Gawler Ranges

Rocky ranges, huge salt lakes & scenic landscapes


The Gawler Ranges are another spectacular wilderness area in Outback South Australia.
Located in the north of Eyre Peninsula, about 550 km north-west of Adelaide, this is the perfect destination to explore more stunning Outback scenery and experience four-wheel-drive adventures.

Actually, the entire region north of the Eyre Highway is very remote Outback country.

Colourful rock formations at the Gawler RangesColourful rock formations


The Ranges were formed by volcanic activity about 1600 million years ago. The volcanic ashes built huge rhyolite columns, called organ pipes, which are scattered throughout the region.
The most popular formations are Peter's Pillar and Kath's Castle on Mt. Ive Station, and the huge Organ Pipes formations in the National Park.
The rolling hills are covered with spinifex, and salt bush in the north, and mallee bush in the south.

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Attractions

The main attraction of this region is the ancient landscape and the fact that the Gawler Ranges are not overcrowded by visitors - yet.

  • Bizarre granite outcrops north of the highway. Polda Rock and Mount Wudinna are remarkable examples.
  • Wildflowers - Visit in spring, and if you are lucky, the region abounds with wildflowers.
  • Huge salt lakes - Lake Gairdner, Lake Everard, Lake Acraman - Glistening salt lakes that contrast with the red hills.

Colourful red gorge with small water poolsScenery near Mount Ive station

  • Gawler Ranges Nation Park - The park is fairly new (2002) and protects the transition area of the mallee in the south and the arid zone in the north of the ranges.
  • Mt. Ive Station - Apart from basic bush-camping areas in the national park, this working sheep station offers the only facilities for travellers. It is a fantastic place to stay and explore the region.
  • Unique landscapes and abundant wildlife - Even if you are driving, you'll see kangaroos, emus, birds and other wildlife. Check bushes and low trees along the road, where kangaroos hide from the sun during the day.
  • Watch out for the burrows of the southern hairy nosed wombat.

Red rocks with salt crusts in a salt lakeLake Gairdner with water on the surface

When to visit the Gawler Ranges?

The region enjoys warm to hot summer, cool days and cold nights in winter. Low annual rainfall defines the climate of this region.
The average daily maximum temperature is 34°C in January, however, temperatures can go up to 40°C in summer.  The mean day temps in winter are around 16°C, and around 4°C at night.

The best time to visit is certainly spring and autumn. Summer days can get quite hot. Winter might be okay as well, if you have good camping equipment to keep you warm at night.

My visit was in November (spring), and I can tell you about cold nights!

Lizard sitting on a red rock in the sunLizard basking in the sun

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Gawler Ranges Visitor Information

How to get there?

Coming from Port Augusta take the Eyre Highway to Western Australia. Leave the Highway at Iron Knob for a leisurely drive (130 km) to Mt. Ive Station on a reasonable good dirt road.

If you plan to explore the ranges in detail, make Mt. Ive your base. It is centrally located, and the only place off the highway to get fuel.

Further west, Wudinna and Minnipa on the Eyre Hwy have access to the Gawler Ranges National Park via minor roads. However, to visit any attractions further north might be too far away from the highway to manage on a day trip.

Road conditions

All roads north of the Eyre Highway are unsealed. In dry weather the main roads are usually in good condition.
Although you can do many roads with a robust 2 WD with high clearance, it is good to have a 4 WD to explore the Gawler Ranges. Some tracks to the highlights might be a bit rough and tricky.
In most cases it is the high clearance of a four-wheel-drive car you'll need, rather than driving in 4WD modus.

Facilities

Fuel, accommodation and shopping facilities are available in all towns along the Eyre Highway. Once you leave this main road, you should be well-prepared and carry food and water for your stay.

Mt. Ive Station has accommodation, fuel, and a very basic shop. Additionally, there are basic camp grounds in the National Park, most without any facilities.

Useful phone numbers

Visitor Information Centre, 44 Eyre Highway, Wudinna, Ph: (08) 8680 2969

Transport South Australia's hotline about road reports and road closures is 1300 361 033

Please note that unsealed roads might be closed in wet conditions.

An unsealed road in the bush (Gawler Ranges)Nonning Road to Mount Ive

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The articles below will help you prepare your journey