PREPARE FOR AN EPIC AUSTRALIAN ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE HEART OF THE OUTBACK ON THE EXPLORER'S WAY.
The breathtaking scenery of the outback is beautifully entwined with the history of South Australia along the Explorer's Way. The 3000 kilometre journey from Adelaide to Darwin takes you through the Clare Valley, one of South Australia’s famous wine regions, before making its way to the spectacular Flinders Ranges and into the outback. The vast untouched wilderness, far-reaching skies and wide-open road stretching out in front of you is unlike any other place in the world. Download Explorers Way road trip map with suggested stops and read on for the Explorer's Way highlights.
1. Clare Valley
Less than two hours from Adelaide, the Explorer’s Way road trip begins where vineyards roll into the edges of the outback. Here, a legendary glass of Riesling awaits to toast the start of your adventure. You'll find more than 50 cellar doors dotted throughout the Clare Valley, with most sitting between the towns of Auburn and Clare. The Clare Valley’s signature wine, Riesling, is among the world’s best, and the region is home to some of the oldest wineries and cellar doors in the state. Holding the title for the oldest winery in the region, Sevenhill Cellars was established in 1851 by Jesuits priests. Stop here to drink in the history, and a glass or two, before embarking on your own wine tour through some of Clare’s best wineries including Pikes Wines, Shut the Gate Wines, Skillogalee, Kilikanoon Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Co. Stay a night or two nestled amongst nature at Trestrail Cottage to make the most of your time, and the wine.
2. Burra, Clare Valley
Afterwards, grab a coffee from the Watervale General Store then hit the road driving 30 minutes to Burra. On the way, stop at Martindale Hall: one of the prettiest country mansions in Australia, presenting as a miniature version of Britain’s Chatsworth House. Arriving in Burra, spend the morning exploring this historic mining town nestled between the lush vines of Clare Valley and the red dirt of the Outback. Once a thriving copper mining hub, this unique town now draws visitors for its rich heritage. Grab a Burra Heritage Passport and explore the town’s mining history; visit underground dugouts, long abandoned mine sites and the old police lock up before checking out the Burra Regional Art Gallery. If you’ve got time, stick around for the night; just outside of town at Red Banks Conservation Park, you’ll find some of the clearest and darkest skies in the state creating the perfect conditions for stargazing.
3. Alligator Gorge, Flinders Ranges
Next, set your coordinates for the Flinders Ranges and arrive at one of South Australia’s most unique national parks. Just beyond the southern reaches of the Flinders Ranges, explore an ancient landscape home to Alligator Gorge. Unearth another world carved into the awe-inspiring rocks of the outback over millions of years and discover the Terraces, a long series of small cascading waterfalls or a two or four hour hike. And no, there’s no alligators here, although you might just stumble across some of the friendly locals with kangaroos, emus, echidna, wallabies and goanna just some of the wildlife that call the area home. The park is also home to more than 117 bird species making it a haven for bird watching. There’s plenty of walking trails to suit all fitness levels, picnic areas and campgrounds, so if time permits pitch your tent and explore for a day or two.
4. Wilpena Pound and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, Flinders Ranges
Journey deeper into the Flinders Ranges to perhaps South Australia’s most iconic national park, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Quintessential road trip and camping country, the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is a remote wilderness with towering clifftops, deep craters, jaw-dropping mountain ranges and dusty, red roads. Pitch your tent and fall asleep under a blanket of stars before rising at dawn to traverse the ancient peeks of 800-million-year-old Wilpena Pound or jump on a scenic flight to appreciate its magnitude and beauty. The Flinders Ranges and Outback are of immense cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people who have lived in the Flinders Ranges for tens of thousands of years, and an Aboriginal cultural walk leaving from Wilpena Pound Resort is one of the best ways to learn about this important history. Other highlights include Rawnsley Bluff, Razorback Lookout in Bunyeroo Gorge and Stokes Hill Lookout.
5. Arkaba Walk, Flinders Ranges
Exploring the Flinders Ranges by foot is one of the best ways to experience the rugged beauty of this ancient landscape. Dust off your hiking boots and hit the track on a three-day walking tour through some of Australia’s most breathtaking bushland. Traversing Wilpena Pound and 60,000 acres of private wildlife conservancy, the Arkaba Walk takes in some of the most spectacular scenery from rugged mountain ranges to dramatic gorges. Learn about the ancient Aboriginal culture of the area and the unique geology, flora and fauna of the outback. Fall asleep under the stars in your cosy swag camp and wake up to jaw-dropping views. Kick back in luxury on the final night at the beautifully restored Arkaba homestead.
6. Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges
Pull up the car at Rawnsley Park Station and kick back for a few nights in a luxurious Eco Villa tucked in pristine bushland in the shadows of Wilpena Pound. With incredible views of the surrounding ranges, each fully self-contained villa boasts a spacious living and dining area, bedrooms with over-bed skylights and a well-equipped kitchen. Pop a glass of bubbly and watch the blazing outback sun set from your own private verandah.
7. Prairie Hotel, Outback
Ever eaten emu egg omelette? How about kangaroo tail soup or camel sirloin? After working-up an appetite in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, hit the road for an hour before arriving at the Prairie Hotel: a quintessential outback pub with a few surprises up its sleeve. Listed as one of the top 100 gourmet experiences in Australia, the Praire Hotel’s Feral Menu gives you a slightly bizarre, yet totally exclusive chance to chow into some seriously left-of-centre dishes only found in the depths of the outback.
8. Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Flinders Ranges and Outback
Drive deeper into the wilds of the Flinders Ranges and arrive at your next destination, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Pull up the car and pitch your tent, you’ll want to spend a few days exploring this fully accredited ecotourism hot spot known for its wild landscapes and prime stargazing opportunities. Famed as having some of the Southern Hemisphere’s clearest skies and home to one of Australia’s largest privately-owned astronomical observatories, Arkaroola has front row seats to the most spectacular lightshow on earth. With camping and caravan facilities plus rooms available, spend a weekend with the stars and during daylight hours, explore the 63,000 hectares of rugged Australian bush abound with wildlife and adventure.
9. Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre, Outback
Continue on the Explorer's Way to the largest inland salt lake in Australia. Stretching a mind-boggling 144 kilometres by 77 kilometres, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is a natural wonder. Its seemingly endless expanse of shimmering salt crystals lure travellers year-round, but the real magic happens when, on the rare occasion, the lake is filled by flood waters. From across Australia’s four states and territories a network of channels, streams and floodplains converge in Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park, bringing with them an abundance of wildlife, stunning natural beauty and dreamlike pink and orange hues. Experience the beauty of Lake Eyre – be it wet or dry – on a guided tour or scenic with Chinta Air Tours. Take off from a red earth runway, soar higher than flocks of native birds and take-in views of endless, still water and gleaming salt crystals.
10. Anna Creek Painted Hills, Outback
And from one natural wonder to the next… Hidden in the South Australian Outback lies one of nature’s greatest and oldest masterpieces. The vast, magical landscape of Anna Creek Painted Hills is a spectacular outcrop of otherworldly deep orange mountains that emerge from the flat desert landscape. Carved out in the red earth of the Outback, it’s hard to believe this 80-million-year-old beauty is actually an extinct inland sea. Only accessible by air, jump aboard a Wrightsair tour from Coober Pedy, William Creek or Arkaroola and you'll not only see this ancient landscape from the air, you’ll also get to land among it and explore on the ground.
11. Coober Pedy, Outback
Some 800 kilometres and a few playlists later, you’ll be cruising the final South Australian stretch of the Explorer’s Way road trip. Welcome to Coober Pedy, where you can sleep deeply (underground) after your epic road trip. The backdrop to many movies, the underground mining town is famous for its sun-baked lunar landscape, fascinating history and quirky lifestyle. Descend beneath the ground and discover a labyrinth of underground houses, hotels and even shops. Other must-dos while in town include visiting Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest, Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Coober Pedy, then head to bed 25 metres below the earth’s surface. From modern dugouts, to hotels tucked inside hills and campsites burrowed into the red dirt of the Outback, unearth the best places to unwind underground while visiting this quirky Outback town with our guide to Coober Pedy’s best accommodation.
Best outback experiences
Vast, red desert landscapes, jaw-dropping natural wonders, character-packed towns and quirky once-in-a-lifetime experiences. There’s so much to explore in South Australia’s outback. Continue your outback exploration with our guide to the best experiences and tours in the Outback.
Plan ahead before you set off with our outback driving safety tips.