Arkaroola; a huge highlight in the Flinders Ranges

There’s a few places in South Australia that have huge reputations, and rolling into Arkaroola I wondered if it would actually live up to the hype or not.

We’re from WA, and many of the names of places that are mentioned on the other side of the country are unfamiliar to us, but Arkaroola is a name we did know, and we were looking forward to seeing what it was really like.

Arkaroola 4WD tracks
We were very excited to see if Arkaroola really lived up to all the hype

Our drive started off from Moolooloo Station, after a night of fairly steady drizzle, and Sarah and I were both pretty cold and damp by the time we hopped in the car.

With only 10 – 15mm of rain falling, I was surprised at how slippery and muddy the road was into Blinman, and it didn’t get much better heading out to Arkaroola, with both the Dmax and Reconn R2 covered in mud by the time we arrived.

Mud on the camper at Arkaroola
Our camper trailer and Dmax were filthy by the time we arrived

Once again, we marvelled at the amazing changes in scenery, and pulling into Arkaroola I was thoroughly impressed with the natural beauty.

In my mind, Arkaroola was the El Questro of the Flinders Ranges, and opening the door at the reception reminded me that it’s a well setup business.

Arkaroola Reception
The reception, restaurant and bar reminded me that this was a big business

We checked in, paid our money, and headed off to camp, with a sneaky suspicion that this place was going to be a whole lot of fun, and the next few days proved just that.

Arkaroola Sunset
It didn’t take long to completely fall in love with Arkaroola

Where is Arkaroola?

You’ll find this giant wilderness sanctuary at the end of a gravel road in the northern parts of the Flinders Ranges, butting up against the Gammon National Park. Its 312km from Quorn and 133km from Leigh Creek.

Arkaroola from outside
The reception, restaurant and bar at Arkaroola

Check out the video

Want to see more? We’ve got a vlog on YouTube that covers the stunning Arkaroola area:

YouTube video

What’s the scenery like?

I mentioned earlier that I was thoroughly impressed driving into Arkaroola, and that feeling improved as we headed off on the first afternoon, ducking for cover from the rain and hoping to find a couple of nice 4WD tracks to do.

Pulling over the hill to the pound, on the way to Stubbs waterhole, I was left speechless, and it only got better in the coming days as we explored more of the property.

Views into the Welcome Pound
Our first sight of the Welcome Pound in the rain blew my mind

The natural beauty on this property exceeds that of most places I’ve been to in Australia, and that’s a seriously high compliment.

We spent the next few days exploring as many nooks and crannies of the property as we could find, and would rate the scenery here as some of the best in Australia by a long shot.

Insane views on Arkaroola
Views over the Echo Camp Backtrack 4WD track

The views from some of the 4WD tracks (particularly the Echo Camp one) left me absolutely mind blown, and I’m not sure I can explain just how magnificent it is.

Hopefully some of our photos will do it a slice of justice, but it really is unreal.

Amazing waterhole at Arkaroola
Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole was stunning
Stunning views to Stubbs
The drive to Stubbs Waterhole is amazing
Stubbs Waterhole
One of the water holes at Stubbs in all its beauty
Great views around Arkaroola
We had an absolute blast driving through the sensational scenery

Can you get to Arkaroola in a 2WD?

Yes, you can, and we saw a couple of 2WD’s there, as well as a big tour bus. The roads are generally well maintained but gravel, and its accessible to most vehicles.

Roads open and closed
Check the road conditions before you leave, but they are well maintained

If you want to explore the majority of the property safely though, you need a 4WD. They do have some ‘2WD’ friendly tracks, but I wouldn’t be taking any 2WD vehicle down there that wasn’t ready for a bit of a beating, and that had some clearance.

2WD tracks
Some of the 2WD tracks on Arkaroola are seriously rough

Arkaroola Camping

If you want to camp at Arkaroola, you have three options. There’s powered sites at the top of a hill, near the toilets and showers.

Around the powered sites, are unpowered sites, which are also in the open on the hill. Both areas have spectacular views of the nearby hills and rock formations, and whilst I’m told it can get dusty and windy, its not a bad place at all.

