Set in the shadow of the South Flinders Ranges and at the apex of the Spencer Gulf, the thriving industrial port of Port Augusta is a major stopping point for travellers. Not only does it serve as a stopover for the famous Ghan (Adelaide to Alice Springs N.T.) and Indian Pacific (Perth to Sydney) Railways, but it lies on the cross roads of many of South Australia's main highways. From here, roads branch north to the Flinders Ranges and outback, east to Broken Hill and New South Wales, west to the Nullarbor and Western Australia, southto Adelaide, and south-west towards the many coastal towns of the Eyre Peninsula. Born out of the area's constant influx of out-of-towners, Port Augusta has plenty of accommodation, a huge supermarket to stock up supplies, and a variety of places to get a meal.
While in Port Augusta, there is much to do and see to keep visitorsamused. Those heading towards the Flinders Ranges, outback, or Eyre Peninsula should make the time for a visit to the award winning Wadlata Outback Centre, incorporated within the tourist office on Flinders Terrace. The centre provides an informative and hands-on introduction to the region's attractions and sights, as well as a comprehensive lookinto the local Aboriginal and European history. Close by on Commercial Road, the town's first train station has been superbly restored and nowhouses the colourful Curdnatta Art and Pottery Gallery. Also in town,the Homestead Park Pioneer Museum features an original 130 year old loghomestead, a blacksmiths shop, a classic steam train, and hundreds of antique photographs depicting an earlier era.
On the northern outskirts of Port Augusta, the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden covers 250 hectares of diverse, desert flora, complimented by a series walking trails and a cafe. On eastern fringes of town by the bizarre pink lake, tours of the Northern Power Station are another a popular activity, not only because they're free, but because they're actually very interesting. Tours operate twice a day between Mondays and Fridays, and begin at 11am and 1pm.
Port Augusta's enticing eastern backdrop of the South Flinders Rangesis also close enough for easy exploration, and the ideal place to beginis just 45 kilometres south-east of town at the Hancocks Lookout.At the peak of the range via a seven kilometre detour off Highway 56,the lookout affords breathtaking views over the beautiful Spencer Gulf and its surrounding countryside. Back on the highway and travelling deeper into the South Flinders, the next stop is the quaint mountain village of Wilmington. From Wilmington, the ranges most spectacular features are contained within the nearby Mount Remarkable National Park, encompassing over 15 000 hectares of rugged landscapes, dense vegetation, abundant wildlife, and a network of leisurely bush walks. One of the most popular walks is the thrilling descent into the peaceful and colourful Alligator Gorge. For more enthusiastic hikers, there is a trail to the summit of Mount Remarkable itself, though you'll need to travel 24 kilometres south of Wilmington to the tiny township of Melrose for access. Melrose and Wilmington also provide a range of accommodation for extended visits, and their classic old pubs are perfect for a refreshing drink after a hot days hiking.
Travelling south-east on Highway 56 from Wilmington, the road eventually meets with the important Barrier Highway just over a hundred kilometres later. The Barrier Highway is one of South Australia's majorinland routes, connecting Adelaide with the New South Wales outback andbeyond. If you are heading towards N.S.W., the old railway township of Petersborough (14 kilometres from the intersection) represents the last decent sized town to stock up supplies before the long 270 kilometre trek to Broken Hill. There's also several places to stay and eat, as well as a number of worthwhile attractions based predominantly around Petersborough's historical past.
Back on the Spencer Gulf and 93 kilometres south of Port Augusta, Port Pirie is the major commercial and industry centre of the region. Although the town is scenically set on the Port Pirie River and the shores of the gulf, the skyline is somewhat marred by a series of enormous grain silos and towering lead-smelting chimneys. The town's main attraction is the excellent Regional Tourism and Arts Centre, hosting both local and touring art exhibitions. History buffs will also appreciate the National Trust Museum, a display which includes severalof Port Pirie's old buildings as well as the town's first railway station.