Magenta veins criss-cross South Australia’s landscape, leading to spectacular pink lakes. See them yourself with South Australia's bucket list.
No, your eyes do not deceive you. And no, we haven’t gone crazy in Photoshop. South Australia is home to some of the world’s most vibrant pink lakes, stunning travellers with their dreamlike hues, set against the greens, blues and reds of regional South Australia.
Of course, there’s a logical explanation behind nature’s strawberry milkshakes. It’s the lakes’ high salinity levels, combined with the presence of salt-loving algae and pink bacteria known as halobacteria that turn them bright pink. The less water in the lake, the more concentrated the salt and the brighter the colour.
But enough with the details. It’s time to hit the road and start exploring our lakes for yourself. From the Eyre Peninsula to the Outback, here are our top five South Australian pink lakes.
1. Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula
Mother Nature’s full palette is on show at the Eyre Peninsula’s Lake MacDonnell with a super-high salt concentration resulting in some seriously intense colours. At the end of this road lies Eyre Peninsula’s beautiful Cactus Beach: an oceanic wonderland, drawing surfers from across the world to its powerful breaks and Southern Ocean swells.
Lake MacDonnell is a 1 hour and 30 minute flight then a 45 minute drive from Adelaide. Chinta Air scenic flights leave from Ceduna or, during winter, the Nullarbor.
Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula. Image: @frothography
2. Lake Bumbunga, Clare Valley
Less than two hours’ drive from Adelaide, Lake Bumbunga’s bubble gum shores draw an eclectic crowd from casual photographers to high-end fashion brands. Located in Lochiel, the lake is known to change colour from pink, to white, to blue, depending on the salinity of the water throughout the year. Head north from Lake Bumbunga and you’ll find yourself in the famed Clare Valley wine region where you can quench your thirst with colour-coordinated rosé from Mr Mick, Kilikanoon, Jim Barry or Annie’s Lane.
Lake Bumbunga is a 1 hour and 40 minute drive from Adelaide.
Lake Bumbunga, Clare. Image: @domgrimm
3. Lake Eyre, Outback South Australia
The pale pinks, oranges and yellows of Lake Eyre epitomise Outback South Australia. Usually a giant salt pan, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre occasionally fills with water thanks to summer rainfall further north, creating a desert oasis which can truly be appreciated when seen from the air on a scenic Wrightsair flight.
Lake Eyre is a 6 hour drive (or a 1 hour and 30 minute flight) to Roxby Downs from Adelaide. Wrightsair scenic flights leave from Roxby Downs or Coober Pedy.
Lake Eyre, Outback South Australia. Image: @wrightsair
4. Lake Albert, Fleurieu Peninsula
Along the Mighty Murray River lies a bright pink paradise. Lake Albert’s incredible colour is the result of millions of tiny micro-organisms that produce beta-carotene, turning it pink when they thrive. This area also serves as the northern gateway to the Coorong National Park – a long, narrow ribbon of saline wetlands, salt pans, coastal dunes and wild beaches that stretch over 150 kilometres from the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Limestone Coast.
Lake Albert is a 1 hour and 40 minute drive from Adelaide.
Lake Albert, Fleurieu Peninsula. Image: @bielewelt2017
5. Lake Hart, Outback South Australia
As spectacular by night as it is by day, Woomera’s Lake Hart is a must-visit while trekking across the Outback on the Explorer’s Way road trip. Once one of Australia’s most prized salt deposits, Lake Hart was at the centre of a thriving industry in the 1930s. Today, it draws visitors for its isolation and natural beauty and can be spotted from the comfort of Great Southern Rail’s Ghan as it snakes its way along 2,979km of rail between Darwin and Adelaide.
Lake Hart is a 5 hour and 30 minute drive from Adelaide.
Lake Hart, Outback South Australia. Image: @kiallfrost
Keep exploring South Australia
Pink lakes are just a tiny taste of what regional South Australia has to offer. Wilderness awaits just minutes' drive away from Adelaide.
Trek across the rugged, ancient outback, swim at picture-perfect beaches, come face-to-face with roos, koalas, sea lions and great white sharks (in the safety of a Jaws-resistant cage, of course) or treat your stomach to some of the world’s best food and most awarded wine.