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Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

Magnificent nature, bush walking and great 4WD adventures

Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is a mecca for bushwalkers, 4 WD enthusiasts, nature and wildlife lovers. Located in the northernmost part of the Flinders Ranges, this rugged mountain area offers steep hills, gorges, waterholes and ruins from a bygone copper mining area.

Whether you come for a self-drive adventure, to join one of the numerous tours, or to go on a walking trail, take your time, and enjoy one of the most stunning mountainous regions in the Australian Outback.

Interested in star gazing? The sanctuary has 3 fully equipped observatories, available for professional and amateur astronomers. Views of the night sky in this non-polluted spot are amazing.

Greenwood Lodge at Arkaroola resort
Greenwood Lodge

The Wilderness Sanctuary is privately owned and operated by the Sprigg family. Reg (well-known Australian geologist) & Griselda Sprigg bought this 610 sq km area, which formerly was a sheep station, in 1967.

Their intention was to preserve the unique environment, remove feral animals and re-introduce native fauna and plants. Arkaroola village and roads were established in this remote area to develop an eco-tourism venture (although this word was probably not known at that time).

Today, more than 40 years later, the sanctuary and resort has received many awards. It is owned by Reg & Griselda's children Douglas and Margaret Sprigg.

Arkaroola Protection Area

Geological resources have been of interest since the first explorers and surveyors set foot into this northern region of the Flinders Ranges. Copper, gold, gemstones and uranium were discovered, a copper mine was established at Yudnamutana. However, due to the remoteness none of the ventures lasted for long.

For 6+ years Arkaroola's unique environment was threatened to be destroyed by uranium mining. Years of campaigns and debates followed, many letters to politicians were written by friends of that unique place. The uproar by South Australians and Arkaroola friends from all around the world succeeded, thankfully.

Finally, the South Australian Government announced that Arkaroola would be protected from mining through the establisment of the protection area. The Arkaroola Protection Act was developed and came into operation in April 2012.

Arkaroola Attractions and Activities

The biggest attraction is the breath-taking landscape, no doubt. Even if you only drive to Arkaroola resort and stay there, you are rewarded by beautiful nature and scenery.

The village/resort is located in the south-west of the Wilderness Sanctuary. It is surrounded by steep mountains that change their colour during the day. Sit and watch the birds, relax at the pool, have a chat with other travellers. But there is much more you can do.

  • Walking
    Stroll around the village on your own, or join one of the village walk tours to learn more about Arkaroola's history.
    Yata Nukuntha (looking at the ground) is a walking tour on demand with Adnyamathanha man, Sharpy Coulthard. Learn about bush food and medicine, listen to creation stories, understand the Adnyamathanha people's deep connection with the land.

    Walking trails include the Mawson Valley Trail (2.5 to 3 hours), Spriggina Trail (1.5 hours), Griselda Hill (1.5 hours) and more.
  • Driving Tours
    The most famous tour is the Ridgetop Tour. This is tour not available for self-drive as this is a real challenging drive. The 4 hour organised tour leads you to spectacular mountain scenery. Highlight is the 360° view from Sillers loukout. You feel like you're on top of the world.

    The Echo Camp backtrack is another challenging tour for 4WD enthusiasts. See waterholes, follow Arkaroola creek and explore more scenic country.

    Easier drives are to the Yudnamutana Mines (approx. 30km one-way) and to Paralana Hot Springs (33km one-way). Both routes are fantastic. We spent nearly a full day at each tour.
  • Astronomy Tours
    Even if you've never been interested in astronomy, travelling to the Australian Outback might change that. The amazing desert night sky is just wonderful. At least you want to see the famous Southern Cross, don't you?

    At Arkaoola you have the chance to see the cross, and even more. There are two astronomy tours available, don't miss them.
  • Scenic Flights
    Fly over the wilderness sanctuary and learn about its geology, listen to Aboriginal stories and enjoy spectacular views. Another option is a flight to Lake Frome which is considered to be Australia's whitest salt lake. Flights to other destinations are available on demand. From April 2009 flights were on the agenda to appreciate the rare occasion to see water in Lake Eyre. However now, 2013, the lake is dry.

How to get there

Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is approx. 600 km north of Adelaide. The quickest route is via Hawker and Leigh Creek. Leave the main road in Copley for the scenic route through Italowie Gorge in the Gammon Ranges National Park.

If you travel through the Flinders Ranges, there is access from Blinman via the Wirrealpa to Balcanoona road. On this road you drive along the edge of the Flinders Ranges with stunning views over the wide open spaces east of the mountains.
Both roads mentioned are unsealed and easy to drive when they are dry.

Arkaroola Accommodation and Facilities

Although Arkaroola is very remote, the village offers all facilities to make your stay pleasant and enjoyable.
The main building has the receptions area with booking desk, and a small shop where you can get basic food, drinks and souvenirs. An internet booth is available as well.
Next to the reception area is the Pick & Shovel Bar and the licensed Native Pine Restaurant.

Find accommodation suits all tastes and budgets.

  • Mawson Lodge - 20 motel-style suites for up to 4 persons. The units have beautiful mountain views.
    Facilites: Queen-size bed, single bed, trundle bed, small fridge, electric kettle, TV, bathroom.
  • Callitris Lodge - 10 motel-style suites with the same equipment as Mawson Lodge, but withouth TV. Ah, you won't need a TV anyway in such a beautiful environment :).
  • Greenwood Lodge - 20 comfortable budget rooms with en-suite bathroom. Rooms are grouped around Greenwood Hall, a huge room used for conventions, or to meet with other travellers in cold nights. The hall is nicely decorated with old stuff, collected by Griselda Sprigg in the early days.
    Since my visit Greenwood Hall was redesigned and 2 huge panoramas by photographer Peter MacDonald were added. Each room has access to the hall and to a covered verandah.
    A community kitchen with a huge fridge can be used by everyone staying at Greenwood Lodge.
  • The Caravan Park is a few hundred metres away from the main village. There are 50 powered caravan sites, and plenty more room for campers and caravanners in a natural bush setting.
    The caravan park has basic cabins with bedding supplied. Use the caravan park amenities.
    There are also Shearers's Quarters available by arrangement.
    No booking required for camping and caravan sites.
Enjoy your stay at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. It is a wonderful place to get away from hectic and stress. I enjoyed it very much. If I get the chance I'll come back.

Arkaroola Impressions

reception building
Reception, shop and restaurant building

colourful rocky hill
Griselda Hill

Arkaroola Scenery

spacious campground

swimming pool
Greenwood Lodge and Pool Area

Recommended Reading

Dune is a Four Letter Word: Desert Crossings and Dusty Memories
Griselda Sprigg talks in an entertaining voice about her adventures in the deserts of the Australian Outback. Together with her husband, a well-known geologist, she bought a sheep property and turned it into the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary we know today. Read about their hard work, setbacks caused by droughts and floods, and the always positive mindset of two extraordinary people.
A must read.

Below is a link to enjoy more photos of Arkaroola.
Don't miss them!

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Copyright © 2007- Rita Amend.