From coastal plains and native bushland to the dusty outback, native pine forests, vineyards, and farmland, the 1200km long Heysen Trail covers off just about every iconic Australian landscape there is.
It's Australia's longest dedicated walking trail, beginning at Fleurieu Peninsula's Cape Jervis and winding right the way through to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. Though epic in length, the Heysen Trail isn't solely for the serious hiker; there are plenty of less intense short walks for the casual hiker too. Whether you're on the trail for a few days or just a few hours, these are three of the must-see natural wonders along the way.
Deep Creek Conservation Park, Fleurieu Peninsula
Just an hour and a half drive from Adelaide, Deep Creek Conservation Park on the Fleurieu Peninsula is one of the most accessible (and most beautiful) stops on the Heysen Trail. The landscapes of the park vary dramatically, from rolling coastal hills and sparkling secluded coves to tranquil rocky waterfalls and bushland thick with stringybarks. Flora and fauna are abundant, with no less than 400 different plants and 100 bird species calling the park home. Keep an eye out at ground level for short-beak echidnas and red and grey kangaroos. On the coast, don't forget to cast your eye out to sea to catch a glimpse of dolphins and breaching whales on their migratory journey. One of the most immersive ways to experience this section of the Heysen Trail is with the knowledge of a local on the guided Southern Ocean Walk.
Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges
It's crater-like in appearance, but the elliptical-shaped natural amphitheatre at Wilpena Pound didn't form in a meteorite strike. Wilpena Pound is 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 out 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.
Alligator Gorge, Flinders Ranges
Alligator Gorge is a hidden gem on the Heysen Trail. The narrow and breathtakingly beautiful gorge is in the scenic Mount Remarkable National Park in the southern Flinders Ranges, a three and a half hour drive from Adelaide. The gorge trail follows along the path of a small creek that, over millions of years, has cut deeply into the sedimentary rock. Marvel at the different shades of red in the cliff faces as you wander the length of the gorge, before enjoying a picnic at the designated picnic area. Depending on the time of year, the creek may be bubbling along the bottom of the gorge which creates an even more magical atmosphere.
Cleland Conservation Park, Adelaide Hills
You don't have to venture far from Adelaide to experience the natural wonders of the Heysen Trail. Just 20-minutes from the CBD, Cleland Conservation Park marks the start of the Adelaide Hills and offers adventurers some great wildlife spotting, panoramic city views, and exceptional hikes. Follow the trail from Mylor to Cleland, or Cleland to Montacute and discover the lush bushland, gurgling creeks, and serene waterfalls of the park. Along the way, expect to see the odd kangaroo, some birdlife, and even koalas. Weekend walk sorted!