Quorn Travel Guide

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Quorn is a village located about 3 1/2 hours from Adelaide, South Australia's capital. Quorn is the 'capital' of the Flinders Ranges, the major mountain range running north to south from the far north nearly to the head of Gulf St Vincent. 

For those unfamiliar with SA, it is called the driest state on the driest continent in the world. A fair observation; SA is 85% semi arid. Quorn sits on the edge of the vast Willochra Plain, a flat treeless expanse of eroded scrub country cleared by settlers in the 19th century. Running through the plain are the rocky spines of hills comprising the Flinders Ranges. The image shown adjacent this piece is Devil's Peak which overshadows the village.The vast plain behind it is the Willochra. The peak is greener than the image shows but you get the idea. On the walk to the peak you can stop at a waterfall (seasonal) so it's not all desert & sage brush.

My description may sound a little desolate. Don't be discouraged. Quorn has much to offer a history minded, active traveller. Nestled at the foot of the Dutchman's Stern Range, named by Matthew Flinders who mapped much of Australia's coast & coastal hinterland, Quorn offers visual & recreational pleasures in a near 'Out-Back' region.

There are walking & cycling trails a plenty, well marked tourist drives, National Parks for recreation & camping & an historic Rail Road running from Quorn to nearby Port Augusta. This narrow gauge railroad was once an integral part of the Australian Rail system where all tracks east to west & north to south met.

Quorn was the starting point for the great 'Ghan', a train named for the Afghan camel drivers who opened up a route to the desolate centre of Australia. Their route was followed by the rail-road builders over some 40 years  from the 1880's.

The Pichi Richi Railroad is world famous & worth the trip alone. Indeed the historic railroad society which runs the Train was commenced by Quorn residents. Much of the work to re-lay track & rebuild elderly steam locomotives was done by these folk. One locomotive they use may be the only working model of its type in the world.  

Sadly, for one reason & another the growth in prominence of the Pichi Richi Railroad & its importance as a major tourist attraction has caused a changed focus from Quorn to Port Augusta. It is entirely possible to visit & ride on the Pichi Richi Railroad without staying in Quorn. Those who do, miss a charming historic village, heritage listed precincts, 'Out Back' ambience & small town insularity. 

Many residents of the town are of Flinders Ranges pioneer families whose roots were laid in the 19th century & fed by 'blood, sweat & tears'. English settlers tried to farm this harsh drought ridden country as though it were part of an English county. Their theory "rain follows the plough.' The town remained & the district prevailed. It is testament to those hardy pioneeers for whom 'hardy' damns with faint praise.

Rainfall in Quorn is firmly in the semi arid range, about 10 - 12 inches per annum Paradoxically, it sits adjacent a small valley of prime cereal cropping land, Richman Valley where crop yields are almost assured.

Facilities for travellers are limited and not well marketed although good. There are at most 20 motel units from 2 to 3 stars in the town. Ten of these are attatched to 2 of the town's 4 hotels (5 each) & ten in a motel built in a converted mill. The caravan park is well run, has excellent self contained accomodation as well as the usual powered & unpowered camp sites. The hotels all offer traditional hotel style bedrooms with communal facilities. There is a backpacker lodge & several B&B's as well. The B&B's are a cut above the motel offerings, cost more but are worth it. 

The (volunteer manned) Visitor Information Centre is good & open 7 days. Some  volunteers are from old Quorn families.They possess a wealth of knowledge which flows like a river when you ask questions. Quorn folk can be charming & very helpful. 

All accommodation establishments in the town are well run. Not one is unpleasant or untidy. Operators have to be good because competition between them is strong. The limitations to their facilities exist only because of the scale of each operation & the economics of venues which can't create large scale facilities. Hotel rooms are usually clean, tidy, respectable & very, very cheap. Service is friendly. It replaces urbane sophistication which is decidely lacking in this tiny village.

The 4 hotels offer lunch & dinner 7 days per week. Meals are good, cheap to buy  'pub' food style. If anyone who later edits this rabbits on about gourmet meals in relation to Quorn forget it. However, the food is good. You won't go away hungry.

There are 2 fast (fairly fast) food outlets, & 2 supermarkets. My favourite, a steak sandwich at Pichi Richi Takeaway. The Quandong Cafe specialises in pies, cakes etc made from a wild 'peach'. Delicious, tart but sweet & never cloying to the palate.

The supermarket has an excellent small bakery. (To the detriment of my waist-line another favourite) If you have never sampled that which Australian's call a 'Meat Pie' this is the place to do so. It's a meal in a handful (can be eaten from a plate if you want to spoil the experience). Those of ample girth should use a napkin.

The smaller supermarket does Thai take away. (at least it did, last time I was there)

In the Pichi Richi Pass, on the main road to Pt Augusta is a charming restaurant, The Willows, created from a former brewery. I commend both the food & hospitality of these warm friendly long time Quorn residents.

I mentioned 'sage brush' at the beginning of these notes. Try if you can, a roast lamb at one of the hotels or The Willows. Actually it will be slightly older; a 'hogget.' Lamb is not so flavour-some in these parts. The sheep raised on the Willochra feed largely on salt bush & blue bush, both semi-succulent plants whose names tell it all. They call it Saltbush Hogget. (or Saltbush Mutton) It has a flavour all its own and is a delicious, well kept secret. It is far leaner than 'fat lamb'.

The perfect Quorn meal, Roast Hogget with a Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Quandong Pie and a glass of chilled un-oaked Clare Valley Chardonnay.

Two Fuel Outlets exist. Be warned. Do not arrive after 5.00pm or you may stay the night. Quorn is a village in an area of limited population. There is no economic benefit to fuel sellers from trading extended hours, & they don't. Alternative outlets are 40 - 70 kilometres away. Only Pt Augusta is open 24 hours.

A car break down in Quorn is not a good career move. There is really only one mechanical repair shop. They are good but very busy. However, if you do, they will get you on your way properly & you won't find nicer folk.

I lived in Quorn for some years. If you love desert or harsh, arid places you will love it. If you're a snow bunny, give it a miss. Temperatures range to the extremes of Mediterranean climate. In winter it can plummet to below zero (celsius) with dry days so cold they chill the marrow in your bones. In mid-late summer it can surpass 45- 47 degrees (celsius) and as dry as you can imagine.

Best times to visit are from very early autumn to very late spring. Summer can be harsh but if you're looking for the outback experience & don't have time to range further north this is it. Normal temperature range in the best part of the season overnight minimum 5-10 degrees celsius & daytime maximum 18 - 28 degrees. Being dry you will find the heat much easier to bear than humid climes. Chance of rain -winter 35%, autumn 15% & spring 20%. Visit Quorn. You won't regret it.

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April 17, 2004 new by richardosinga

April 10, 2005 new by chris_clement

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