Having completed our Googs Track adventure we travelled east along Tarcoola Rd towards Stuart Hwy. After a chat with the publican at Kingoonya we turned south on the Gawler Ranges Rd to Mt Ive Station in the Gawler Ranges where we stayed two nights, a truly recommended stop over. We used their excellent communal kitchen and dining room and enjoyed hot showers and friendly service. This working sheep station in the heart of the Gawler Ranges has Lake Gairdner as its Northern boundary (they provide the only public access to the lake). It is the only pastoral station within the Gawler Ranges with visitor facilities.
Region: Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, 247km west of Port Augusta and 99km from Kimba.
When to go: The cooler months from April to September are the best times, but access may close after rain. Once the sun sets it gets cold.
Accommodation: Mt Ive Station provides powered, unpowered and bush camping sites, shearers quarters (BYO bedding), stone rooms and a self-contained stone hut.
What to take: firewood, food and water. There is small shop with snacks and drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. They also sell fuel.
Difficulty: The self-drive tracks require high clearance, 4WD and reduced tyre pressures. The road out to the homestead and the track to Lake Gairdner is suitable for all vehicles.
With a replica PMB51 submarine half buried in the red sand you can’t miss the entrance to Mt Ive Station. I highly recommend this stopover as not only do they have easy access to their own volcanic Organ Pipes there are many remote 4WD tracks and easy access to Lake Gairdner.
Even though a range of accommodation is offered, be self-sufficient, expect to use your own bedding. Camping is at the homestead or designated bush camps. The only time you can camp at Lake Gairdner is during the annual Dry Lakes Racers Australia Speed Week.
The amenities are clean and the wood for the donkey heater is plentiful so there is ample hot water. We cooked in the shearers quarters kitchen/dining room, out of the wind but not necessarily out of the cold. Luckily we travel with a small electric heater which helped. We enjoyed several warming games of table tennis.
Mud maps are provided to help you explore the Southern arm of Lake Gairdner where the land speed trials take place, the volcanic rhyolite rock formations, summit of Mt Ive and other 4×4 tracks. For $30 per vehicle we received a key and mud maps. We of course car pooled. We figured this not only would save wear and tear to the tracks but also to our pockets. Remember to take a picnic and water. The key was good for one trip out to Lake Gairdner.
Access to the edge of the stunning Lake Gairdner can be made by 2×4 and 4×4. This pure white salt lake is over 150km long and up to 48km across and is the second largest salt lake in Australia. The salt can be up to 1.2m thick in places and due to its thickness, the surface is hard even when covered in water which it was when we were there. The lake is fed by six ephemeral creeks and is mostly dry throughout the year. It stands in stark contrast to the surrounding orange rocks and sand and whichever way you turn there is another photo begging to be taken. We had lunch overlooking the lake from the veranda of the closed kiosk.
The great Organ Pipes and Pillars display is fantastic and for me was the highlight of our entire trip. It is an easy walk from the car park. Let the child in you emerge as you jump and climb among these awesome ancient rhyolite rocks.
We also marvelled and walked over the stone dam called the Embankment. It was built in the 19th century and had water.
At the end of the day we climbed (well drove most of the way) Mt Ive for astonishing 360 degree views, the sunset and well-deserved pre-dinner drinks and snacks. It was a wonderful day and I’m sorry we didn’t stay longer to explore some of the other tracks.