Situated in the far north-west of Victoria is a park that showcases the rugged and spectacularly beautiful Mallee landscape of low scrubland and sand dunes, the Murray-Sunset National Park.
Murray-Sunset gives you a feeling of being Out and About in Australia’s vast outback without the need for travelling the vast distances usually associated with visits to “the interior”…
On a recent trip south to Kangaroo Island we took a couple of days to traverse parts of the park and view the Pink Lakes for which it is renown. Pigmentation caused by algae colours the lakes pink during the summer months and is quite spectacular to view later in the day.
Throughout the 1900s salt was commercially mined in the area with operations ceasing around 1975, but relics of this era can be viewed as you make your way around the lakes on the Pioneer Circuit.
Our starting point for travelling into the park was the small township of Linga where there is a well-signed and formed dirt road that takes you to the Pink Lakes. The Pioneer Track is a circuit that is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles taking visitors on a tour around the lakes and can easily be accessed from the larger towns of Ouyen or Pinaroo for those wanting to do a day visit.
Being summer, we were cautious to ensure temperatures were not too high in the park before committing to travelling through it. Not that we are unaccustomed to extreme heat and humidity, after all, we grew up in Queensland and lived in tropical Papua New Guinea for a number of years. But at this time of the year the park sees far less visitors and despite being not too far from a number of towns it remains a remote area that should be respected.
After a short drive from the highway we arrived at the Pink Lakes and Janet took the opportunity to photograph numerous plants and flowers at Lake Hardy before we moved on to Lake Crosby, a larger lake with camping sites available.
For those travelling the Mallee Highway this would be a good overnight spot to take a break, or alternatively, a good base to further explore the park over a number of days.
Murray-Sunset is a large area with a seemingly endless amount of tracks that you can explore, but for the most part, this will require a four-wheel drive vehicle due to the many sandy sections that are encountered.
And come well prepared with plenty of water and basic recovery gear as you may be on your own. We did not see anyone else in the park during our short visit.
With only a limited time to explore the park we headed north along the Underbool Track with an overnight camp at the Underbool campsite, before continuing north the following day to the intersection with the Pheeney ‘s Track and a drive towards the western boundary of the park.
There is a campsite not too far from the western border of the park on Pheeney’s Track, however we headed northwards along the North South Settlement Road and had our second night in the park at the Shearer’s Quarters campsite.
This is a campsite set amongst the trees not too far from the Shearer’s Quarters. And there is a walk that you can take through the scrub, but this is best done late in the day during the warmer months. And if you are lucky you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of some of the wildlife and wonderful display of wildflowers. And not to forget, marvellous bark-art as we like to call the patterns found on the many types of trees one encounters when exploring…
After a pleasant overnight stay at this campsite, which we had to ourselves, we made our way out of the park at Taplan, a small town on the park’s western border, before making our way south to Cape Jervis, the stepping off point for our Kangaroo Island Adventure.
We had frequently looked at Murray-Sunset on our maps and had it penciled in our “places to see book”.
This short visit gave us a taste of what the park has to offer and provided an opportunity for us to give our new Track TVAN Firetail a test in the sand. We had no doubt it would perform as well as our older TVAN Canning that it replaced, and it did, flawlessly…
We have vowed to return in the cooler months, although we suspect that in the depths of winter Murray Sunset would be a very cold place, but with changing seasons comes new perspectives, a warm campfire and the opportunity to XPLORE…!