Rawnsley Park Station Flinders Ranges Eco Accommodation

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Rawnsley Park Station Flinders Ranges Eco Accommodation


Rawnsley Park Station
Flinders Ranges Eco Accommodation

by Anthea Hudson

If you are looking for truly special accommodation, with an eco slant, Rawnsley Park Eco Villas might be just what you are searching for!  Rawnsley Park Station, in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, is set against an awe inspiring backdrop of the magnificent Rawnsley Bluff, on the outer edge of Wilpena Pound.  It is a working sheep station, as well as a premiere tourist accommodation and tour venue for the area, located approximately 430km north of Adelaide.

One of the most significant eco projects Rawnsley has undertaken are the 8 beautiful Eco Villas, designed with a low 'footprint', yet proving 'eco' does not have to mean 'basic'.  Station owner Tony Smith, along with his wife Julieanne, has put a great deal of thought and effort into making Rawnsley Park a truly memorable place to stay.  With names reflecting the local flora- Acacia, Sandalwood, Cypress, Casuarina, Redgum, Mallee, Salt Bush and Hakea- these Villas blend into their surroundings and make you feel like you are living amongst nature.

Eco Villa

Minimum disruption to the vegetation was one of their important construction criteria, so plants and the creatures that live in them are at every door, window and deck area.  Look out any window and you will get a spectacular view- each Villa was oriented to give a view to one of the glorious mountain ranges from its living area window.

Lounge View

We were fortunate enough to visit 'Saltbush' Eco Villa and our first impressions on entering were of light and spaciousness, along with the taste and quality of the furnishings and decoration.  Truly beautiful!

The Eco Villas are fully self-contained, with well equipped kitchens, complete with fridge, cooktop, microwave and dishwasher.    Bulk cereal jars are used for dry breakfast provisions, rather than individual serves, in a measure to reduce packaging.   A small bin, for food scraps, is located under the sink.  These scraps are 'recycled' through their chickens.

Eco Villas Kitchen

A wide selection of breakfast supplies are provided and guests may choose to have an evening meal in the fascinating Woolshed Restaurant on the property (still an operational shearing shed in part), ordering a meal or BBQ pack to be brought to their Villa, or creating their own culinary delights.  A complimentary bottle of South Australian wine and cheese plate is provided on arrival, and coffee and tea provisions are available in each Villa.

The bathrooms are inviting for the guest who is weary after a day exploring the Ranges, containing a bath, lovely shower, hand-basin, bath robes towels and toiletries- bulk shampoo, conditioner and soap in pump dispensers are provided, once again to reduce waste packaging.    Spa baths, common in most luxury accommodation, were decided against as it was felt that the excess power usage was not in fitting with their aim, but the bathtub is lovely and deep and fits 2 people.

Eco Villas Bathroom

Each Villa also has its own laundry facilities, with washer, dryer and laundry trough.
The airy lounge area comes complete with a TV/DVD setup and comfortable sofas.  There is also a dining area, with table and chairs.  Due to the extremes in temperature the area can experience, the Eco Villas do have reverse cycle air conditioning, but this is often not needed due to their clever thermal design features.


Inside, the windows give you a link to the outdoors, and skylights located over the beds allow you to enjoy the wonders of the often clear, dark night skies that the area is well known for.  These have covers which can be drawn across, if desired.

Bedroom Skylight

The bedrooms (1 or 2 depending on the villa) are large, comfortable, with large wardrobes, bedside tables, and king size beds, which can be split into two singles, if required.  A full complement of bedding is provided.

Eco Villas Bedroom



Visitors can enjoy the spectacular terrain, or watch the sun set in a blaze of glory across the outback sky, from the seclusion of their private veranda, as they enjoy a relaxing drink.   Or they may choose to fire up the barbecue and enjoy a meal al fresco.  

Flinders Ranges Sunset

But their beauty is only part of the story... we were particularly keen to delve into  the environmental aspects.

Designed by Paul Downton (Ecopolis Architects), an Adelaide architect whose environmentally sustainable architecture is acclaimed internationally, the Eco Villas are made from many eco-friendly materials and have numerous environmentally friendly features:

Straw Bale Construction

Straw bales (470mm thick) were selected for their thermal insulation properties, as they provide the highest thermal insulation available (R12).  In addition to the insulation properties of the straw itself, the bales are rendered on both sides, which also help in keeping temperature change to a minimum.

