South Australia is fast becoming one of Australia’s most talked about outback destinations and, in my books, with good cause.
Since I’ve been paying attention, there has been an enormous push by the South Australian Tourism Commission to get the hospitality players out here firmly onto our radar. And let’s face it, if you live anywhere else except Adelaide and hop into your car, it’s not exactly handy to very much is it? So let’s go flying, this place is a no-brainer for air safaris.
Flash or funky?
Once you start your research, you’ll find there’s no shortage of choice, and you can fly into them all. You can choose flash or funky and everything in between. You’ll get flash at the beautiful Arkaba or Angorochina Stations and you’ll definitely get funky at your $30/nt donga at the William Creek Hotel (relax, that’s WITH linen).
Although I maintain the Kimberley region is the home of Drop Dead Gorgeous landscape, SA has a few show ponies of its own.
And who knows? Maybe for the fourth year in a row, filled with historical levels of water and bird-life, Lake Eyre may even turn out to be an outback attraction again this year?
With a freezing G&T in hand, it’s pretty hard to beat sucking in the pink hues of a Flinders Ranges sunset or heading out on a pre-breakfast flight over the top of that geological jaw-dropper that is Wilpena Pound.
If you want funky-gone-mad, they’ve got that too – just call in to Coober Pedy and see if you can work that place out. It’s bang in the middle of … nowhere, really .. and it’s the opal capital of the universe.
That apparently turns hitherto sane residents into a quirky mix of enthusiastic eccentrics that you’re going to love. Putting it mildly, it’s hot out here, so they live in underground houses and they’d like you to do the same when you visit. If you’ve never stayed in an underground hotel room before, it’s … um … dark.
Andamooka is another eye-opening town that doesn’t really fit any established mould I’ve come across.
You want pubs?
I’ll give you pubs. Start with this list and come back to me when you’re finished.
In no particular order: Innamincka on the banks of the Cooper Creek, Mungerannie Roadhouse (desert-bound and the only stop-over on the 528km Birdsville Track), the Prairie at Parachilna, William Creek, Maree, Cameron Corner.
However, I’m human, so I do have a favourite. If you haven’t been to the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna, then I’m sorry but you’re going to have to. Publicans Ross and Jane Fargher manage to get so many things right. This tiny old railhead of about 7 people is funky, flash and everything in between. The Prairie deserves a visit.
Quick detour to wine country
Whilst I’m on favourites – I think it’ll be a long time til I find a more picturesque airstrip than the beautiful (short!) strip at Rowland Flat, snug in the midst of the vineyards of the Barossa,between the towns of Lyndock and Tanunda.
And then there’s the coast …
OK, so you may not think towns being pounded by the great Southern Ocean are resolutely outback, but whilst you’re down here … coastal gems like Border Village, Ceduna and Streaky Bay can all be added to your flight plan as you take in that most breath-taking flight along the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.
Have I mentioned Kangaroo Island? Oh God, this is never going to end. Looking at the Port Augusta WAC, Kangaroo Island offers four airfields, but we landed at the main strip at Kingscote. Two nights is NOT enough. What a brilliant destination for a getaway.
Off you go
With airstrips everywhere, making sensational access for aircraft, I could personally spend a month in this part of the country, flying in to visit the gate-keepers at these various properties and towns that are so isolated, so beautifully outback.
Eco tourism has also forged ahead with destinations like Rawnsley Park’s eco villas receiving high praise from savvy travellers.