Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is South Australia's desert oasis. Take a tour and see how rain transforms this giant saltpan to an inland lake brimming with birds.
In South Australia's Outback is the iconic Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park - a giant saltpan that spans 10,000 square kilometres, with its white crystals reflecting the sunlight.
Every now and then, after decent rains in Australia's north, the lakes fills with water and a magical transformation unfolds. Birds flock to the water’s edge to drink and eat the river fish, which start to swim down from inland rivers further north. The rest of the outback landscape – which is usually reddish-brown in colour, with not so much as a saltbush in sight – bursts to life with green grass and foliage.
When the water evaporates, the lake changes colour again and looks pinkish-red thanks to the millions of brine shrimp which live on the lake all year-round.
Summer rains in 2016 sparked a flurry of green growth on the usually dry and dusty plains of Anna Creek Station – the world’s largest working cattle station which sits alongside Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. It's where outback pilot Matt Harnetty lives, who saw first-hand the landscape's transformation.
“Over the last couple of weeks, it’s gone from real brown and dried out to lush green and there’s water lying everywhere – it’s covered in green grass. The rain really changes the landscape."
By sea or plane
You can experience the beauty of Lake Eyre - be it dry or wet - on a guided tour or scenic flight. Take off from a red earth runway. Soar higher than the flocks of birds. See the endless, still water or the salt creeping over.
Or enjoy the lake by boat. Venture into the water on a kayak, catamaran or small yacht. Explore the lake’s inlets and wide waters. Listen to the sounds of the wildlife and the water lapping at your boat.
To make the most of your Outback experience, you'll need more than just an overnight stay. Choose from the hotel or caravan park in Marree or head to the tiny town of William Creek - the halfway point on the Oodnadatta Track.
The William Creek Hotel serves delicious pub food and check out the unique front bar. Accommodation is also provided on site and jump on board a Wrightsair scenic flight from the airstrip next to the pub.
Lake Eyre is part of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park, which has campgrounds for visitors. Halligan Point Campground provides bush camping with no facilities. Outside the park, Mullorina Station has campgrounds with toilets and some facilities.
To camp in the park, you must have a Desert Parks Pass or a day entry permit. The Desert Parks Pass includes maps, information about the parks, Lake Eyre’s Aboriginal history and safety tips. Day entry permits are available at the self-registration station on the road to Halligan Bay.
Four-wheel drive (4WD) country
Lake Eyre really is four-wheel drive (4WD) country. While you can reach some of the lake in a standard vehicle, it is not ideal. Many of the roads, including those in Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park are for four-wheel drive vehicles (4WD) only.
You will need a four-wheel drive (4WD) with a high ground clearance to travel around the area. Be well-prepared, with extra fuel, food and water.
Mobile phones do not work in most outback areas, so you will need a satellite phone or a high frequency (HF) radio. It is also a good idea to carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). If you don’t have a four-wheel drive (4WD), you can still experience Lake Eyre on a guided tour.