Did you know Australia is home to some of the world’s most vibrant pink lakes?
Pink Lakes must be seen to be believed! Travelers are stunned by their unreal hues from bright bubble gum pink to lilac bursting through the landscape.
It is no surprise that there is a logical explanation behind natures strawberry gems in saline lakes. Salt loving algae called Dunaliella salina and pink bacteria known as halobacteria naturally produce beta carotene which is a red colour. This pigment is also found in carrots, egg yolks, lobsters, and creates this remarkable phenomenon and a spell binding pink glow. The dominant bacteria produce the pigment which helps the organism to harvest light for energy. Unlike pigments produced by algae which are restricted to chloroplasts this pigment is spread across the entire bacterial cell increasing the pink colour of the lake. In Summer months the sun evaporates the water, making the lake have a higher concentration of salt allowing the algae to reproduce more rapidly, resulting in a brighter colour.
Most lakes do not stay pink permanently as this bizarre colour of the lake varies with seasons, light intensity, cloud cover, temperature and time of day, as they all effect the growth of algae blooming. To see lakes in all their glory and the most vibrant, visit mid-morning to sunset if possible after the rains have washed fresh nutrients and bring your drones.
- Lake Hillier, Western Australia
Where: – Goldfields Esperance WA 6450, Just off the southern coast of Western Australia on Middle Island
How to get there: – Guided tours, boat tours, cruises, helicopter tours and scenic flights available from Esperance, which is 720km southeast of Perth. If you’re going via a boat tour, you’ll be dropped off on the island to explore the camp ruins of Australia’s only ever pirate called Jack Anderson from the 1830’s.
Lake Hillier is located on Middle Island and surrounded by the bright blue Southern Ocean, in a rim of sand and lush green woodland. Unlike other pink lakes, Lake Hillier stays the same vibrant bubblegum pink all year round. Although safe to swim (or float!) in the lake it is not permitted in order to protect this natural phenomenon.
British explorer Matthew Flinders in 1802 climbed the highest peak on the island and noticed the rose coloured hue in the lake. The lake turned out to be as saline as the Dead Sea and so he took advantage of the situation to top up the ship’s salt stores.
In 2015 Ken Mc Grath, a researcher for extreme environments and working for the Extreme Microbiome Project researched the lake to identify any microorganism that lived in extremely salty conditions and which could be responsible for its stunning colour. 10 species of salt-loving bacteria were found as well as archaea and several species of Dunaliella algae. Nearly all these organisms are pink, red or salmon-coloured and were deemed to be responsible for the lake’s colour.
2. Hutt Lagoon, Western Australia
Where: – Yallabatharra WA 6535, near Port Gregory a small town known for its fishing
How to get there: – 515km north of Perth. A 30 min drive from Kalbarri or 1hour drive north of Geraldton. Geraldton Air Charter and Shine Aviation provide the option of a scenic flight
Astounding onlookers with its pink waters, the lake is most vivid when the sky is clear, and the sun is overhead. Heavy cloud cover blocks sunlight and can sometimes give the lagoon a paler shade. Depending on the weather Hutt Lagoon’s colour can vary from red to lilac to bright pink and has even been known to have a silver hue.
Fed by marine waters throughout the spring, the lagoon stretches over 70km squared and lies just a few feet above below sea level. A beach barrier ridge and a barrier dune system separate it from the Indian Ocean.
This surreal beauty and its blinding pinkness of Hutt Lagoon is an experience you just can’t get enough of! The iconic colouring is due to the presence for the caroteinoid producing algae, Dunaliella Salina, a source of beta-carotene, which is used as a food colouring agent and source of Vitamin A in dietary supplements and cosmetics. Hutt Lagoon now has the largest micro-algae production plant in the world. A 250ha series of artificial ponds are used to farm the Dunaliella Salina.
Hutt Lagoon is a commercial supply of brine shrimp which is used as a specialty feed by fish and prawn farmers. It is also a favourite set location for fashion brands like Myer and Lancôme.
