The Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia is one of the state’s top destinations. The incredibly rugged landscape is home to ancient rock formations, a network of hiking trails and 4WD tracks and culturally significant places for the Traditional Owners, the Adnyamathanha people.
While the national park covers 95, 000 hectares, the main place to stay inside the park is at Wilpena Pound Resort and Campground. It’s by far the most convenient Flinders Ranges accommodation, with many of the hiking trails beginning right from the resort grounds. It is also one of the only Aboriginal owned resorts and caravan parks in the entire country, so you can gain an insight into the local culture during your stay.
I spent two weeks at Wilpena Pound Resort, staying in the campground area. It was a great base from which to explore every corner of the national park and by the end of my time there, it almost felt like a second home.
If you’re planning a trip to the Flinders Ranges this winter, this post details everything that you need to know about staying at Wilpena Pound Resort and Campground.
About Wilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound is the name of the amphitheatre of mountains that can be found in the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. The Wilpena Pound Resort and Caravan Park is located on the eastern edge of the pound and referred to as simply Wilpena. While it feels like a small village, it’s actually a resort and campground complex all in one. It has everything that you might need during a trip to the park including fuel, basic supplies, tourist information, tours and accommodation. I’ll go into more detail about the facilities and services below.
The resort has been owned and managed by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association and Indigenous Business Australia since 2012. It’s the only accommodation located inside the national park itself, which is also co-managed by the Adnyamathanha people with the South Australian government. The partnership has brought about some important changes to the national park, including the renaming of the park to Ikara-Flinders Ranges in 2016 and more recently, imposing visitor restrictions on the Sacred Canyon for preservation reasons (more on this below).
Whether you decide on staying at Wilpena or not, you’ll likely still end up visiting the resort area, as it’s the main place to get fuel, supplies and start some of the walks in the area.
How to get there
Wilpena Pound is located on the eastern side of the national park. It’s accessible from the main road, Flinders Ranges Way, which travels from Port Augusta up to Quorn and then through the national park to Blinman. It’s a long drive from Adelaide, so it’s best to break the journey up with an overnight stop somewhere along the way.
Port Augusta is a major town in South Australia, but I’d recommend stopping in Melrose or Quorn instead, so you can explore more of the Southern Flinders Ranges first. You can read more about Quorn and the Southern Flinders Ranges in my post here.
Port Augusta to Wilpena Pound: 160km or 2-hour drive
Adelaide to Wilpena Pound: 440km or 5.5-hour drive
Why stay at Wilpena Pound Resort
Wilpena is the main place that people choose to stay during their time in the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park and for good reason. It’s perfectly located right in the central area of the park, so you have access to all the highlights and attractions within a walk or short drive away.
It’s also the main “village” that services the park area and is one of the only places that you can pick up supplies. You’ll also find plenty of accommodation options available for all different budgets including a campground, as well as extra things on offer like tours and a restaurant and bar if you want to get more out of your stay.
The alternative accommodation in the area includes the stations, such as Upalinna and Alpana, which are working stations and private properties that offer camping on their land. You can also check out Rawnsley Park Station caravan park which is just 25km south of Wilpena.
Wilpena Pound accommodation options
There are plenty of different accommodation options available at Wilpena Pound. They have 60 hotel rooms, 15 glamping safari tents and a large campground with powered and unpowered sites.
Hotel rooms | They have rooms suitable for singles, couples and families with sleeping options for up to 6 people. You also have the option of either standard or deluxe rooms. Prices start from around $200 per night.
Glamping | The latest addition to this Flinders Ranges accommodation is the glamping safari tents. The luxury tents can sleep between 2 and 4 people and include a modern ensuite bathroom, a private deck, fire pit and air conditioning. Prices start from around $310 per night.
Campground | The large bush campground has a powered area with 40 sites available and an unpowered area with over 300 spots. There are amenity blocks with toilets, hot showers and basic laundry facilities throughout the area and plenty of shelters, but no camp kitchen. The powered sites are allocated during check-in, but the unpowered area is open so you can camp anywhere you like. Prices vary depending on the season, but start at $15 for unpowered. You also have access to all the facilities and services at the resort.
Facilities and services
The best part about staying at Wilpena is all the facilities and services that they have available. It’s no wonder I easily stayed two weeks there!
Visitor Information Centre: At the front entrance, you’ll find the Visitor Information Centre that also doubles as the campground and caravan park check-in desk. Open every day from 8am to 6pm, you’ll find helpful and friendly staff in there to give you whatever information you need about the park. They also have a range of brochures on the wall for the Flinders area and further afield.
Fuel: They have ULP and Diesel which is available for purchase through the IGA counter. It’s slightly higher price than larger towns further south, but it’s not too bad considering where you are in the outback.
Supermarket: The IGA supermarket is actually very good considering its small size. You can find all sorts of essentials to easily get you through days or weeks in the national park. They have fresh produce including fruit and veg, meat, bread, cereals, pasta and rice, sauces, frozen products, confectionary, chips, biscuits, cheeses and dairy products, plus much more, including some decent gluten free options too. They sell basic camping goods, like butane cartridges, as well as, toiletries and souvenirs.
Café: Inside the IGA you’ll find a café which has coffee and tea along with some hot food and sweets like muffins, sausage rolls and pies.
Restaurant and bar: The Wilpena Restaurant and Bar is a very popular place to head for dinner. They open from 5pm onwards and take bookings in winter, due to the high demand. They have a great menu and serve the food very quickly. My favourite was the kangaroo burger! There are plenty of gluten free options available.