Caravan park at Arkaroola
The Caravan Park on top of a hill at Arkaroola
Sunset at Arkaroola
The Caravan Park overlooks this

Alternatively, you can drive for kilometres down the bottom in the bush camping area, and find yourself a private little spot away from everyone else.

We chose to stay in the first bush camp spot, which was within walking distance (up a fairly steep goat track) to the amenities, had good reception (so I could get some work done!) and was still private enough that the kids could run around without getting hit by a car, and make a bit of noise without upsetting anyone.

Camp site at Arkaroola
Our camp site was the first bush camp, and we loved it

The amenities at the top are old, and smell a bit, but they do the job and we had warm showers every night, and had nothing really to complain about.

Yep, they could be upgraded and made more flashy, but then you’d probably pay more to stay, so it’s a double edged sword. For us, it was pretty awesome, and we thought it was decent enough.

Arkaroola Caravan Park amenities
The caravan park and amenities

Swimming at Arkaroola

Before we go in, I want to point out that swimming in the natural waterholes at Arkaroola is not permitted.

Granted, there’s probably only a few that you could anyway, but they ban it to look after the natural wildlife, who only drink the top portion of water. If you want to swim, Arkaroola has a swimming pool located behind the restaurant.

Arkaroola views
You can’t swim in any of the waterholes on Arkaroola

What does it cost to stay?

Given the reputation of this place, and how similar it is to El Questro, I was expecting to have to cut out half of my kidney and sell it on the black market to stay here, but its actually really reasonable.

We paid $105 for three nights, for an unpowered bush camp for two adults, one kid and one baby (I’m sure Cooper should have been charged an extra $5 per night, but I won’t complain).

If you want a powered site, you’ll pay $35 a night for 2 adults.

Camped at Arkaroola
We were really happy with the value of Arkaroola overall

Overall, really reasonable value, but what impressed me most was that most of the attractions are free, and accessible to all.

There’s a couple of areas on the property that you must pay to access via a tour, or a 4WD track that you need to pay and get a key for, but the camping fee gets you a fair bit of access, and its not a rip off at all. There’s a huge amount to see as well; we stayed 3 nights and still didn’t see everything on the property.

Arkaroola Map
A Map of Arkaroola, with heaps of places to see

Arkaroola Tours

Arkaroola do a heap of tours, and I suspect they do fairly well from them. There’s a heap of scenic flights, the ridgetop tour (which is hugely recommended by many), astronomy tours and plenty more.

Arkaroola Tours
Arkaroola has a heap of tours and scenic flights if you are keen
4WD tour on Arkaroola
One of the Land Cruisers used for 4WD tours

Yellow Footed Wallaby guide

If you want to do something pretty neat, find out when the yellow footed wallaby guide is on, and head to the visitor centre (opposite reception), to watch it.

At 6:30PM (or this might change slightly) a whole heap of wallabies come down from the rocks to feed on a big rock outside of a little viewing area.

Wallaby viewing
Sitting at the Rock Wallaby viewing with the kids

We took the kids, and had a pretty special time with the owner explaining a heap of information about the history of the station and the wallabies, which at one point in time Arkaroola had over 50% of the worlds population!

Rock Wallaby viewing at Arkaroola
Seeing the Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies up close is pretty special

Arkaroola 4WD tracks

If a private property has great scenery, camping and amazing 4WD tracks, we are all over it, and Arkaroola has a pretty big reputation when it comes to exploring the station on four wheels. When you check in, you’re given a map of the station, and there are a number of 4WD tracks that you can do.

These are proper 4WD tracks too; not just station tracks that take you around the property, and a number will have you reaching for the locker button, or at least being very cautious about where you put your wheels.

Station backtrack lookout
Arkaroola has a huge number of proper 4WD’s that will keep you entertained for hours

We spent the better part of 3 days exploring the property and still didn’t see everything, but combining technical 4WDing with incredible scenery, great weather and a camp you can roll back into at the end of each day is rare. For a more in depth post on the tracks around, check out Arkaroola 4WD tracks.