Inside each villa is a small viewing window which gives guests an 'inside view' into the bales in the wall.

Straw Bale Construction

Recycled Timber

Recycled Oregon has been used for window frames and doors. All windows are double-glazed and windows that get direct sunlight have reflective film tinting.  Inside blinds can also be drawn.

Passive Heating and Cooling

The villas take advantage of the large diurnal temperature range that is experienced in the Flinders Ranges. Other features include over-hanging eaves and verandas to shade walls, raked ceilings with a closable vent at the apex to provide whole-of-room ventilation and a concrete slab floor to provide thermal mass.


Compact fluorescent globes and LED downlights minimise energy usage from lighting, and all appliances have been chosen for their energy efficiency.  A 9kw solar power array means the eco-villas are nearly energy-neutral. 

Solar Array - Green Power


Rainfall is generally low (300mm p.a.) in the Flinders Ranges, however, when it does fall it can be torrential. Each villa has a 4,500-litre rainwater tank that provides water for drinking purposes. In addition, water is obtained from a bore, drilled in 1998, that draws from the groundwater aquifer.  This aquifer is replenished by a dam, built in 1992, and originally seen as a freshwater supply, but now used to re-charge the aquifer.  This has resulted in a significant improvement in the aquifer.  They have been able to increase bore water quantity and also reduce salinity form 900ppm to 450ppm over the last 14 years.

Rainwater Tanks harvest rain water

Waste Water Treatment

The Eco Villas have Biolytix systems, which use a polythene tank with alternate layers of peat soil and polythene tubes that create an environment where bacteria can naturally treat organic matter. It requires minimal power to operate while delivering highly treated water suitable for subsurface irrigation.

The first 4 Eco Villas were built in 2005/06 (opened in June 2006) and took about 9 months to complete, with the second 4 following in 2008/09, with a build time of only 6 months.  The cost of the Villas was $250,000 each for the 1 bedroom and $350,000 for the 2 bedroom, which included all the earthworks, plumbing, electrical & furnishings.

Due to awareness of the fragile nature of the native vegetation on the eco-villa site, care was taken to ensure that minimum vegetation clearance took place during construction.  The principal plants are Native Pine and Shiny-leaf hop bush, both arid zone plants that are very slow growing. The eco-villas are constructed on a suspended slab that allows for minimal site clearance.

One of the challenges of building in this area is its remoteness from major civilisation; however this gave the opportunity for smaller town local companies to be involved.  Hard rock was another difficulty faced in construction... a couple of car sized boulders were discovered and had to be pulled out!

Other environmentally friendly practices used at Rawnsley Park include:

  • Recycling of plastic, glass and aluminium.

  • Collecting paper and cardboard waste for use in the fire briquette making machine at Wilpena.

  • Engaging in the process of transferring the sustainable cleaning and maintenance practices of the eco-villas to the rest of the accommodation on the property.

  • Plans to expand the solar power generation on site.

  • Care of vehicles and conservative driving practices, to lessen impact on the environment.

  • Promoting awareness of sustainability issues to staff and guests.  Guests are encouraged to use energy saving practices.


The Accommodation Office also has strawbale construction, along with many of the other features of the Eco Villas.  In-floor heating provides a minimal power usage way of providing warmth for the colder times.

The Station house itself was built of local stone, which has great thermal mass, and shadecloth pergolas, along with canvas blinds that can be rolled down in summer, insulation and two turbine vents to expel air, help regulate the temperature.

Food is grown on the Station, fertilised by the abundant 'offerings' of their own sheep and chickens- they dig it in a few months before planting the bed and let the worms do their work!  Food grown includes tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, capsicum, carrots, radish, zucchini, silver-beet, pumpkin, apples, Oranges, Lemon, Pears, Apricots, Plums, Nectarines, Peaches, Quince, Figs and Grapes, which is eaten in season, as well as being preserved and turned into jam for later use.  Their happy free range chickens also provide them with an abundance of eggs.

Some of this food goes to supplying the Woolshed Restaurant- especially lots of lemons- and the restaurant managers also grow a lot of their own herbs.  Additional produce, meats and wines are obtained locally where possible.  The scraps from the restaurant are then returned to the chickens… and the cycle begins again.

Woolshed Restaurant Rawnsley Park

Arkapena Homestead, The Eco Villa’s sister property, also has many sustainable design features, including a solar hot water system, low energy lighting, double glazing to windows and ‘comfort glass’ to doors and three rainwater tanks which provide all water requirements.