3. Westgate Park Lake, Melbourne
Where: – 4 Wharf Rd, Port Melbourne VIC 3207
How to get there: – An 18-minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD
In 2017, Westgate Lake near the Westgate Bridge made global headlines as it changes colour overnight yet again, to a bright bubblegum shade of pink. The lake first turned pink in December 2012 so best to visit in the summer months when rainfall is low. When the rainfall increases, and the weather turns cooler in the winter months the lake returns to its normal blue colour. The algae are not harmful to local wildlife, but the authorities have advised people to allow their body to encounter the water
There were many theories about why Westgate Lake changed colour but finally research has suggested that it is due to the high temperatures, lots of sunlight and when salt levels are higher than usual. In these conditions the lake algae and halobacterium to grow in the lake’s salt crust, and during photosynthesis they use the red pigment, beta carotene. This results in a glorious deep pink lake, which is an Instagram sensation.
4. Pink Lakes, Victoria
Where: – Located in the far North West of Victoria, 50km south of Mildura, lie four pink lakes in the Murray-Sunset National Park
How to get there: – Access to Pink Lakes from Linga on the Mallee Highway to the south, via a good dirt road. Access from the north to the lakes, via the heart of the Murray-Sunset National Park is 4X4 country with soft, sandy tracks.
The four lakes have colours which vary from pale purple to the outstanding bubblegum pink. The sand on the beaches by the lake form blue/pink swirls among the salt crystals. This unique rainbow of colour can only be found in a few places in the world!
In the 1860’s the area was first used by farmers to graze their sheep and cattle. During the 1900’s the area was then used to mine salt as the salt had a high percentage of purity. A small town was established on the edge of Lake Crosbie and the reminders of the salt mining days can be found there. Salt harvesting continued until 1979 when the area around the lakes was declared a state park. Then in 1991 the relatively small park was incorporated into the Murray-Sunset National Park.
The look out at the top of the Murray -Sunset National Park is known for making you gasp at its breathtaking view of the vast expanse of water of the entire system of lakes. The endless blue skies and the reflections that come off the surface of the lakes are mesmerizing as well as the magnificent sunsets.
There are walking tracks between the four lakes where you will find over 600 species of plants including the Murray Lily, Victoria’s largest flower. More salt tolerant species dominate the areas closer to the lakes and the sand dunes.
5. Lake Eyre, South Australia
Where: – In the deserts of northern South Australia, 647 km of Adelaide
How to get there: – Lake Eyre is a good 6hr drive from Adelaide, reached via the Oodnadatta Track.
As one of the driest places in Australia, Lake Eyre depends on the annual monsoon and how much rain falls in the lake’s catchment in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Once the lake is full, however, it’s no saltier than the sea. As the lake dries up and the water evaporates, its salinity increases again. During this time of high salt saturation, Lake Eyre transforms into the pink oasis again due to the pigment found within an algae species that lives in the lake. Yet it might not be easy catch as Lake Eyre only sees water every 3-10 years, even so the pale pinks, oranges and yellows of Lake Eyre are a sight to be seen.
Lake Eyre is in fact comprised of 2 lakes, Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South. They are connected by the Goyder Chanel which is 1 km long. The total of both lakes together is 144km long and 77km wide. Lake Eyre consequently is the largest Salt Lake in Australia this desert oasis sparks the imagination of many traveler. With water flowing out of the top of mounds built up around underground springs and network of waterways Lake Eyre forms a truly surreal landscape when the rains come. A European settlement in the 1860’s developed many cattle stations near Lake Eyre until the drought came making cattle faming difficult.
6. Lake Bumbunga, Clare Valley, South Australia
Where: – Lochiel, South Australia 5510
How to get there: – Less than a 2hr drive north west from Adelaide
Clare Valley is known for its rolling vineyards and farmland, but the hidden gem of Lake Bumbunga cutting through the scenery is as special as the wine that comes from the region. The surreal feeling of walking anywhere on the lake, is a must do experience and draws Instagram worthy shots from casual photographers to high end fashion brands.
The lake is at its most pink in the summer months when water evaporation is at its highest and the salt content is at its highest allowing the salt environment algae and halobacteria to show their pink appearance. At low salt concentrations the lake changes from pink to white to blue.
