underground dwellings (dugouts) to escape the fierce heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter.The activities of opal miners over many years, since gold prospectors found valuable white opals here in 1911, have converted the desolate countryside round Coober Pedy into a kind of lunar landscape. Visitors can still try their luck after obtaining a prospecting permit from the Mines Department in Coober Pedy. The Mine Museum has interesting displays on the history of prospecting for precious stones and demonstrations of opals being cut and polished. Also worth a visit is the Catacomb Church.Desert Cave Hotel is the world's first underground hotel.
The remote settlement of Arkaroola, with only a few dozen inhabitants, lies in an impressive outback setting in the Flinders Ranges, an area of jagged quartzite ridges and deep rugged gorges with rare plants and animals and a variety of minerals. At Bolla Bollana Springs are the ruins of a former copper mine. The area round Arkaroola was settled by man at an early stage, as is shown by Aboriginal rock drawings and traces of settlement; it also features in Aboriginal mythology. There is accommodation in hotels, motels and campsites.South of Arkaroola are the impressive Big Moro, Chambers and Italowie Gorges and the particularly spectacular Bararrana Gorge. The excursion to Mount Painter is very attractive. There are breathtaking views from Freeling Heights over the Yudnamutana Gorge, and from Siller's Lookout over Lake Frome, a salt lake. 30km north are the hot springs of Paralana.
Gammon Ranges National Park
1000 sq.kmArkaroola is also a good starting point for wilderness tours in Gammon Ranges National Park which has impressive views of the mountains and hills. In this rugged and little frequented wilderness bush camping offers the only overnight accommodation.
Lake Eyre National Park
Lake Eyre National Park takes in an area of 12,880 sq.km round Australia's largest salt lake in the hot and arid country of east central South Australia.Lake Eyre National Park has vegetation typical of the arid regions of Australia. The lake, named after the great explorer of Australia John Eyre, has had water in it on only three occasions since its discovery. Normally it consists merely of a layer of salt up to 3m deep. This salt lake provided almost ideal conditions for Donald Campbell's attempt on the world land speed record in 1964. On July 17th in that year he achieved a speed of 690kph in his turbine-driven Bluebird and established a new world record.
Address: Box 78, Port Augusta, SA 5700, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: in the winter months, after the region's rare falls of rain. Warning: The exploration of this National Park is only for travelers with outback experience and a suitable all-terrain vehicle. There are no service facilities.
Mount Remarkable National Park
85 sq.kmThis beautiful National Park is centered on Mount Remarkable (959m), the most striking hill in the southern Flinders Ranges, which was given its name by the explorer Edward Eyre in 1839.Magnificent panoramic views, wild gorges and rich wildlife (particularly birds) are the attractions for visitors - who must, however, have had some experience of bush walking and be properly equipped.
Address: PMB 7, Mambray Creek, Port Pirie, SA 5540, Australia
Entrance fee in AUD: Vehicle plus all occupants $7.50
Useful tips: Access via Port Pirie. Best time to visit: spring and autumn. No drinking water.
Melrose (pop. 200) is the oldest settlement in the southern Flinders Ranges and is now a rising holiday resort. It preserves a number of historic buildings, including the Police Station, the Courthouse (1862; a museum of local history), the North Star Hotel and the Mount Remarkable Hotel.
Witjira National Park
7800 sq.kmWitjira National Park is famed for its hot artesian springs, which provide a habitat for diverse fauna (particularly amphibians and birds). Of special interest are the Dalhousie Thermal Ponds, 180km north of Oodnadatta.The arid region with artesian springs extends from the stony plains in the west to the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert. It features prominently in Aboriginal mythology.
Address: Box 78, Port Augusta, SA 5700, Australia
Entrance fee in AUD: Vehicle plus all occupants $20.00
Useful tips: Access from Oodnadatta (all-terrain vehicles only; 200km) - this is a journey for experienced and properly equipped outbackers only. Best time to visit: July to September. A visit in summer, with its intense heat, is not recommended.
The little outback town of Marree (pop. 400), situated at the junction of the notorious Birdsville Track and the Oodnadatta Track, was an important station on the overland telegraph line in the 19th C. A monument commemorates the surveyor John McDouall Stuart, who camped here during his 1859 expedition. For many years Marree was a staging post for the Afghan-led camel trains of the 19th C. Of the camel-men's settlement, known as Ghan Town, only ruins remain. The Ghan railroad which later followed the old trade route also passed through Marree, and the cattle which had been driven from Queensland on the Birdsville Track were loaded on to the train here. After the line was interrupted by flooding, however, it was moved further west towards Tarcoola.
Port Pirie, Australia
Port Pirie (pop. 14,000) is an important port and industrial town. The first settlers came here in 1845, and since then wheat growing has continued to play a major part in the economy of the area, as evidenced by the huge grain silos which dominate the skyline. Lead from Broken Hill (NSW) began to be smelted here in 1889, and Port Pirie now has the largest lead smelters in the world. Fishing also makes a contribution to the town's economy.The National Trust Museum Buildings in Ellen Street include a Victorian railroad station. Carnbrae, a historic mansion in Florence Street, has well preserved furniture and furnishings and a large collection of dolls.
Port Pirie Country Music Festival
The Port Pirie Country Music Festival, held annually in October, attracts thousands of visitors from all over Australia.
The tiny settlement of Oodnadatta (pop. 230) on the edge of the Simpson Desert is reached on the Oodnadatta Track (all-terrain vehicles only), following the route taken by John McDouall Stuart on his crossing of Australia in 1861-2. Later the same route was followed by the overland telegraph.The Ghan railroad from Port Augusta to Alice Springs ran by way of Oodnadatta until the line was moved further west to avoid flooding.The name Oodnadatta comes from an Aboriginal term for the blossom of the mulga, a shrub which grows in these arid conditions.
Crystal Brook (pop. 1300) is a farming center (wheat, sheep, cattle) dominated by huge grain silos. It was given its name by John Eyre on his expedition to the north in 1838. It has an animal park, a National Trust museum and other tourist facilities. It is a good base for trips into the southern Flinders Ranges.20km northeast of Crystal Brook, in the beautiful valley of the Rocky River, is Gladstone, once an important railroad junction.
The little township of Andamooka (pop. 400) is on the northwestern shore of the salt pan Lake Torres. Opals have been mined here since the 1920s - usually darker in color than the better known opals of Coober Pedy. Because of the extreme climatic conditions many people live in underground houses (dugouts).Andamooka has retained much of the character of a pioneer settlement.
Leigh Creek, Australia
Leigh Creek (pop. 1400) is the largest settlement north of Port Augusta. The town's economy is based on a large opencast coalfield which eventually swallowed up the original settlement, forcing the inhabitants in 1982 to move to a new site 13km to the north.Leigh Creek sends 2 million metric tons of coal annually to the large power station in Port Augusta.
The tiny settlement of Innamincka lies on the Strzelecki Track near Coongie Lake and Cooper Creek. There is a monument commemorating the tragic end of Burke and Wills's expedition in 1861. Here in the 1920s John Flynn, founder of the Flying Doctor Service, began to build up a radio communications network.
The Mintabie opal fields are at Marla.Marla is a small town on in north-western South Australia that can be accessed by train.
Roxby Downs, Australia
The mining settlement of Roxby Downs (pop. 2500) is in a desert setting. It was built some years ago to house employees of the Olympic Dam Copper Mine, to the north of the little town. There are also rich deposits of uranium in the area.