The Heysen Trail, South Australia

Tunkalilla Beach, Fleurieu Peninsula, SA. © SATC & Peter Fisher

The Heysen Trail, South Australia

1,200km / 50 to 60 days / day and multi-day options

Hike all the way from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula to the mountain town of Parachilna on the 1,200 kilometre Heysen Trail. Or mix and match day and multi-day walks, choosing from dramatic coastlines, farmland and forests, picturebook towns, vine-lined valleys and rugged mountain ranges. Like a quality box of chocolates, this trail offers the best of South Australia’s wildly assorted scenic beauty. Walk next to waterfalls in Deep Creek Conservation Park and visit the historic German village of Hahndorf. Taste wine in the world-famous Barossa Valley and see settler-relics in the grazing country beyond. Head into the Flinders Ranges, where fossils date back millennia and Aboriginal rock art is as old as the Dreaming.  Walk over Mt Remarkable and to the rim of the ancient, awe-inspiring crater of Wilpena Pound. Sleep in campsites, huts and shelters or in any of the towns dotting the trail.

Fleurieu Peninsula, Heysen Trail, SA
Fleurieu Peninsula, SA

Section 1: South - Fleurieu Peninsula to Mt Lofty Ranges

Curve from Cape Jervis around the point of Fleurieu Peninsula into Deep Creek Conservation Park, where the steep cliffs drop away to the Southern Ocean. This is walking at its most challenging and inspiring. Hike to Deep Creek Waterfall, swim or snorkel from Boat Harbor Beach and picnic beneath tall stringybark trees. Walk out of the park and along the wild stretch of Tunkalilla Beach, up and down cliffs and across sparkling creeks. In Newland Head Conservation Park you can fish and surf from Parsons and Waitpinga Beaches. Look out for kangaroos, echidnas and hundreds of species of birds, from the tiny blue wren to the mighty wedge tailed eagle. See vivid-coloured wildflowers in spring and whales, seals and sea eagles in winter. Stand on the craggy cliff grandstands and stare out to Waitpinga Creek, Encounter Bay and Kangaroo Island. From Kings Beach, the Trail turns north through reserves and rolling hills, forest and farmland. Stop to see 500 million year old Glacier Rock in Inman Valley then climb the challenging inclines of Myponga Conservation Park. The hill tops offer dress circle views of the valleys and range country below. Pass through the good food hub of Mount Compass and climb to the top of Mount Magnificent for more great views. Move through pine and eucalypt forest to the Adelaide Hills at the start of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Stay in Bavarian-inspired chalets and see the house of artist Sir Hans Heysen in the historic German village of Hahndorf. See koalas and rosellas in the trees and walk amongst rhododendrons and camellias in the botanic gardens beneath Mount Lofty.

Barossa Valley, Heysen Trail, SA
Barossa Valley, SA

Section 2: Mid North - Mt Lofty Ranges to Flinders Ranges

You’ll feel like you’re in a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale as you descend through the shady pine and eucalypt forest of Mount Crawford. It often records the state’s coldest temperatures and in winter the leaves can be frosted with snow. Walk through Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park, where you can see to the Barossa Valley in the north and Gulf St Vincent in the distant south. The scrubs, forest and grassland here are home to kangaroos and a raucous array of native birds. The Trail then heads down the main street of Tanunda, a great base for exploring the Barossa Valley’s 60 cellar doors. Visit world-class wineries and follow a food and wine trail. Take a wine master class or watch artisans at work in one of the many studios. See the stone churches, galleries and museums of the heritage town of Gawler and taste strudel from Lyndoch’s German bakery. Back on the Trail head to Kapunda, South Australia’s first copper-mining town. Further north is Burra, where you can visit the ‘Monster Mine’ and see the remnants of mining engineering in Market Square. From here, rolling green hills make way for dry malley country and relics of early settlement.  See abandoned stone buildings covered in blossoms in Mt Bryan East Pass and pass the 65 kilometre-long High River wall built by pastoralists in 1860. You can even walk along Tourilie Gorge, the early farmers' route to the distant Murray. Walk over a heritage-listed railway bridge and fish for trout in Spalding. Then travel into Crystal Brook, where the sandstone cliffs mark the start of your journey into the Flinders Ranges.

Flinders Ranges, Heysen Trail, SA
Flinders Ranges, SA

Section 3: North – South Flinders Ranges to Parachlina Gorge

Walk through the historic town of Melrose and begin the gentle, scenic climb into Mt Remarkable. Orchids and colourful wildflowers decorate your journey between March and November and you’ll see emus and euros, kookaburras, corellas and galahs all year round. Don’t miss Alligator Gorge in Mt Remarkable National Park, where the ancient quartzite walls resemble alligator skin. From here short walks take you north to a fossilized lakeshore and south through a moss-spotted red canyon. Back on the Trail you’ll walk over Mount Brown, past Dutchman’s Stern bluff and via Pichi Richi pass into the historic town of Quorn. Break up your journey on the Pichi Richi Railway, which travels all the way to Port Augusta. Or continue walking past Warren Gorge and the ruins of Kanyaka Homestead. Explore Aboriginal art at Yourambulla Caves and climb Mount Arden for some humbling views. See Buckaringa Gorge before arriving in the outback hub of Hawker. From here, the Trail takes you to huge, majestic Wilpena Pound, created through millions of years of erosion. Walk to the rim, climb the peaks of St Marys and Mt Ohlssen Bagge and see the abandoned homestead inside the rugged crater. Visit nearby Arkaroo Rock, where the art on the walls tells the Adnyamathanha Aboriginal story of creation. Then follow the Trail over the ABC and Heysen Ranges, where pockets of pine forest break up the arid landscape. Detour to Brachina Gorge for fossils in ancient sea beds, or stay on track for old station ruins in Aroona Valley. This is the last stop in Flinders Ranges National Park before the Trail weaves through sun-seared wilderness to Angorichina Tourist Village. It’s a sensible rest stop before your hard hike to the top of Parachilna Gorge.

The Heysen Trail at a glance

The Heysen Trail

Best time to walk :
The trail is closed during fire danger season, from around 1 November to 30 April. The best walking is in May, September and October, when rainfall is low.

Nearest major city:
Adelaide

Learn more :
To prepare for this walk visit the
South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

 

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