Discover South Australia’s Pink Lakes – A Natural Wonder

Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula

South Australia may be known for its wineries — but look beyond the shiraz and you’ll find something equally captivating. The pink lakes. These naturally beautiful bodies of water appear dreamlike with their bubblegum swirls and candy-soaked hues, making for a unique experience that must be seen to be believed.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the fascinating world of South Australia’s pink lakes, uncover the secrets behind their stunning shades, suggest the best locations, and provide essential tips so you can plan your own unforgettable visit. And we answer the question: can you swim in the pink lakes?

Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Pink Lakes

From strawberry-milk to neon magenta, the colour of these lakes has always been a mystery to both visitors and locals. So, what makes the pink lakes so pink? While there are many theories, the most widely accepted explanation points to the presence of two microorganisms: Salinibacter ruber, a tiny bacterium, and Dunaliella salina, a type of algae. Both produce beta-carotene, the same pigment that makes carrots orange and flamingos so fabulously pink. Combined with the high salinity levels found in these lakes, they create quite the show!

A Kaleidoscope of Colours: Are the Pink Lakes Pink All Year Round?

While some lakes may retain their pink hues throughout the year, others undergo transformations influenced by the weather and environmental factors. For example, conditions need to be just right for the salt-loving microorganisms to flourish and elevated water levels can dilute the colours. It’s important to note that sunlight, cloud cover, and the time of day can also influence the intensity of the pink hues. So, while you may not always enjoy a vibrant photo-op, these lakes remain magical year-round.

Did you know that Western Australia also has magical pink lakes? Dive into the Pink Lakes of Western Australia with this comprehensive guide.

Where to Find South Australia’s Pink Lakes

From the outback to the ocean, South Australia is blessed with an array of pink lakes, each offering its own unique charm. Our tip? Book a scenic flight to see the lakes from above; it’s the best way to take in their individual spectacle. Here are some of the most remarkable pink lakes for your holiday in South Australia:

Lake Bumbunga, Clare Valley

Lake Bumbunga - Lochiel's Pink Lake
Photo: Wakefield Regional Council

If you’re keen to combine winery-hopping and lake-spotting with easy access from Adelaide, see the bubblegum hues of Lake Bumbunga. Just under two hours from the city, this stunning lake offers a delightful day trip opportunity. Lake Bumbunga’s colours change with the light, season, and weather conditions, creating a captivating display that never fails to impress. Bonus: you’ll have the Clare Valley’s renowned wineries less than a 40-minute drive away.

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, South Australian Outback

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, South Australian Outback

For a truly immersive experience, venture into the heart of the South Australian outback to discover the awe-inspiring Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. As one of the largest salt lakes in the world (144 km long and 77 km wide), this natural wonder never fails to leave visitors in awe. While the ‘lake’ is a giant glittering salt pan for much of the year, rains bring it to life and deliver the signature pink appearance.

To reach this seriously remote location, you have several options. You could embark on an adventurous road trip from Adelaide to the town of William Creek, soaking in the rugged beauty of the outback along the way. Alternatively, fly from Adelaide to the famous opal town of Coober Pedy (around two hours) and take a scenic flight over Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre from there.

Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula

Lake MacDonnell, Eyre Peninsula

One of the most famous of South Australia’s pink lakes is Lake MacDonnell, northwest of Adelaide on the scenic Eyre Peninsula. Renowned for its intense salmon hues, this lake is a visual feast. Divided by a causeway, one side is called Green Lake (a rich turquoise colour) and the other Pink Lake, creating a fabulous contrast that looks incredible from above.

To access remote Lake MacDonnell, you can drive from Adelaide (around 9-10 hours) or fly from Adelaide to Ceduna and drive around an hour to the lake.  

Lake Hart, South Australian Outback

Lake Hart, South Australian Outback

As you journey through the South Australian outback, make a memorable stop at Lake Hart. This beautiful lake is roughly 5.5 hours northwest of Adelaide and just over an hour south of Roxby Downs. It is the perfect location to relax and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the region, with many visitors choosing to camp near the lake and enjoy the unparalleled stargazing.

Lake Hart also serves as a convenient stopover for those enroute to other nearby attractions, such as Coober Pedy, Lake Eyre, and Yulara. And if you’re lucky enough to be travelling on The Ghan rail service from Adelaide to Darwin, keep your camera poised for Lake Hart along the way.

Lake Albert, Fleurieu Peninsula

Lake Albert, Murray River

Nestled along the picturesque Murray River, Lake Albert is a must-see destination for travellers in the region. Less than two hours from Adelaide along the Princes Highway, this lake can appear in sherbet shades of pink and grape, depending on the salinity of the water.

What About Swimming in South Australia’s Pink Lakes?

Swimming in these beautiful pink waters may seem like a great idea, but it’s important to remember that the extreme salt concentration can cause skin irritation. Additionally, most of these lakes are quite shallow, making them more appropriate for wading rather than swimming.

But the most important reason NOT to swim in South Australia’s pink lakes is to respect the natural environment and avoid any activities that may disturb their balance. One of the most well-known pink lakes, aptly named ‘Pink Lake’ in Western Australia, no longer turns pink due to a decrease in salinity caused by human interference. 

We hope this guide has inspired you to embark on your own adventure and witness the enchanting natural wonders of South Australia’s pink lakes firsthand. Whether you find yourself gazing in awe at the intense pink hues of Lake MacDonnell, exploring the remote beauty of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, or savouring the tranquility of Lake Albert, these pink lakes are sure to leave an indelible imprint of your time in South Australia.

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