This was during the third day of our 4-day trip to South Australia. We first travelled through the Gawler Ranges National Park to reach Lake Gairdner for sunset. No one we know had heard of Lake Gairdner before. We randomly found the Lake and the Sheep Station (where we spent the night) by intensively looking for activities between the Eyre Peninsula and Adelaide.
We were so surprised by what we saw on that day. Lake Gairdner is amazing: we all agreed it is beautiful enough to deserve a spot on Australia’s must-see list. It’s surprising no one knows about it!
Ou stops on the way to Lake Gairdner
Lake Gairdner is off the beaten track. You’ll want to break the drive, so here are a few things to do on your way to Lake Gairdner:
Pildappa Rock, Australia’s second largest monolith
Our first stops of the day were between Minnipa and the Gawler Ranges National Park at Tcharkuldu Hill and then Pildappa Rock. After the famous Uluru, Pildappa is the second-largest monolith in Australia. We were allowed to climb to the top for great views of the valley and the Gawler Ranges.
Although it made a fun stop to break the drive, I wouldn’t classify this one as a must-see. The comparison with Uluru stops at the fact that both rocks are big monoliths. Uluru’s experience was way better. First, it is larger, and the way it stands out from the desert is incredible. And above all, the Aboriginal culture experience was fantastic at Uluru.
Organ Pipes and safari in the Gawler Ranges National Park
We then started exploring the ochre-red Gawler Ranges National Park. It was mainly a great safari in the car as we were driving through the park counting Emus vs. Kangaroos. We always love to spot iconic Australian wildlife! For the first time of all my road trips in Australia, the emus won… and by far! Maybe the temperature (39C) was giving them an advantage? Unfortunately, it was way too hot for the wombats so we were not lucky enough to see one (alive).
In the heart of spring, flowers were blooming to add nice touches of colours to the desert. We went out of the car to explore the Organ Pipes, a dramatic canyon of red columns. We actually saw two Organ Pipes sites that day as Mt Ive – where we slept – also has its own.
It was way more entertaining to drive through the Gawler Ranges National Park than to take the boring highway as we did on our first day of the road trip.
Lake Gairdner: South Australia’s best-kept secret?
As we were watching one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in my life, we were all wondering how come we could have Lake Gairdner for just the three of us. This place is so beautiful and unusual that it could deserve to be on the list of Australia‘s best attractions.
Lake Gairdner is a gigantic salted lake: so big that we couldn’t see the end! At its largest points, it is around 40km wide and over 200km long. We had seen salted lakes regularly during our trip, but this one was way above our expectations. The contrast between the red land and the white lake is stunning. Getting there is quite of an effort as it takes several hours of driving on an unsealed road. But it is worth it.
Every year, they do a race on the lake with passionate fans coming from all over the world to this remote place in South Australia. A huge event! Try to avoid that time – unless you want to be part of it!
Where to sleep when visiting Lake Gairdner: our night at Mt Ive Sheep Station
Mt Ive Sheep Station (click for details and reviews)* was an interesting place to stay at.
The woman running the place welcomed us warmly and was happy to share her knowledge and tips about the area. She spent a lot of time with us answering all our questions about the lake and the sheep station. Accommodation is very simple but still an excellent outback experience. I always find it interesting to talk to people to learn more about their way of life in the outback.
Where is Lake Gairdner?
We drove for half an hour from the Mount Ive Sheep Station to reach Lake Gairdner. It took us 3 hours to drive from Mt Ive Sheep Station to Port Augusta on a beautiful dry day. It can take longer after the rain as the track can get damaged.
If you are looking for a map of the area (Minnipa, Wudina and Gawler Ranges), check this link.