Rawnsley Park Station has been helping tourists experience life in the Flinders Ranges for more than 50 years.
Story + Photos Mark Muller
With 25,000 visitors across Rawnsley Park Station’s grid last year, the 2000 or so Dohne-cross sheep also running on the 12,404-hectare property in South Australia’s stunning Flinders Ranges are looking decidedly outnumbered, as is Tony Smith, even if it is just him and his wife and business partner Julie sitting at the kitchen table…
Rawnsley Park has been a working sheep station since the land it sits on was taken up as part of the Arkaba lease in 1851. The Smith family has been in the region since the 1880s, and Rawnsley Park – in one guise or another – has been in the family since the early 1900s.
Tourism came about in 1968 when Tony’s parents, Clem and Alison, who bought the property in 1953 and named it Rawnsley Park, were looking to diversify their income during tough seasons. More than 50 years later and the multi-award winning and internationally celebrated tourism operation is by far the main income generator for the Smiths, but you can tell Tony will always have a large place in his heart for livestock.
“We decided we weren’t going to be mum and dad operators,” Tony says. “A lot of tourism businesses are built with a reliance on the personality of the founders. We wanted to ensure there was enough diversity and scope in the place that it could become self-sustaining, even without us.”
There are three distinct but complementary business units under the broad Rawnsley Park umbrella: the caravan park and camping, the accommodation and tours, and the Woolshed restaurant. The caravan park, with its own store, modern kitchen complex, ablutions block and pool, accounts for about 70 per cent of visitors, while the fully self-contained eco-villas sit at the apex of the offering. The restaurant offers excellent, localised fare in a stylishly converted woolshed, and is open to all guests and passers-by.
This story excerpt is from Issue #124
Outback Magazine: April/May 2019