When you think of the Flinders Ranges, you probably think of the national park that surrounds Wilpena Pound. However, this beautiful region in Outback South Australia is more than just the national park, and there’s plenty of dog-friendly options on offer in this region. For this article, I’ll be concentrating on the options around Hawker, the town that is the southern gateway to Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in the Flinders Ranges
There’s plenty of things to see and do around the Flinders Ranges with your pup by your side. Consider these options…
1. Drive to Blinman
If Hawker is the gateway to the Flinders Ranges, the historic mining hamlet of Blinman is its northern outpost. The 110km Wilpena Road from Hawker to Blinman is fully sealed and makes for a great drive, weaving past the majestic ranges.
The highway passes through sections of the Ikara – Flinders Ranges National Park, which are clearly signposted. If you intend to visit the Ikara – Flinders Ranges National Park, you should buy a permit, but a permit isn’t required to travel direct to Blinman. As it’s not permitted to stop with your dog in the national park, we skipped buying a permit.
Instead of stopping in the national park, we stopped at some of the beautiful lookouts just outside of the national park:
- Arkaba Lookout
- Elder Range Lookout
- Rawnsley Lookout
- Hucks Hill Lookout
- Stokes Hill Lookout
Keep an eye out for the lookout signs, or find the pins on Google Maps or Wikicamps. All of the lookouts are just off the road, except Stokes Hill has a longer unsealed access road, so we skipped.
Another dog-friendly stopping point just south of Blinman is the Great Wall of China, a scenic rock formation, which also has an unsealed access road.
In Blinman, there’s a great picnic area in the centre of town, or pull up an outside table at the cafe or pub.
2. Take the Scenic Drive Through Parachilna Gorge
Rather than returning by the same route, consider instead taking the Parachilna Gorge Scenic Drive from Blinman over to Parachilna. The road passes through some beautiful rugged landscapes.
The 32km-long road is unsealed, but if it’s been recently graded as was the case when we drove it, it’s fine in 2WD vehicles – just take your time! Ask about the current road conditions at the Blinman Mine Booking Office.
There’s a couple of bush camping sites available at Parachilna Gorge, just over halfway along the road, as marked on Wikicamps. The sites are free of charge and dog-friendly, although don’t have any facilities.
Note that the Blinman Pools walking track starting at Angorichina Tourist Village doesn’t permit dogs.
At the far end of the drive, you’ll arrive at Parachilna, home to the Prairie Hotel and its famous “feral food” menu. The hotel is open from Wednesday to Sunday for lunch, except for a few months over the summer, plus there’s a brewery onsite. Pet dogs are welcome to join you when you’re dining or enjoying a drink outside or on the verandah.
From Parachilna, it’s 92km back to Hawker via the sealed Outback Highway.
Another scenic drive in the area that lies outside of the national park is Moralana Scenic Drive, on the southern side of the park, starting 22km north of Hawker on Wilpena Road and joining the Outback Highway. However, this unsealed road is likely rougher than the Parachilna Gorge road.
3. Stay at an Outback Station
There’s multiple stations in the area around the Flinders Ranges that welcome campers, and are generally also dog-friendly. The level of facilities vary, with some also providing cabin and lodge accommodation, although often these aren’t dog-friendly.
One popular station is Rawnsley Park Station, 37km north of Hawker on the road to Blinman. As well as pets being permitted on the powered and unpowered sites in the caravan park, there are also two pet-friendly cabins and their standard three-bedroom holiday units are now pet-friendly (see more below). If you’d like to leave your pet behind for the day, there’s the option to leave your dog in a shaded run for a fee.
4. Go 4WDing
If you have a 4WD and are interested in testing your skills while exploring the countryside, there’s a number of paid self-drive 4WD tracks available to try out. Most require a full 4WD with low-range (not an AWD) and high clearance, plus prior 4WD experience, but double-check.
5. Visit an Outback Gallery
A well-known landmark in the centre of Hawker is the Jeff Morgan Gallery. Open daily, the highlight of the gallery are its magnificent panoramic paintings of the surrounding region. But that’s not all to see, with an impressive collection of rocks and minerals, old cars and more memorabilia on display.
A small fee is charged to explore the gallery at your own pace. Allow plenty of time if you want to see everything. Well-behaved dogs on a leash are welcome to join you.
6. Visit the Kanyaka Station Ruins
In the early days of settlement in the region, many of the homesteads and outstations that were established, were later abandoned during tough years of drought. All that remains are the stone ruins visible from the roads.
One of the most prominent ruins in the area is Kanyaka Ruins, 25km south of Hawker on the road to Quorn. Initially built during the 1850s, the homestead and station were once home to up to 70 men and their families, before being fully abandoned in 1888.
A few hundred metres drive off the main road, go for a wander around the many ruined buildings, and don’t miss drive further onto the ruined woolshed. Due to the fragile walls, it’s best to keep your dog on a leash.
