Lake Eyre is a massive and eerily desolate salt lake caught between the Simpson and Strzelecki deserts in a region where the annual evaporation rate is thirty times greater than the rainfall. Most years a little water trickles into the lake from its million-square-kilometre catchment area, which extends well into central Queensland and the Northern Territory. However, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 major floods in Queensland and New South Wales filled the basin, transforming it into a massive inland sea. A hypnotic, glaring salt crust usually covers the southern bays, creating a mysterious landscape whose harsh surrounds are paved by shiny gibber stones and walled by red dunes – in 1964 the crust was thick enough to be used as a range for Donald Campbell’s successful crack at the world land-speed record.
Some wildlife also manages to get by in the incredible emptiness. The resident Lake Eyre dragon is a diminutive, spotted grey lizard often seen skimming over the crust, and the rare flooding attracts dense flocks of birds, wakes the plump water-holding frog from hibernation and causes plants to burst into colour.
Timber at the lake is sparse and protected, which means that there’s little shade and no firewood. There’s no one to help you if something goes wrong, so don’t drive on the lake’s crust – should you fall through, it’s impossible to extricate your vehicle from the grey slush below. This isn’t a place to wander off to unprepared, but if you wish to grasp the vastness and emptiness of the state, don’t miss it.