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Port Augusta, South Australia

Before European colonisation, the local Aboriginal people knew the area as Curdnatta, meaning 'sandy place'. The area was named Port Augusta in 1852. We learn more about Aboriginal culture and its evolution on this small group tour to the Flinders ranges.

28 Apr 20 · 4 mins read

Port Augusta, Australia

Positioned at the top of the Spencer Gulf, Port Augusta is the crossroads of Australia, where road, rail, and sea meet and the goods of the outback were once shipped around the world.

Before European colonisation, the local Aboriginal people knew the area as Curdnatta, meaning ‘sandy place’. The area was reached by the explorers Alexander Elder and John Grainger in 1852, who named the town Port Augusta after Lady Augusta Sophia Young, the wife of the Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Edward Fox Young.

Port Augusta is known as the ‘crossroads of Australia’.

In the Victorian Era, Port Augusta became an important port, shipping wheat and wool from properties on the Flinders Ranges around the world. Shipping ended by the 1970s, and since then, Port Augusta has primarily become a tourist centre, as the gateway to the nearby Flinders Ranges.

Port Augusta really is at the crossroads of Australia. By road, if you head north on the Stuart Highway, you’ll reach Darwin, 2, 722 km away. To the west, the Eyre Highway will take you to Perth (2, 390 km), while head to the east you’ll reach Sydney (1, 561 km). To the south, head a mere 310km and you’ll get to Adelaide. Port Augusta is also a terminus on the Trans-Australia Railway (which heads to Kalgoorlie), and was a terminus for the Central Australia Railway, which went from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

Things to see and do:

The desert meets the sea at the end of the Spencer Gulf, near Port Augusta.

The award-winning Wadlata Outback Centre is an important resource for the traveller hoping to head out into Australia‘s Outback, providing maps and extensive information. Delving into the natural and human histories of the region, the centre tells the story of the animals which once roamed the outback, the life ways of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, and the experiences of early explorers and settlers in the region. Focusing on the challenges of transportation and communication over the vast distances of the Australian Outback, the centre explores the modern settlement of Central Australia.

The historic heart of Port Augusta can easily be explored on a walking tour. Look for the Flinders Hotel, completed in 1878, and rumoured to be the largest hotel in South Australia. As Port Augusta boomed in the 1870s and 1880s, the town became home to over twelve hotels! Other buildings worth seeing on your walk include 4 Gibson Street, built by the first British settler in town, and Seaview House, once the Bank of South Australia, now used to house local public servants. To look into the (sometimes harsh) reality of outback living, make a visit to Port Augusta’s Royal Flying Doctor Service station, which is open to be toured by the public.

Two kilometres to the north of Port Augusta is the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. Offering sweeping views over the Flinders Ranges, the park offers insight into the diversity of flora found in the Australian desert, showing how flowers and other vegetation can grow in a desert landscape. There are three walking trails, passing through vegetation grown in the Great Victoria Desert, the Flinders Ranges and the Gawler Ranges, and the Eyre Peninsula. Just nearby is the Matthew Flinders Red Cliff Lookout, a viewing point for the impressive red cliffs first spied by Matthew Flinders when he reached the upper reaches of the Spencer Gulf on 11 March, 1802.

Tour South Australia’s Flinders Ranges with Odyssey Traveller:

Odyssey Traveller visits Port Augusta on our Tour of the Flinders Ranges. Beginning and ending in Adelaide, our tour takes you to the outback towns of Coober Pedy and Woomera. From Coober Pedy, we head to Lake Eyre National Park, where we take a scenic flight over Lake Eyre. We then wind our way through the many incredible national parks and reserves of the Flinders Ranges, beginning with the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park. The area has a rich Aboriginal heritage: Lake Frome in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park plays an important part in the lives of the Adnyamathanha People, the traditional owners of the land of the northern Flinders ranges. (The southern Flinders Ranges, by contrast, were traditionally home to the Nkuna and the Ngadjuri peoples).

Following this, we visit Nilpena Station, before heading to the iconic Flinders Ranges National Park, also known as the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park (or Ikara Flinders), following the Adnyamathanha name for Wilpena Pound. Flinders Ranges National Park is home to several scenic gorges, including Bunyeroo Gorge and Parachilna Gorge. In the Flinders Ranges, we make a trip to Brachina Gorge, and visit Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre of mountains. Wilpena‘s traditional name Ikara translates as ‘meeting place’, indicating that it is a place of great importance in the local Aboriginal culture.

Aerial view of the ABC Range in South Australia’s rugged Flinders Ranges.

Accommodation on the vast Flinders Range is often offered at converted stations: Rawnsley Park station and the Adnyamathanha-owned Wilpena Pound Resort in the old Wilpena Station.

After Wilpena Pound, our tour leaves the Flinders Ranges, winding back to Adelaide, where we enjoy a final dinner at the group’s hotel. After this, you are at your leisure to head home or explore South Australia further. Worthwhile destinations in the Adelaide region include Kangaroo Island and the Fleurieu Peninsula, and the wineries of the Barossa Valley.

Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:

For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.

External articles to assist you on your visit to the Flinders Ranges and South Australia:

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