Heysen Trail itinerary

Planning for a long walk can be very intimidating. It’s difficult to know where to start with your itinerary and food resupply plan, especially over the course of a 1200 km long trail. However, having a rough Heysen Trail itinerary established before you head off will help you immensely out on the trail, even if you don’t stick to it.

As Australia’s longest walking track, it’s a big adventure. After 55 days, I completed a southbound thru hike of the trail in South Australia earlier this year. Now, I want to help others who are interested in doing the same. I have a complete guide to thru hiking the trail, which has all the information you’ll need, plus an extensive packing list. But this blog post is focused on my specific Heysen Trail itinerary and resupply plan.

If you want to begin planning your thru hike or section hike of the Heysen, I hope this helps you develop a good itinerary and plan for your walk.

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Planning Your Heysen Trail Itinerary

Planning an itinerary for the Heysen Trail is an important part of preparing for the trail. While you certainly might not stick to it for the entire way, it’s still helpful to have a good idea of where you’ll be as you continue your journey. Having an itinerary can help you work out roughly your daily distances and town stops, which will then inform your resupply options as well.

It can be really difficult to know how far you’ll want to walk each day and when or if you’ll take any rest days. However, sitting down with the maps and reading other people’s itineraries, will help you get to know the trail, the campsites and the towns that you’ll be coming into along the way. I recommend getting the paper maps from the Friends of the Heysen as this will visualise the trail and camps for you and assist in formulating a rough plan.

Below, I’ve put together some tips and personal experiences from the trail that might help you figure out your own itinerary. I’ve also outlined my full detailed itinerary below, which is what I actually ended up doing, including the location of my resupply boxes I had on the way and daily distances covered.

Read more: A Guide to Thru Hiking the Heysen Trail

Heysen Trail markers
Heysen Trail markers

My Heysen Trail Itinerary

When I sat down to write up my own itinerary, I didn’t really know where to start. I found it difficult to know how long I would want to walk each day, but soon put something together that I thought might be the most realistic plan for me. It turns out, I did pretty well, because I actually stuck to my itinerary for most of the trail.

The location of the campsites sometimes dictates your itinerary. Some sections give you very little option other than to walk from one campsite to the next. For example, from Wilpena Pound to Red Range the distance is almost 30km with no official camp in between. This means that most hikers have to do the full 30km in one day.

On the other hand, some campsites are much closer together and this means you can either have shorter days or skip along to the next one. I did this sometimes, for example, on day 11 I skipped Eyre Depot Campsite and went straight from Mt Arden South to Dutchman’s Hut to make it 29km for the day. But obviously, this all depends on how slow you want to take it and how you’re feeling on the trail.

Here are some other considerations I had while planning my Heysen Trail itinerary:

Walking to Cape Jervis
Walking to Cape Jervis

Why I Walked Southbound

First, you need to work out which direction to walk in: northbound (NOBO) or southbound (SOBO). I decided to go SOBO for a number of reasons.

I’d always thought that walking from the Flinders Ranges down to the coast would be the way I’d prefer to go. There’s something about walking towards the coast and finishing at the very tip of a peninsula that feels more conclusive than just finishing in the middle of Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders.

Plus, I also thought tackling the harder sections at the beginning would be ideal on fresh legs. While there are certainly difficult days further south, I found that once I’d got through the Flinders Ranges, I was more mentally and physically prepared for whatever was to come.

Either way it’s a personal choice and will depend on logistics, weather/timing and personal preference.

Centennial Drive Camp
Centennial Drive Camp

Campsites on the Heysen Trail

I tended to stick to the official Heysen Trail campsites. This made planning my itinerary much easier, plus I also preferred to be somewhere with a water tank each night so I didn’t have to carry excess water.

Like I said above, some campsites are nicely spread out along the trail at good intervals, while others might be far apart or too close together. This will dictate a bit of your itinerary and might force you to walk more or less than you’d prefer.

