A remote, ancient wilderness defined by vast desert landscapes and towering mountain ranges, wonders never cease in the Flinders Ranges and Outback.
Navigate dusty, red roads to unearth deep craters and spectacular gorges, plunge into a real-life oasis in the depths of the outback and marvel at some of the oldest worldly wonders that beg exploration. Unearth the most awe-inspiring spots in the Flinders Ranges and Outback with our natural wonders bucket list.
1. Arkaroola, Flinders Ranges
Tucked in the farthest reaches of the Flinders Ranges, the ancient landscapes of Arkaroola are one of South Australia’s best kept secret wonders. Travel through time traversing spectacular craggy peaks, where granite mountains and golden Spinifex-covered hillsides give way to breathtaking views across the Freeling Heights, Lake Frome and the desert beyond. Arkaroola is brimming with wildlife; spot the once endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, kangaroos and echidnas. From the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, set up camp, reach new heights on a ridgetop tour or take to the skies on a scenic flight. Start planning and read more about a local legend who calls this spectacular spot home with Stories of the South.
2. Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges
It's crater-like in appearance, but the elliptical-shaped natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound didn't form in a meteorite strike. These ancient ramparts are Australia's most iconic ring of mountains, encapsulating an area that's eight times larger than Uluru and 700 million years older than the Grand Canyon. Climb to the peak of the highest mountain, St Mary’s Peak, and revel in the expansive views over the Flinders Ranges. There's plenty to see on the gently sloping basin of the formation too, including mallee trees and acacias, dingos, wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and around 60 different lizard species. If you look closely at the rock faces, you might even spy ancient Aboriginal rock paintings. Wilpena Pound, known as Ikara (meaning 'meeting place') to the Adnyamathanha people, is a culturally significant site.
3. Bunyeroo Valley Road, Flinders Ranges
Driving through the Flinders Ranges is about the closest any human can come to navigating the face of Mars. Deep red ravines, towering cliffs and seemingly-endless roads stretch across kilometres of ancient earth. One of the best places to see the Flinders in all its glory is along Bunyeroo Valley Road – a stunning 600-million-year-old stretch of land that was one, believe it or not, on the bottom of the ocean. It’s arguably the best place in the Flinders Ranges to watch the sun rise above deep red ravines and towering cliffs.
4. Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park, Outback
Experience the rugged beauty of the outback at Kanku-Breakaways. Here, the sun drenches the land in a wondrous blanket of orange, red and yellow making for a spectacular lightshow come sunrise and sunset. Less than half an hour’s drive from Coober Pedy, the striking sandstone tablelands are also home to a unique array of native flora and fauna. Jump on a guided tour with Noble Tours or Arid Areas Tours or explore this ancient landscape yourself.
5. Anna Creek Painted Hills, Outback
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 more than 500 kilometres from the coast, 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.
6. Painted Desert, Outback
Another nature-made art gallery lies about two hours further into the outback at the aptly named Painted Desert. A kaleidoscope of colour splashed across rugged geological formations, here the outcrops vary in colour from ochre yellow, oxide red, and deep, rich brown to crisp whites and jet blacks. You’ll find this natural wonder about 50 kilometres south west of the iconic outback town of Oodnadatta. Take to the sky with Wrights Air to truly appreciate its beauty and scale.
7. Dalhousie Springs, Outback
In the midst of the sun-baked outback lies a watery reprieve for dust-slicked travellers. On the edge of the Simpson Desert, the Dalhousie Springs are a network of more than 60 springs fed from the artesian basin. The main spring offers the best swimming opportunities, sitting at about 38 degrees year-round. Spanning an area of more than 50,000 hectares, the National Heritage-listed natural wonder has been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years as a source of food, shelter and medicine, and is also home to rare aquatic life found nowhere else in the world. Tucked in Witjira National Park near the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory, the springs are the perfect spot to refresh on the final South Australian stretch of the Explorer's Way road trip and are conveniently home to a popular campground.
8. Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, Outback
Stretching a mind-boggling 144 kilometres by 77 kilometres, outback South Australia’s 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 flight with Chinta Air Tours, Arkaroola or Wrights Air. 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.
9. Alligator Gorge, Flinders Ranges
With rugged mountain ranges, dramatic gorges, steep valleys and towering red cliffs, you could be forgiven for thinking the ancient landscapes of Mount Remarkable National Park were straight out of a postcard from Arizona. Home to Alligator Gorge, unearth another world carved into the ancient rocks of the outback over millions of years and discover the Terraces, a long series of small cascading waterfalls. 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.
10. Coober Pedy, Outback
Journey to South Australia’s desert underground mining settlement of Coober Pedy – Australia’s opal capital. The backdrop to many movies, Coober Pedy is famous for its sun-baked lunar landscape, gleaming opals, fascinating history and quirky lifestyle. Curiously-inclined travellers can descend beneath the ground and discover a labyrinth of underground houses and even shops and sleep deeply underground in a dug-out hotel. Spend a peaceful morning in underground churches, fossick for your own opals or take a tour to one of the many surrounding natural wonders. Here's the best things to do in Coober Pedy.