Lake Bumbunga is made up of three salt pans which have been harvested for over 30 years. The local town of Lochiel is full of historic reminders of the salt industry. Train tracks and wooden structures are still on view.
Its name is reportedly derived from the local indigenous people term for ‘rainwater lake’.
7. Lake Albert, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
Where: -Fleurieu Peninsula, Inman Valley SA 5211
How to get there: – A 1hr 40 min drive south east of Adelaide, along the Princess Highway.
Lake Albert is named after Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. The lake is situated on the northern gateway to the Coorong National Park, which has saline wetlands, salt pans, sand dunes and wild beaches that reach over 150km from Fleurieu Peninsula to the Limestone Coast.
The lake sits alongside the mighty Murray River and gets its incredible bright pink colour from the millions of micro-organisms, which thrive when conditions are favourable and produce beta-carotene which turns the lake pink. The charming town of Meningie on the shores of the lake, is a good place to stop to take in the beauty of the surroundings as well as seeing the large number of birds which settle among the reeds of the lake.
8. Lake MacDonnell, South Australia
Where: – Penong South Australia 5690
How to get there: – 9hour drive, 860km, west from Adelaide. Alternatively access lake by 1hr 30min flight from Adelaide airport to Ceduna and then a short 45min drive.
Lake MacDonnell has the largest gypsum mine in the Southern Hemisphere and can produce over one million tonnes of gypsum a year. As one of South Australia’s more stunning pink lakes, the super high salt concentration produces intense colours of vivid pink and purple. A straight dirt road cuts through the lake and acts as a divide to see different hues of colour. At the end of the road lies the renowned Cactus Beach a famous surfing site known for its powerful breaks and Southern Ocean swells.
The lake has been honoured by being commemorated on an Australian Postage stamp in its ‘art in nature’ series
9. Lake Hart, Outback South Australia
Where: – Wirraminna SA 5719
How to get there: – 5hr 30min drive from Adelaide
As beautiful at night as it is by day this isolated pastel pink lake has more salt than water! A worthwhile stop on the way to Lake Eyre is a welcome break to the seemingly endless outback of South Australia. By day, the colour of the lake is enhanced as it sparkles off the salt in the sun and at night the isolation gives way to epic star gazing!
In the 1930’s this remote lake was once one of Australia’s most valuable salt deposits and hosted a thriving salt industry. Today it is forgotten in its isolation amidst the Mulga Plains of the north west. The famous Ghan rail line runs past but if you want a real getaway form urban life there are some great camping spots near the lake to enjoy. With more salt than water and the shallowness of the lake means you can walk in the lake easily but remember to wash your feet afterwards!
10. Quairading Pink Lake, Western Australia
Where: – Bruce Rock – Quairading Rd, Quairading, 6383
How to get there: – A 2-hour drive west of Perth
This remote lake is unique because there is a road that runs right through the middle of it. At certain times of the year each side has either a different shade of pink or remarkably the left side can be a dark pink colour while the right side remains a light pink colour, yellow or can even remain blue.
During the summer, evaporation causes the water level to drop and salt builds up. When the water returns the high salt levels allow Benthic microbial communities to grow and show their pink colour.
It is smaller than the other lakes on the list so could pass in a top list of pink ponds!
11. Lake Warden, Western Australia
Where: – Monjingup WA 6450
How to get there: – A 15 min drive west of Esperance, between two access roads to the town the Coolgardie- Esperance Highways and the South Coast
The right weather conditions as well as increased salinity and temperature has causes Lake Warden to become increasingly vivid pink in colour. The distinctive pink colour is again due to the green algae which produces beta carotene, the same substance which colours carrots orange and halobacterium which live in the salt crust of the lake.
For bird watchers too this is a great place to visit as endangered hooded plovers are some of the many birds seen there as well as a plentiful supply of brine shrimp.
Leaving tourists confused the nearby lake called ‘Pink Lake’ and previously called Lake Spencer, has lost its colour so not worth visiting. This has been due to changes in natural water flow, limited evaporation, salt harvesting, and pollution from a new construction of a railway and highway. The good news is that a team of scientists are investigating how to return the lake to its former pink brilliance!