There are also some sections which don’t have official campsites and you’ll have to use either hotels, caravan parks, B&Bs or public campgrounds. This is more common in the southern half of the trail, especially through the Adelaide Hills. However, there are enough options along the way that I was never stuck for a spot to sleep or camp, which is nice to know when planning your itinerary.

Pichi Richi Railway near Quorn
Pichi Richi Railway near Quorn

Choosing Accommodation on the Trail

While you could do most of the trail by just camping, it is nice to be able to stay in accommodation in the towns to give you a break. I mostly opted for caravan parks, because this gave me the choice of either staying in my tent on an unpowered site if the weather was good or going for a cabin if I wanted to splurge during bad weather. Although, I was pretty lucky that I was able to share my accommodation with other hikers, which lowered the cost of cabins and rooms.

There are also a few B&Bs and hotels that have become quite well-known along the Heysen Trail and are certainly must stays. These include, Elizabeth House in Quorn, Spalding Hotel and Heysens Rest B&B in Myponga. I would say a majority of hikers stay at these three places when passing through and it’s not hard to figure out why – they are certainly the best accommodation on trail.

Choosing accommodation also helped with my resupply plan. Staying at either a caravan park or B&B meant that I was able to either have a food box dropped there or rely on the supermarket or general store in town.

All the accommodation places I stayed at on the trail are as follow (prices I paid are listed in the itinerary at the bottom):

  • Wilpena Pound Caravan Park (unpowered camping site)
  • Hawker Caravan Park (unpowered camping site)
  • Elizabeth House, Quorn (single bed in dorm room)
  • Beautiful Valley Caravan Park, Wilmington (shared cabin)
  • Melrose Caravan Park (unpowered camping site)
  • Crystal Brook Caravan Park (shared cabin)
  • Spalding Pub (shared twin room)
  • Burra Caravan Park (unpowered camping site)
  • Kapunda Caravan Park (unpowered camping site)
  • Sir John Franklin Hotel, Kapunda (private double room)
  • Mount Compass Caravan Park (shared cabin)
  • Heysens Rest B&B, Myponga (private single room)

Food Resupply Planning

I decided to plan my own food resupply boxes or food drops along the trail. This was mostly because I have dietary requirements (gluten and dairy free) and I didn’t think that most towns on the way would have enough options for me to do a full resupply.

I decided to use my itinerary and planned town stops to work out how many boxes I could drop. I decided on 9 food boxes in total, at frequent intervals across the trail.

These were dropped at either caravan parks or other accommodation that I planned on staying in along the way. I called all 9 businesses before I set off to ensure it was okay to leave a box with them. While posting boxes ahead is an option, I ended up driving the boxes up along the trail and dropping them into reception myself.

The accommodation providers kindly never charged me for the service and were very obliging as long as I committed to staying one night when I arrived – which is fair.

My food boxes were left at the following locations:

  • Hawker Caravan Park
  • Elizabeth House, Quorn
  • Melrose Caravan Park
  • Crystal Brook Caravan Park
  • Spalding Hotel
  • Burra Caravan Park
  • Kapunda Caravan Park
  • Woodhouse Activity Centre, near Bridgewater
  • Heysens Rest, Myponga

Read next: How to Plan Your Food for Hiking

Rest Days

I decided not to plan my rest days and to just see what happened when I was out there. I think this was a good way to go, because it allowed me to just take rest days when I felt I needed them. I ended up having four rest days across the whole trail, including in Quorn, Crystal Brook, Burra, and Kapunda.

While a few hikers didn’t have any rest days and tried to do some shorter days to allow for rest, I really enjoyed my four zero days. It gave me more time to sleep, do laundry, shopping, speak with family and friends and EAT!

Find my detailed itinerary below!

