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Published October 16th 2012
Arkaroola in the Flinders ranges
The Arkaroola resort and wilderness sanctuary is located 600 km north of Adelaide in the spectacular northern Flinders Ranges. The rugged mountains, towering granite peaks, imposing gorges and cool waterholes of the area are home to over 160 species of birds and the endangered Yellow-footed Rock wallaby.
As the trek from Adelaide was quite a distance, we decided to break up the journey and stay overnight at Orroroo, some 262kms north of Adelaide. From there we travelled the remaining 340kms up through Hawker, Parachilna and Leigh Creek out to Copley, all on sealed roads. The travel time from Copley to Arkaroola is longer than anticipated as the 130km stretch is on an unsealed road, however it is in good condition and definitely OK for 2WD vehicles.
Entering the northern Flinders Ranges one is immediately struck by the ruggedness and spectacular beauty of the place. Huge open terrain framed by red granite mountains and golden spinifex covered hills both inspire and relax me at the same time.
Arkaroola has plenty of accommodation options including motel units, cottages, cabins, caravan park with 50 powered sites, and the Wywhyana bush camping area. The rugged camping area follows the line of a creek bed and although the access track is bumpy, allows 2WD access when dry. In the drier months it can get quite dusty, but it really feels like bush camping in the middle of nowhere. Toilets are provided and showers are available in the nearby caravan park. The Native Pine restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; it has pretty standard but hearty Australian fare, and has weekly carvery and BBQ nights. There is also a shop, service station, bar, laundry, swimming pool and internet café to satisfy visitors' needs.
The Arkaroola resort and wilderness sanctuary has a number of well-organized tours to choose from, including the Ridgetop tour, Astronomy tour, Scenic flights, 4WD tours, 'Bats and bubbly', Waterholes tour or walking tours. Or you can explore one of the many bushwalking tracks available.
We opted for the 4.5hr $120 p/p 'Ridgetop' tour departing twice daily. This tour is very popular and well known, and I can see why. You sit in the back of a 4WD which holds around eight people under a canopy along two bench seats. The tour is exciting and informative; the guides know the flora, fauna and geology of the area well. Our guide didn't hesitate to stop, get out and pick up a frill-necked lizard and bring back to the truck for everyone to get a good look at. The 4WD tour was both rough, rugged and spectacular. The drivers seem to navigate the steep slopes and unforgiving terrain with ease. Highlight of the tour is the hair-raising ascent up a steep sided narrow track with which takes you to the top of the ridge called Sillers lookout. This offers a breathtaking 360 degree panorama of the Freeling Heights, Lake Frome and the desert beyond.
The steep track up to Sillers lookout. Image taken by writer.
One of the spectacular things about Arkaroola is that the night-time stars are brilliant due to the lack of light pollution. Not surprisingly, astronomy is very popular here; to that end two 14 inch telescopes have been built. Our first night we decided on the 1.5 hr $40 p/p Astronomy tour; the guide was very knowledgeable, but be warned places are limited due to the size of the observatory. I had never seen stars or planets up that close before, and the experience was one to remember.
Altogether this was an unforgettable encounter with the timeless terrain and unique natural beauty of the Arkaroola area. Arkaroola provided me with the time, space and place to reflect upon just how insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things….