One of Australia's most incredible landscapes, the Flinders Ranges is a land of fertile bush, jagged gorges, arid mountains and burning-hot desert. Human inhabitants are few and far between, scattered across the plains hundreds of kilometres apart, waiting for the weekly deliveries of goods, mail and, of course, the occasional tourist.
Such isolation inspires the enquiring mind, and consequently the area is popular for bush walkers. Set out on foot, or by 4x4, and you'll be rewarded with exceptional views, peculiar geological marvels – Lake Eyre and Wilpena Pound are two of the most striking examples – and the occasional local shearing a sheep or examining a recently excavated opal.
This extraordinary natural amphitheatre sites at the centre of Flinders Ranges National Park – the unusual showpiece of one of Australia's finest reserves. Jagged mountains encircle the gently sloping heart of the pound, the result of odd tectonics, though it looks more like the aftermath of an ancient meteor strike. off-road tours and scenic flights are the best ways to explore and experience this enormous park, home to a rich array of native wildlife including emu and endangered marsupial species such as the yellow-footed rock wallaby.
Coober Pedy & The Breakaway
Known as the 'opal capital of the world', Coober Pedy is a small town some 850km north of Adelaide. The town only grew at the beginning of the 20th century after a small party, searching for gold, discovered an abundance of opal so decided to mine for that instead. The town's unusual name originates from the Aboriginal kupa piti, meaning 'white man in a hole', perhaps referring to the areas unique form of housing known as dugouts – underground homes designed to shelter the occupants from the stifling summer heat, which can reach well into the 40s. To the north, The Breakaways are one of South Australia's Outback highlights: striking rocky outcrops that stick out of a large dusty plateau formed by an inland sea long since receded. They're best visited at sunrise when the layers of rock are most visible.
Due to the fluctuating water levels, Australia's largest lake can be either a vast watering hole or a dried-up salt lake. It's also the focal point for one of the Earth's largest draining basins. Covering up to one sixth of Australia's entire landmass, it's a dusty and arid world home to numerous salt lakes and slow-flowing rivers. While in the area, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for giant bilby, koware and waddi trees, just some of the rare species that rely on this variable world.