The Flinders Ranges is a destination we never tire of. Blessed with the natural beauty of its rugged ranges, wildlife and expansive touring options, the Flinders is up there with some of the most accessible natural wonders of Australia, ideal for a camper trailer adventure. But if you are looking to explore some of the more adventurous trails, you’ll need to visit one of the privately run station stays.
Merna Mora (not to be confused with Mern Mora) is about 43km north of Hawker on the Leigh Creek Road. The station was established in 1889 by the Fels family as a pastoral business, with merino sheep and shorthorn cattle as the mainstay pastoral produce. They expanded into tourism in 1968 with a farm stay. Over the years, additional facilities have been added to support the growing tourist trade.
Powered and unpowered camping is available, the latter amongst the gums on the banks of the dry Moralana Creek. The camping area was once an outback polo cross field. As such it is generally flat and like most campsites in the area, a little dusty. Bore water is available at the campsite, or rainwater from the units; just make sure you bring a drinking water hose.
If dust and canvas is proving a little too wearing, there is a range of accommodation for visiting travellers including self-contained units and single room shearers’ quarters with shared facilities.
Outside of the fire danger season, one of the highlights is the evening campfire where everyone gathers for a yarn, including the station owners. And to ensure everyone is accommodated, there are two fires, organised back to back.
Rodney Hunt entertains the crowd a couple of times each year with his acoustic guitar and folk song repertoire. It’s a great family environment – the fire, the stars above and not having to share it with hundreds of others like at the bigger caravan parks.
Like other station stays in the area, Merna Mora is as much about 4×4 adventure as anything else with station tracks to discover the best views and historical artefacts.
The Bunbinyunna Track offers enthusiastic climbs with sensational views of the surrounding ranges. It starts on the Moralana Scenic Drive, a public road that sweeps around the southern rim of Wilpena Pound, with mesmerising views through the native pines and green grass towards the Elder Range. Once off the scenic drive, the track starts at a locked gate to climb the Bunbinyunna Range, where all the fun begins. The tracks are steep and the surface loose, causing the tyres to scrabble for traction over the spoon drains. Regular stops allow you to catch your breath and marvel at the surrounding scenery.
Exploring the western side of the Hawker to Leigh Creek Road with views from Lake Torrens in the west to Wilpena in the east, is the Wowee Track. It’s pitched as an adventurous 4×4 route with steep climbs and switchbacks. We took our sunset shots from the first marker point on this track.
The Lake Torrens Track is more pedestrian by nature, meandering out to the national park bearing the same name, through sand dunes and desert plains. The salt lake is approximately 200km long and 30km wide and is home to a variety of reptiles, birds and other animals.
Lastly, the Historic Track explores the old Ghan Railway line and associated ruins up and around the Elder Range. A fee is payable for each trip and can take 2-6 hours to complete.
Merna Mora is centrally located to other points of interest in the area. Don’t miss the touring route along the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail into the Flinders Ranges National Park. The scenery is jaw dropping, think sheer rock faces, rocky creek beds and largely arid surroundings. And there is generally plenty of wildlife on show, particularly emus, roos, birds and sometimes reptiles.
The Aroona Ruins and historical hut are worth a look. The adjoining campsite is popular for bushwalkers with the Heysen and Mawson Walking trails intersecting nearby. But the ultimate touring passage is along the Bunyeroo Valley Scenic Drive. The track dips and weaves through the Bunyeroo Valley with no less than four lookouts to capture all the action. Imagine your fourby, a long dusty trail and an iconic backdrop – surely the ultimate photo opp! The landscape shots aren’t too bad either.
At the end of the scenic drive, turn right to Wilpena Pound. There’s a licensed supermarket and café here, with the essentials such as ice cream, beer and coffee, amongst other food groups. You can also book a flight to see the landscape by air, or simply do it on foot; there are plenty of options around the national park. The shop is also one of the few places you can pick up a good mobile signal or post a few pics to Facebook.
Outside of the national park, but still within easy access of Merna Mora, are the Parachilna Gorge, Beltana historic township and Copley, the latter just north of Leigh Creek. The Copley Bakery is a popular stop for the normal bakery fodder in addition to the local specialty, the Quandong Tart. The Copley Road runs east to the Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, the latter another top location for adventurous four wheeling, geology and nature appreciation.
Sitting around at camp, we’re sipping a few cool drinks, reflecting on the day’s activities and the next part of our journey. Conveniently located on the fringe of the outback, the desert tracks are only a short hop away, with options west, north or north east.
There are plenty of other Stations Stays in the area. You can check them out at http://www.stationstayssa.com.au/ or grab a copy of the guide below.
Accommodation & Touring Guide
To claim your copy of the SA Station Stays Accommodation & Touring Guide, use the Codeword EDEOWIE. You can collect your copy at The Dirt Off Road Campers, 26 Light Crescent, Mount Barker while stocks last.