The ultimate South Australia road trip for a weekend getaway

14 Mar 2019

Live your best life kicking up the dust of the Aussie desert on your way to South Australia's third largest salt lake.

Yup, we're talking a road trip to Lake Gairdner. It's one of the state's most incredible natural treasures and a lust-have for anyone who hasn't witnessed its majesty.

When it's dry it's like walking on a bed of white and when it's rainy the sky mirrors the floor and the horizon stretches into eternity.

It's also only 150 kilometres from Port Augusta and offers camping, bushwalking and those all-important Instagram opps. It's a mix of sealed and unsealed roads, so you'll need a car with a decent clearance.

Keen? Here's a weekend itinerary that doesn't miss a beat.

Day One: Adelaide to Port Augusta

Start early. Many adventure seekers head out as early as the night before and stay overnight in Port Augusta, which is still six hours out of Lake Gairdner. Otherwise you're looking at around a nine hour drive from Adelaide CBD to the base of the lake which you can do over a weekend, though is probably better for a 3-dayer.

The good news is that the fastest route out of Adelaide to Port Augusta is also the most picturesque, taking you along the A1 with Port Arthur on your left.

Red Cliff Lookout

A break in Port Wakefield only adds colour to your journey. Perhaps better known as a transit stop, the colonial township is unassuming, hidden just off the highway, and boasts heritage buildings, tidal pools and an all-out air of relaxation. Fuel up at Kiplings Bakery with a pastie or pie and a coffee before continuing along the highway up to Port Augusta skirting by the local pink lake Bumbunga on your way. (Feel free to drop by on your way there or back if you have the time).

Often referred to as the gateway to the Flinders Ranges and Spencer Gulf, this town is flanked by hills and mounts. Its coastal and heritage walks, botanic garden with its native-inspired cafe tucker and impressive display of flora and fauna is worthy of a few hours of your time.

Day Two: Port Augusta to Lake Gairdner

The most straightforward and popular way to the lake is through Mt Ive Station. It's also the only point of public access to the lake.

To get here, it's a long and dusty trail so put your best tunes on and crank up the air conditioning as you follow the A1 to Iron Knob. Turn off onto the unsealed Nonning Road and then off again onto Mount Ive Road enroute to Mt Ive station.

From here you can settle in, say hello to the owners and say hello to their sheep. It's a working station but it also offers basic accommodation which you can book for the night. (Highly recommended, especially due to the long drive you've just had). If you don't, you can still access the lake via the property, you'll just need to let the owners know in advance so you can grab the keys to the gate.

At this point you're going to give yourself a pat on the back. It's been hundreds of kilometres of isolated track and you've made it. And the best news is you're knocking on the door to the lake which is around 34 kilometres away.

Take those photos, hike those trails or jump back behind the wheel for some off-road driving because it's truly and utterly spectacular. Stay lakeside for the sunset. You won't regret it.

Then either head home after or spend the night and give yourself a full day to return back to reality. We know which we'd choose.

Before you leave

Not for the faint-hearted, this road trip is a true outback adventure. Remember to bring plenty of food and drink in your kit as once you've left Port Augusta there's little in the way of amenities and convenience stores.

Also, you'll need to do a bit of pre-planning, including obtaining access to Mt Ive Station, parking/camping permits in the National Park and booking a campground spot if you're intending to stay overnight.