JOHN ROZENTALS recommends five things to do in South Australia's Flinders Ranges, as well as stay at Wilpena Pound Resort and experience the 'Gorgeous Gorges' tour he recently raved about.
1. Take a 'Sunset Spectacular' tour to Stokes Hill Lookout
The chance to take this tour on my last visit to the Flinders Ranges was spoilt by the incredibly blowy weather but apparently it's well worth doing, especially on a still, clear day when the sun gets a chance to really do its thing.
The lookout is located about 20km north along the Hawker-Blinman Road and offers spectacular vistas of Wilpena Pound and other geographic features.
Wilpena Pound Resort regularly does late-afternoon 4WD tours there and combines the sunset with a cheese platter and some fine South Australian wine.
The cost for the two-hour experience is $58 per adult ($32 per child aged 12 and under). Book through the resort's Visitor Information Centre (phone 08 8648 0004 or visit www.wilpenapound.com.au).
2. Have a truly delicious "Flinders Feral Food" at Parachilna's Prairie Hotel
I stayed there for a couple of nights a few years ago and was royally looked after by Ross and Jane Fargher who bought the place in 1991 and are still firmly ensconced.
I tried several dishes, including an outstanding "Feral Mixed Grill". The hotel offers comfortable accommodation and the golden opportunity to feast on Australia's coat-of-arms - the kangaroo and emu.
I arrived about 11am and the place was nearly deserted. Suddenly, helicopters filled the sky and car-parking was at a premium as the place filled up for lunch. I guess it's like that when you're just about the only outpost before the desert.
Phone 1800 331 473 or visit www.prairiehotel.com.au.
3. Take a drive to Blinman
Blinman proudly declares itself as 'South Australia's highest town', gawk at the old buildings and enjoy a guided tour of the historic copper mine that dates to the 1860s.
Blinman itself is a charming, somewhat isolated, village about 485km north of Adelaide on the fringe of the desert.
Phone 08 8648 4782 or visit www.heritageblinmanmine.com.au.
In the cooler months the town is the starting point for camel safaris, of three-to-21-days duration, into the northern Flinders Ranges.
4. Visit Old Wilpena Station
A key component of the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park and just a short drive of a couple of minutes (or a healthy walk) from all the action of Wilpena Resort.
It was a working station for 135 years and only ceased being so in the mid-1980s. It's also the true setting of Ikara, the Aboriginal "meeting place" that gives its name to both the resort's Ikara Safari Camp and, in part, to the National Park.
The site contains plenty of relics of its working days and is well worth exploration.
According to the resort's website (www.wilpenapound.com.au): "Wilpena Pound and the Wilpena Station lands hold enduring cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people of the Ikara Flinders Ranges. The self-guided walk 'Living with the Land' explores the themes of self-sufficiency, improvisation and survival on the remote and isolated pastoral settlements of the Flinders Ranges. Entry passes are available at the visitor centre and includes the Old Wilpena Station Souvenir Guide."
Also located on the site is an important art space that tells the story of the local Adnyamathanha people.
5. Take a scenic flight over Wilpena Pound
Wilpena Air operates from a base at the resort. It's the quickest way - and, let's face it, for many of us the only way - to fully appreciate the area's real beauty and significance for the Adnyamathanha people.
Like the sunset tour, my chances to take to the skies from Wilpena this time were blown away by the weather, so I had to dredge the memory banks of a previous visit, when we were quite able to take off.
Even the shortest of flights (20 minutes and costing $169 for adults and $129 for children aged 12 years and under) takes in the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Lake Torrens, the Heysen Range and St Mary Peak, as well as Wilpena Pound itself.
Visit www.wrightsair.com.au or book though the resort.
- Disclosure: John Rozentals was a guest of Wilpena Pound Resort.