Embark on an expedition along the contours of the Explorer’s Way, an accessible adventure road trip tracing South Australia’s geological spine and unveiling a world of unspoilt landscapes and ancient wonders.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Kaurna, the Ngadjuri, the Nukunu, the Banggarla, and the Adnyamathanha peoples who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

About the Explorer’s Way

Widely regarded as one of Australia’s most epic road trips, the Explorer’s Way follows a network of highways connecting Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north.

The 1,142km strip of this odyssey that sits within South Australia reveals charming heritage townships, the Outback’s ancient red earth, and a vast wilderness that stretches beyond the horizon.


I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made the Flinders Ranges trip along the Explorer’s Way. And the best part? My faithful 2013 mum-mobile can deliver me to some of South Australia’s best trails along the way, meaning I can dive into its hidden marvels without needing to leave the beaten track.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

How to Get to the Explorer’s Way

From Adelaide, the Explorer’s Way commences as soon as you hit Highway 1, heading north. You’ll then need to turn left at Bolivar and hop onto the Northern Connector toward Gawler.

Beyond the Gawler Bypass, take a left onto Horrocks Highway, then onto Clare. However, if you’re thirsty for a Clare Valley riesling, it’s quicker to escape the city via South Road M2, which links directly to the Northern Connector.

If you’re driving down from the Northern Territory, you’ll likely need a couple of days to pass through Marla, Coober Pedy, Glendambo, and Pimba before reaching the mighty Flinders Ranges.

Places To Stay Along the Explorer’s Way

Best Things To Do on the Explorer’s Way

Sip and Cycle Clare Valley’s Riesling Trail

The 35km Riesling Trail cycling route winds through the delightful Clare Valley. Pedal your way past the region’s historic vineyards, blending wine appreciation with the outdoors.


Riesling Trail | Harry Vick

Drop into Alligator Gorge

Commencing at the Alligator Gorge car park, the 3.3km Gorge Circuit Hike descends a series of steepling steps, guiding you into the heart of Wangyarra / Mt Remarkable National Park.

Make the Most of Melrose’s MTB Gnarnia

Etched into the hillsides of Mt Remarkable National Park, Melrose’s mountain bike trails combine exhilarating descents, challenging terrain, and breathtaking views of the southern Flinders Ranges.


MTB Trails | Adam Bruzzone


Summit Tanderra Saddle at St Mary Peak

Located within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, the 18km round-trip hike to Ngarri Mudlanha / St Mary Peak holds a deep significance in the Adnyamathanha creation story. Out of respect, visitors are asked to refrain from climbing beyond Tanderra Saddle (which offers similarly breathtaking views).


Skill Level

Beginner – Intermediate

This South Australian road trip is perfect for new or experienced Explorers looking to discover their backyard. All major routes are 2WD accessible and include a range of adventures to suit experience and fitness.

Essential Gear

  • Hiking boots
  • Warm clothes
  • Wet weather gear
  • Sun protective shirts and pants
  • Hat
  • Sunnies
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottles or bladders
  • Food and snacks
  • Camp cooker and gas
  • Camping gear
  • Tent
  • Headtorch
  • Firewood, paper and matches
  • First aid kit
  • PLB

The Explorer’s Way Road Trip

Day 1: Adelaide – Clare Valley

Total distance covered: 147km
Total driving time: 1 hour 45 minutes

South Australia’s agricultural landscapes come quickly once you’ve exited Adelaide’s sprawl. You’ll need around 90 minutes of playlist to get you to the acclaimed Clare Valley wine region. From here, the best way to explore is by bike.


O’Leary Walker | Duy Dash

The 35km Riesling Trail blends history, wine, and nature all in one. Loosely following the Explorer’s Way between Clare and Auburn, the moderate level track combines provincial South Australian countryside with some of the valley’s best-known wineries.

Think Tim Adams Wines, Sevenhill Cellars, and O’Leary Walker Wines, right on the bike path! Depending on how many stops, a one-way cycle can take between 2-4 hours.


But what about the return leg? A round trip is a long haul after a tasting paddle served with artisan cheeses. No stress; one-way hire options are available for rental bikes.

