I took a scenic flight over the Anna Creek Painted Desert (aka Painted Hills) during my Adelaide to Darwin Trans-Australia Road Trip through the arid desert which dominates central Australia near Lake Eyre
These spectacular painted hills are located within the confines of the Woomera rocket range within an hours flight from William Creek (population 10) a former stop on the since-relocated Ghan railway line which is the smallest town in South Australia, situated between Marree and Oodnadatta on the historic Oodnadatta Track.
Photos & Videos Slideshow
You can view a selection of photos and videos I took during the flight:
Anna Creek Painted Hills Scenic Flight Review
Geologists call the region breakaway country – arid plateaus in the South Australian desert where 50 million years of climate change have laid bare the desert’s oxidised rock strata revealing pedestal rocks and sandstone hills of vividly coloured ochre yellow oxide, red and deep brown with contrasting crisp whites and jet blacks.
The whole area is encompassed by Anna Creek station, the largest cattle station in the world leased from the Crown by S. Kidman & Co. and at 24,000 square kilometres in size, bigger than Belgium, a statement that really annoyed a Belgian girl in my backpacking tour group
The operators of the one hour “Anna Creek Secret painted Hills” flight, Wrights Air, have special permission from them to run scenic flights as Anna Creek station doesn’t allow land access to the lunar like landscape covering 20 x 18 kilometres because of fears it would cause irreparable damage
The station management hope that allowing aerial access will raise awareness of their fragility and protect them from intruders on the ground because “It’s a very soft alluvial ground and if there’s a tyre track in there it will stay there for years.”
The quoted price for normal tourists is $180/person with a minimum of 4 passengers for flights to take place.
Backpackers through Groovy Grape tours get to do it for $120 but we managed to haggle down to $100/person (which is a real bargain) because I passed through William Creek during mid-Winter when Wrights Air must been suffering from very low customer numbers.
If you have a quality SLR or Ultrazoom camera I would suggest taking your own photos (see my slideshow above).
If you have a basic point and shoot camera or weren’t able to take photos yourself than at the end of the flight you can buy a Photo CD for $10. I thought most of the photos on the CD were average, the resolution wasn’t very high and to top it off my CD wasn’t burnt properly so I couldn’t view all of them anyway.
They also sell postcards and these are good quality, well worth it for a few dollars each or cheaper if you buy a pack of them all together.
Lake Eyre Flights
Lake Eyre is the largest lake in Australia but its usually just a giant salt pan. In fact its filled with water to capacity just three times in 160 years.
photo credit: Jussarian
When heavy rains from its feeder rivers in Queensland start to fill it such as in mid-2009 Wrights Air organises aerial overflights of Lake Eyre so visitors can see this rare spectacle from the air as the classic outback colours of red, white and brown mix to form stunning patterns in the water and the area suddenly becomes inundated by millions of birds including pelicans, terns, gulls and ducks arriving to feed on the proliferation of brine shrimp and raise their young on islands in the lake in an area free of predators.
photo credit: gsketch2000
An estimated six million birds make the pilgrimage to the lake when its full along with other wildlife, including camels and horses.
The inflow of water is great for the local human population as well because it provides an economic boom for companies that operate tourist activities and provide accomodation.
If you don’t have the time or off-road 4WD driving experience to travel as far North as William Creek from Adelaide to see Lake Eyre in flood consider Air Wilpena “Flood Flights” which depart from Wilpena Pound just over 400km from Adelaide.