Quorn is a small town in the Southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. While the quiet, rural town may not stand out immediately on a map, it makes for a really convenient base from which to explore the surrounding area.
The historic town is quite unique, with some quirky buildings and characters and streets that have appeared in a few movies over the years including Wolf Creek and Gallipoli. However, it’s proximity to the incredible landscape of the Flinders Ranges is what draws most visitors. From hiking to checking out some of the history, there’s plenty of things to do in Quorn.
I spent a week around the Southern Flinders Ranges, including a few days in Quorn itself. It was the perfect introduction to the ranges and outback South Australia. While most people speed through on their way to Wilpena Pound, it’s worth stopping for a couple of days in Quorn.
Here’s a look at the best things to do in the Southern Flinders Ranges.
How to get to Quorn
Quorn is one of the main towns in the Southern Flinders Ranges. It’s just a short drive away from Port Augusta, and a much longer drive north from Adelaide. It’s best explored with a 4WD, van or caravan, as there are some great campgrounds and places to explore on the way which requires some freedom and flexibility.
Adelaide to Quorn | 337km or 4 hours’ drive via the A1 is the most direct (however, I decided to take an alternative route via Balaklava, Yacka and Melrose which was longer but much quieter and more interesting than the A1)
Port Augusta to Quorn | 40km or 30 minutes’ drive via the Flinders Ranges Way
Quorn to Wilpena Pound (Flinders Ranges National Park) | 121km or 1.5 hours’ drive via Flinders Ranges Way
Where to stay in Quorn
Quorn is a quiet old town with basic facilities for travellers. Yet there are some good places to stay in Quorn including a friendly caravan park and some B&Bs. Depending on what you’re looking for, I can recommend the following Quorn accommodation:
Quorn Caravan Park | If you have any sort of camping setup or caravan, the Quorn Caravan Park is the best place to stay in Quorn. They have cabins and camping sites, with power and water, a camp kitchen and laundry. The owners are also super friendly and can help you with information on things to do in Quorn. I camped here in my van for a couple of nights and enjoyed my time there.
The Mill – Flinders Ranges Motel | If you’re after accommodation in town, The Mill is right on the corner opposite the train station so you can easily walk into town. They have double and family rooms, which are basic but clean for a couple of nights stay. Check prices and availability here.
Best things to do in Quorn
If you’re exploring the Southern Flinders Ranges and using Quorn as your base, here are the best things to do in Quorn, within easy reach from town.
Walk the streets of the quiet town
Quorn is a funny old town. With a few quiet streets, some quirky old buildings and a couple of good ol’ country pubs, it makes for a nice place to explore on foot. It won’t take you long to walk around the town, but it’s worth a wander to stretch your legs after a long drive.
There is a Quorn Historic Buildings Walk which is signposted around town and explains some of the significant sites from the 19th and 20th century.
Strung along Railway Terrace, you’ll easily spot the dominating hotels and pubs: the Transcontinental, Criterion Hotel and Austral Inn. The two corner pubs were built in 1878 and have been serving locals and travellers ever since. They are the best places to grab a pub meal, drink and chat with the locals.
Camp at Warren Gorge
This is definitely one of the most underrated things to do in Quorn, but a quick side trip out of town takes you to this great bush camping spot. Just 21km north of the town on Arden Vale Road, you’ll see the gorge and camping area on your left. While the gorge itself may not be outstanding after visiting Alligator Gorge (more on this below) further south, it’s still a nice place to camp out and go for a nice walk.
The campground is run by the council with basic drop toilets scattered throughout and fire pits at each site. There’s plenty of room here for quite a few setups and it’s accessible for all vehicles and caravans.
It costs $15 per night to camp. You can pay in cash at the entrance with an honesty box or in person at the Visitor Information Centre in Quorn. There’s a nice 5.2km circuit walk that goes through the camping area and around the gorge where you get a nice view back into the valley. You’ll likely spot some wildlife including kangaroos and kookaburras (and yellow-footed rock wallabies if you’re extremely lucky).
Complete a section of the Heysen Trail at Mount Brown
Mount Brown Summit Circuit || 15.5km || 4-5 hours || 660m ascended
Trailhead: Olive Grove at the end of Richman Valley Road 15km south of town on dirt road
Mount Brown Conservation Area is a small hiking area in the Southern Flinders where the Heysen Trail passes through. If you’re relatively fit and keen to tackle a longish hike, I can recommend the Mount Brown Summit Circuit which takes you along the Heysen Trail and then back down to the carpark with great panoramic views from the top.