Free Wi-Fi: There are a couple of options for internet access. There is a SA Tourism free Wi-Fi pole out the front of the information centre which offers one hour per day of fast, free internet. Otherwise, you can use the Wilpena Pound Wi-Fi which is equally as good and unlimited. Although both only work around the information centre, restaurant and resort area, not the campground.
Swimming pool: There is a swimming pool for use for all guests from 6am until 8pm. It’s outside the restaurant in the resort area.
Dump point and car wash: There is a dump point just as you’re coming into the resort on your left that also has water to wash your car of all the outback dust.
Laundry, toilets and showers: In the campground you’ll find toilet and shower blocks in the unpowered and powered areas. They also have a washing machine and dryer outside the amenities block. There’s no camp kitchen available, except some BBQs and picnic tables.
Things to do at Wilpena Pound Resort
Once you arrive at Wilpena Pound Resort, there’s plenty of things to do and see. From organised tours to hiking trails, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy directly from the resort and campground.
Welcome to Country
Every day at 4.30pm (check the current schedule, because it often changes) in the front lawn outside the Resort Reception and Restaurant is the Welcome to Country. I would say that everyone who stays at Wilpena should attend at least once. It’s led by one of the Yura staff members who gives a very informative talk about the Traditional Owners and their dreamtime story about the pound. They also give a nice overview of the importance of the ownership and management of the resort by the Adnyamathanha people and what it means to them.
There are a number of tours that you can do from Wilpena Pound. While the scenic flights obviously are the standout offering, they also have 4WD and Aboriginal Cultural tours that are worth considering. I did the Sacred Canyon tour, which was certainly worth it. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect:
Yura Mulka – Sacred Canyon Tour
Probably one of the highlights of my stay at Wilpena was joining the Sacred Canyon Tour. The canyon is home to one of the most significant Aboriginal engraving sites in the park area and is now only accessible by tour. Sadly, some of the rock art has been graffitied over the years, and with the efforts of the Adnyamathanha people, it’s now closed off to the general public to help preserve it.
The tour is worth the $85 fee per person. It’s usually guided by either Jimmy, Mick or Vinny, who are all very passionate and knowledgeable. But I tried to make sure that I had Mick as my guide, as his knowledge and experience both as an Yura man and qualified geologist makes his tours extra insightful. The 3–4-hour tour takes you to the sacred canyon where you need to walk a flat 1.5km return to reach the rock engravings. It’s certainly doable for most people, although it is quite rocky along the creek bed.
It was a very special experience to hear from Mick about the engravings, land and culture. His passion for his people and the landscape of the park was infectious and everyone on the tour felt that it was definitely a worthwhile thing to do in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges. The tours leave in the morning and in the afternoon, depending on demand. You can book at the Resort Reception or Visitor Information Centre at Wilpena.
Perhaps one of the best things about staying at Wilpena Pound Resort is that many of the best hikes in the Flinders Ranges literally begin right from the resort. Just down from the Visitor Information Centre you will find a large information board with the walks mapped out and colour coded. From there, you can follow the signposts for whichever walk you want to do.
The Flinders Ranges walks that begin from the resort include:
- Mt Ohlssen Bagge 6.8km return (challenging climb for the best viewpoint of Wilpena Pound)
- Tanderra Saddle 18.5km loop (officially known as the St Mary Peak Hike, although the Traditional Owners ask that you don’t climb to the peak and just go to the saddle instead)
- Hills Homestead and Wangara Lookout 7.8km return (a great walk for the whole family)
- Malloga Falls 23km return (a long hike to Edeowie Gorge)
- Bridle Gap 18.6km return (long walk through the pound floor along the Heysen Trail*)
- Boom and Bust Walk 3km loop (a short, easy walk with informative boards along the way)
*The Heysen Trail actually passes right through Wilpena Pound Resort so you may see thru-hikers making a beeline for the restaurant for a burger and a beer (and a hot shower)!
Read more: 12 Best Walks in the Flinders Ranges
If you prefer to explore on two wheels, then the Mawson Trail is accessible from Wilpena as well. The trail is a long distance cycling path stretching for 900km, but you can easily do just a section from Wilpena. Find out more about the trail here. You can rent mountain bikes and helmets from the information centre in Wilpena starting from $15 per hour or up to $65 for the full day. They will also be able to help you with trail suggestions.
Other things to know about staying at Wilpena Pound Resort
No dogs are allowed in the resort area because it’s inside a national park. You can stay down the road at the stations if you have a dog on board.
You will need a SA Parks Pass for the Flinders Ranges National Park. The easiest way to do this is purchase it online here. There are different options whether you want multiple entry and/or multiple parks, but popular options include: $12 per vehicle for 1 day, $48 per vehicle for multiple parks over 2 months or $108 for a year.
You will find good 4G Telstra phone reception inside the Wilpena Pound area. There is no Optus phone reception, but the free Wi-Fi available at the resort is great (although it doesn’t reach the campground). Otherwise, you can get Optus phone reception in Blinman or Rawnsley Park.
There is day visitor parking in front of the Information Centre, if you’re only visiting for the day from other accommodation.
Campfires are allowed outside of the fire ban season. You’re not allowed to collect wood from inside the national park, but wood is available for purchase at the IGA at Wilpena.
Book your stay
Things to do around Wilpena Pound Resort
While you’re staying at the Wilpena Pound Resort, there’s plenty of things to do in the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. From the tours on offer to the walking trails, you don’t have to drive anywhere to see some of the park highlights.
Check out some of my other guides and posts about the Flinders Ranges:
- Best sunset viewpoints in the Flinders Ranges National Park
- Best things to do in the Southern Flinders Ranges
- A complete guide to the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park