Picking lines in the Dmax
A number of 4WD tracks had you thinking about wheel placement and were quite technical especially the Echo Camp one

Upon arrival, you’ll get an informational booklet that tells you where to go, but you can call in at reception before heading out and they’ll give you more information on each track that you want to do, which is pretty handy.

Information booklets from Arkaroola
Reception will give you a heap of information on each track

Stubbs waterhole

A good introduction to the property is to head back out the driveway, and turn left. This takes you past a number of attractions including the Welcome Pound, and you’ll eventually end up at Stubbs Waterhole.

You can walk through the gorge for some time and get to a couple of nice pools, but the views in this area are nothing short of stunning.

Arkaroola 4WD tracks
Heading down to the Pound and into Stubbs

Echo Camp 4WD track

This track is the only paid 4WD track on the property, and is classified as extreme 4WDing. It’s $45 to do the track, and you have to pay a $50 deposit on the key, which you get back when you return it.

This was quite possibly the best 4WD track I’ve ever done, with amazing views, a number of places that required careful wheel placement, some super steep descents and a couple of places to stop and enjoy a snack or two.

We thoroughly rated this track, and rate it a 10/10.

Echo camp 4WD track
The Echo Camp Backtrack might be the best 4WD track we’ve ever done
Echo Camp 4WD track
The views on this 4WD track were insane
Change of scenery at Arkaroola
The change of scenery at the end is quite incredible

Station backtrack

On our first day, we took this track back to the homestead. It’s one way, and can only be started from the road into Arkaroola, but it’s a cracker 4WD track with amazing views, a lookout along the way and plenty to keep your eyes watching where you are driving, and picking a suitable line.

The first hill climb is probably the hardest, which we did without a locker to see how it would go, but there was a lot of bouncing and wheel lifts, which was entertaining.

From then on, I did make use of the rear locker a few more times, but it winds its way through some pretty spectacular scenery and is 100% worth a look. If you have a vehicle with limited clearance, this track is not for you.

Station backtrack views
Views from the Station Backtrack 4WD track
Arkaroola lizard
Take your time and you might see some amazing wildlife

Hikes at Arkaroola

Arkaroola has a huge number of hikes, and if you are into walks, you could stay here for a week and still not do them all.

Most of them are a decent length as well, and we only did some short walks into the gorges. Our youngest is simply not able to walk more than 1.5km, and there’s no way I’m carrying him that far; he’s too heavy these days!

The maps are good, with decent instructions and signage for where to walk, and you can even walk into the gorge off the paid 4WD track, from the other side.

Walk trails at Arkaroola
You could spend a week here and still not hike all of the trails

Restaurant and bar

Arkaroola has a restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you can get your coffees and everything else. If you want to visit for dinner you need to pre book at least a few hours before, and they have a bar serving everything you need.

On the one night that we did pop our heads in things were bustling, happy and it’s a pretty amazing little oasis indoors.

Can you get fuel at Arkaroola?

Arkaroola has diesel, 91 unleaded and 98 unleaded. We paid $2.65 a litre for diesel, which we thought was reasonable given Hawker was charging $2.32, and Port Augusta was around $2.10. Admittedly I did work out we only needed 40L so we saved some money, but its not a bad price given its location.

2.65 a litre
2.65 a litre for diesel, which wasn’t too bad

Is Arkaroola worth a visit?

In the back of my mind, I wondered if Arkaroola might be a giant money grab, chocked full of tourists with it being the poster boy of South Australia.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It blew my mind on so many levels. Its affordable, the camping is fantastic, the 4WD tracks are even better, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and the scenery is out of this world.

If not number 1, Arkaroola gets number 2 place of everywhere we went in the Flinders Ranges. Argadells is a very competitive alternative, although quite different again.

I’d even go as far as to say that Arkaroola is better than many of the places we’ve been to in the Pilbara, and we really rate them.

If you are wondering whether Arkaroola is actually worth the visit, and you have a 4WD with a sense of adventure, put it on the list. It’s absolutely fantastic, and we’ll be back again without a second thought!

Arkaroola is so worth a visit
Its a resounding yes from us

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