Heysen Trail Itinerary and Resupply Plan

1Aroona Campground19 km6 hours439 m295 m$24
2Yanyanna Hut26 km8 hours573 m449 mFree
3Wilcolo Campsite17 km5 hours505 m445 m$21
4Wilpena Pound Resort7 km1.5 hours127 m90 m$18Small IGA
5Red Range Campsite29 km8 hours531 m627 mFree
6Mayo Hut17.5 km5 hours165 m351 mFree
7Hawker Caravan Park18 km4 hours142 m81 m$20Resupply box + General Store
8Mt Elm Campsite14 km5 hours406 m309 mFree
9Buckaringa North Campsite36 km10 hours511 m595 mFree
10Mt Arden South Campsite22.5 km7 hours1037 m594 mFree
11Dutchmans Hut29 km10 hours805 m985 mFree
12Elizabeth House (Quorn)10 km2.5 hours115 m262 m$50Resupply box + IGA
13Elizabeth House (Quorn)RESTDAY$50
14Waukarie Creek Campsite22 km7.5 hours515 m410 mFree
15Beautiful Valley Caravan Park (Wilmington)29 km9 hours1373 m1255 m$45
16Grays Hut28 km8 hours1113 m989 mFree
17Melrose Caravan Park12 km3 hours454 m681 m$16Resupply box + General Store
18Murray Town18 km4 hours333 m346 m$10
19Go Kart Track Shelter27 km7 hours759 m505 mFree
20Beetaloo Creek Campsite19.5 km6 hours654 m817 mFree
21Crystal Brook Caravan Park31 km8 hours342 m671 m$60Resupply box + Foodland
22Crystal Brook Caravan ParkRESTDAY$60
23Hiskeys Hut20 km4.5 hours401 m235 mFree
24Curnows Hut29 km7 hours890 m645 mFree
25Spalding32 km8 hours237 m448 m$45Resupply box
26(Whistling Trig)23 km7.5 hours704 m346 mFree
27Hallett Railway Station22 km5 hours296 m300 mFree
28Old Mt Bryan East School17 km5.5 hours478 m534 mFree
29Black Jack Hut31 km8 hours595 m631 mFree
30Wandallah Creek Campsite17 km4 hours591 m586 mFree
31Burra Caravan Park15.5 km4.5 hours472 m493 m$20Resupply box + IGA
32Burra Caravan ParkRESTDAY$20
33World’s End Campsite25 km6 hours228 m369 mFree
34Huppatz Hut20 km5 hours573 m348 mFree
35Smith Hill30 km7.5 hours770 m662 mFree
36Marschalls Hut28.5 km7.5 hours333 m463 mFree
37Kapunda Caravan Park26 km6.5 hours297 m473 m$12Resupply box + Foodland
38Sir John Franklin HotelRESTDAY$45
39Greenock Oval18.5 km4.5 hours351 m315 m$5
40Rossiters Hut24.5 km5 hours589 m381 mFree
41Centennial Drive Campsite24 km6.5 hours689 m780 m$7
42Scotts Shelter23.5 km6.5 hours594 m550 mFree
43Grandpa’s Camp (Cudlee Creek)23.5 km7 hours845 m896 mFree
44Scenic Hotel (Norton Summit)27.5 km8 hours1111 m1003 m$20
45Woodhouse Activity Centre18.5 km5 hours727 m713 m$10Resupply box + Coles at Bridgewater
46Rocky Creek Hut Camp28 km6.5 hours598 m644 m$7
47Chookarloo Campground16 km3.5 hours176 m227 m$7
48Mount Compass Caravan Park27 km6.5 hours376 m461 m$58
49Heysens Rest B&B (Myponga)26 km7 hours815 m819 m$100Resupply box
50Robinson Hill21.5 km6 hours738 m744 mFree
51Waitpinga Campground27 km7 hours622 m787 m$23
52Kurri Ngawanthi (Creek Campground)12.5 km4 hours423 m311 m$28
53Yapari Ngawanthi (Cliffs Campground)18 km6 hours625 m532 m$28
54Eagle Waterhole Campground13 km4 hours500 m586 m$28
55Cape Jervis16.5 km5 hours570 m713 m$33

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