Back at the car, many world-class wineries wait just off the trail. A favourite is Skillogalee. A 10-minute drive from Clare, this scenic estate features rustic dining experiences, the temptations of a cosy cellar door, and accommodation for those not quite ready to head back to town.

If you’re after something more secluded, check out CABN’s off-grid suite of tiny homes tucked between Clare Valley’s rolling hillscape. But get in quick; they book out fast.


CABNs Clare Valley | Josh Lefevre

Day 2: Clare Valley – Melrose

Total distance covered: 232km
Total driving time: 3 hours

Depending on how your head feels after a night enjoying the fruits of wine country, you’ll likely need a coffee from Cafe 1871 in Clare. Then head for a recovery stroll at the nearby Gleeson Wetlands. This Twitchers paradise is an ideal first stop to stretch your legs and reinflate your lungs before continuing north along Horrocks Highway.

Back on the road, you’ll find breakfast stops in Laura and Gladstone, but if your stomach can hold out for an hour, the tiny community of Stone Hut features one of the region’s most famous bakeries. What the town lacks in population, it makes up for in pie girth, meaning these tasty pastries can be shared (good luck brokering that deal).

Nestled in the shadows of the imposing Wangyarra / Mt Remarkable, Melrose is another 30 minutes further along. Depending on your adventure style, the neighbouring national park offers mountain biking and bushwalking trails.

The closest section of Melrose’s extensive MTB network can be found across from Over the Edge on the main street, where bike hire and trail reports are available. For experienced riders, the hectic Dodging Bullets track is the stuff of legend. Still learning your craft? Weaving Camels cuts a peaceful path along the town’s babbling creek.

If you prefer boots to bikes, the Mt Remarkable Summit Hike follows a meandering 14km loop through eucalypt forests and dramatic scree (watch your ankles). Make the most of Willochra Plain’s infinite vista on the ascent; the summit is entirely circled by trees. You’ll need at least 3 hours for the circuit.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, restock your supplies at Store 54 Cafe in Melrose, then plug Alligator Gorge into your GPS. I know, I know, you probably feel pretty pooped by now, but trust me, the 30-minute drive into the Mt Remarkable National Park is worth it.


Alligator Gorge | Angus Mountjoy

Carved over millions of years, the gorge’s dramatic rock formations create a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s one of my favourite short(ish) South Australian walks.

If you want to set up camp near the Gorge, Longhill Camp (400m away) is your best bet. You’ll have to contact Natural Resource Centre – Clare in advance to book your spot – (+61 8) 8841 3400 or mrnp@sa.gov.au. Staying on the other side of the park at the stunning Mambray Creek?

First, detour to Hancocks Lookout for a spectacular twilight view over the Spencer Gulf. Remember, the campground is another 30 minutes from here; don’t leave it too late! Alternatively, there are plenty of fluffy beds back in Melrose.

Day 3: Melrose – Quorn

Total distance covered: 94km
Total driving time: 1 hour 30 minutes

If you’ve slept in the national park overnight, don’t be surprised if the resident emus and roos take an interest in your breakfast. They’re super friendly around here.

Once you’ve bunked out, set off on one last hike in Mt Remarkable National Park. Mambray Creek Walk runs a gentle 6km return in the shade of the adjacent rockface.

But if you’ve eaten way too many Weetbix, the Grade 3 Hidden Gorge Hike delivers an epic 18km loop, winding through native pine forests, rocky creekbeds and the park’s narrowing red-rock gorges. Leave several hours for this bad boy; pack water and your lunch.

Back on Explorer’s Way, the railhead town of Quorn lies one hour north. You’ll notice the landscapes rapidly change as you cross Goyder’s Line (a geographical boundary marking reliable rainfall), where the grassy plains turn to saltbush. Welcome to South Australia’s semi-arid mid-north.

Read more: Quorn is the Perfect Easy Biking Weekend Getaway

In town, head to Quandong Café for a delicious quandong pie (and grab a second for your next mid-adventure snack; you’ll thank me later). Hold onto your Akubras; these desert delicacies are packed with flavour.

