Visitor Guide to Wilpena Pound
Where is Wilpena Pound?
Wilpena Pound is in South Australia, 440 km | 273 mi north of Adelaide, located deep in the heart of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
Deep in the heart of the South Australian Outback lies Wilpena Pound. The majestic centrepiece of Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park feels protected from the outside world by an elliptical crown of furiously serrated mountains. In its centre is a sunken natural amphitheatre, home to a range of birds, kangaroos, and wallabies.
Wilpena Pound is part of the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park, far off the main desert highway that connects Adelaide in the south with Darwin up north. Even though (or because) it’s far away from any other attraction, the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound are some of the most popular places to explore in the South Australian Outback.
Wilpena Pound is a massive natural amphitheatre in the South Australian Outback, a 17 km | 11m long by 8km | 5mi wide elliptical crown of furiously serrated mountains. Its highest summit, St Mary Peak, stands 1168m | 3832ft tall.
80sq km | 50sq mi in size, the Pound covers eight times the area of Uluru, it’s 300m | 984ft higher than the famous landmark in the Red Centre and possibly just as culturally significant.
Wilpena Pound’s shape is the inspiration for its name. Wilpena is said to be an Aboriginal word for ‘bent fingers’, hinting at the shape of cradled hands. A pound is an old English word for a livestock enclosure that’s typically surrounded by stone walls.
Nowadays, Wilpena Pound is also known by its Adnyamathanha name Ikara, meaning ‘meeting place’.
By car: Two routes lead to Wilpena Pound from Adelaide. You can either take the inland road and drive through Clare Valley, one of South Australia’s wine regions (and maybe even stay there for a night).
If you need to buy supplies for your time in the Outback, the best way is to follow A1 to Port Augusta (the last bigger town before the Outback) and then head inland to Wilpena Pound. The main road into the park is sealed and accessible for all vehicles.
No matter which route you’ll take, it’s about 5 hours to get to Wilpena Pound, longer if you take breaks along the way.
By plane: The most amazing way to arrive at Wilpena Pound is by small plane. You can fly from Adelaide to Wilpena Pound in two legs. The first leg takes you from Adelaide to Port Augusta where you’ll change to the second leg from Port Augusta to Wilpena Pound.
With a tour: Just let someone else do the driving. Sit back, relax and listen to the stories your tour guide has to tell about the passing landscape.
Looking at the elliptical shape of Wilpena Pound from the air one might think a meteor crashed into the desert, leaving behind a massive crater. This is not the case although the reality isn’t any less impressive!
The Pound is thought to be the remnants of sedimentary layers of an ancient seabed that were laid down as far back as a thousand million years ago! Since then, Wilpena Pound was formed into its current state by geological force, pushing the rocks above the earth’s surface and as high as the Himalayas before erosion reduced the Pound to its current shape.
There’s only one accommodation in Wilpena Pound. Wilpena Pound Resort caters to every budget, from campsites over hotel rooms to luxurious glamping in safari tents (air-conditioned). The resort has a bar and restaurant as well as a little convenience store.
It’s also where you can find the park’s visitor centre and the airstrip for flights from Port Augusta and scenic flights over the Pound.
If you prefer to stay in the Flinders Ranges but outside of Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Park Station is an ideal base to explore Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges.
To fully experience Wilpena Pound and the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park, we suggest you stay for at least two nights, ideally three.
Wilpena Pound is all about immersing in the jagged natural beauty. Wallabies come by for a visit at the resort and you can see emus wandering.
One of the must-do tours in Wilpena Pound is the cultural tour. Join an Adnyamathanha Aboriginal guide for an informative walk into Sacred Canyon and learn more about the cultural significance of the site and the ancient rock engravings.
One of the most memorable experiences will be a scenic sunset flight over Wilpena Pound. The views of the Outback as the sun goes down is something you’ll never forget.
After dawn, there’s nothing better than sitting on your deck with a glass of wine and marvelling at the magical night sky. With virtually no light pollution, Wilpena Pound offers some of the best outback star-gazing in Australia.
Other unforgettable activities are 4WD tours of the park as well as mountain biking adventures and a range of guided and unguided walks.
You can visit Wilpena Pound year-round but the best time is from approximately April to October which is autumn through to spring. Temperatures are a lot more endurable outside of summer.
Summer can get extremely hot in Australia’s Outback and the Flinders Ranges are no exception. During the hottest season, most walking tracks in Wilpena Pound are closed as it would just be too dangerous to walk in the heat for this long. All other activities can still take place in summer, just be sure to always have enough water with you.
If you love Outback adventures, 4WD tours and star-gazing off the beaten path, we know that you will love visiting Wilpena Pound.
These tours include an overnight stay in the Ikara Flinders Ranges: