Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
One of Australia’s most scenic adventure destinations, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park lays the country’s geological history bare through its spectacular peaks and deep valleys.
What to expect
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is 400km north of Adelaide in South Australia, and is accessible from The Outback Highway and off-road areas to the east and north. The park features multiple natural highlights that are accessible by well-maintained gravel tracks, as well as adjoining walking trails that go deeper into the ranges. As with any Outback area, the national park is best visited between April and October to avoid high temperatures and unforgiving conditions.
The region is dominated by the folded quartzite and sandstone ranges that define the landscape - most prominently the Heysen Range, the Elder Range and Wilpena Pound, which is a huge natural amphitheatre that contains many of the highest peaks in the area. The Flinders Ranges themselves are thought to have been formed during the Cambrian period 540 million years ago, and since then have been exposed to heavy and persistent erosion, so even though they are not particularly high, they are visually entrancing.
While there isn’t a labyrinth of 4WD tracks to seek out throughout the park, the existing ones will deliver you to all of the major scenic attractions, of which there are plenty. Wilpena Pound is a highlight from afar and close-up, while the drive through Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Valley is one the best tracks in the Flinders Ranges. There are multiple lookouts to stop at and soak in the views along the way, as well as myriad campgrounds in idyllic surrounds.
Camping in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
There are plenty of opportunities for camping within the national park, ranging from resort-style accommodation to remote bush camping. The Wilpena Pound Resort features resort rooms, glamping and a campground, as well as plenty of extras such as fuel, a store, a restaurant and more.
Meanwhile, there’s also a long list of camping areas in the heart of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park: Aroona Ruins, Koolamon, Brachina East, Teamsters, Cambrian, Youngoona, Dingley Dell and Acraman camping areas have water, toilet facilities and fire pits, while there’s bush camping at Yanyanna Hut Campsite near Bunyeroo Gorge, Middlesight Water Hut Campsite off Brachina Road, Cooinda Camp in the south and Wilkawillina Gorge far off in the northeast corner of the park.
Wilpena Pound looks very much like the crater of an extinct volcano or a depression caused by a massive meteor strike, but it is in fact the product of millions of years of geologic pressures and erosion.
What we now see as nearly 500km of north-south running mountain ranges began as deposited sediments some 1400 million years ago. These sediments have been given nature’s hard treatment, while selective erosion has left hard sandstone and quartz ridges standing out above valleys of softer materials.
In the Wilpena area the folding and erosion has created radical shapes, with breadknife serrations along some ridges, and hillsides with graduated slopes on one side and sheer drops on the other.
St Mary Peak, on the eastern rim of Wilpena Pound, is the highest point in the Flinders Ranges at over 1160m.
Walking in the Flinders Ranges
Bushwalking at least some of the 20 walks in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is the best way to see the country. A section of the Heysen Trail runs through the park: from Wilpena to Parachilna Gorge.
There are short walks from Wilpena into The Pound and to Wangarra Lookout, with a longer walk around the rim also available. There’s also a loop walk at Aroona ruins, as well as a lookout walk.
For a longer trip, there’s a full-day walk through Wilkawillina Gorge that’s on the way to Arkaroola. Some people walk the gorge from the car park and get picked up at the end of the gorge by a non-walking traveller. Less energetic exercise can be done at the various station ruins in the park, with one of the highlights being the beautifully restored main building and outhouses at Old Wilpena.