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Published February 27th 2020
With views and accommodation like these, why wouldn't you ?
In today's busy connected world, the dream of an escape and getting off-grid is becoming more and more of a challenge. But now, thanks to the generosity of 30 pastoral stations (and growing each year) in South Australia's north collectively known as Station Stays SA, this dream can now become a reality.
With pastoral lands no longer providing sufficient returns to landholders, the opportunity to branch into tourism saw the creation of a whole new market comprising accommodation and adventure for groups, families, couples or even the solo travellers looking for somewhere unique. Stations from Peterborough to Beltana to Glendambo and the Gawler Ranges are now all getting involved.
Pioneered by the Rasheed family at Wilpena Pound (Ikara) in the immediate post-war period and quickly followed by the Smith family at Rawnsley Park with a single cabin and some sheep shearing demonstrations as a sideline to grazing, tourism has now become a significant industry in its own right. Both these stations continue to offer adventures in and around Wilpena Pound (Ikara) with a recipe that has now been replicated by many other stations throughout the state.
Accommodation options vary at each of the stations, with Flinders Bush Retreats just outside of Hawker winning multiple awards for theirs. Whether your desire is for some creature comforts in the newly built Quarters Guest Lodge, or maybe a little luxury in the renovated 100-year-old Mt Scott Homestead, or glamping in the secluded eco tent, or perhaps some private bush camping in the Willow Waters Gorge, there is something for everyone. Meanwhile, a bit further north near Blinman, Sally and David at the superb Alpana Station offer their Shearers Quarters for a comfortable group stay, or bush camping for those looking to appreciate the outdoors. Or for those prepared to tackle the 32 dry creekbed crossings, the pine and pug hut known as Nungawurtina is ideal for those that want a roof over their head but are desirous of getting off-grid.
Further west and Edeowie Station provides a rare opportunity for a spectacular outback sunset and a hike through the western most entry to Wilpena Pound past the rarely running waterfalls that form Edeowie Creek and Edeowie Gorge. Dramatic sunsets are also in vogue if your stay is at Catninga Station where Heather and Brian offer their balcony for uninterrupted views, a particularly pleasing end to a day that may have been spent meandering through the local gorges to the dizzy heights of Mt Brown.
But if closer to Adelaide is your liking, then the Horseshoe Range near Carrieton provides an opportunity to stay in a mini Wilpena Pound, with accommodation available at the two stations that traverse the area, Horseshoe Rim and Horsehoe Top End. A quiet glass of wine with some select cheese has plenty of appeal while watching the sun set from either of these properties, with the lookout at the northern end providing stunning views across the Willochra Plain.
However, if four-wheel driving is your chosen delicacy, then there is no need to look any further than Bendleby Ranges. Another regular winner of tourism awards, Bendleby sees many opportunities for drivers of all levels of experience to hone their skills on numerous purpose-built station and 4wd tracks across both the Bendleby and Hungry Ranges.
Most of the stations are fortunate to have creeks running through their properties, but not all of them are fortunate to retain water. While never enough water to warrant fishing rods, stations like Almerta create memories alongside billabongs where the kangaroos, wallabies, emus and birds often venture for a drink and a chance to pose for the camera.
And if you are looking for more things to do while staying at your Outback Station, then why not try walking some of South Australia's iconic Heysen Trail, or perhaps ride the Mawson Trail or Bike the Flinders, jump on the Pichi Richi Explorer, drive some of the striking gorges and valleys, or perhaps further afield to the outback routes such as the Oodnadatta, Strzelecki and Birdsville Tracks or take a scenic flight over Wilpena Pound (Ikara) or Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda).
Each of the stations that form part of Station Stays SA are owned by local families, some being 5th and 6th generation descendants of pioneers from long ago. And each of these stations are offering their properties and the opportunities within, all for the payment of a small and reasonable fee. Most of the properties are open during the cooler months from March to October with minor closures of 1-2 weeks during shearing season, with all offering a combination of fixed accommodation or allowing for bush camping. Camp fires are allowed during seasons, with most stations providing local firewood. Further details are available from the Station Stays SA website or their Facebook page. And with a chance to get off-grid and do as much or as little as you like, what are you waiting for?