The trail is extremely well-marked with kilometre markings in each direction. The circuit is designed to be completed clockwise for the steep ascent and then gradual descent, but you can technically do it any way you choose.
The first couple of kilometres are very gentle as it follows a fire track before meeting with the Heysen Trail. Then you follow this well-defined trail up the ridge to the summit. There’s a nice lookout part of the way up called Bald Hill Lookout, just 100m off the track, which is worth doing as well.
After nearly 6km you’ll reach the summit of Mount Brown where there’s a lookout tower and information boards about Robert Brown who was the naturalist aboard Matthew Flinders’ ship in 1802. From here, the Heysen Trail continues and day hikers have to back track to the intersection and then take the trail heading to the right back to the trailhead. The descent is long and gradual through the bush.
Watch the sunset from Devils Peak
Devils Peak Hike || 2.8km return || 1.5-2 hours || 275m ascended
Trailhead: Devils Peak Road 10km south of Quorn on dirt road
By far one of the best short hikes in the Flinders Ranges, Devil’s Peak is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted though, as it requires a steep scramble to reach the actual peak but it’s worth it for the outstanding views.
The almost 700m-high peak juts out of the earth south of Quorn. The actual mountain is on private land but is open to the public as long as you close the gate behind you when passing through the property. The carpark is just 10km out of town, on Devils Peak Road off Richman Valley Road, both of which are dirt but 2WD accessible.
The trail is a short but very steep track up to the top. It’s no joke, ascending 275m in 1.4km but the view gets better as you climb. There are arrows to follow until you get the to the rocky peak. From there, you will be faced with steep rock faces. There are bascially two ways of getting to the top. Straight ahead you have to squeeze through two rocks and climb to the top. Instead, I turned left and pulled myself up onto the peak with my hands. There’s no right or wrong way, just whichever you feel more comfortable doing (and getting back down!).
Devil’s Peak is a very exposed rock face so you must be careful where you walk. However, the 360 degree panorama of the Flinders Ranges is without doubt one of the best views in the entire area. At sunset the golden light and long shadows makes for the best photos. You must return the same way, so don’t wait until it’s too dark before you make your descent.
Read more: 12 Best Walks in the Flinders Ranges
Walk around Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park
Dutchmans Stern Loop Hike || 10.6km || 3 hours || 431m ascended
Trailhead: Dutchmans Stern Road off Arden Vale Road 11km north of Quorn
So, you might be getting the picture now that there’s a lot of hiking to do in the area, but it is the Flinders Ranges after all. Dutchmans Stern is widely considered the best hike to do in Quorn and it’s definitely worth committing half a day to do it. The just over 10km loop offers beautiful views of the Flinders in a moderate trail that is doable for most fitness levels.
The loop is best done anti-clockwise, with the climb to the bluff done first and then the gradual descent back to the carpark. The trail leaves the carpark and begins the ascent quickly up to the highest point of the bluff at 824m. From there, the views are spectacular on a clear day in all directions. There is a nice seat there from where you can enjoy a snack before continuing the gradual descent down and around the Dutchmans Stern back to the carpark.
Read next: Ottie Merino Hiking T-Shirt Gear Review
Ride the Pichi Richi Railway
A ride on the historic Pichi Richi Railway is one of the best things to do in Quorn with kids. You can board a restored steam or diesel train for the journey along the old Ghan rail between Port Augusta and Quorn. It’s proudly run by volunteers and only on selected dates throughout the cooler months from March until November.
Construction on the railway commenced in 1878 and was eventually extended to Alice Springs by 1929. The Ghan passenger train used the route until 1956. Since 1973, volunteers have worked to restore and run the railway for tourists.
Tickets start from $59 per adult for a return journey. You can find out when the train is running and make bookings on their website here.
Visit the Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre
The main Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre is located in Quorn inside the old railway station. You can pick up all the brochures and information that you’ll need for your time in the Flinders Ranges and outback South Australia.
You’ll also find public toilets and free Wi-Fi internet there as well.
Other things to do in the Southern Flinders Ranges
If you’re willing to drive a bit further from Quorn, there are plenty of other great things to do in the Southern Flinders Ranges.
