There are no bells and whistles at The Prairie Hotel. It has no eco certifications and it doesn’t contribute to any medical clinic in the vicinity. But, like a select (and hard-to-find) number of properties around the world, Prairie is doing good – and has been doing good for a very long time – just by being where it is.
The Prairie is located “where the desert meets the Flinders Rangers,” as they like to say, at the top end of South Australia, in the town of Parachilna (pop. 5). Owned by Jane and Ross Fargher, it has been the place to stay to anyone in the know in this part of the world, although most guests actually come to its fabulous restaurant, which serves gourmet feral food as well as more standard fare (consider the Emu Liver Pate or the Feral Meat Lover’s Pizza with smoked kangaroo and camel).
And since it is so far from anywhere, good thing that it’s a hotel too, although in these parts driving 100 miles for a meal is nothing! But if you’re traveling all the way to “Para,” as it’s fondly known, at least an overnight stay (or two) is warranted.
First licensed in 1876, with the front completed in 1906, Jane and Ross have embraced its history since they took it over in 1991, combining the old with the new while bringing a whole new level of hospitality to the outback. (Some of the rooms in the older part of the hotel are built partly underground for “sustainable” cooling in the hot, hot months.) The Prairie Hotel and its aptly named ‘Overflow’ (very basic and affordable rooms) can accommodate 90 people, with dining available in The Restaurant, on the verandah or at the Front Bar.
While one might think that life cannot get more intimate than this, next-door (that is, about 20 miles away) is Angorichina Homestead, owned by Di and Ian Fargher (Jane and her sister Di married brothers Ross and Ian, respectively). For guests (up to six at a time and on an exclusive basis), one of the real pleasures of staying at Angorichina is the chance to become absorbed in the life of a working outback sheep station that has been in the Fargher family for four generations. The Fargher’s only accept one booking at a time, meaning your stay at Angorichina Station is You and the Outback.
This outback homestead lodge is located in the sun-seared wilderness of South Australia’s Flinders Range, recognized as one of Australia’s National Landscapes and one of the country’s most impressive outback locations. For wildlife watching, bush-walking, photography, or just soaking up the sights and sounds of outback Australia, Angorichina Station is in a class of its own.
Tailored 4WD adventures and aerial safaris are available to reach even more secluded locations, including the expansive salt Lake Torrens. Share sunset drinks with the rare and elusive yellow-footed rock wallaby in the spectacular ancient Brachina Gorge. Walk in the red sand dunes or choose from over 50 walks in the nearby Flinders Ranges National Park.
You have probably seen movies made here, of which there are plenty, including the heart-rending Rabbit-Proof Fence.
The Fargher family has lived and worked in the Flinders Ranges for four generations. The Prairie is more than just a business for them – it is a passion, a place where locals mingle with guests from all over the world, and represents a unique outback lifestyle, something they are immeasurably proud of. At one point or another everyone in the town has worked at The Prairie, the only employment in town.
The restaurant and guest lounge at The Prairie always has always got some excellent local exhibitions going on, such as Aboriginal art, jewelry, or hand-died fabrics. The Campground, formerly the Parachilna Rural School, is an important source of revenue for the local community.
In addition to providing the only employment for hundreds of miles, the Farghers are the caretakers of this vast land. They don’t need any certificate or public acclaim to let you know they are doing good and preserving their part of the world – you can see that the moment you get there.