There are a number of station stays you can try when travelling in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia and Rawnsley Park Station is one I would recommend. When you visit you can opt to stay in the caravan and campground with power, a camp kitchen, modern and clean amenities, grocery shop and small swimming pool or you can drive past all that and head towards a more secluded bush camping area.
The space and freedom of the bush camping area means you can set up as a group and still have space between you and select panoramic views of your choice. You can also have a campfire and enjoy nights around a fire under the stars. This bush camping doesn’t mean roughing it though, with a couple of flushing toilets nearby and you have the option of using the camp kitchen and all the other facilities of the park. There is a slight difference in price too with powered sites costing $39 per night and bush camping sites at $29 per night.
Rawnsley is a working sheep station and they have right of way, wandering through the bush camp whenever they feel like it. There is a lot to see and do within Rawnsley, 4WD tracks to follow, walking and cycle trails, and lookouts to views of the surrounding ranges. Our campsite looked directly over the lake to the Rawnsley Bluff section of Wilpena Pound and you can also see the Chase Range in the distance. Every afternoon the sunset makes the iron oxide in the sandstone mountains glow an orange to deep red colour and in the mornings you have sunrise over the man-made lake. Apart from the roaming sheep you can spot kangaroos, emus and wedge tailed eagles in this natural setting.
On top of all this, Rawnsley is in the perfect position to explore the Flinders Ranges over a few days. You could spend as much time as you’d like of course but for a taste of the region you can take a drive along the Flinders Ranges Way to see some of these highlights.
Ikara – Wilpena Pound
The Adnyamathanha people have lived in this area for tens of thousands of years and know Wilpena Pound as Ikara, a ceremonial ground or meeting place. In the 1850s, European settlers used the natural rock amphitheatre as a perfect place to hold stock because of its towering cliffs, permanent water supply and having only one entrance in. Today Wilpena Pound is a National Park and you can visit and take cultural tours with guides, or there are a number of self-guided bushwalks you can do. A nice relatively easy one that enables you to get a good feel for the environment without being pushed too hard is the walk to the Hills Homestead. It’s a really peaceful walk that follows the creek and is on mainly flat ground with some small climbs and descents along the way, it’s around 6 kilometres return and if you give yourself time including stops and sightseeing, you can do it comfortably in two hours.
The Cazenaux Tree
This is one famous tree thanks to a New Zealand born, Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux. His photograph of this lone river red gum with the backdrop of the Flinders Ranges, was taken back in 1937 and given the name – ‘Spirit of Endurance’ and is an iconic image depicting the essence of the Flinders Ranges Landscape. A sign post on the Flinders Ranges Way directs you into the area to find it and it’s a short walk from a car parking area to see it, still standing and sought after by photographers today.Hucks Lookout & Stokes Hill Lookout
Two lookouts that both run off the Flinders Ranges Way, and yes they are both work taking the drives up to see. Hucks lookout gives a breathtaking view of Wilpena Pound and the winding roads below that led to this stop. Depending on the time of year and time of day it will always look different but I loved the soft pastels of the dry and dusty day we were there.
Stokes lookout is accessed by a steep and bumpy dirt track but at the peak there are more surprises apart from the staggering view of the ranges. There are a number of interpretive sign boards that give Adnyamathanha history and cultural information and an awesome 3D map of Ikara –Wilpena Pound and surrounds.
Mount Emily – The Great Wall of China
This is the highest peak in the range so easily spotted on the drive and the reason why it has the name Great Wall of China is also obvious with a rocky ridge running along the entire length of the mountain. The wall is made up of a horizontal bed of limestone and a drive to a lookout area takes you to a closer vantage point to see this amazing natural formation.
Follow the road of around 2 kilometres off the main drive to see these ruins which run alongside a creek lined with huge red gums. On one side of the creek are the homestead ruins of the farming family of Joseph and Sarah Wills which was built in 1856. On the other side of the creek are more ruins of cottages and other substantial buildings, the remains of a copper mining settlement. The stacked stone is quite different looking to other ruins of the area. A wander along the creek banks to look at the ruins is a good way to stretch the legs and you can read about the history of the buildings and people who lived here on sign boards at each of the ruins.
The town of Blinman grew from its copper mine origins back in the 1860s and some of the historic buildings remain today. It feels like driving into the past with the history surrounding you. A couple of pug and pine (native pine and clay mortar) cottages still stand and one, “Williams Cottage’, is a walk through museum with many original photos and household objects of life in that era on display. A real eye opener to wander through and imagine. In Blinman you can take a tour of the old copper mine and stop in at the North Blinman Hotel for a drink and one of their signature pies in this historic 1869 built hotel.
This is just a fraction of what there is to see and do in this part of the Flinders Ranges and for me the most impressive aspect is simply the beautiful landscape. The incredible panoramic views at every turn is something that will have you wowed as you drive through this special part of South Australia. It’s a place to take your time, take every turn off and spend time taking scenic walks, making sure to keep a look out for the wildlife along the way.