In 1995, as a young and naïve 20 year old, I boarded an airplane for the first time. I still remember the excitement I felt walking out on the tarmac at Adelaide Airport to board the Ansett Australia flight to Darwin to compete with my softball team mates in the University Games.
Nearly twenty years later Ansett Australia no longer exists, the domestic Adelaide Airport has evolved into a modern, international terminal, if I threw a softball now I wouldn’t be able to move my arm for a month and my University days feel like a distant and foggy dream.
I’ve also taken more flights than I care to recall and haven’t enjoyed many of them. I hate flying.
So one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being back in Australia over the past few months is the opportunity to travel on the ground.
You can’t beat a good road trip. It may not be cheap to drive in Australia – car hire, petrol prices and a strong Australia Dollar have decimated my British Pounds bank account – but it certainly is enjoyable.
Getting to the Flinders Ranges from Adelaide
As I planned my six day visit to the Flinders Ranges, I made sure I gave myself enough time to enjoy the drive there and back. After all, it’s not just the destination that makes a great travel adventure, but the journey itself.
Whilst it is possible to reach the Flinders Ranges with a plane, train or coach involved, I was looking forward to the freedom, ease and comfort of a self-guided drive: no hand luggage restrictions, no delays, no irritating passengers and no scheduled stops.
From Adelaide, there are several driving routes to choose from. The most direct route is via Highway 1 (A1) to Port Augusta (300 km). But with time on my side and a camera in my hand (or rather, on the passenger seat next to me), I was keen to enjoy the more scenic route through Gawler and the Clare Valley (A20 and A32) and opted for the following:
Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges
Adelaide => Clare => Willmington => Quorn => Hawker => Rawnsley Park Station
Flinders Ranges to Adelaide
Rawnsley Park Station => Hawker => Orroroo => Jamestown => Spalding => Clare => Adelaide
Both routes provided well-maintained sealed roads, landscape that changed with the location and the light and a great balance of towns providing fuel and food stops with empty stretches of roads. In addition to the Clare Valley, a region popular with wine-tasters, hikers and cyclists, the route is dotted with enough attractions to easily stretch the 4-5 hour drive into a long day – from interesting and historical towns to national parks and natural highlights.
Or, like me, you can simply sit back, crank up the music (I regress back a few decades during Aussie road trips and find myself playing a Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, INXS and Hunters & Collectors mix), snack on a bag of “Snakes” before stopping for a meat pie lunch, think about nothing but the moment you are in and enjoy views outside your window like these:
If you are not from Australia and/or have not driven on outback Australian roads, remember these driving tips:
Keep an eye on your petrol gauge: distances between petrol stations can be longer in Australia than you may be used to in your home country. Don’t assume every town on a map has a petrol station.
You may drive for an hour without seeing another car, you may find yourself stuck behind a large road-train, you may be sharing the roads with livestock or you may encounter other cars both ahead and behind you. Stay patient, stay alert and keep within your own comfort zone. Don’t over-take unless it’s safe and you are comfortable doing so. At the same time, don’t panic if a car is creeping up and tailgating you – don’t speed just because they want you to. Australian roads can be lethal – stay safe.
Stay on the right side of the road, which is the “left” side in Australia!
Check with locals if you are heading to unsealed (dirt) roads or over creeks, especially if rain has fallen or is forecast. Flash floods are not uncommon in the outback creeks and unsealed roads can become muddy and un-passable.
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