Willow springs is a 70000 acres sheep station that has opened its doors/land to people to enjoy their 4wd track as well as camping or staying in a sheep station homestead or Shearers Quarters. It has been owned by the Reynolds family since 1952. In 1985 Carmel and Brendan partnered with Brendan’s parents to get their foot in the door of the tourism industry in the Flinders Ranges. They started with offering Shearer’s Quarters accommodation as an alternative to other accommodations in the area.
In 1995 the Reynolds constructed the 60km Skytrek 4WD track, then in 2012, due to a disagreement with the neighboring property, the route was changed to remove the Mt Caernarvon track and is now exclusively on Willow Springs Station.
We never went on the old Skytrek, but our guide Paul told us, the old track was much better, you go higher and get better views. The new track has a lot of flat bits, less “sky” bits and there is no “real” 4wd until the end of the course (marked 38). None the less, we had a good day, although at times, it dragged a little. (mainly on the flat bits)
Willow Springs offers Camping or self contained buildings as accommodation. There are 5 building to stay in, Jackaroo’s cottage, The Homestead, Moxan’s Hut, Overseers Cottage and Shearer’s Quarters. They have something for every budget and traveller!
The 60km Skytrek track is a cost of $65 per vehicle (6 people and under) or $85 for a larger carrier. Note: if you are staying at the station you get a $5 discount and it is preferable that you make a booking. The track does take between 6-7 hours depending how often you stop and how long you stop for lunch, you are given a key for the gate and must start the track by 10:30am.
The track is also to be used only during daytime hours and no key will be issued after 10:30am. We thought that taking 6-7 hours to do 60km was an absolute joke! But it took us about 7 hours as we did stop often to take photos and most of the time, you can’t go very fast due to hilly sections and a heap of loose dust (known as bull dust).
You are required to have a 4wd vehicle with a high enough clearance and have the knowledge to use the 4wd feature of your vehicle (sorry soccer mums..) It is also best to have a UHF radio in your vehicle in case you get into a spot of trouble, you are able to radio the Willow Springs station and they can send some help as mobile reception is not great until you are fairly high. We are on virgin mobile and had no reception and Paul Keen the 4wd operator was on Telstra and had limited reception. Better to be safe than sorry.
When you arrive and check in, you are given a key and a hand out that shows a map and points of interest. At each stop there is a post with the # of the point of interest and on the hand out is a little blurb about that area. The family has kindly set up 2 long drops (outdoor toilets/a big hole dug in the ground) at marker 17 and 29 (all ladies thank you!!). There are 42 points of interest, stops and gates in total on the Skytrek.
The points of interest include history of the property and the family, aboriginal etchings, ancient sea bed rocks, Ochre cliffs, waterholes, incredible views points and much more. We opted to miss the recommended lunch stop, a lovely creek bed and headed to Nathan’s Knob look out instead. Having lunch up there was lovely as we were able to relax and take in the great view and surroundings.
Along with your hand out are you also given a piece of paper that is to be used at Upalinna Look out, you place this on the provided stand and from it you can see the surroundings ranges, the paper shows the names of the ranges. This is a nice touch as we often looked at the ranges and wandered what they were called.
We were lucky enough to see some wildlife, we saw a few Kangaroos and Emus and even a few wild cats!