7. View the Silo Light Show in Quorn
The small town of Quorn is on the southern edge of the Flinders Ranges, about a 40 minute drive south of Hawker. While dogs are not allowed on the Pichi Richi Railway that terminates in town, if you spend the night make sure you check out the Quorn Silo Light Show.
This is silo art with a difference. Every night after sunset, the silos in the Railway Precinct are lit up with an audiovisual celebration of the local area and heritage. The show lasts over an hour, so get comfy in your chairs, with free admission. Double check the website for the times and latest details.
8. Stop at Burra
The historic copper mining town of Burra is located about halfway in between Adelaide and Hawker, and makes for a great stopping point on the way north.
If you’re spending at least a day in Burra, I recommend purchasing the Burra Heritage Passport from the Information Centre. For a fee, you’ll have a key that will provide you with access to nine locked sites, including the Burra Mine Site and Redruth Gaol. Dogs are welcome to join you, and I’ve even heard reports from other visitors that it includes inside buildings.
Alternatively, if you’re just passing through, check out some of the historic remains just from the outside, such as Peacock’s Chimney and the Town Hall. There’s also a great picnic area next to the creek, accessed from Bridge Terrace.
On the way north from town, keep an eye out for the old Cobb & Co Coach House Hotel, made famous from the cover art of Midnight Oil’s Diesel & Dust album.
9. Or Stop at the Clare Valley
An alternative place to stop on the way north is the beautiful Clare Valley, one of the most famous producers of riesling wine in Australia.
Some of the wineries in the valley are dog-friendly, including Shut the Gate and Skillogalee Wines. It’s best to double check their rules in advance (including that they are still dog-friendly), or ask for the latest list of dog-friendly wineries from the Clare Valley Wine, Food & Tourism Centre.
The historic Sevenhill Cellars are also dog-friendly, albeit outside only due to the resident cat, but your dog can also join you on the 45-minute historical walk. For the non-wine-drinkers, consider heading to Pikes Wines and Brewery, which is dog-friendly outside.
Another fabulous spot to stop in the Clare Valley is the historic Watervale Hotel, the oldest hotel in the region. Dogs are welcome in the beer garden and the verandah bar, as long as you are respectful of other guests. Canine Canapés are also on offer, made from waste meat and bones. Perhaps treat your dog with a Doggy Degustation, while you enjoy your own degustation?
To stretch your dog’s legs, there’s an off-leash dog park at Pioneer Park in Clare. Alternatively, walk a section of the 33km-long Riesling Trail that stretches from Auburn to Barinia. The trail is primarily used by cyclists (in between wine-tasting), so keep your dog under control. There’s also a 1km-loop trail up to Neagles Rock Lookout, just south of Clare, that allows dogs.
Dog-Friendly Parks in the Flinders Ranges
There’s a great off-leash dog park in Hawker, next to the War Memorial on the road heading to Wilpena Pound. There are two full-fenced areas, along with shelter, water, poop bags and bins.
Dog-Friendly Cafes in the Flinders Ranges
In Hawker itself, the Flinders Food Co. only opened a few years ago, but is already a very popular destination. The food menu looks great, it serves up excellent coffee (including take-away), and there’s multiple tables out the front, perfect for sitting with your pooch.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in the Flinders Ranges
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The Flinders Ranges region offers a wide variety of dog-friendly accommodation options.
We stayed in Hawker at the Hawker Caravan Park. While nothing fancy, the park has a camp kitchen, BBQ area, swimming pool and playground. Powered and unpowered sites are pet-friendly, and the local off-leash dog park is just across the road.
Another pet-friendly caravan park in the region is at Rawnsley Park Station, 37km north of Hawker on the Wilpena Road. The caravan park offers both powered sites, as well as secluded unpowered bush campsites.
Two of the cabins, which sleep up to six guests with a double bed and two bunks, are pet-friendly, for an additional charge of $10 per pet per night. Additionally, their standard three-bedroom holiday units are now pet-friendly, as of March 2023. Up to two pets are permitted, for an additional $50 per stay.
If you’d prefer to camp for free, there’s plenty of bush camping spots at Parachilna Gorge. You’ll need to be self-sufficient, as there are no toilet facilities nearby. Alternatively, park up at the Cradock Hotel, about 15 minutes south of Hawker, where you can stay in the night in return for buying a beer or meal at the pub. Toilets are provided, plus showers are available for an extra fee.
For more comfortable options, double check whether Flinders Ranges Bed and Breakfast, a 2-bedroom house in Hawker that sleeps up to 8, or The Quorn-er House, 40 minutes away in Quorn, will accommodate your pet and are available.
Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Flinders Ranges
The dreaded 1080 bait is actively used in the Flinders Ranges region for the control of feral animals. There are signposts about the use of the bait inside the national park, plus at the boundary of some pastoral properties. Keep an eye out for signs as you pass the cattle grids.
To keep your dog safe, it’s best to always keep your dog on a leash, keep a close eye on them and don’t let them eat anything from the ground. Many of the stations recommend this for visiting dogs. If concerned, a muzzle is recommended.