Anna Creek Painted Desert Scenic Flight Near Lake Eyre (Review)

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.

lake eyre dry saltpan Lake Eyre dry saltpan
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.

lake eyre dry saltpan Lake Eyre filling with water
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.

27 thoughts on “Anna Creek Painted Desert Scenic Flight Near Lake Eyre (Review)”

  1. It was cool! When I saw those pictures, it feels like those picturesque had taken me away to another side of heaven

  2. Wow! That’s a beautiful flight. You’ve got good talents in the slideshow.

    Thanks for the advice on the haggle. In many toursist places, you can always haggle with the quoted price.

  3. Yea man nice pics. I plan to do a trip sometime round Australia. I’m going for a 3 week tour around New Zealand at the end of the year. I’ll be find some secluded spots go camping hopefully find some nice waves. My next expedition is Australia but that will take me a bit longer. The Anna Creek Painted Desert is so vast, I had no idea.

  4. They are absolutely amazing pictures. Sometimes I wish I had traveled about a bit before settling down in my home town. Makes me a bit sad sometimes that Ive kind of missed my chance to do something amazing… 🙁

  5. Those are truly awesome photographs, I’d love to visit a part of the world with landscapes as picturesque as that. Australia is on my list of places to visit actually so maybe one day…

  6. I thought the painted desert was a fantastic place to travel. It is even more exciting and awesome from the air. Beautiful photos, well done! If ever I come back to that region, I will take a flight.

  7. That’s just an incredible landscape. Great photos, especially considering you took them from a plane.

  8. Really wonderful photos – some of them look almost like they’re satellite shots since they look so high up. The weather helped I guess since everything looks so crystal clear.

  9. Wow! That’s a beautiful flight. You’ve got good talents in the slideshow.Thanks for the advice on the haggle. In many toursist places, you can always haggle with the quoted price.

  10. I may have a chance to come to your wonderful country next year–its still up in the air, but I have high hopes. If I do get down your way, you have given me some great tips of places to see. Better than going to a travel agency.

  11. I love the slideshow of pictures during your flight they are awe inspiring. I just love your photography, thank you for sharing these with us.

  12. I liked your post,very insightful,and nice pictures.I myself am in Finland as an expat and intent comming to Australiad/New zealand in 5 months time,will be looking for this type of flight you describe so well

  13. All of Australia is “the Road Less Travelled” for me. I travelled to some 44 countries on a year round the world trip, but never made it that far down south. So these photos were of great inspiration and I hope you do a lot more about the Land Down Under. Thanks again.

  14. My parents said there wasn’t anything to do in Australia. I guess I’ll have to tell them them on how much they missed. My dad is a amateur photographer, he would have liked to have gone on a trip like that.

  15. those photos are gorgeous..I think you must be loving travelling around ,meeting people and taking nice pictures..thanks for sharing .

  16. Just a note – the flight you made actually took you over the Painted Hills which is in a different locality to the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert is accessible off Kempe Rd (the Coober Pedy – Oodnadatta Rd) or from the Stuart Highway near Cadney Park. Having had the great fortune to fly over the Painted Hills and also visit the Painted Desert (Arkaringa) I would say both are equally spectacular.

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