Australia Has More Than One Pink Lake (Many More!)

By: Tara Yarlagadda & Austin Henderson  | 
Pink lake, Australia
The beautiful and very pink Lake Hillier, located on Middle Island, off the coast of western Australia. Wikimedia Commons (CC By-SA 4.0)

Picture this: You're on vacation. You're soaring through Australia's clear blue sky, and suddenly, a beautiful pink lake emerges beneath you, looking like a giant pool of bubblegum. Nope, it's not a dream. This pink lake is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon.

Australia's western coast boasts such pink wonders. But what gives these lakes their pink hue?


Australia's Premier Pink: Lake Hillier

On the remote Middle Island, just off the coast of western Australia, lies a vibrant, beautiful, bubblegum pink lake that has baffled and fascinated tourists and scientists alike for years.

Lake Hillier is the name of this salt lake, and it's every Instagrammer's dream come true. This bright pink lake juxtaposed against the turquoise bay makes for a stunning sight.


Why So Pink, Lake?

It's not magic or fairy dust, but biology and chemistry playing their parts. Scientists have unraveled the pink mystery. The color comes from the unique blend of the microorganisms present.

  • Dunaliella salina: This type of algae thrives in high salt concentration and produces beta carotene, giving it a reddish-pink hue.
  • Halobacteria: This isn't your average bacteria and can be considered an extremophile. It lives in intensely salty environments like salt flats and emits a red pigment.

Interestingly, similar algae also flourish in the Dead Sea and other water bodies with high salt production.

Visiting Lake Hillier

While Lake Hillier is a visual treat, getting to Middle Island isn't a walk in the park. Mostly accessible via boat cruise and scenic flight, setting foot on the island is strictly off-limits. But the aerial views? Absolutely worth it.


Australia's Other Pink Beauties

While Lake Hillier is a gem, it's not the only pink lake in town. Located farther east, the Murray-Sunset National Park in Victoria is home to not one, but four mesmerizing pink lakes. These lakes transform, offering shades from deep pink to a delicate salmon.

Unlike the year-round pink of Lake Hillier, the best time to witness this color shift of these pink lakes is during late summer.


Pink Lakes Around the World

Australia isn't the sole proprietor of pink water bodies. From the shores of Lake Retba in Senegal to the sands surrounding the Salinas de Torrevieja in Spain and the stunning views of Pekelmeer on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, pink lakes sprinkle the globe.

You might even encounter some endangered James flamingos basking in the pinkish glow at certain lakes!


There's also a former "pink lake" in the Western Australian town of Esperance. However, it hasn't flaunted its pink hue for years and now sports a milky white shade.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.


Pink Lake FAQ

Can you visit the pink lake in Australia?
Lake Hillier, near Esperance, Western Australia is accessible mostly by air tours and boat cruises. Getting off on Middle Island is not allowed. You can also take a road trip and enjoy its colorful scenic beauty along Western Australia's diverse coast.
Why is the Pink Lake pink?
Scientists found that pink lakes contain both Halobacteria and a type of algae known as Dunaliella salina, which thrive in salty environments such as the pink lakes. The carotenoid red pigments secreted by these organisms are responsible for the color of lakes. The Pink Lake in Esperance isn't actually pink at all any longer.
How many pink lakes are there?
There are 29 discovered pink lakes around the world. You can find many pink bodies of water around the world, from Lake Retba in Senegal to the Salinas de Torrevieja in Spain to Pekelmeer on the Caribbean island of Bonaire.
Are pink lakes safe to swim in?
While theoretically, you can swim in salt lakes, it's not advisable due to the high concentration of salt in the water. Moreover, at least one park website urges visitors to leave the park as undisturbed as they found it. So it's best to give up swimming in the Pink Lake to protect these natural wonders for generations to come.
Does anything live in the Pink Lake?
Due to the high salt content and other factors, the only living organisms in the Pink Lake are microorganisms including Dunaliella salina — a red algae which cause the salt content in the lake and creates a red dye that gives the lake its color — as well as red Halobacteria, which is present in the salt crusts.