Lake Hillier

Lake Hillier
Lake Hillier. / Kurioziteti123, / CC BY-SA 4.0
There are hundreds of pink lakes around the world. But one of the most impressive and striking ones is Lake Hillier on a remote island of Western Australia.

Description of the lake

The lake is located on the largest island of Recherche Archipelago – a group of islands off the south coast of Australia. This island – Middle Island – is some 6.5 km long and some 9 km from the Australian mainland. It is a granite island that rises up to 174 m above sea level.

Lake Hillier is unusual element of the landscape
Lake Hillier is unusual element of the landscape. Goose Island in the forefront./ Aussie Oc, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The lake is located near the northern shore of the island. It is 600 m long and 250 m wide. Lake is hypersaline: its salinity is around 30%. It shows: the shores are covered with the salt crust.

Lake Hillier stands out among the other pink lakes thanks to its spectacular location. Most of the pink lakes in the world are surrounded by the dreary desert landscape. Lake Hillier though is close to the blue-green Southern Ocean, surrounded by a lush green forest of Melaleuca and Eucalyptus bushes and trees. Spectacular!

Pink color

Lake has a distinct pink color throughout the year. The water is pink even if it is taken away in the bottle. Such stability of this coloration is not common. Other pink lakes around the world are colored for a short period during the year or have less intense color.

Shore of Lake Hillier
Shore of Lake Hillier./ Graeme Churchard, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This color is created by the sole inhabitants of the lake: microorganisms. A hypersaline lake is an extreme environment. Thus the organisms need to develop specific abilities to deal with the salinity: they produce lots of glycerol (to leave outside their bodies the excess salinity) and β-carotene (to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation). And it is β-carotene which has an intense red-orange color. This substance is a natural colorant of many fruits and vegetables: carrots, mangoes, papayas, and others. In fact, some microorganisms are farmed to obtain β-carotene.

In Lake Hillier live several kinds of such microorganisms. The best known is the micro-algae Dunaliella salina but also Salinibacter ruber, Dechloromonas aromatica, others (2.). These microorganisms have been found around the world in similar water bodies.


Local people knew about the island and the lake but Europeans learned about this unusual lake in the early 19th century. Matthew Flanders was on the first circumnavigation of Australia with the expedition on HMS “Investigator” and in January 1802 set foot on Middle Island. Master of the ship John Thistle took a sample of water and they were the first to see that the water is pink also in the bottle. Flanders named the lake in honor of a crew member who died from dysentery shortly before.

During the 19th century, the island was occasionally used by seal hunters. Runaway convicts and even pirates used it as well.

The lake has large salt deposits. Due to this in 1889 Edward Andrews with both his sons moved to the island and started a business of salt mining. The salt was not suitable for food and the family left the island in 1890.

Recherche Archipelago became a beloved tourist destination during the 20th-21st centuries. Most visitors see the Middle Island with Lake Hillier during the helicopter tours. Some manage to reach the lake and even swim in it.

During the archaeological research on the western coast of the lake have been found remnants of settlements (1.).

Lake Hillier
Lake Hillier./ Aussie Oc, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0


  1. Alistair Paterson and Corioli Souter, Report on historical archeological expedition to Middle and Boxer Islands, Recherche Archipelago, Report—Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum No. 222. 2006. Accessed on January 4, 2020.
  2. The Extreme Microbiome Project, Lake Hillieer. Accessed on January 4, 2020.

Lake Hillier on the map

Travelers' Map is loading...
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.
Location, GPS coordinates: 34.0947 S 123.2030 E
Categories: Lakes and streams
Values: Biology, Visual
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Where is located? Australia and Oceania, Australia, Western Australia, Goldfields-Esperance Region, Recherche Archipelago, northern part of Middle Island
Area: 15 ha

Landmarks of Western Australia

Mitchell Falls, Western Australia
Mitchell Falls / NeilsPhotography, / CC BY 2.0

This giant Australian state is spectacular and very rich with unusual landmarks. Highlights of Western Australia are refuges of biodiversity in remote parts of desert, amazing cliff formations and unique aboriginal art.

Lakes and streams

Champagne Pool, New Zealand
Champagne Pool / Photo by Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-2.5
There are many factors which can make lakes, sea bays or rivers unusual. Some lakes have unusual chemical properties and even do not contain water at all – such as lava lakes. Other may have unusual animals living in them or… legends about such animals.

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