It’s a pretty big call to make, but I’m declaring the scenic drive through Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge the BEST thing to do in the Flinders Ranges.
Ok, let’s back up a minute.
In case you haven’t heard of the Flinders Ranges (which is very possible if you don’t live in Australia, because it’s not on the international tourist trail), they’re located in the Outback of South Australia. Think 5 hours north of Adelaide.
Most people I know in Australia have yet to visit the Flinders Ranges, possibly because it’s overshadowed by other hotspots, but more likely because it’s quite remote and not exactly an easy weekend trip to make.
I was one of them until recently, and now I just want to shout about how glorious this place is from the rooftops. And y’all know I’m a beach bum, not so much a mountain girl.
I was feeling ambivalent about the Flinders Ranges until I drove further north into the park from Wilpena Pound (hint: this is where the scenery really cranks it up a few notches) to tackle the Bunyeroo Gorge scenic drive.
I almost didn’t make this trek, to be perfectly honest. Because once you turn off the main road, the entire scenic drive is a dirt road in questionable condition. Many articles I read about it mentioned 4WD and adjusting tire pressures and my brain started shutting down because I hate car stuff.
What worried me was how common flat tires are here due to all the sharp rocks that end up on the road. The thought of breaking down in such a remote area where I’d have zero phone reception, and zero knowledge as to how to change a tire or do literally anything else to fix a car, was almost enough to scare me off from attempting the drive through Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge.
I dragged my feet the morning we’d planned to do the drive before finally stopping in at the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre to ask about the Bunyeroo Gorge road conditions.
“You’ll be ‘right,” Mick assured me.
“Ok, but how common is it to get a flat tire on the drive? We lowered our tire pressure a bit, but we don’t really know what we’re doing and –”
“Nah, you’ll be fine – just don’t think about it. If you think about getting a flat, you’re gonna get a flat.”
Touche, Mick. I see your Law of Attraction and I salute you.
“Ok, well is it worth going to Brachina Gorge? I heard that road’s even worse.”
“Can I swear?” he asked, with a cheeky smile. I nodded. “Shit yeah!”
And that’s the story of how a tour guide slash receptionist named Mick convinced me to pony up and do the whole damn drive through Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge.
One of the rockier bits on the Bunyeroo Gorge drive.
Tips For The Scenic Drive
If you’re a little scaredy pants when it comes to driving on unsealed (dirt) roads in remote locations, then here’s all you need to know about tackling the drive to Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge:
- Allot a half day for this adventure.
- Always check with park staff to see what the current road conditions are before you start the drive (you probably don’t want to do it if it has just rained).
- You likely won’t need 4WD, but having a sturdy SUV or high clearance vehicle is a good idea. Small sedans can and do make it through Bunyeroo Gorge unscathed, but I wouldn’t recommend you drive one to Brachina Gorge because that road is much rougher.
- Lower your tire pressure by about 4psi (and don’t forget to re-inflate afterwards!). You can inflate/deflate tires at Wilpena Pound. (Note that Mick seemed to think adjusting tire pressure wasn’t necessary, but I think it’s worth doing for peace of mind)
In general, the road through Bunyeroo Gorge is pretty smooth, while the road through Brachina Gorge is much rockier, sandier, and pot hole-ier. So if you’re really nervous and/or are driving a sedan, you can just do the Bunyeroo Gorge drive and skip the turn-off to Brachina Gorge.
But don’t worry too much – odds are you’re gonna be fiiiiiiiine on this drive!
The turnoff for Bunyeroo Gorge is signmarked on Flinders Ranges way, and it’s an 8.7km drive north from Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre.
The route on the map above is entirely unsealed (aka a dirt road) and should ideally be driven from south to north (Bunyeroo Gorge first, then Brachina Gorge)… or clockwise from the main road.
Flinders Ranges Way is the main road through the national park, and it’s sealed (aka a paved road).
The rocky road through Brachina Gorge.
The dirt road through Bunyeroo Gorge is actually not too rough for driving, which means you can concentrate instead on the glorious views that surround you as you venture through the gorge.
There are two lookout points you need to stop at before you drive down into the gorge:
Bunyeroo Valley Lookout
This is the first lookout you’ll reach on the drive in on Bunyeroo Road and it’s well worth stopping for. Follow the path out to the ledge and then keep walking out for different takes on the same (amazing) view.
This is THE lookout over Bunyeroo Gorge – the big daddy, or creme de la creme of views.
Prepare to blurt out multiple expletives as you gawk over the epicness of this view.
We had a little picnic lunch on the ledge here (no, the setup wasn’t just for photos!), but it was SO windy that we quickly scarfed our food, snapped some photos, and ran back to the car for shelter.
Still, SO worth it. Definitely the best view of the whole scenic drive, and one of the best I’ve seen in 4+ months of road tripping around Australia!
Inside Bunyeroo Gorge
From the Razorback Lookout, you’ll start descending into Bunyeroo Gorge.
IMO the views from above are far more impressive than the views from below, so if you have limited time and/or are scared to drive any further, you could easily just turn around and head back to the main road after Razorback Lookout.
But it’s still pretty cool to drive through the gorge itself. And as I mentioned, the road is fine for driving if there hasn’t been recent rain. You might even spot some goats crossing!
Worth noting: You can actually camp down in Bunyeroo Gorge! Highly recommend doing so if you’re self sufficient, have a 4WD + an offroad caravan or tents, and don’t need any phone reception. Most sites are $16.50/night.
Bunyeroo Gorge Road eventually comes to a T junction at the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail (or Brachina Gorge Road) once you’re through the gorge. Take a left and you’ll head into Brachina Gorge, or take a right to get back to the main (paved) road.
Whichever way you turn, there is no shortage of signs reminding you that the rock formations you’re seeing have been around for 600 million years. 600 MILLION YEARS! Can you even wrap your mind around that?
What’s more, this area used to be underwater, as evidenced by the fossils that can be seen in some of the gorge rock (though I didn’t spot any).
The road into Brachina Gorge is noticeably more rocky, sandy, and bumpy in places – this is where a 4WD will come in handy.
We had one and only felt comfortable going about halfway in, which I felt was sufficient to get a good feel for the gorge. Mick advised us to turn around at Teamsters Campground, so if you’re venturing further into Brachina Gorge you might want to go as far as that point.
While the best part of Bunyeroo Gorge is seeing it from above, Brachina Gorge is best seen at ground level, on foot. I advise making numerous stops along the way and getting out of your car to wander around on foot because there’s so much to see. From gum trees growing out of rocks and dry creek beds, to stromatolites, to… yellow footed rock wallabies!
I’d read about these cute little creatures, but wasn’t intentionally looking for them while we were down there. Within seconds of getting out of the car at our first stop, I spotted what I instantly knew was a yellow footed rock wallaby. I’d say their feet are more orange than yellow, but look at that striped tail! THAT I wasn’t expecting.
If you want to spot a yellow footed rock wallaby in Brachina Gorge, keep your eyes on the rock because that’s where they hang out (and blend in).
Heading out of the gorge, the eastern half of Brachina Gorge Road makes for much smoother driving (easy to do in a 2WD sedan).
Oh and be sure to stop at the Aroona Valley lookout on your way out – it’s just after the T junction on the left as you head back toward the main road.
If you’re driving south back to Wilpena Pound, Rawnsley Park, or Hawker, brace yourself for a bonus scenic drive as you coast down Flinders Ranges Way (the main road). This part of the national park is devastatingly scenic, much more so than the southern end.