Miriam Blaker ventures out into the north-west corner of Victoria into Murray Sunset National Park, and discovers the unique Pink Lakes.
The bottom of the shallow lake bed is crusty with salt, and underneath the cloudy sky the water looks rosy pink. In the distance our camper trailer is set up, surrounded by a carpet of desert wildflowers and wide open spaces.
Friends had told us of this magical wilderness area so, being always open to new camping locations in the Australian outback, we decided on a homeward trip from Mungo National Park, to experience it for ourselves.
There were very few campers here, in fact our only neighbours are two galahs in a nearby tree that our kids have nicknamed Fred and Wilma. Aside from the occasional day tripper passing through, we have the place to ourselves.
We’re camping at the Pink Lakes, on the edge of Victoria’s Murray Sunset National Park – a location often referred to as Victoria’s own outback. We set up camp at Lake Crosbie, the main camping ground in the Pink Lakes area. Each site is spacious and has its own fireplace and picnic table with toilets close by. There’s no drinking water available so it’s important to be self sufficient.
Each morning we wake to the sound of the neighbouring galahs, blue skies and a varying shade of pink from the nearby lakes. There’s a fair amount of water in Lake Crosbie at the moment, due to heavy rain earlier in the year, however past summers have seen the lakes completely dry.
We marvel at the colours of the lake which change by the hour, depending on the cloud conditions above. Generally on cloudy days the pinks are more striking, at other times a fairy floss hue. The lake floor is completely covered in salt, the colours arising from the red pigment carotene which is released from algae into the water.
For bushwalkers, the area offers some beautiful walks, particularly in spring when the wildflowers are out. There are easy walks around Lake Hardy and Lake Becking as well as the longer Kline nature trail. This easy 2.5km walk is signposted and starts from the shore of Lake Crosbie. It takes in the vista of the lake as well as traversing inwards to view the relics of the salt mining era, as well as dilapidated cars in surrounding hillsides. There are information boards with fascinating stories of the salt mining era.
The flora and fauna is varied and abundant at the Pink Lakes. Look out for the red kangaroos, the Murray Lily flower and, if you’re a bird watcher, bring your guide book as there are loads of colourful and elusive species to discover.
For painters, photographers and those who just want to contemplate nature, this place is heaven. We spend many hours reading and relaxing underneath shady trees while our children enjoy simple pleasures like climbing trees and exploring the lake shores to collect rock salt, which they later use to make camp fire damper. Rock salt doesn’t get any more pure than this!
Many people say that you can’t go into the Murray Sunset National Park without doing some serious four wheel driving and it’s true. There is a veritable smorgasbord of sandy tracks to enjoy. Make sure you pick up a map at the entrance to the park for directions to places such as Mount Crozier lookout, which is well worth climbing once you get there. It’s worth having some sort of communication on board as, once deep inside the national park, there are very few cars about. The most traffic we pass is a mob of red kangaroos.
We experience some unsettling noises coming from underneath the Pajero but fortunately, we make contact with a ranger who provides us with directions to the local mechanic in nearby Underbool. After the obliging fellow crawls under our car for a look and a tinker, and accepting just twenty bucks for his work, we come away with a renewed appreciation for outback hospitality!
This is desert country and summer temperatures can get mighty hot, making autumn, late winter or spring is the best time to visit. But visit you must; our friends were right, Pink Lakes is indeed special. It is pristine, untouched and in a fast paced world it offers a chance to get back to nature.
After a day of exploration, there’s nothing better than relaxing around a flickering campfire with loved ones, toasting marshmallows, a glass of red in hand and enjoying big skies. Pink Lakes offers the ultimate outdoor cinema – a sensational Murray sunset and a dazzling array of stars. The Outback simply doesn’t get any better than this.
We spend three memorable nights here and, with its breathtaking landscape and peaceful location, it remains one of our all time favourite places to camp in Victoria.