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It was the crack of dawn but Peter and Jeanie Kelly from Murray Offroad Adventures were on time and ridiculously chirpy. All it took, however, was a dash down the Mallee Highway and a quick pit stop at the Hattah General store (Jeanie phoned our coffee order ahead, the star) for those early-morning dozy feels to disappear as the day started to brighten and the temperature began to rise.

The route to get to the Pink Lakes from Mildura takes you past reminders of Australia’s history as towns such as Walpeup and Underbool stand as stark reminders about how the winds of change effect everyone.

Where once thriving farming communities existed, there are now reducing populations and deactivated grain silos. These hulks stand out against the backdrop and dominate the skyline; the track that leads into Murray Sunset National Park leads you past one of these concrete ghosts.

Did You Know Australia Has Pink Lakes?? You Have To See These To Believe!

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

Travel to Murray Sunset National Park

The dirt road to Murray Sunset National Park takes the bus past a seemingly endless landscape that changes incredibly quickly: from lush green to outback khaki in a couple of minutes and this means that every time you drive down these routes you’ll be greeted with something different.

None of that gets you ready for the giant expanse of Lake Crosbie, though, as it unveils itself in front of your eyes. Not only are the relics left behind from the salt mining industry enchanting, but the blue/pink swirls among the crystals are gorgeous as well.

The landscape looks post-apocalyptic and honestly it wouldn’t be a surprise if you found out it was used for a Mad Max type film.

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

The Salt Lakes of Mallee

Due to the 99% purity of the salt here, the area was mined commercially from 1916 until 1979. Before the Ice Age, this area of Australia was under the sea. But as it dried out, large pools of salt water were trapped by porous sand and as millions of tons of sand were stirred up by the wind and deposited across the Mallee, it built up a field of sand dunes.

Underground water then made its way into depressions between the dunes and over the next thousands of years it evaporated, creating the perfect salt lakes. Every winter the underground water rises and seeps out onto the edge of the lakes, and when this evaporates it leaves behind a fresh layer of salt.

They get their colour for a pretty melancholic reason actually: because the landscape is so harsh, the only thing that can survive is a single-celled alga called Dunaliella Salina.

This naturally produces Beta-carotene, which is a red colouring that is also found in carrots, egg yolk and lobsters. That alga loves the conditions the lakes provide, which is why there is such a spell-binding pink glow.

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

Breakfast Amid a Spell-Binding Pink Glow

All that initially beauty is complemented perfectly by the Kelly’s bacon and eggs breakfast (a breakfast of Champions, if you ask me). But don’t worry if that’s not your scene as the breakfast also came with the option of homemade granola as well as stewed home-picked peaches.

The whole meal was cooked on camping equipment that just kept on rolling out of the back of the van and made Mary Poppins handbag’s capacity look like small change in comparison. Tables, chairs, gas stoves, frying pans, coffee cups – you name it, Peter and Jeanie had it. And watching them put it all back was like witnessing a Tetris master at work.

After breakfast was done and everything was packed back into the van, Peter took the wheel and guided the van through an extensive off-road section flanked by lush green trees that looked like sentinels guarding the route through the National Park.

The rolling, undulating landscape offered plenty to see along the road, from iguanas to emus and kangaroos. Peter even stumbled across a Mallee Fowl nest – where the eggs are covered in sand until they’re ready to hatch, after which the chicks dig themselves out and it’s everyone for themselves in the dog eat dog world of the outback.

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

An introduction to Australia's Pink Lakes

Murray Sunset National Park

Lake Harding

And then we emerged onto Lake Harding, but this one was different. With water in the middle and rings of blue and pink encroaching into the middle it looked like the inside of a princess fantasy gobstopper.

The salt crust sparkled like the glint in Prince Charming’s eye and the view would have made anyone putty in his hand. With an endlessly blue sky, the reflections that came off the surface onto the lake were gorgeous.

Finally, we were taken to the lookout at the top of the park, which had outstanding views across the whole of the park and allows you to take in all the views in all their splendid panoramic glory.

The entire system of lakes across the Murray Sunset National Park is truly breathtaking and if you let your mind wander and set your imagination loose you can see this vast expanse covered in water. Ponder that on the ride back to Mildura.

For information on Mildura accommodation, attractions, food & wine, events, etc, head to visitmildura.com.au.

All images are courtesy of KEW Images Photography for Visit Mildura. Kerry’s incredible prints are for sale via her website or Facebook page.

A Mildura based photographer, contact her if you would like to organize a portrait photography session during your Outback vacation. 

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

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    46 Comments

  1. Totally looks like a Mad Max setting guys. Definitely post-apocalypse in many ways, but the lake itself reminds me a bit of other pink lakes around the world. Not too many of those though. Fascinating place and super shots.

