Home to some of the world’s oldest geological formations, explore the unique ancient landscapes of the Eyre Peninsula and immerse yourself in the rugged Australian outback and its endless sky. The Ancient Australia Trail stretches from Whyalla in the easternmost part of the Eyre Peninsula to Lake Gairdner in the north to Murphy’s Haystacks on the west coast – take a few days to appreciate what’s on offer.
From the vast expanse of Lake Gairdner, the ancient landscapes of the Gawler Ranges, and the unique granite outcrops dotted in between, this is outback Australia at its best. Be enraptured by this journey through the heart of the Eyre Peninsula.
Start off in the east and see the red sandstone of Wild Dog Hill ablaze in the light of a sunrise or sunset in the Whyalla Conservation Park, a hidden gem just 10km north of Whyalla. Explore the walking trails (you can hike to the top of the hill for sweeping views) and look out for birds and other native animals. Or stop for a picnic! It’s up to you, of course, but don’t forget your camera!
Is bigger better? That’s up to you, but Mount Wudinna is one of the region’s biggest draw cards, and it’s also one of the largest granite monoliths in the southern hemisphere. It’s an easy climb to the top for spectacular views of the surrounding farmland – think patchwork quilt – and the Gawler Ranges on the horizon.
It’s also just 10km off Highway One, through the town of Wudinna where you can find delicious local food and coffee. The roads are well signposted, and suitable for cars, caravans and buses.
The recently developed Interpretive Trail makes for a pleasant walk, and you can learn about the rock, its history, formation and the local flora. Camping isn’t permitted, but there is a large parking area (buses and caravans welcome) and several picnic sites with barbeque facilities, toilets and shelter.
The Gawler Ranges National Park is home to some of the oldest and most incredible rock formations in Australia, the result of volcanic eruptions 1.5 billion years ago. This is the place to go to get away from the crowds, and embrace the wilderness in an area largely untouched by humans.
Explore a land where history, conservation and Aboriginal culture come together, to offer an incredible and unique experience for visitors. Camp in the park and immerse yourself in the outback lifestyle - spot the (abundant) wildlife, gaze at the stars in the brilliant night sky, and explore the unique landscape which includes the famous Organ Pipes.
Book your campsite and pay for entry to the park online before you go.
Make the trip north to Lake Gairdner – it is nothing short of spectacular. This vast salt lake is the third largest in Australia, and surrounded by red earth it’s a startling contrast and a photographers dream. In some parts of the lake, the salt is one metre thick!
Don’t forget if you’re going to visit, the Dry Lakes Racers Association Speed Trials are held here – so just bear it in mind if you’re looking for a solo experience!
As you drive back down south, call in to Pildappa Rock. With its spectacular wave-like formation rivalling Wave Rock in Western Australia, it’s a wondrous place to explore. Climb to the top for the view, and if it’s rained recently you might just find tadpoles in the shallow rock pools. It’s just 15km north of the town of Minnipa, has picnic, toilet and BBQ facilities and camping is permitted. Pull up a chair under the starry sky and enjoy the view.
Tcharkulda Rock is only a short drive from Pildappa, and has some of the most spectacular boulders and ‘tafoni’ – small cave-like features – in the district. The area around the rock is carefully conserved as a picnic and recreational space, so it’s definitely worth a stop. There’s an excellent example of a restored shepherd’s hut within the reserve, and there’s a great view to be had from the top of the rock. Oh, and you can camp here too! Just 6km east of Minnipa on Bockelberg Road, it’s convenient to get to.
These unique granite boulders, in the middle of a paddock, are a fantastic photo opportunity. With a walkway between the two outcrops (they’re estimated to be 1500 million years old!), you can read the interpretive signage along the way.
Did you know: the name Murphy’s Haystacks apparently came from a passing agriculturalist, who thought the boulders were haystacks! The landowner’s name was Murphy – and so it stuck.
Finish off the trip on the great expanse of the Nullarbor – that epic, vast, flat stretch to the Western Australia border. The Nullarbor has a variety of limestone caves, some several kilometres long. The Murrawijinie Caves (just north of the Nullarbor Roadhouse) are approved for public access, and the Koonalda Cave and Bunabie Blowhole can be viewed from the top.
However, most of the caves can only be entered with an accredited caving group or in the company of a National Parks and Wildlife officer. Contact the Department for Environment and Natural Resources for more information, or stop by the Head of the Bight Interpretive Centre.
Banner Photo Credit: South Australia Tourism