How to spend a day in South Australia’s Mount Remarkable National Park
Want to make the most of your visit to this iconic park? We’ve got you covered with this one-day itinerary.
Nestled in the southern Flinders Ranges on the edge of the outback, Mount Remarkable National Park is within easy reach of Adelaide, being only a three-hour drive north of the city.
Its location, just south of Port Augusta – the ‘Crossroads of Australia’, makes it a popular and convenient stopover point for travellers making their way across Australia. Both major road routes that connect Perth to the east coast capitals and Adelaide to Darwin pass right past the park.
So if you’re travelling through and want to stop and stretch your legs, the park is a great spot for it.
Explore the dramatic gorges, spot local wildlife or take in the spectacular views of the Southern Flinders Ranges and Spencer Gulf from the park’s namesake, Mount Remarkable, which rises 960 meters above sea level.
The park’s many kilometres of walking tracks have something for all ages and abilities, including the famous Heysen Trail that goes right through the middle of the park.
There are plenty of options for visitors wanting to explore further, including mountain biking in Willowie Forest or doing an overnight hike and staying at one of the several bush camps throughout the park.
There’s so much to see and do, so local park rangers Brett Coghlan and Niamh Douglas have put together a suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your visit to the park.
Note: This itinerary covers highlights that can easily all be done in a day, starting at the Alligator Gorge precinct of Mount Remarkable National Park just south of Wilmington.
Start your day exploring the impressive Alligator Gorge, with its spectacular rock formations and rock pools.
From the Alligator Gorge car park, take the short and easy 400m walking trail to Ali Lookout, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the gorge below.
If you're feeling energetic, head down the 250-or-so steps into the gorge. From here, follow the 2km Gorge Circuit Hike, which will take about two hours to complete.
Once you’re at the bottom of the gorge, walk over to The Terraces and if there’s been some recent rain, you’ll be rewarded with water trickling down the stepped ledges.
Spend a few minutes taking in the serenity, listening to the sounds of the creek and the birds.
On a hot day, the coolness at the bottom of the gorge is a welcome relief while you admire the geology in the rock walls and the trees stretching from the gorge floor to reach the sunlight.
When you’re ready to keep moving, retrace your steps and head back through The Narrows section of Alligator Gorge.
By now, you’ve likely worked up an appetite. From the Alligator Gorge carpark, drive a few minutes south on the unsealed road to the Blue Gum Flat Picnic Area.
This spot is perfect for lunch, with shady gum trees and is a great place to see some local wildlife including emus and western grey kangaroos.
The facilities here include picnic tables, free barbecues and toilets.
After lunch, drive approximately one hour over to the Mambray Creek precinct on the western side of the park by taking the scenic Horrocks Pass Road and then National Highway 1.
Look out for the well-signposted entrance road to the park and continue to the day visitor area where you’ll have plenty of options for bushwalks.
The 1.6 km Wirra Water Loop is an easy 30-minute walk that follows the creek west past the campground. Along the way you can learn about the river red gums that line the creek. Look out for local resident kookaburras, emus and euros.
You can extend this walk by adding the Baroota Hike, which will take an extra 90 minutes from the end of the Wirra Water Loop. The trail will take you past the Baroota Cemetery and Baroota Homestead ruins.
For the more adventurous hiker, take the 7 km Mambray Creek Valley Hike. Head east from the day visitor area and enjoy this peaceful stroll through the red gums along the creek. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re walking as you might be lucky enough to spot the vulnerable yellow-footed rock wallaby on the cliffs and scree slopes. The walk ends at Scarfes Hut, an old one-room hut where a shepherd used to live with his family back when sheep were run in the valley.
If you’ve still got some energy left, once the sun starts to go down, head up the Daveys Gully Hike. The 2.4 km trail will take about 1 hour to complete.
At the top of the hike you’ll have a fantastic view of the sun setting over the Spencer Gulf. Make sure you bring a jumper to stay warm and a torch to light your way back down the trail once it gets dark.
Stay the night
If you want to stay the night in the park, there are two campgrounds in the Mambray Creek precinct to choose from.
Mambray Creek Campground is the largest of the two, and is great for families as it has hot showers and easy access to the day visitor area. Baroota Campground is a few minutes down the road and is smaller with a more secluded feel.
Campsites must be booked online so be sure to book yours before arriving as phone service within the park is limited.
Top tip: Didn’t bring your tent? Not a problem – there are two accommodation options also available for booking. Mambray Cabin in the Mambray Creek Campground is a one-room cabin best suited for individuals, couples, or small families and Alligator Lodge near Alligator Gorge is a three-bedroom house and perfect for larger groups.
Things to prepare before you go
It’s also a good idea to download park and campground maps on your phone while you still have internet reception, or get the Avenza PDF Maps app and download the park maps. When you’re in the park, the app will use your phone’s built-in GPS to plot your real-time location onto a map – even when you don’t have internet reception.
The park truly is a rugged wilderness, and that also means there’s limited facilities available, so you’ll need to come prepared.
Make sure you pack enough drinking water and food as there are no shops located within the park. It’s also a good idea to pack sun protection (a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen) and insect repellent. If you’re planning on hiking, it’s also essential you wear suitable footwear and clothing, such as long pants.
There are no bins in national parks, so you’ll also have to think about how you can take your rubbish home.
Looking for an insider’s guide on the best places to visit and ‘must do’ activities? Check out Ranger Niamh’s tips for Mount Remarkable National Park.
Main image: Bushwalking along Mambray Creek
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