By Amy Cooper
The Flinders Ranges are full of adventure, history and food - here's some of the best experiences the region has to offer.
Noodle for Opals in Coober Pedy
When it comes to trophy souvenirs it’s hard to beat an opal that you’ve dug out of the dirt yourself. Few can resist fossicking or “noodling” for the bewitching multicoloured stones amid the lunar landscape of Coober Pedy, in South Australia’s Outback corners.
Noodling is free at the Jewell Box on the town’s eastern fringes, where opal miners dump heaps of their discarded rocks. Occasionally, a lucky visitor will chance on a missed precious stone among the dirt hummocks, or a piece of common opal known as “potch”, which still makes a special keepsake.
Eat a feral feast at the Prairie Hotel
Foodies, movie stars and explorers from around the world have lauded the Prairie Hotel’s signature Feral Mixed Grill, a symphony of kangaroo mettwurst, camel sausage, emu patty, goats cheese, bush tomato chilli jam and other delicious native produce.
This is bush tucker elevated to gourmet status thanks to chefs who work magic with everything that walks, hops, crawls, flies and grows on this red swathe of outback at the foot of the Flinders Ranges.
Delicious and unfamiliar flavours might include quandongs, wattle and acacia seeds, saltbush, native pepperleaf, wild thyme and basil, lemon myrtle and mountain pepperberries. Relaxing on the front veranda at sunset with owners Ross and Jane Fargher – and perhaps a glass of their Fargher Lager – is outback hospitality at its best.
Soar above Lake Eyre
The best way to appreciate the vast scale of Australia’s largest salt lake – the 11,000-square-kilometre Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda) – is to fly over it. From above you can drink in the otherworldly patterns and incredible silver, pink and snowy-white palettes created by the mainly dry terrain.
You’ll see why Edward John Eyre, the explorer after whom the lake is named, described the natural wonder as “glittering and brilliant beyond conception”. Local pilots enrich the experience with expertise about the lake, its rare floods and enormous basin covering 1 million square kilometres.
Muster sheep at Angorichina
There’s only one booking at a time at Angorichina Sheep Station, so the entire 500 square kilometres of rolling outback landscape is yours alone to share with fourth-generation owners Di and Ian Fargher.
They’ll happily involve you in seasonal activities at the working station – from mustering to shearing to feeding the working dogs. Sunset drinks on a high peak and a home-cooked meal in the lovely old 1860s homestead top off exhilarating days filled with open spaces, fresh air and warm hospitality.
Stargaze at Arkaroola
By day, multi-awarded Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is the perfect place to spot 160 bird species and the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby. But by night the stunning granite peaks reveal another reason to lose yourself here: some of the best stargazing conditions in Australia.
With no light pollution and three fully equipped observatories featuring professional-grade telescopes, the views of the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations on the sanctuary’s astronomy tour are unforgettable.
Go underground in a desert cave
In Australia’s opal mining capital, Coober Pedy, where temperatures can be extreme, it makes sense to live in the cool comforts of underground. Homes, shops, hotels, churches, a swimming pool and even a campground lie beneath the surface, as does much of the Desert Cave Hotel.
With 19 of its 50 suites carved out of rock beneath the ground, you can experience the dugout lifestyle in the most comfortable fashion. With an underground bar, gaming room and Crystal Café, the Desert Cave delivers plenty of down-below fun, too.
Take a hike in Wilpena Pound
The magnificent natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound was formed by nature out of an ancient mountain range over millions of years. The past surrounds you in the form of 1000-year-old river red gums and fossils dating back millennia.
Spanning about 100 kilometres, this vast basin has some of Australia’s best hiking trails and bushwalks. Tackle a full-day trek to St Mary Peak, the highest point in the Flinders, or Edeowie Gorge and Glenora Falls. The Pound also includes a stretch of the famous Heysen Trail.
Glamp in grand surroundings
Glamping soars to the next level with 15 new luxury safari tents at Ikara Safari Camp, the latest addition to Wilpena Pound Resort.
Each spacious canvas penthouse has a comfy bed with luxury linen, fluffy towels, fridge, aircon, ceiling fan – and even an ensuite. A nearby bar and dining room supply the remaining creature comforts.
Tunnel through time at Wadlata
A trip to the outback benefits greatly from some historical context and there’s no better way to soak it up than with a stroll through the interactive Tunnel of Time at Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta.
From dinosaurs to Dreaming stories, and from the first people to explorers, settlers and miners, this fascinating region’s dramatic backstory is told with multisensory exhibits that can absorb you for hours. Book your tours, accommodation and activities at the visitor information centre.
Steam into Peterborough
In the early 20th century, more than 100 trains a day rolled into Peterborough, and a workforce of 1800 serviced the bustling railway hub. The town, with its gracious architecture recalling those boom times, showcases its rich railway past at the Steamtown Heritage Rail Museum.
Housed in the old depot, diesel sheds and roundhouse, it’s home to Australia’s only operational triple gauge turntable. Definitely not just for train buffs, the museum’s extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock with beautifully preserved interiors delivers a captivating glimpse of the region’s history.
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.