If you’re keen to keep moving but your legs need a break, hop on a joyride on the historic Pichi Richi Railway. Departing from Quorn’s main drag, this heritage locomotive chuffs through the region’s gum-lined landscape, transporting you to an era of vintage charm. Train timetables vary, but Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends are usually winners. Evening services run during warmer months.

Back in the car, a trip to Devil’s Peak (and its sweeping 360-degree view of the southern Flinders Ranges) sits 15 minutes south of Quorn.


Devils Peak | Sam Lecons

The 2.5km out-and-back walk from the car park might seem a quickie, but the track throws up increasingly rugged terrain as you approach the summit. Give yourself an hour or so, depending on the conditions.

Want something meatier? Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park lies half an hour northwest, offering lengthier treks, including a 10.5 km circuit to the towering Dutchmans Stern summit. This one will take at least three hours, but leave yourself some wiggle room; the climb can get steep.


Dutchmans Stern | @trekkingwest

You’re probably ready for bed by now. I certainly am. There are several lovely accommodation choices in Quorn, but none are as cosy or hospitable as Elizabeth House.

Day 4: Quorn – Wilpena Pound

Total distance covered: 125km
Total driving time: 1 hour 30 minutes

From Quorn, set your bearings 40 minutes northeast to Hawker. If you’ve made it into the car at dawn, firstly, tell me your secret, and secondly, relish the landscape radiating between purples, reds and gorgeous golds around you. Sunrises are extraordinary out here. Also, keep an eye out for roadside roos; they’re active at this hour.

Your first stop is Flinders Food Co on the western side of town. These outback heroes offer one of the tastiest spreads this side of Adelaide, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options to wake your taste buds. Grab yourself a coffee, a breakfast burger, heck, a takeaway beer; you won’t regret it.

Load up on deliciousness and turn your attention to the jewel of the mid-north: Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. In its centre, some 30 minutes away, you’ll find Wilpena Pound Resort, flush with powered campsites, glamping tents, and lux cabins. The on-site IGA Xpress contains a surprisingly good selection for a remote supermarket, making the Pound an excellent base for hiking and biking adventures.


Wilpena Pound | Thomas Cowey.

On your way in, hang a left to Arkaroo Rock for a 3km circuit to some of the region’s ancient Aboriginal artwork. Believed to be more than 5,000 years old, this culturally significant site showcases spectacular ochre and charcoal paintings depicting stories of the Adnyamathanha people. Be sure to breathe it in.

You’ll also pass Rawnsley Park Station, where you’ll find a variety of touring experiences, including flights overseeing the Flinders’ red dirt landscape with Chinta Air.


Wilpena Pound from the air | Thomas Quan

If you only have time for one trek, spend it clambering up toward Ngarri Mudlanha / St Mary Peak. Summiting this part of the Flinders is an adventure with cultural depth, and while Traditional Custodians ask for respect by avoiding the summit, the looped hike at Tanderra Saddle offers equally breathtaking vistas. All 18km should take at least 5 hours.

Note: There’s an extremely steep section clockwise from the Saddle on the ‘Outside Trail’; take this slow. Carry plenty of water and a fully charged camera battery; you’ll need it.

Back at camp, the resort restaurant puts on a terrific feed, or you can build a toasty fire and watch as every star in the hemisphere emerges. Wilpena Pound is a truly remarkable place; if you plan to spend multiple days anywhere along the Explorer’s Way, make it here.

Read more: Flinders Ranges – A Long Weekend Exploring South Australia’s Outback

Tips for the Explorer’s Way

  • southaustralia.com has a fantastic Trip Planner for curating adventure road trips along the Explorer’s Way. Sign up for an account, plug in your must-haves, and an interactive map displays your itinerary. Brilliant!
  • Petrol stations are few and far between along the Northern Connector, top up before leaving Adelaide
  • While many South Australian parks are free to visit by car, a handful require a Parks Pass, including Ikara-Flinders Range NP and Mt Remarkable NP ($13 each). Thinking of returning? Pick up a multi-month pass
  • South Australia’s semi-arid climate typically varies from mild to hot, but night temperatures can drop to freezing in winter; pack accordingly
  • Wilpena Pound to Adelaide takes 4.5 hours with a sneaky food stop; allow enough daylight hours if you plan to drive the return leg in one hit