It’s no secret South Australia overflows with stunning destinations, and the Flinders Ranges in the state’s north would certainly be in this class. While there are many ways visitors can experience the region’s offerings, we’d say it’s hard to go past one of the many local pastoral stations that open their doors to visitors.
Station Stays SA is a collaboration of nearly 30 outback, Flinders and Gawler ranges stations, and they’ve all opened their doors to tourism alongside their pastoral interests. So there are lots of places and experiences to choose from. Station offerings do vary, but generally include an array of experiences.
Accommodation can be anything from million-star bush camping through to luxury glamping, and there’s activities like 4WD tracks, stargazing, walking and cycling trails, plus more. But when spectacular natural attractions, bird and wildlife, tasty food options plus plenty of pastoral and railway history get thrown into the mix, you could easily say station stays have a bit of everything.
For us RV folk, they’re well suited to those travelling with a caravan, motorhome, camper trailer, or just the family vehicle. What more could you ask for?
Choosing to visit three stations in the central Flinders Ranges for our recent trip, they were all located along the Outback Highway (B83) less than 60km from the quaint town of Hawker. And the three had something in common as well, as they’re all located to the west of the stunning Elder Range. For that reason alone, we knew we were in for a treat. Once hitting the road after leaving Hawker, we arrived at our first station stay in under 20 minutes.
MOUNT LITTLE STATION
Visitors to Mount Little Station get to share in a whopping 24,000 hectares of spectacular landscape with 2500 merino sheep and a few cattle. Multiple secluded campsites give visitors that bush-camp experience, with all sites well-spaced. Plenty of these delightful campsites line the magnificent gum-studded Hookina Creek. Other camps have those postcard views of the Elder Range as a backdrop. And there’s no problem if you’re travelling with others, as all campsites are large enough to accommodate groups.
Firepits are located at each site as well, so BYO firewood or purchase some directly from the station. As far as amenities go, you’re well covered here. Solar showers, toilets, and a well set-up camp kitchen for everyone to use are centrally located by the campsites. Other accommodation options includes a large homestead and cabins that take in those postcard range views as well.
Attractions galore await those seeking nature-based experiences, while the station oozes pastoral and Ghan railway history too. Mayo Gorge is one station highlight that’s within easy walking distance of its car park. Then there’s SA icons, the Heysen and Mawson trails, which both run through the station. You’re probably getting the picture by now there’s lots to keep you active (if you choose to be). And remember to bring a bike!
The self-drive trails will have you exploring the property’s pastoral history that dates as far back as the 1880s. A dozen or so ruins are scattered around the station that include old houses, wool sheds, numerous farming relics, and a cemetery. Besides these, there’s many reminders about the old Ghan railway that dates back to the 1800s as well.
Other ruins include the old Hookina township site that’s next to Hookina Creek. This location was a resting point for bullock wagons carrying food and building materials north, and for taking wool south to Port Augusta. Later, it was used as a siding of the railway until massive floods washed the railway bridge away in 1955.
And to top off your stay at Mount Little Station, let’s just say you can’t go past their wood-fire pizza nights. Imagine sitting around a campfire with some great food, great company, and simply taking in those spectacular Elder Range views. Life doesn’t get much better!
MERNA MORA STATION
Our next visit along the Outback Highway was to the very picturesque Merna Mora Station. It’s a mere 15 minutes up the road from Mount Little Station (and 46km from Hawker). It is owned by the iconic Flinders Ranges family the Fels since 1889. With six generations of the same family having now been at Merna Mora, we knew we’d be in good hands.
As we soon found out, the beauty of the environment is just one very good reason to visit Merna Mora station. And if you’re like us, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world by driving their popular Bunbinyunna and Wowee 4WD tracks. While both tracks provide many opportunities for taking in stunning panoramic views of the Moralana valley and further west to Lake Torrens, the Bunbinyunna experience gets you to one of the highest vehicle vantage points in the Flinders Ranges. This track is a real ripper!
The area around Merna Mora Station overflows with history. A good way to learn more about it is on the station’s heritage driving trail. The track passes unique Flinders Ranges attractions like old lime kilns used to build the Ghan railway, plus there’s other railway ruins to be found, incredible fossil beds, and many other sites and artefacts to explore.
This was another trail we really enjoyed spending a few hours visiting. Each of the station’s 4WD tracks come with easy-to-follow detailed notes and maps to help maximise the experience.
Back at the station, there was no shortage of accommodation options. Shady bush camps line the area along Moralana Creek, with station amenities consisting of nearby showers and toilets. You can even have campfires here. Besides the bush camping, there are some powered sites close to the homestead if you need it, and a camp kitchen located close by. Other overnight options include one and two-bedroom self-contained units that have all the mod-cons and the station is well set-up for groups. Whether you’re a photographer, painter, 4WDer, history lover, or simply a lover of nature, we found Merna Mora Station ticks all these boxes, plus more.
As we continued our trip up the Outback Highway, the historical Edeowie Station was just a short distance away. The views driving into the station are simply breathtaking. It’s nestled nice and close at the foot of the Elder Range. Located 56km from Hawker, Edeowie is one of the oldest pastoral stations in the Flinders Ranges. Natural attractions include the spectacular Edeowie, Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges, all within cooee of the homestead. 4WD tracks get you to all these gorges plus other places of interest, such as Kanalla, Glenora and Malloga falls. All falls will often have water after rain, or pools at their base at the very least. So there are lots of opportunities for exploring, bushwalking and hiking for all levels of fitness.
Driving the Bunyeroo 4WD loop was a highlight. The track provided a generous mix of nature and history. Starting and finishing by the homestead, the loop runs for 23km around the station, taking in the cemetery and old township ruins, including a hotel that operated between 1863 and 1886. Further along the loop, we passed through saltbush paddocks towards the stunning ranges, and got to drive through a tight cutting along a creek bed. The station’s eastern fenceline also borders the Flinders Ranges National Park, and a gate between the two allowed us to stretch our legs and explore the gorge.
Back in the vehicle, the loop continued parallel to the river gum-lined Bunyeroo Creek for some kilometres before reaching the ruins at Brachina. The track finally passed through a couple of gates as the track headed back to the homestead.
Camping at Edeowie is nothing short of spectacular! Shady designated bush campsites with firewood are positioned so that you take in those breathtaking Elder Range views. Each site provides a good level of seclusion as well and amenities are located nearby.
Other accommodation options include the historic shearer’s quarters, Edeowie House and the restored Old Brachina Hut. As our visit was coming to an end, we made one last stop at Edeowie’s original wool shed. This building is a work of art for its era and is now more than 150 years old.
We loved our time at Edeowie Station as it overflows with lots of cool things to see and explore. It’s an ideal place to spend a few days no matter where your interests lie.
START PLANNING FOR THE FLINDERS!
Station stays are a lot of fun, especially since they’re all different and you get to experience station life, Flinders Ranges-style. So if you’re heading up that way, why not add in a station stay or two and experience them for yourself? You never know, we may just see you there!