Lake Eyre is usually dry, but turns into an oasis about every eight years. Either way, it's a magnificent sight.
By Kris Madden
Lake Eyre, officially known as Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, is a mind-blowingly vast, dry expanse of shimmering salt in the South Australian outback, in a basin so large that it crosses the borders of three states. On cloudless days, the seemingly featureless landscape can seem to merge with the horizon, making it difficult to distinguish between land and sky – an illusory effect that has caused several aircraft crashes. Visitors who come here often remark on the incredible sense of isolation and space, as well as the landscape's remarkably beautiful appearance. Most of the time the lake is dry (it has only filled to capacity three times in the past 150 years) but about every eight years it receives a significant amount of water. On these occasions the lake bursts to life, forming an oasis for thousands of migratory waterbirds and producing seas of wildflowers. Wet or dry, it is a truly special place.
- Explore Lake Eyre from the air
- Travel the Oodnadatta Track
- See the mysterious Marree Man
How to get there
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park is about 700 kilometres (435 miles) north of Adelaide. The closest settlement is William Creek. Regional Express flies from Adelaide to Coober Pedy, a three hour drive from William Creek. Many roads around the national park are 4WD only.
Top things to do at Lake Eyre
Explore Lake Eyre from the air
One of the best ways to appreciate this vast, magnificent expanse is from the air, and many operators offer scenic flights or flight and 4WD tour combinations. Wrightsair flies out of William Creek and Marree. Outback Spirit operates Lake Eyre tours from Adelaide and includes optional visits to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy's Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary. Spirit Safaris operates flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Alice Springs, and offers luxury 4WD tours to the lake. Bush Pilots flies to Lake Eyre out of Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges. Note: Pilots have all the qualifications and equipment required to manage the lake's illusory effects; scenic flights are very safe.
Travel the Oodnadatta Track
The Oodnadatta Track is one of the most historic outback trails in Australia. It follows an ancient trading route used by Aborigines for thousands of years. European explorers used the route to build two railway lines, the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan, in the late 19th century. If you are an experienced four-wheel driver, you can reach Lake Eyre via the Oodnadatta Track: turn off on the 4WD-only Halligan Bay Track near William Creek.
Visit one of Australia's smallest towns
William Creek, population six, is one of Australia's smallest towns. Its tin shed pub, the William Creek Hotel, is a must-visit for a glimpse of Aussie outback life. Built in 1887 to service the Old Ghan railway line, it's in the middle of the world's biggest cattle station, Anna Creek, midway along the Oodnadatta Track.
Dine in a historic hotel
About 180 kilometres from Lake Eyre North is the small town of Marree (population: 150). Dine in the Lake Eyre room at the historic Marree Hotel, which has a stunning wall mural of Lake Eyre, and plenty of information about the lake, including a cultural perspective on its history. Marree lies at the junction of the Oodnadatta and Birdsville tracks. The Birdsville Track travels north from town more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) to the Queensland border.
Sleep in a traditional Australian homestead
From Marree, it's a 4 1/2 drive via The Outback Way to Rawnsley Park Station, which provides luxury self-contained villas, rooms at the traditional Rawnsley Homestead and various accommodation options at a camping ground. The station is the perfect base for exploring South Australia's Flinders Ranges. Chinta Air operates charter flights over Lake Eyre from Rawnsley Park Station as well as scenic flights to the station from Adelaide.
Stay in a luxury outback resort
A five hour drive from Marree, via The Outback Way, or just 30 minutes from Rawnsley Park Station via the Flinders Ranges Way, lies Wilpena Pound Resort, nestled in the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. The resort offers acommodation in 60 hotel rooms, 15 glamping safari tents and a picturesque campground. A range of 4WD tours, guided Aboriginal cultural walks, nature and bush walks, and scenic flights over Lake Eyre and the Flinders Ranges can be arranged from the resort.
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