Located at the northern end of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia
, Arkaroola is a rare gem. A privately owned property, Arkaroola has been set up as a wilderness sanctuary and is a wonderful place to spend some time exploring in your 4WD.
We ended up spending four nights (not the two we originally planned) in Arkaroola, and this seems to be common as there is so much to see and do. Even four days is not long enough to explore everything, however we gave it a good try!
Arkaroola is 700kms north of Adelaide
. The road in is unsealed with dry creek crossings and can be by 2WD, as can many of the roads around Arkaroola. If you are unsure how your vehicle will go on the roads, then check with reception, as they know the conditions well.
The property is all run from one central reception area. We stayed in the Arkaroola caravan park, with fantastic facilities from hot showers to the BBQ area, rainwater tanks and a communal campfire. Each spot has their own fireplace with a swivel cooking tray and lots of space.
We paid $28 per night for the caravan park, $20 for a powered site for 2 adults plus $4 per additional child per night. The bush camps (unpowered) start at $15 per night.
The showers and toilets are very clean. There is a laundry with a large tub (big enough to bath a 5 year old) and washing machines are $3 a load (no dryers). All facilities are located in the caravan park.
The Pick and Shovel Bar has cold drinks and well priced bar food. A bowl of wedges and sour cream fed four kids and was only $8. A coffee will set you back $6. The Native Pine Restaurant has main meals from about $20, and while they don’t have a children’s menu, they offer a children’s serve of the menu items at half price. Our girls devoured a schnitzel, chips and salad for $10.
The general store is located next to reception and prices are higher than supermarkets, as you would expect this far from major towns. They have a small range of grocery items, bread and meat in the freezer and plenty of souvenirs.
Internet and phone
There is no access through normal internet packages or mobile phone reception, however there is an internet kiosk that costs $2 per 20 minutes, however this is just for browsing (i.e. you can’t upload images etc). If you need to upload images or work online you can purchase 1-hour blocks from reception and use your laptop connected to their satellite broadband, however this is painfully slow! There are a couple of pay phones around the village.
The reception staff can arrange tours, which start at $40 per person and some offer a family rate. There is a three-person minimum for tours, so keep that in mind if yours is a small group.
There is plenty to keep you occupied at Arkaroola that won’t cost you more than petrol. We spent four days and could have spent much longer!
Most of the roads and drives through Arkaroola are free. Those roads that are not free have locked gates and you need a key from reception, which costs $40 per vehicle (non-refundable) as well as a $50 deposit (refundable when you return the key). The helpful reception staff will give you a map showing where you can explore for free.
All the self-guided walks are free and you can pick up a guide from reception for 50c. There are many locations to explore that are not listed in this review, areas like the Bolla Bollana Smelter Site, hot springs and gold finds.
We didn’t do all the walks and drives on offer, however those we did will show the versatility of the location.
An easy short walk with younger children or a longer one if they are up to it (6.8kms in total). We completed the walk to the first waterhole and gorge, about 3km return. The children saw plenty of birds during the walk; from eagles to willy wag tails. A word of advice - watch out for the spider webs that hang from the ends of the fallen trees.
The walk is through the dry creek beds with round river rocks underfoot, along the banks, which is easier going but our kids didn’t find nearly as fun, or at the edge of the water, changing from craggy rocks to sandy banks.
Another good walk with children, this one includes a creek crossing as you hop across the stepping-stones. Our children love to hop across and climb rocks and are always on the lookout for interesting patterns and rocks that might hide a secret fossil.
This walk also ranges from sandy banks to the dry riverbeds with rounded rocks underfoot. You can walk further along this track, however we only went for a short walk, about 1.5km return to the car.
The scenery is amazing and if you look carefully as you walk you may spot the aboriginal drawings in the rock caves.
This is a great place to enjoy your lunch with lots of sandy banks to sit on, just don’t leave any food lying around as the wallabies will make sure nothing is left!
Road to Paralana Hot Springs
Just east of Arkaroola village is the road to the Paralana Hot Springs. Along this road you will find Stubbs Waterhole and Bararranna Gorge as well as plenty of other places to check out, like Tillite Gorge (we were told it may have been a little hard for our little ones), the Ochre Wall and more. The drive alone is well worthwhile especially when you are greeted by the view at the top of Welcome Pound.
It’s a bumpy dirt road that is a whole lot of fun to drive and explore. You could stay in the car or stop off at many of the gorges and waterholes for a full day (or more) of adventure.
This is another easy walk for children and the waterhole is surrounded by towering gorge walls, and has plenty of wildlife. The girls loved spotting the ‘sparkly’ rocks that shone in the sun.
A short walk from the car park takes you to the first waterhole, then climb over some big rocks to get into the gorge and enjoy more little nooks and creeks. The walk only took us about 15 minutes to get to the first waterhole and then as long as you have time to explore from there.
One of the best suggestions made to us was to head down to the Arkaroola Waterhole at dusk to see the yellow-footed rock wallabies. Although we were a little late, we still saw half a dozen little wallabies bounding around in the rocks cliffs.
Arkaroola Waterhole is only a short drive from the village and a very short walk from the car. On the way, we prepared the girls to be quiet so they would see the shy wallabies - it was the quietest time I have ever spent with three kids!
While easily seen from the car, it is worth getting out and taking the walk up the mountain path beside the car park, which gives a 360-degree view of the amazing mountainous scenery. The walk, although steep, is only about 100m long.
It is possible to walk further along for a better view - we walked about 50m around the hill. The area was in full bloom and was thick with stunning red and pink flowers that added to the beauty.
Ningana Visitor Information Centre
The Info Centre is across the road from the reception area and has a host of information. There are big posters about the history of the area, shots of the night sky taken from the observatory and seismographic readings of the area. The Visitors Centre shows you that Arkaroola is more than just a great place to explore.