Australia is a huge country, and the best way to get a look at our biggest icons is from the air. These are our top five locations that you have to see from an aircraft.
By Nick Stobie, Kirkhope Aviation
Some of the most beautiful locations in Australia can’t be properly appreciated from the ground. Iconic destinations like the Bungle Bungles are a long way from anywhere, while others like Uluru take an aerial view to truly appreciate their scale. Taking a scenic flight on your next trip away might just be the highlight of your trip, so these are the five destinations you need to see from an aircraft.
The view from above
Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Rising from a flat and endless desert, Uluru stands 348 metres (1141 feet) tall and can be seen on the ground from over 65 kilometres (40 miles) away. Despite its tall stature and 9.4 kilometre (5.8 mile) circumference, it’s difficult to truly appreciate the scale of this icon without getting above it.
Flying over Uluru is an ethereal experience. Whether by helicopter or aeroplane, you’ll grasp how this landmark sits above a beautifully bare landscape. Stunning at any time of the day, both Ayers’ Rock Helicopters and Professional Helicopter Services also offer flights at sunrise and sunset. The colour of Uluru changes dramatically as the sun sets, making for a simply spectacular end to any day. Visitors flying into Ayers Rock Airport may also get a taste of this as they fly in, so keep your eyes out the window on descent.
THE FLINDERS RANGES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The largest mountain range in South Australia, the Flinders Ranges stretch for more than 400 kilometres (248 miles) from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna. A history of mining throughout the ranges has been now replaced with conservation and tourism, and the area is popular with bushwalkers, mountain bikers and those with off-road vehicles.
In the centre of the ranges sits Wilpena Pound, a large natural amphitheatre rich with Indigenous history. Visitors can drop into Wilpena Pound Resort to the northern of the pound itself, or Rawnsley Park Station to the south, and hike around the area. Taking a different perspective, Chinta Air offers scenic flights from Rawnsley Park Station, and Air Wilpena offers them from the resort.
Heading further north, Arkaroola Wilderness Resort is perched on the northern end of the ranges. Set on land that was originally determined unsuitable for pastoral use, the resort offers stunning walks and a unique 4WD tour through over 40 kilometres (24 miles) of the most rugged tracks in the ranges. Manager Doug Sprigg is also Chief Pilot of Arkaroola Air Services, and scenic flights are paired with his unparalleled knowledge of the area and its geological significance.
Taste of the Outback, Kirkhope Aviation’s three or four day Outback Australia tour, visits the Flinders Ranges for one night, including a scenic flight over the ranges.
HORIZONTAL WATER FALLS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Massive tidal movements, combined with two small gaps in the McLarty Ranges in the Kimberley, give rise to a spectacular flow of water that has earnt the title of the Horizontal Water Falls. Combine this with its remote location and naturally a scenic flight becomes the best way to see this spectacle in motion.
Located north of Derby, Western Australia, several operators offer flights over the falls in aeroplanes and helicopters. Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures combines flights with a boat tour, making for half and full day experiences. King Leopold Air, North West Bush Pilots and Broome Aviation provide scenic flights for those looking to see the falls on a tighter timeframe. Kimberley Air Tours also offers flights from Kununurra for those coming from the east.
The Horizontal Water Falls also features on Kirkhope Aviation’s Kimberley and NT tour, a 14 day adventure crossing central Australia to explore some of the most remote and pristine towns in the country.
THE BUNGLE BUNGLES, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Purnululu National Park is a World Heritage Site home to distinctive rock formations known as the Bungle Bungles. Over millions of years, wind and weathering have created domes of rock, commonly compared to beehives. The park is accessible by 4WD and offers stunning walks as a reward for an arduous drive, however to truly appreciate the Bungle Bungles you need to get above them.
With Lake Argyle glimmering in the distance, look down into the network of canyons and valleys between the domes as you fly over the national park. The distinctive rock formations protrude from the otherwise flat terrain, and in the late afternoon the shadows and colours created by this definitely worth enduring the heat of the afternoon.
Nearby, Kununurra is the closest major town, with several operators providing scenic flights and day trips to the ranges. Kimberley Air Tours, Aviair and Shoal Air offer flights in fixed wing aeroplanes, with HeliSpirit offering helicopter flights and tours. Kirkhope Aviation’s Kimberley and NT tour also drops into the Bungles for an overnight stay.
LAKE EYRE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Officially known as Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, the largest lake in Australia (as well as its lowest point) is widely known for the stunning white salt crust that seems to go on forever into the horizon. Covering 9,500 square kilometres (3667 square miles), appreciating this national park is almost impossible from the ground. At a minimum you’ll need a very decent 4WD, a lot of time and a lot of water, and even then you’ll want to visit in the dry season (April-September).
Wrightsair has made its name touring this part of the country, and they offer a fantastic range of flights. Based in the tiny settlement of William Creek, Lake Eyre is only a couple of minutes away by air, but seeing the whole thing can take upwards of two hours. Flights are also available from other locations including Birdsville, Marree, Wilpena Pound and Rawnsley Park. Doug Sprigg of Arkaroola Air Services offers flights as well, combining the Flinders Ranges with Lake Eyre and Lake Frome for a spectacular day out.
Kirkhope Aviation’s Taste of the Outback tour from Melbourne features Lake Eyre, with a low level flight down the Diamantina River. Follow the water as it flows down to the top of Lake Eyre, then watch it expand out into the basin.
Kirkhope Aviation is a Melbourne based air-tours company, specialising in trips to Outback Australia. They offer tours in their luxury private aircraft year round.
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