Explore the Outback at This 1850s Sheep Farm Turned Nature Conservancy
Arkaba Station was a sheep farm in South Australia from the 1800s until a conservation-minded hotel company bought it and turned it into a nature conservancy. Which meant getting rid not only of the sheep but also rabbits, foxes, cats and many other animals that had killed off the native flora and fauna. Now the endemic species have recovered, and you can spot a host of only-in-Australia critters like yellow-footed rock wallabies and ringneck parrots.
The Arkaba Station Homestead is the headquarters for a trip to this 60,000-care private nature conservatory on the edge of South Australia’s outback, 250 miles north of Adelaide. The Homestead was built in the 1850s as part of a sheep farm.
Guests on the trek stay at bush camps, where they sleep on timber swags facing the landscape. The staff ferry the bags between camps and set up “bush showers”—bucket showers with water warmed over the campfire.
The highlight of a trip to Arkaba Station is the property’s three-day trek between remote camps on the property and into the adjacent Flinder’s Ranges National Park. With only 10 guests at the property at a time, you feel as if you have the whole outback to yourself.
Guests arrive and depart from the Homestead, which has 5 guestrooms, a pool, outdoor dining, and a terrific cellar of South Australian wines. It also uses solar power and filters its own water instead of relying on bottled water.
The walk, modeled on a traditional African safari, covers 27 miles and offers breathtaking glimpses of the landscape—the rusty bluffs and scattered scrub trees—along with the region’s indigenous flora and fauna.
The conservancy was created as a way to undo the ecological damage caused to the land since sheep farmers settled the area in 1851, as well as to rid the area of the foxes and feral cats that have decimated indigenous populations of wildlife and birds.
In lieu of the bushwalk, guests can also take guided drives around the 60,000-acre property each day to view wildlife, hike, and learn about animal tracking.
A kangaroo near Wilpena Pond, a 25,000-acre flat-bottomed bowl ringed by mountains. European settlers brought sheep here, ridding the area of dingoes and killing hundreds of kangaroos, dingoes and possums.
A bush drive allows guests to explore Australia’s hundreds of millions of years of geological history and to see more recent efforts at conservation, such as the establishment of 10 new bird species.
The Homestead prides itself on being without televisions, wifi, or anything else that will distract from the natural beauty of the location.
A view of Flinders Ranges, named for Matthew Flinders, the explorer who circumnavigated Australia in 1802. The park contains a magnificent riparian forest of river red gums, blue-grean-leafed eucalyptus, and other trees that grow to seven feet in diameter.
The park has three common species of macropods, the red kangaroo, the western gray kangaroo and the wallaroo. After the government began an initiative to restore their population in the 1990s, rock wallabies have also become prevalent.
Goats are among the invasive species—along with rabbits, cats, and foxes—that Arkaba continues to fend off. Collectively their grazing and hunting destroy native plant and small-mammal communities.