    Ryan

    • Doesn’t it! So glad you enjoyed the post Ryan. I’ll have to check out which other countries have Pink Lakes – I remember hearing about one in Canada, but haven’t really come across them elsewhere 🙂

  2. Chirpy and phone ahead coffee, now that is a great early start to the day!

    Australia really does surprise with its beauty. Lake Crosbie would be such an amazing sight to see. That pink against a brilliant blue sky, amazing.

    Plus the bonus of all that Aussie native wildlife. Definitely, something to make sure you add to your list when visiting Mildura.

    • Yes it is :D! Australia really does surprise with it’s beauty – there are so many incredibly diverse landscapes and natural wonders here – not discounting the wildlife of course!

      Hope you have the chance to visit Mildura soon 🙂

  3. Wow, this looks so dreamy, so surreal, like a place out of this world! I have never seen pink lakes, now I want to see them! I guess it’s time to plan a trip to Australia 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, your pictures are absolutely stunning!

    • A stunning phenomenon isn’t it! Definitely consider Mildura and a day trip to the pink lakes on your trip to Australia 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. This place seems incredibly fascinating. I have seen pink lakes before but never dry, so these are the first photos I’m seeing of such a wide expanse of pink salt. Oh, and stewed peaches for breakfast! Sounds ok to me!

    • It truly is! And yes, especially for the first being completely dry; there are a couple of pink lakes around the world, but this salt flat is the first I’ve seen of it’s kind. Incredible isn’t it!!

      And OMG stewed peaches are divine 😀

  5. Wow, I can’t believe these lakes are so pink. The moment I saw the first image, the question I had was – what makes them so pink. I only had to read a bit further to know it the algea. I wish there were more colourful algae around the world. We only have green algae in my part of the world.

    Thanks for adding one more thing to my wishlist.

    • Stunning aren’t they!! I’m glad we could answer your question as to what makes them so pink. Really would be incredible if there were different colored lakes all around the world from different colored algae! For now I guess we’ll settle with the typical blue, green … and pink!

      Hope you have the chance to visit at some stage 🙂

  6. Those lakes are at once ethereal and surreal – especially up close where you can see the salt crystals!

    Fascinating that the colour comes from an algea that we know better for ‘orange’ carrots.

    • They truly are – the salt crystals are like something out of a fairytale – it’s a fantasy land! Really is so interesting learning about where the color comes from isn’t it! Mother nature is incredible.

  7. I have seen beautiful pictures of the pink lake in Australia and have wanted to visit it since then. I mean, it’s so unique, just look at those colours. I can see you’ve not really edited your pictures much and it shows the lovely light pink colour of the lake and oh, I so wish to see it with my own eyes. I wish I had a drone, would love to fly it over the lake and capture super pictures!

    • So glad that you enjoyed the post Medha, and learning more about the pink lakes. Yes, Kerry’s photos are quite incredible aren’t they! Truly incredible nature doesn’t require any filtering!

      I hope you have the opportunity to visit Mildura and the National Park at some stage. A drone would capture such incredible imagery!

  8. I have heard about the Pink Lakes but never really taken any time to research on them and now you have told us and passed on excellent photos. Now I seriously want to check them out and explore. How mystic are these places? They are defo unique.

    • Glad we could inspire some wanderlust Danik, and give you a bit of info about the pink lakes 🙂 Yes, how incredible are Kerry’s photos!

      Hope you have the chance to visit Mildura at some stage 🙂

  9. I had no idea that there were so many pink lakes in Australia! I thought that there was only one! I want to see them all! I’ve never been to a pink lake before. I’d want to visit The Salt Lakes of Mallee because the crystals and the pink water. So magical-looking

    • There are quite a few dotted throughout the place! And the nice thing is that no two are the same, they’re all very different which makes it interesting and fascinating to visit them all instead of just one!

      Hope you do have the chance to visit Mildura, and Murray Sunset National Park at some stage 🙂

  10. I loved reading this post! Would you believe that I have bought this salt in South Africa? I often use it to cook with so it is fabulous to see these pics and read the story behind it.

    Isn’t nature incredible? I had no idea that the colour was as a result of algae. The end product is amazing!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Janine! Oh wow, small world! Amazing to think that salt from the flats here in Victoria have reached you all the way in SA!

      Nature truly is incredible – nothing is more beautiful or astounding 🙂

  11. I had no idea. It is so beautiful. Is Murray close to Melbourne or Sidney? Very interesting facts on how the lake was developed by the salt and it maintains its purity. Is the lake surrounded by sand or marsh.

    • Glad we could introduce you! It’s closest from Mildura which is a great base for trips out to the national park. Driving from Melbourne you’re looking at 6 hours to get to Mildura, from Sydney it’s almost double that time; 11 – 12 hours drive depending on the route you take.

