Earth can be an unusual place, particularly in Australia! Here are six bizarre and ‘unearthly’ locations that you should visit along the west coast of Australia. Made by nature, admired by mankind…
1. The Pink Lake
Where? A few kilometers from Esperance, near the South Coast Highway in Western Australia.
What? A salt lake with a very ‘unearthly’ pink color! The color is said to be caused by the high concentration of algae (they produce a red pigment) and pink halobacteria in the water. It’s weird when you first see the lake and your mind automatically assumes that the water is contaminated, but the color is all natural. The lake isn’t always bright pink though – it depends on the position of the sun, the temperatures, the amount of algae etc.
Tip: Try driving around the lake: the color can get more intense depending on where you stand.
2. The Hamelin Pool
Where? Near Shark Bay, along the Denham-Hamelin road in Western Australia.
What? Stromatolites, the oldest lifeform on the planet! At first sight, the fossils look like ordinary rocks, but they are actual living organisms. You might even see oxygen bubbles if you take a closer look. According to scientists, stromatolites are one of the first forms of life on our planet that produced oxygen (about 3,5 billion years ago!) and so we kind of owe our lives to these stromatolites. No wonder this sight was declared World Heritage in 1991… The Hamlin Pool stromatolites are relatively ‘young’: they began to grow about 4500 years ago. Just like coral reefs, they are endangered due to the declining quality and nutrient levels of our oceans.
Tip: Read the fun informational signs along the path, explaining about these stromatolites. Things will get a lot more interesting.
3. Cape Leveque
Where? At the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, about 210 km north of Broome, Western Australia.
What? Cape Leveque is famous for its unearthly reddish sand rocks. Their odd shapes, color patterns and sizes make it an out of this world experience to walk around here: the rocks on the one side, the Indian Ocean on the other. The red ironstone cliffs only cover the very tip of the entire peninsula, but it’s still good enough to be blown away by this beautiful natural creation. Ironstone normally is grey but the surface turns red due to oxidation. The lower the sun, the brighter the colors get. You’ll never forget the sunsets out here!
Tip: Cape Leveque is quite isolated and there’s just one resort (with a limited amount of camping spots, cabins etc), so make reservations if you want to spend the night or have dinner there, before starting the 3-hour journey from Broome!
4. Shell beach
Where? Near Shark Bay, along the Denham-Hamelin road, Western Australia.
What? A 110 km long stretch of coast, with a beach made of trillions of tiny shells. All natural! Don’t bother digging for sand, the shells reach a depth of 7 to 10 metres… There are only two beaches in the world like this, the other one is in California. The Shell Beach is a World Heritage sight but before that, the shells were used to construct a few buildings in the local town of Denham.
Tip: Don’t forget to wear shoes…
5. The Pinnacles desert
Where? Nambung National Park, a 3 hour drive from Perth, Western Australia.
What? Weirdly shaped limestone pinnacles, rising up from the yellow sandy desert. They are formed by nature: 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, millions of seashells were blown inland. They broke down into lime rich sands and then eroded by water and wind, with thousands of pinnacles in different shapes and sizes as a result. The tallest pinnacles are 3,5 meters high! It’s like walking on a different planet…
Tip: Go there in the late afternoon: the air is cooler, the colors are brighter, there are fewer people and the low sun creates long, strange shadows over the rippling sands.
6. Fields of termite mounds
Where? Litchfield National park in the Northern Territory. Not entirely along the West Coast but still worth to mention!
What? Fields with hundreds of two-metre-high termite mounds in very unearthly shapes. They’re like air-conditioned skyscrapers for termites! The mounds are made by worker termites from feces, plants, termite saliva and soil. There’s two kinds: Magnetic Termite Mounds and Cathedral mounds. The first kinds seems round and thick from the front, but when you look at them from the side, they are thin as paper. Their shape minimizes the exposure to the sun and keeps the inside cool. The Cathedral Mounds are thick and round at the bottom and narrow at the top. There’s one in particular that stands out at Litchfield. These colossal architectural curiosities almost make you feel like YOU are the insects here… The termite mounds are scattered all around the Northern Territory (especially in Litchfield National park), so you’ll see plenty of these giants along the way, some of them right next to the road.
Tip: Don’t worry about the termites, the flies on the other hand are a lot more annoying. If you have an extra T-shirt to spare, I suggest you use to cover up your face (especially nose, mouth and ears).