1. SEE WILPENA POUND FROM ABOVE
It may look like a crater, but the rim of Wilpena Pound is actually a collection of mountain stumps that eroded over millions of years, giving the pound its bowl-like shape. You can hike through the basin, but a scenic flight is the real bucket-list experience, giving you the best understanding of its distinctive form. See chintaair.com.au
2. STAY AT THE PRAIRIE
The Prairie just might be Australia's finest outback hotel. It's where you will find elegantly-styled guest rooms, the famous "feral" antipasto plate which includes kangaroo, emu and camel, and a patio that is the perfect sunset beer spot. Best of all, it gives you a taste of what life in the little outback town of Parachilna (population seven) is like. See prairiehotel.com.au
Don't miss the feral antipasto plate at the Prairie Hotel. Photo: Supplied
3. SLEEP ON A SHEEP STATION
Rawnsley Park Station, established on the southern face of Wilpena Pound in 1851, is one of the oldest sheep stations in the ranges. A stay in one of its eco-villas will have you stargazing from bed, thanks to glass roof panels, bushwalking at sunrise past mobs of red kangaroos, and experiencing sunset from the top of the Chace Range with a glass of local sparkling in hand. See rawnsleypark.com.au
4. EAT AT THE ORROROO HOTEL
You'll get great pub grub at the Orroroo Hotel, which has graced this charming, gum-tree-lined town since 1876, but what you really come here for are the characters. The Orroroo is a magnet for true-blue Aussies, all of whom who have a story to tell. And if you ask Shane the publican nicely, he'll introduce you to Frank, his cockatiel, who also likes a chat.
5. SEE THE RUINS OF A SHEEP STATION
In the mid 1800s, Kanyaka Station was a thriving cattle and sheep station with 70 families working and living in a homestead, cottages, workshops and sheds. However, the great 1860s drought forced its owners to abandon it, leaving the rose-coloured stone ruins that remain today. Surrounded by soaring ancient gums, they're particularly pretty at sunset. See flindersrangesodysseys.com.au
6. VISIT JEFF MORGAN GALLERY
Inside an unassuming brick building in Hawker you'll find a collection of artworks that are anything but. Jeff Morgan paints panoramic murals of his native Flinders Ranges in epic scale, so a walk through his gallery becomes a virtual hike through the ranges. Don't miss the Wilpena Panorama, the gallery's 30-by-three metre centrepiece, and the vast collection of rocks, minerals and fossils. See jeffmorgangallery.com.au
7. HIKE THE HEYSEN
The longest dedicated walking trail in Australia, the 1200-kilometre Heysen Trail stretches from Cape Jervis to the Parachilna Gorge. You'll wind along beaches and sea cliffs on the south coast, over historic pastoral areas in the Fleurieu Peninsula, and finish with ancient gorges and rugged peaks in the Flinders Ranges. It takes two months to hike the whole thing, but the northern Flinders can be done in six days. See flindersrangesodysseys.com.au
Hike the Heysen from Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges. Photo: Alamy
8. STEP BACK IN TIME
Entering Brachina gorge is like stepping into a time machine. Its rust-coloured sedimentary layers tell the story of the area's 130-million-year history and, if you follow the 20-kilometre sign-posted Geological Trail, you'll learn the area's fascinating geological history. The biggest attraction here, though, could be spotting the vulnerable yellow-footed rock wallaby.
9. VISIT NILPENA STATION
Occupying 800 square kilometres, Nilpena Station is home to stunning sandstone buildings, including the homestead used in the film Rabbit Proof Fence, and a woolshed dating back to the 1870s. Nilpena is owned by the Fargher family (who also own the Prairie Hotel), and it was Ross Fargher who discovered the famous Ediacaran fossil site (see below), believed to be more than half a billion years old, here in the 1980s.
10. TAKE A FOSSIL TOUR
Head into the hills on Nilpena Station with leading paleontologist Dr. Jim Gehling for insight into the 555-million-year-old history of the Flinders Ranges. With his lifetime's worth of knowledge and the help of some silly putty, Gehling will introduce you to fossils of the Ediacara Biota, the oldest known complex animal fossils on the planet. See flindersrangesodysseys.com.au
11. EXPLORE THE SAND DUNES
The Flinders Ranges are the most accessible part of Australia's outback. By driving just 20 minutes from Parachilna you can access the first ribbed red sand dunes of the Simpson Desert. They're fantastic to camp in and are filled with all sorts of treasures, including ancient grindstones, pirri points and other Aboriginal relics.
12. EAT LAMB FIVE WAYS
If you think you know lamb, Rawnsley Park Station's Woolshed Restaurant could make you think again. The tasting platter of local lamb cooked five ways (including cutlets, pie and sausage) can be devoured in the rustic-chic woolshed, decorated with corrugated iron, bare bulbs and wildflowers. Perfection when paired with Clare Valley wines. See rawnsleypark.com.au
13. STOP AT QUORN
Once an important railway junction in the early 1900s, this picturesque country town is filled with historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s. It has been used as a set for films including The Sundowners, Gallipoli and Wolf Creek, which gives you an idea of just how good the Instagram photo opportunities are.
14. RIDE THE PICHI RICHI
The Pichi Richi Railway will see you riding meticulously-restored steam and diesel locomotives, including the century-old Coffee Pot steam train, along the last operating section of the historic Ghan railway line, through ancient rocky outcrops and across spectacular iron bridges. Full or half-day trips depart from Quorn and Port Augusta, March to November. See pichirichirailway.org.au
15. TRY A QUANDONG PIE
Quandongs are a big thing in these parts. They are a type of wild peach and you can't leave the ranges without trying a pie filled with them. The best source of quandong pie is hotly contested, but Blinman General Store and Quorn's Quandong Cafe don't disappoint.
16. CALL IN AT BLINMAN
Blinman is the highest town in South Australia and a former copper-mining town. Its main attraction is an underground mine tour that whisks you back to the mid-1800s. Afterwards, have lunch at the Blinman Hotel and a poke around Williams Cottage, a preserved 1880 home that provides a peek into Blinman life back in its active mining days. See blinman.org.au
17. HIKE TO ARKAROO ROCK
A bushwalk is the perfect way to enter this Aboriginal art site, which was a significant cultural site for the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges. You'll find the incredible ochre and charcoal work depicting the creation of Wilpena Pound inside a sculptural rock formation. The hike in takes about half an hour. See walkingsa.org.au
18. SEE STARS AT ARKAROOLA
Arkaroola, a privately-owned 610-square-kilometre wilderness sanctuary in the northern Flinders, is fantastic for hiking and four-wheel-driving past granite peaks, deep gorges and waterholes. But the best way to experience Arkaroola is to set up in the campground and enjoy the stars. There are three observatories on the property, since the lack of light pollution makes it perfect for night-sky viewing. See arkaroola.com.au
19. STOP IN BURRA
Another charming ex-mining town you'll pass en route to Wilpena Pound, Burra's main street is lined with antique shops and cafes, including the infamous Burra Bakery. The main attraction for many, though, lies just outside town: the ruins of Burra Homestead, made famous after appearing on the cover of Midnight Oil's 1987 Diesel and Dust album. See visitburra.com
20. EXPERIENCE ARKABA
Arkaba has been transformed by Wild Bush Luxury from former sheep station to one of Australia's most luxurious stays. Think hiking, open-top Jeep tours, glasses of wine by the open fire, excellent food and, perhaps best of all, sharing 24,000 hectares with a maximum of nine other guests. See arkabaconservancy.com
Nina Karnikowski travelled as a guest of Flinders Ranges Odysseys and the South Australia Tourism Commission.