Hike to the top of Mount Remarkable
Mt Remarkable Loop Hike || 14km || 3.5-4 hours || 550m ascended
Trailhead: The Monument, behind the Melrose Caravan Park which is 63km south of Quorn
A hike up to the summit of Mt Remarkable is one of the most popular walks in the Southern Flinders Ranges. As the highest point in the Mount Remarkable National Park, it offers some incredible views on the trail (although don’t be disappointed because there’s no views from the actual summit!).
The walk used to be a simple out and back option, but since 2016 there is the option to do a loop. The two trails are called northern route and southern route which join at the top and back down at the carpark. It’s recommended to do the northern route up and southern route down, but it really doesn’t matter too much.
Both trails offer a very gradual ascent and descent to the summit and back to the trailhead. It’s very well signposted, as are most trails in the Flinders Ranges. The walk can be started directly from the Melrose Caravan Park, so this is a very convenient place to stay if you’re looking to stay nearby. You can either walk from the caravan park or drive to the Monument above where there’s a small carpark.
Explore Alligator Gorge and the Hidden Gorge
Alligator Gorge Hike || 9.5km || 2.5-3 hours || 369m ascended
Trailhead: Alligator Gorge Car Park, 53km south of Quorn
The Mount Remarkable National Park has some of the most incredible gorges in the Flinders Ranges. Alligator Gorge to the northern end of the park is the most well-known and is certainly very impressive. The narrow gorge is easily accessible on both short and long walks. The short Gorge Circuit Hike is just 3.3km and takes in the Narrows and the Terraces, the two most spectacular parts of Alligator Gorge. If you prefer longer walks, the 9.5km is a nice loop that takes you around and through the gorge, including the Narrows and the Terraces.
Hidden Gorge Hike || 17km || 4.5-5 hours || 370m ascended
Trailhead: Mambray Creek Campground and Day Visitor Car Park, 80km south of Quorn
On the western side of the national park near Mambray Creek Campground, Hidden Gorge is definitely worth a visit if you have the time and enjoy a decent hike. The 17km loop can be done in either direction, but I decided to do it clockwise. This means that I first climbed steadily up to the Battery, a junction where there’s water tanks available. On the way up here, you can enjoy beauitful views over Spencer Gulf and Port Augusta.
From there, it drops down into Hidden Gorge and continues through the length of it until you come out onto a fire track which takes you back to the car park. This last few kilometres on the fire track seem very long, but the hike is worth doing. You can even combine it with Alligator Gorge for a nice overnight hike in the area. There are hike-in campgrounds in the park area, check them out on SA Parks here.
Free camp at Hancock’s Lookout
This lookout lies just 49km south of Quorn off Horrocks Pass Road and is a great place to stop for the night if you have a van or caravan in tow. Free camping is allowed for one night only between the months of April until October (outside of the fire ban season). From the vantage point you can look over Spencer Gulf, Port Bonython, Whyalla, Port Augusta and part of the lower Flinders Ranges.
It’s just a basic parking area, so don’t expect any facilities. There are no toilets and just a couple of rubbish bins. Access to the lookout is on a 7km rough dirt road past private property, although I made it in my 2WD van.
Stop at the Kanyaka Ruins on the way to Hawker
The Kanyaka Station ruins are some of the most intact ruins in the Flinders Ranges. It was established in 1852, and become one of the biggest and most successful cattle stations in the area. It consisted of a large homestead, stables, workshops, shearing shed and huts, mostly built from stone.
It’s worth stopping to have a look at the ruins just off the main road on the way to Hawker from Quorn. There are information boards detailing the history of the station and ruins.
Have a coffee at The Flinders Food Co at Hawker
If you’re craving a good coffee and healthy meal, you can’t go wrong with a stop at Flinders Food Co cafe in Hawker. Located across the road from the public toilets on your left as you come into town, it’s hands down one of the best places to eat in the Southern Flinders Ranges region.
You’ll likely see a heap of cars and caravans parked out the front, as it’s a very popular place to stop for a coffee or lunch on the way to the Flinders Ranges National Park. The staff are super friendly and you’ll find plenty of good food options, including a pancake stack, healthy vegan bowl and a yummy take on smashed avo with corn bread.
It definitely has more of a trendy city vibe, so it’s a welcome change after limited food options elsewhere in the Flinders.
Where to next?
Planning on exploring more of the Flinders Ranges? Check out:
- A Complete Guide to the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
- 12 Best Walks in the Flinders Ranges
- Staying at Wilpena Pound Resort in the Flinders Ranges