In their sheep management practices, they hope to demonstrate that conservative stocking rates are sustainable, with careful management and that heavy stocking does not always make sense.   The damage to the environment can in turn affect the long-term viability of a property. 

Rawnsley Park Station was one of the first tourism operators in South Australia to gain official Ecotourism Accreditation and, more recently, SATIC Climate Action Certification.  To obtain, and keep these accreditations Rawnsley is required to demonstrate:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy contribution
  • Eco-Friendly Waste management
  • Local community involvement
  • Local environmental initiatives
  • Global environmental awareness

Rawnsley Park Eco Villas have also won two South Australian Tourism awards for Ecotourism: 2010 – SA Tourism Awards (Ecotourism) and 2011 – SA Tourism Awards (Ecotourism).

Tourism Plaque South Australia

The Eco Villas are definitely the 'cream of the crop' of the accommodation facilities at Rawnsley Park, and while their prices do reflect this, you are helping support the expansion of eco practices within the Station.  For those who find the price a little steep, Rawnsley also has a range of other options such as cabins, a caravan park and bunkhouse.

Rawnsley also offers various tours, many of which have an eco slant, including walks, horse rides, 4WD tours, scenic flights and hot air ballooning.  Tony is particularly keen to promote the geological significance of the area and is working to increase this element in his tours.  There are also several walking tracks that you are free to explore yourself, including an adventurous climb up Rawnsley Bluff.

Rawnsley Bluff

Rawnsley Park adjoins the Flinders Ranges National Park, part way up Rawnsley Bluff and Rawnsley has entered into a Heritage Agreement with South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources to protect the diverse vegetation of 1040ha of land, including the Bluff.  They are working to revegetate much of this area with native shrubs and grasses and also hope to re-introduce the endangered Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby to the area.  Their love for these special animals has seen them run evening presentations for guests staying in their accommodation, fostering knowledge and understanding about them and the threats to their ecosystem.  A gold coin entry fee is asked for, which is donated to 'Operation Bounceback', a National Park's initiative, which aims to restore the population of Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies in the Flinders Ranges.

Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby Flinders RangesPhoto: Peter Venhoek


This area is quite environmentally sensitive, especially after the damage done by early settlers in the clearing and over-stocking of the land, as well as its harsh climate.  Few know this better than Tony Smith, owner of Rawnsley Park Station.  He is a fourth generation Flinders local, whose family have owned Rawnsley Park since 1953.  Tony is quite concerned about the past destruction of the area and is keenly putting into practise many techniques, and building eco-friendly infrastructure, to try to lessen the impact.

"We think of the Flinders Ranges as home." says Tony "My family have been living in the Flinders since 1884. We have contributed to some of the degradation in the past and now we have the opportunity to contribute to the knowledge base to develop a sustainable land use in the Flinders."

The Flinders Ranges themselves have so much to offer, which gives insight into fragile ecosystems and marvels the area reveals- mountains, gorges, wildlife, wildflowers, geology, colourful history, Aboriginal sites and wilderness areas.  You can see the hand of nature all around you.  It leaves you with a sense of wonder... and a clearer understanding of why protecting our wild natural places is so important!

Emu Chicks Flinders Ranges

Rawnsley Park is a truly magical place to stay.  Beauty and nature at your doorstep, the magnificent Flinders Ranges to explore, friendly hosts and staff... peace and solitude to renew the spirit.  Ecotourism at its best.

As one of the visitors noted in the visitor book:  "What an unforgettable experience it has been to stay in this stunning villa in its magnificent setting.  We have fallen in love with the Flinders Ranges- its colours, the silence, the ancient grandeur- you, and Mother Nature, have done everything to perfection."  What more could you ask for?

If you would like to find out more about Rawnsley Park Station, as possible Flinders Ranges accommodation for your next holiday, see the details below.

Rawnsley Park Station

Wilpena Road
Via Hawker
South Australia  5434

Eco-villas/Holiday Units +61 8 8648 0030
Caravan Park +61 8 8648 0008
Eco-villas/Holiday Units +61 8 8648 0013
Caravan Park +61 8 8648 0050
Eco villas/Holiday Units info@rawnsleypark.com.au
Caravan Park caravanpark@rawnsleypark.com.au
Website: http://www.rawnsleypark.com.au/main/accommodation


Rawnsley Park
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