Spring has sprung in Australia – which means our landscapes are covered in wildflowers. Here are the best places to see them.
By Simon Webster
Whatever picture of Australia you have in your head – whether it’s red desert, rolling surf or the Sydney Opera House – prepare to be surprised. In spring, many parts of the country are transformed by wildflower blooms: daisies turn meadows into carpets of colour, delicate orchids pop up beside forest paths, and desert peas emerge from the driest of landscapes. Here are a few places where you can see wildflowers now and in the weeks ahead.
Marree, South Australia
You won’t find a more classic outback location than the junction of the Oodnadatta and Birdsville tracks, 674 kilometres (419 miles) north of Adelaide. Here sits the tiny town of Marree, where, all being well, something important is about to happen: it’s going to rain. And that means wildflowers.
With rain expected soon, Phil Turner, owner of the Marree Hotel, expects the area’s famous flowers to come to life and the outback dust to be replaced by an explosion of colour in the next month or so. “There will be carpets of yellows and whites and greens,” he says. “It’s spectacular stuff.” Among the wildflower attractions in this part of the world is the Sturt’s desert pea, which Turner says can cover areas “as far as the eye can see”.
Marree is a popular stop for four-wheel-drivers tackling the outback tracks, and a base for visitors to Lake Eyre. You can get to Marree in your own vehicle (two-wheel-drive is OK) or on a tour from Adelaide. While you’re there, take a scenic flight over Lake Eyre to see the wildflowers in perspective, and to see the mysterious Marree Man (a geoglyph that appears to depict a man hunting with a boomerang).
Perth, the South and South West, Western Australia
The state best known for wildflowers is Western Australia. And for good reason. More than 12,000 wildflower species (60 percent of which are found nowhere else on earth) over 2.5 million square kilometres (965,000 square miles) is a pretty impressive floral display by anyone’s standards. The wildflower season starts as early as June in the north, with swathes of colour washing over regions such as the Pilbara and the Coral Coast. At Mount Augustus carpets of purple Mulla Mulla transform the landscape.
The blooms then sweep south, ending in the South West and the Esperance region in November. Right now, if you’re visiting Margaret River – the South West’s surf, wine and artisan food hotspot – you’ll find the coastal walking tracks, forests and reserves are even more spectacular than usual thanks to an array of wildflowers that includes 150 species of orchid.
To experience the Margaret River region’s wildflowers you can self-drive or join a tour, perhaps one that includes a bit of gourmet indulgence along the way. Even if you haven’t got time to venture beyond the state capital, Perth, you can indulge in some western wildflower beauty. Check out the wildflowers at Kings Park, where you can admire milkmaids, donkey orchids and pixie mops.
The Grampians, Victoria
Home to one-third of its state’s flora, it’s no wonder the mountainous Grampians region has been called the garden of Victoria. A huge variety of blooms – from heath to wattles to 100 species of orchid – are at their peak now and will continue to bloom until the summer heat arrives and kills them off (usually in early December).
Taking a drive and getting out of the car for a bushwalk – short or long – is the best way to discover the Grampians’ wildflowers. Some of the best spots include Heatherlie Quarry and Lake Fyans – both known for their wild orchids – and the Lakeview Lookout loop, where you’ll find heath, wattles, purple pea flowers and more. Call in to the information centre at Halls Gap, the main town in the Grampians, for detailed self-guided walks in exchange for a gold-coin donation.
Elsewhere in Australia, Tasmania is a beautiful spot for wildflower walks right now. As if Tasmania’s national parks weren’t spectacular enough, they are currently adorned with striking red waratahs and dazzling yellow wattles. Highlights for flower-lovers include Cradle Mountain and Wineglass Bay.
In Queensland, Girraween National Park, in the cool-climate Granite Belt, south-west of Brisbane, is home to wattles, daisies, orchids, banksias and more, many of which are in bloom right now. And keep an eye on the weather in the remote outback town of Birdsville. If there’s rain there, the flowers (such as poached-egg daisy) can be astonishing.
In New South Wales, the wildflower seasons of high-altitude regions such as the Snowy Mountains and Barrington Tops are a month or two away. But the Blue Mountains have come good, with the wild waratahs in bloom and looking pretty special, particularly around the village of Blackheath.
And in outback NSW, it has rained at Bourke, meaning the daisies, Darling peas and Darling lilies should be about to bloom spectacularly on the floodplains of Toorale National Park. Take the Darling River drive and enjoy the fact that spring has sprung.
Want to see more of nature’s best displays? Check out the Southern Lights.
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