Lake Eyre Tours: There’s So Many, How Can you Choose the Right One?
Travelling down to Lake Eyre over Easter this year, we were stunned at the number of Lake Eyre Tours that were available. (We were also absolutely stunned by the number of tourists at William Creek, but that’s another story!)
People were coming in via bus, small charter plane, via 4WD, and even as part of luxury tours with 5 star meals. Although most of the city slickers weren’t opting for the 5 million star accommodation like we did (that’s camping in a swag!).
There’s a huge range of choices! If you’re thinking about going, now (2011) is the time to do it whilst the lake is nearly full.
People often ask us for recommendations about Lake Eyre tours and Lake Eyre accommodation, as well as about camping and road conditions.
We’re advocates of slow travel in the outback with your own car/4WD, and as we don’t know everyone’s personal tastes, it’s sometimes hard for us to recommend one tour over another.
After all, in the 20 years we’ve lived here, we’ve driven to most off-the-beaten-track places in our own vehicles and camped.
However, as Gary has very close dealings with the tourism industry and sits on a couple of important outback tourism boards, we do get to know a lot about tours and tour operators.
As a ranger, he also deals with tour operators firsthand approving their permits and making sure they do the right things in national parks!
No, we don’t know everything -and we don’t pretend to- but we can give you a few pointers!
Lake Eyre Tours
There are two popular options here that we can suggest. As we’ve said above, this isn’t meant to be the last word on Lake Eyre tourism, just our suggestions.
Be warned, no Lake Eyre Tour is cheap! Most start at around $1500 AUD and go upwards.
The first option is a Lake Eyre air tour. This is where you get on a flight in a capital city, and spend 3, 4, or even 5 days flying to some pretty amazing places around the outback.
Some tours stay in simple outback ‘donga’ style accommodation or outback pubs, and offer ‘luxury’ inclusions like great food and wine.
Other tours give you the ultimate outback experience: camping in a swag under the stars.
Watch this short clip to see what a tour to Lake Eyre is really like.
Some Lake Eyre air tours give you an exclusive stop-over and accommodation on an outback cattle station where the public isn’t always allowed.
If you’re looking for the tour of a lifetime, and live in Sydney or Melbourne (or Adelaide or Brisbane), then you could take an air tour. You don’t have to worry about off road driving, your food and accommodation is taken care of, and you can fly in and out in as little as 2 days.
The kind of tour I’d take would:
- have a maximum of 6 people
- visit places that the public don’t get to
- focus on nature, Aboriginal culture and European history
- be slow paced, so you get to look around, do some walking, photography and birdwatching
- offer camping rather than just donga or pub accommodation
In other words, I’m looking for something that’s not really like a tour, but more like my own independent style of travel.
Looking around at the options, I haven’t really found anything that’s like this! Most of the Lake Eyre air tours I’ve seen fly Sydney-Broken Hill-Marree-William Creek and back again.
They don’t offer the option of camping at all, and I’m not really certain how much time you’d spend actually at the Lake itself (although all of them fly over the Lake).
So it’s really hard for me to recommend any one tour company here!
Combined Air/4WD Tours of Lake Eyre
My second option would be to join a combined air/4WD tour.
Now this is much more my style! These tours generally start in the capital cities and fly you to either Marree or Coober Pedy. You then transfer into a 4WD bus or vehicle, and off you go.
Lots of these tours combine a short flight over Lake Eyre with side trips that focus on history, visits to Aboriginal communities, walking and birdwatching opportunities. And you get to camp, with all meals included.
No doubt, you’ll have to help out a bit on some of these tours with cleaning up or collecting firewood, but for the camaraderie of drinking billy tea around the campfire, what’s a few dishes?
If I had to recommend any of these tours, I’d recommend Spirit Safaris.
They specialise in culture and history, and have access to places like Kalamurina Station, which is a private conservation reserve run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
This short clip was taken in November 2011. It shows what you’ll see on a Lake Eyre tour with Spirit Safaris:
How awesome is this clip? Can you see why I recommend Spirit Safaris so highly?
What’s more, they take their time, and don’t cram too much sightseing and too many destinations all in one short space.
Choosing The Best Lake Eyre Tour
I know we’ve said it elsewhere on our site: one of the biggest mistakes people make when visiting the outback is trying to see everything all at once in three days! This is one way to guarantee the worst possible experience of the outback that you could imagine!
The same needs to be said for Lake Eyre Tours. Choose your tour wisely. Whilst a flight over the Lake to take a few snaps or video might be your ultimate aim, ask yourself: is that the experience you really want?
Could you ever say that you’d camped alongside the Lake, walked on it, smelled it (it has a unique smell!), or seen the incredible spectacle of the sun set, where sky and lake merge and appear to go on forever?
Obviously not. In our opinion, a quick fly-in-fly-out tour isn’t the best way to actually see the Lake or get a real appreciation of it.
Our other advice is to look for something different. Look for a small, family-run operation which will take you to places off the beaten track, and let you sit down and chat with outback locals, rather than just do the Marree-Coober Pedy-William Creek loop.
Remember, this is the trip of a lifetime, so you might as well make it an experience that gives you quality time and lets you get a feel for Lake Eyre and its surrounds.
And if it’s not a full tour that you’re after, but just a flight over the Lake whilst you’re staying at William Creek or Marree, then please check our Lake Eyre Flights page.
You’ll find our account of an actual flight over the lake and information about all of the companies who do short, scenic flights.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Lake Eyre tours as much as I have enjoyed writing it (I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by Lake Eyre, in case you haven’t guessed!)
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