Murray-Sunset National Park, VIC

By: Ali Millar, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg, Video by: Matt Fehlberg


Murray-Sunset National Park’s stunning Pink Lakes were the perfect first stopover on our trip west.

Located in Victoria’s far north-west corner, the 677,000ha Murray-Sunset national park is Victoria’s largest, stretching from the Pink Lakes near Underbool at its southern-most point to Lindsay Island, bordered by the Murray River in the north. Much of the park is accessed via long sandy tracks suitable only for high-clearance 4WDs, but you can reach the Pink Lakes in the south by 2WD, via the gravelled Pink Lakes Road, off the Mallee Highway, just east of the tiny town of Linga.

Given our cross-country chariot was a large Avida Birdsville motorhome, we were not going to be heading off into the scrub, so the Lake Crosbie Campground in the Pink Lakes section of the park was our destination of choice.

Avida -Birdsville -at -Murray -Sunset -National -Park -entrance

With spectacular sunset photography in mind, we decided to get an early start on the 520km (around six hour) run from Melbourne, the first of many long days of driving on this trip.

KYNETON

Just an hour up the Calder Highway is the laid-back Macedon Ranges town of Kyneton – the perfect place for hungry road trippers to stop off for coffee and breakfast. Saturday morning brunch was in full swing around us as we tucked into bircher muesli, tasty eggs and great coffee at the delightful Little Sparrow Café on historic Piper Street, a popular tourist destination in its own right.

Avida -Birdsville -driving -towards -Lake -Tyrrell -at -Sea -Lake -VIC

Kyneton is an old gold rush town, once a resting place for miners en route to the Bendigo Goldfields. Today, Piper Street is a charming place to wander, gazing at the heritage bluestone buildings that line the street, with an eclectic array of gourmet restaurants and cafés to satiate any foodie, and plentiful antiques, arts and crafts to browse. Piper Street also plays host to a farmers’ market on the second Saturday of the month – unfortunately not the Saturday we visited.

Kyneton, along with nearby Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, is renowned for its natural mineral springs and there are plenty of options for washing away the stresses of daily life at one of the region’s health and wellness spas and retreats. To benefit from the healing properties of the mineral-filled and strong-tasting water, fill your water bottle directly from the source at the Kyneton Mineral Springs Reserve.

LAKE TYRRELL

As we continued north, the golden fields of country Victoria stretched off on either side of the highway, hay bales dotting the horizon, broken only by blink-and-you-miss-it country towns with huge grain silos standing sentinel along the highway. By the time we pulled into the viewing point at Lake Tyrrell it was well and truly time for a lunchbreak.

Two -women -exploring -Lake -Tyrrell -at -Sea -Lake -VIC

Just north of the town of Sea Lake, Lake Tyrrell is touted as Victoria’s largest salt lake, and is mostly dry, although at times areas fill with shallow water. In recent years, the lake has become a popular tourist attraction, particularly with Chinese tourists, who come a long, long way to see the mirrored reflections in the parts of the lake that have water, which on still days create the optical illusion that you’re walking on water, making for an incredible photo.

Two -women -walking -on -Lake -Crosbie -during -the -sunset

While this tourism boom is mostly a good thing, it does have its downsides. This is a particularly fragile environment and care must be taken not to damage it. As such, driving is not permitted on the lakebed.

Lake -Tyrell -VIC

We walked out onto the glistening white saltpan, silent bar the whistling wind sweeping across the vast plain, no tourists in sight. The summer heat rippled across the crusted surface under a wide blue sky, dotted with puffy white clouds. Although the lake is home to a host of reptiles, emus, kangaroos and birds, the only obvious forms of life (except for the very friendly flies) were the scrubby saltbush and the occasional bare branch poking its head up from the salt.

PINK LAKES

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.

Two -women -looking -at -Lake -Crosbie -next -to -Avida -Birdsville

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.

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.

Two -women -walking -towards -Avida -Birdsville -at -Lake -Tyrrell -at -Sea -Lake -VIC

CAMPING AT NIGHT

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. As the evening rolled in, lightning flashed in the distance, adding to the otherworldliness you experience when there’s not another soul for miles. We settled in around the campfire while our sausages cooked, watching as the stars appeared above us. 

Avida -Birdsville -at -campsite -at -Murray -Sunset -National -Park -VIC

It wasn’t until we went to bed that we realised we’d neglected one very important thing. It’s really camping 101, but let’s put it down to being excited about the prospect of getting out of the office for a week. Given the absolute darkness that surrounded us, the motorhome’s lights were like a beacon to the local insect population and, as we popped in and out grabbing food and drinks from the fridge, we had forgotten to close the mesh-screened door behind us.

Two -women -sit -by -the -campfire -next -to -Avida -Birdsville

The dull roar of insect wings greeted us as we went inside. Our only option was to spend the next half-hour swatting them away, resulting in a massacre of proportions I’d rather not talk about. Yep, lesson learned.

After a not-so-amazing sleep sharing our beds with what remained of our resident insect friends we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. Magpies stalked in the scrub and galahs squawked overhead as we packed up and headed back down the bumpy dirt road to the highway to continue our journey west.

Check out the Avida Cross Country trip overview!

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The full feature appeared in Caravan World #564. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!