Since discovering the vast beauty of Murray Sunset National Park (NP) – Victoria’s very own patch of mallee-dotted outback – on a trip last year, I’ve been itching to get back there.
Much of the park is 4WD only, but you can reach the Pink Lakes in the south by 2WD - so that's what we did.
We arrived at the Pink Lakes late in the afternoon. The park’s often scorching summer temperatures may be a deterrent to some and shade is at a premium. It pays to have an awning to provide a bit of shelter at camp. More popular times to visit are autumn and spring, when colourful wildflower displays are a drawcard.
Meandering around Pioneer Drive is the easiest way to see the sights in this section of the park. The gravel road loops around the cluster of pink lakes, which get their pink colour from a particular type of red algae that lives in the salt.
Commercial mining of the salty lakebeds began in 1916, originally with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, and later with horse-drawn scarifiers and scrapers that broke up the salt-crust. Afghan cameleers arrived in the area in 1922 and, for many years, the camels became the most reliable means of transporting the salt to the railways at nearby Linga and Underbool.
The mine operated until 1979 when the Pink Lakes were declared a state park, and in 1991 the area was incorporated into Murray Sunset National Park. Some rusting relics of the old harvesting machinery and salt piles remain along the edge of Lake Crosbie on Pioneer Drive and are worth a look.
There are a couple of short bushwalks in the area, including the Kline Nature Walk, a one-and-a-half-hour loop that follows the edge of Lake Crosbie and Lake Kenyon, a one-and-a-half-hour loop that circumnavigates Lake Hardy, and a 45-minute loop along one edge of Lake Becking. If you have bikes, a ride around the relatively flat Pioneer Drive would be a nice way to explore the area.
After we finished exploring we picked a spot in the deserted campground and set up for the night.
We wandered out across the expanse of pink-tinged salt, marvelling at the sparkling crust as the wide blue sky changed to pink then purple.
The Pink Lakes section of the Murray Sunset National Park is 520km north-west of Melbourne via the Calder Highway and the Mallee Highway. Access from South Australia is via the Sturt Highway.