Plan your visit to Nilpena Ediacara National Park
Nilpena Ediacara National Park is now open.
A lot of work has been done behind the scenes to create a very unique visitor experience that’s a special new attraction for the Flinders Ranges.
Nilpena is a site of huge international significance and an active geological research site. To ensure it’s protected, entry is by guided tour only. There are no overnight facilities or areas to freely undertake recreation. We appreciate your understanding in preserving this invaluable testament to our planet’s history.
The new visitor precinct includes three heritage buildings of the former pastoral station. These are the Blacksmith’s Shop, Woolshed and the Shearer’s Quarters.
The park is located on the western margins of the Flinders Ranges adjacent to Lake Torrens, 540 km north of Adelaide in South Australia. Visitors booked on guided tours can access the park via the Outback Highway 30 minutes north of Parachilna and 40 minutes south of Leigh Creek.
The Blacksmith’s Shop experience
The former Blacksmith’s Shop is now a state-of-the-art interpretation centre created by a specialist project team including stonemasons, audio-visual technicians, furniture craftsmen and palaeontologists.
Within the Blacksmith’s Shop, visitors booked on guided tours can enjoy a one-of-kind fossil experience. It’s called Alice’s Restaurant Bed, so named after a 1967 Arlo Guthrie song because it includes a fossil bed that’s teeming with examples of the first animal life. The fossil bed is brought to life by an impressive, tailor-made interpretive display with audio visual reconstructions of what these organisms looked like and how they behaved.
Visitors can see first-hand the evidence of multicellular animal life etched-in-time that once lived on earth 560 million to 542 million years ago.
Alice’s Restaurant Bed
In the late 1960s, American folk singer Arlo Guthrie wrote a song titled ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ about being able to get anything you could ever want there to eat.
Fast forward to 2016 and his song title was aptly used by leading palaeontologist Dr Mary Droser and her team from the University of California, Riverside to describe a significant fossil bed unearthed in the hills of the former Nilpena Pastoral Station – now the national park.
Mary describes this fossil bed from a palaeontologist’s point of view to have everything you could ever want in a specimen.
Alice’s Restaurant Bed is now housed inside the Blacksmith’s Shop.
Technicians worked together to ensure the 1000 or so pieces that form Alice’s Restaurant Bed were included in the Blacksmith’s Shop in a seamless operation.
Different thicknesses of the excavated fossil pieces were be levelled using a specially-designed table.
Curated lighting now provides the best possible viewing conditions to see the array of fossils.
This is an all-accessible visitor experience that allows everyone of all mobility types to view fossils up-close.
Adjacent to the Blacksmith’s Shop are the former shearer’s quarters which are currently used as accommodation for researchers who work onsite. There are also plans for the former woolshed (opposite the Blacksmith’s Shop) to create an event and function space in the future.
The Fossil Fields
The fossil fields remain an active research site. It’s here where many discoveries have occurred and where Alice’s Restaurant Bed was unearthed.
At the entry to the fossil fields, the surrounding landscape is quite spectacular and provides a different perspective of the Flinders Ranges.
Rolling hills frame the distant landscape and at dusk, you can capture panoramic photos of the ranges in all their purple-hued glory.
The Nilpena Gateway
The Nilpena gateway – a striking stone wall – is the entry area to welcome visitors booked on guided tours. The gateway provides a unique photo opportunity with panoramic views of the northern Flinders Ranges. Visitors are welcome to stay in the nearby Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park and surrounding towns as camping is not allowed on site.
Beyond the gateway, a 14 km journey leads to the visitor precinct. The road traverses a pastoral landscape passing through the privately-owned Nilpena Pastoral Station (a current working cattle property) and the Nilpena Station homestead (no public access).
The environment is extremely scenic and includes several permanent springs and extensive creek lines that have cultural significance to the Adnyamathanha people.
Work has been undertaken to revegetate the environment with over 1,500 tubestock and 1.5 ha of direct seeding of plants endemic to the surrounding landscape. This has been made possible through funding provided by Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation.
In and around the gateway entry, around the built infrastructure and along roadsides to the fossil fields appropriate landscaping sympathetic to the environment has also been implemented.
Embark on a mesmerising journey into the past
Book your Nilpena Ediacara National Park tour.