Will is an Adelaide-based freelance writer, self-proclaimed outdoorsman, Dad and fun scout who sees his hometown as a frontier to be explored and discovered.
Published November 25th 2019
A weekend of adventure awaits at Melrose
Sitting at the Southern tip of the Flinders Ranges is a mecca for Adelaide's weekend micro-adventurists. Just 2 to 3 hours drive from the city and parked right on the doorstep of Mt Remarkable National Park, Melrose provides the perfect weekend basecamp and offers a smorgasbord of outdoor action options for hikers, trail runners, mountain bike riders and campers alike.
If tearing up some sweet trail on the deadly treadly is your thing, then the Mt Remarkable Trails Complex, straddling the foot of the mountain is the place to be. The purpose-built trails cater for riders of all experience levels, from beginner right through to advanced. You'll find the trails to be impeccably maintained with trail classification levels and trail names signposted along the way.
The trail names themselves offer somewhat of an insight into the hairiness levels to be expected. With names like Blazing Saddles and Dodging Bullets, some of the advanced trail classifications speak for themselves and provide a fair warning for when you may need to strap yourself in.
All the trails are accessible and well within reach from town, so there's no need for packing the car every time you want to head out.
When getting into town, be sure to make Over The Edge (OTE) Sports cycling store your first port of call for everything you need, including detailed trail maps and any additional equipment missing from your arsenal. There's also the option to hire a bike and protective equipment if you're down a bike or would rather smooth the ride with a soft tail option.
The guys and girls at OTE are intimately familiar with the trail networks and are always happy to answer any questions and offer any insights. They also offer guided riding packages for those that would prefer to be shown around. The OTE website provides some more info on the trail options, including difficulty levels.
Hiking / trail running
For the trail plodders and mountain goats, the discovery options are almost as plentiful as the region's wildflowers in Spring. Here are a few suggestions amongst the many trekking selections.
Mt Remarkable Summit Loop. Driving into Melrose and looking up to the Mt Remarkable peaks above, the iconic summit trail is certainly the first hiking challenge that comes to mind. With a newly developed additional trail, the hike now allows for a loop route as opposed to having to backtrack on the same trail. Starting from the main street through Melrose, the loop route covers 13.8km and is graded as moderate. More information on the hike can be found at the Walking SA website, including maps and downloadable GPS data.
Hidden Gorge Loop Trail. This a beautiful 18km walk that takes you along the Mambray Creek line and up through the spectacular narrow passages of Hidden Gorge. Along the way, you'll meander through native pine forest, amongst the gums and past permanent waterholes.
Up and out of the gorge, you'll head along the ridgelines of The Battery which offers wide-spanning views of Spencer Gulf, before following a single track back down to the start-point at Mambray Creek Day Visitor Carpark / Campground.
The trail is well signposted, but there is the occasional rock hopping and scrambling at times, so some baseline fitness and experience is recommended here. A map and other trail information can be found at the Walking SA page.
Alligator Gorge Ring Route Hike. This 8.9km circuit is an iconic hike that takes you along the full length of Alligator Gorge, also taking in the Narrows and the Terraces. The Terraces is a series of tiered rock platforms formed by millions of years of running water cutting through the hard quartzite of the gorge. Stretching for hundreds of meters with some sections only a couple of meters wide, the Narrows offers a spectacular experience of walking through an ancient hallway with sheer, red rock walls either side. A map and other trail information can be found at the Walking SA page.
Staying in Melrose parks you right at the gate of Mt Remarkable NP's trails. There are numerous accommodation options in town, with Wozza's Old Bank House BNB being one of the most talked about. Creatively converted from an old bank dating back to 1881 as the name suggests, this spot offers a unique and charming experience, with each guest room sporting a different Aussie bank theme. Wozza, the bloke that runs the joint, will make you feel right at home from the word go. There's also the Melrose Caravan and Tourist Park which offers a range of accommodation options.
For those that prefer going a little rougher in the tent, or finding the glamping middle ground with some camembert and wine, Mt Remarkable NP has a large range of offerings. The Mambray Creek campground at the Hidden Gorge trailhead has a bunch of sites nestled amongst the creek line river red gums. It caters for tents, camper vans/trailers and caravans, with some decent creature comforts including hot showers, a baby change room, wheelchair-accessible toilets and communal fireplaces.
There are several cool walk-in camping spots too, including Hidden Camp. This spot is a beautiful, peaceful little site just off the Hidden Gorge Loop Trail. There are no amenities here, so walk in with what you need. Entrance to the site off of the trail is signposted.