      You can always fly though, and QantasLink, Virgin Australia, and Regional Express operate daily return flights between Melbourne and Mildura. There are also daily direct flights to Mildura from Sydney, Broken Hill and Adelaide.

      Let us know if you have any other questions – always happy to help – the Pink Lakes are incredible! They’re surrounded by a thin stretch of sand which is surrounded by bushland 🙂

  12. Those sound like such beautiful lakes to explore, especially the one with alternating blue and pink rings. I’ve always wanted to see colored lakes like these, and I missed the one in Cyprus near where I was staying last year…although I think that one was a blood red. Somehow I need to get my butt to Australia!

    • OH wow a blood red lake! I’ll have to check that out if I get to Cyprus. Yes re getting your butt to Australia lol what are you waiting for 😀 haha Can highly recommend a trip to Mildura to see the Pink Lakes when you do have the chance to visit – they’re waiting for you 😀

  13. So unbelievable yet so true as is evident from the pics. Very interesting science explaining the colors. We have jade and emerald green lakes in my part of the country 🙂 Does anybody swim in them? Just curious.

    • Aren’t they beautiful! Nature truly is incredible, and continues to awe me! The actual park itself is a popular area for fishing, swimming, canoeing and boating, as there are a couple of islands you can get to, but the Pink Lakes area is set up for walking as opposed to taking a dip 🙂

  14. They do look surreal don’t they! I went to some pink lakes in Mexico last year, they’re pink from the salt too although there weren’t any kangaroos hopping around, just a few flamingos! There is definitely something eerie about coloured bodies of water, they look toxic!

    • OH wow I didn’t know Mexico had pink lakes too! Quite the phenomenom – I can imagine that would have been absolutely beautiful with flamingos – one animal I haven’t seen in the wild yet but would love to!

      Yes definitely has something other worldly about it – quite entrancing standing on the edge of the land looking out at a sea of pink!

  15. I had no idea there were so many pink lakes there. Nature has its mysterious ways and we can never come close to making even a fraction of the magic it can make. This place is a photographer’s delight! I would love to go and see for myself.

    • Nature truly is mysterious! The Pink lakes do make for some truly stunning photography, and it’s so unique so shots are usually different to anything people have seen before! Hope you do have the chance to visit sometime soon 🙂

  16. Pink lakes, incredible. Would never have imagined them in Australia. The landscape does look like it could be used for a Mad Max movie. Is the area protected or can people go into the water? Spectacular images. Would love to visit at some point soon!!

    • The salt deposits are quite intense so I probably wouldn’t go in the water myself. But you can walk out to the edge and it’s quite incredible to look out at the expanse of pink!

  17. I’ve seen the pink lakes in Australia in drone shots, but seeing them up close must be amazing. I love how your tour guides fed you like kings (bacon FTW) and you got to see some wildlife – although I’ve never heard of a Mallee Fowl! Thank goodness for Dunaliella Salina algae – it makes pretty lakes!

    • Totally different view when you’re up close, but yes the drone shots are incredible aren’t they!! Peter and Jeanie really do feed you like Kings, their tours are amazing! And it’s a nice diverse day in the national park mixing the lakes with wildlife spotting – glad we could introduce you to the Mallee Fowl!

  18. I have seen similar lakes in Tunisia but of course without the pink color! Loved the more detailed pictures, where you can see the salt crystals. It was nice to do a tour like this one in a so isolated area with all the comforts thanks to Peter and Jeanie. I am sure that the breakfast of champions could also replace the lunch after. By the way, is this area in Tasmania?

    • Aren’t Kerry’s photos incredible! She’s a fantastic photographer, the close ups of the salt crystals are some of my favorites too 🙂

      Mildura is in Outback Victoria which is 6 hours inland north west of Melbourne. If you’re visiting Tasmania though it’s super easy to catch the ferry over to Melbourne and drive up, or fly into Melbourne and then catch a regional flight to Mildura 🙂

  19. WOW! These lakes so so surreal. So far i had only seen them in Thrillist or matador videos but seeing photos from someone who actually went there is so great. I can’t help but be envious of Peter and Jeanie Kelly. I would love to go on that dirt road to Murray Sunset National Park. looks just my kind of place.

    • They really are surreal! If you have the opportunity to visit Australia, definitely put Mildura on the itinerary, and give Peter and Jeanie a call – it’s such a fabulous tour 🙂

  20. This place reminds me of my dad, we used to visit and hang out there every summer! great memories! Thank you for sharing.

    • Fantastic to hear that you have wonderful memories from the Pink Lakes – what a treat it would have been to spend every summer here as a kid!

  21. Thanks for sharing this stuff with us!

    • You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  22. Thanks for sharing it………….:) 🙂

    • Glad to – happy travels!

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