Flights Over Lake Eyre: Once In A 50 Year Experience

Written By: Jack Buscombe

Flood Waters have engulfed Lake Eyre for the first time in 45 years. Amongst a bitter-sweet series of events for locals, tourists are lining up to check out the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle from the sky.

Why Now Is the Best Time To Fly Over Lake Eyre

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the largest dry land river systems in the entire world. Spread across the 4 states and territories of QLD, NSW, SA and the NT, it occupies 1/6th of Australia’s land space. Fed downstream for over 1,000km’s by 3 significant river systems, Lake Eyre is an integral resource for more than 60,000 people. Not to mention the vast array of cattle and wildlife which depend on it. Birds from across the country take refuge to the rivers which flow into Lake Eyre to breed. Hundreds of cattle properties and the wider farming industry operate from central Australia.

For the last 45 years, Lake Eyre and a slew of towns and suburbs along the Simpson desert have faced the strenuous burden of drought. Family businesses and graziers for hundreds of kilometres along the rivers started to undergo rapid de-stocking. Life around the Simpson and the associated river systems was dry and unforgiving. Until March this year…

The Re-Birth of Lake Eyre

At the beginning of January, North Queensland was hit with torrential rain, causing vicious flooding across northern end of QLD. 2 months later, Cyclone Trevor struck Coen and brought upon another surge of rainwater down the centre of Australia. The subsequent cyclone resulted in the floodwater from North QLD to take only 2 months to reach Lake Eyre, as opposed to the empirical 10 months. The overbearing abundance of water along the Diamantina, Cooper and Georgina rivers meant disaster for several suburbs in central Australia. The prayers of locals around the Simpson desert were answered, however many got more than they bargained for.

Small towns like Bedourie faced mass flooding and destruction which is still undergoing recovery months later. Many farmers lost millions of dollars in livestock and residents lost their homes. The bitter-sweet happenings of late March 2019 were significant, to say the least. However as Aussie spirit has it, mates came together to help out their fellow neighbours.

Come June 2019, many of those who live in Central Australia still face the pressures and destruction of the March floods, however there is a light in the horizon. Farmers who were enacting de-stocking plans are now re-stocking. The cattle industry is booming and coming into a renaissance where struggling family businesses are now able to provide plenty from the unregulated water system. They’re calling it the re-birth of Lake Eyre. On the 9th of May, the ABC’s 7:30 Report documented the revitalisation of the river basin caused by the March floods.

7:30 Report From May 2019

But something we noticed in particular is the amount of tourism in this (often) desolate area. People are flocking to the Simpson Desert in droves to make the most of the spectacle while it lasts. Scenic flights out of William Creek are at an all time high. Based just 60km’s out of Lake Eyre, it’s the most central area to have a flight over the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park. People from across the country are flocking to the bustling little tourist town to experience the iconic flight over the Lake. And we think they’re onto something!

The Dry Simpson Desert
The Dry Simpson Desert River in February. Photo Supplied by the ABC.

Flying Over Lake Eyre

AirShare provides a range of scenic flights over Lake Eyre, starting from $295pp out of William Creek Hotel. If you’re looking to get a real-deal flight over the heart of Lake Eyre, these are our suggestions. Departing from William Creek Hotel, your pilot lives and breaths the outback. They’ve encountered the drastic changes of the early 2019 floods and re-invigoration of what is provided. Being only 60km’s from Lake Eyre, it’s only a 20 minute flight into the heart of it all, and many of the flights will tour around the surrounding suburbs.

While we recommend some of the more premium flights featuring the surrounding areas in the Simpson Desert, all of the flights over Lake Eyre are a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’ Known for it’s incredible range of fauna, Lake Eyre becomes home for more than 85 varieties of birds when it comes close to full capacity.

Flights Over the Georgina, Diamantina, Cooper Rivers

A flight over Lake Eyre at the moment (in late 2019) is unbeatable. The crown-jewel of Australia’s inland water supply is as full as it has been for almost 50 years, and we know that sights like it won’t last forever. However, trekking to the north-east part of SA to see it is not feasible for everyone; particularly for a country where 85% of the population lives on the coast. So for those who aren’t quite able to travel all the way to see Lake Eyre first-hand, we’ve collated the best flights to provide a narrative on the happenings of early 2019.

The Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper Rivers Intersection
The Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper Rivers Intersection. Photo Supplied By ABC.

Each of the following flights exhibits some of the drought-stricken towns along central Australia, as well as the areas which have been given new life due to the floods. You’ll see the transformations of some very rural towns in the Simpson desert and fly along the 3 river-systems which play role in providing water to central Australia. An intriguing factor about some of these flights are the contrasting encounters of towns which still struggle with droughts and contrast with those booming due to the fresh abundance of water.


Every year in September, people from around the globe flock to a tiny town in the Simpson desert with only a petrol station and a pub. Over 2 days, The Birdsville Races attract more than 7,000 event-goers to a suburb with a population of just 100. Then in a cloud of dust, the booming suburb is vacated and the event-goers return to their homes.

Fish in Birdsville River
Fish in the River at Birdsville

Only a stones-throw from Birdsville sits the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre basin. One of the most popular scenic flights which run out of Birdsville over Lake Eyre is listed below:

Lake Eyre Flights From William Creek

View out of plane at Lake Eyre

The Lake Eyre flights out of William Creek are often televised nationally and are famous for a number reasons. Located roughly 60km’s from the south part of Lake Eyre, it’s the closest operating charter company for flights over the lake. Departing from the modestly popular William Creek Hotel, the team of expert pilots run several scenic flights each day. 27 years and multiple awards later, the William Creek Hotel charter company has become an institution. People from around the country (and even the world) come to William Creek for a flight and the true outback experience. They run several different flights around Lake Eyre depending on your time constraints and budget.

The William Creek Hotel offers the Lake Eyre scenic flight over 1 hour or 2 hours. The 1 hour Lake Eyre flight encounters views over Belt Bay; the lowest point in Australia. The 2 hour flight is more substantial, paying visit to Silcrete Island, past Babbage Peninsula and up to Dulhunty Island. The journey continues toward the Warburton Groove and up to the north end of the lake before returning back to base.

It’s quite a drive for most city folk to get to William Creek, but a flight from the Hotel is certainly a bucket-list experience!

Brisbane To Lake Eyre 6 Day Outback Air Safari

Plane from Archerfield

Departing from Archerfield Airport in Brisbane, the epic Lake Eyre Safari takes you to a handful of iconic Australian landmarks along the Simpson Desert. With luxury accommodation and ground transfers to and from your door, this all-inclusive air safari is the ultimate way to check out the revived Lake Eyre and see central Australia from the best view money can buy.

A Blessing In Disguise

It is not all doom and gloom however. For the moment, local and the vast amount of cattle and wildlife are enjoying the abundance of resources which they are so rarely gifted. Business is booming in most industries around the region. Flight operators based out of William Creek have seen a huge spike in customer since the top-up. Tourists are making the most of the rare opportunity to see Lake Eyre in it’s most stunning form. There’s really no telling how long the area will have the good fortune of water abundance. As Lake Eyre is located in the simpson desert, inherent evaporation rate and ground absorption is staggeringly high and locals expect for the rare occasion to only last for a few more months.

At the end of what has been a milestone for the folk around Lake Eyre, there is little consolation. The harsh reality is that in a few months time, the abundance of water will be gone.

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