The Pink Lake has become a huge drawcard for Chinese tourists. (ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Cecile O’Connor)
On the edge of the Pink Lake in Western Australia’s mid west tourists pose for photographs that within minutes will be shared with friends, family and followers in China and Hong Kong.
- Hutt Lagoon near Geraldton in WA is hugely popular with Australian and Chinese tourists but their eagerness for the perfect pink selfie is putting the conservation of the lake at risk
- The Mid West Development Commission is producing a master plan to improve the lake’s infrastructure and address overtourism
- One local air charter business has already flown 4,000 tourists over the lake this year and says infrastructure improvements are “urgent”
Word of the “romantic” coloured lake has spread quickly.
For decades the Hutt Lagoon near Port Gregory, commonly called Pink Lake, was a local curiosity but it has now become a must-see location for many Chinese visitors and the victim of its own popularity.
The narrow, windy road along the lake is shared with a steady stream of cars, caravans, campervans and the occasional film crew.
Tourists have created paths through the bush to get to the lake’s edge.
Local residents tell stories of people stopping campervans on the road and standing on the roofs of vehicles to take photographs.
The lake is popular with Australia and overseas tourists eager to photograph its unique colours. (ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Christopher Lewis)
The local authorities are now working together on a master plan for improving infrastructure at the lake.
The Mid West Development Commission has been heading the committee.
Chief executive Gavin Treasure said he was encouraged by the popularity of the region and the master plan would focus on “keeping people safe”.
“We are suffering from overtourism,” Mr Treasure said.
“This place was not set-up to be a tourist destination but it is a nice problem to have.
“At the moment it is ad hoc and there are safety issues that we have to manage.”
Hopes a jetty may be built
Jenny Poett, who has been operating Lynton Station next to the lake, was excited by the visitor numbers but keen to see improvements.
“Sometimes there are streams of people along the edge of the road,” Ms Poett said.
“I have seen people with film crews down there, wedding dresses on the side of the road, and the film crew is taking up some of the road because they want to get as much pink lake in [the shot] as possible.”
She said Chinese tour operators have told her what they have been seeing now was a “trickle” compared to the number of snap-happy tourists expected in the future.
Mr Poett said she hoped a jetty could be built into the shallow lake and used for photographs.
“It is all about the photo,” she said.
Tour guide Emily Zhang, who has regularly been taking Chinese visitors to the mid west landmark, said her guests took a lot of photos to share with friends, family, and social media followers.
“It is very famous in China,” Ms Zhang said.
“They are very excited.”
Increase in scenic flights
Geraldton Air Charters co-owner and pilot Wendy Mann has been credited with helping to spread word of the lake to China and Hong Kong.
She said her business flew 14 Chinese passengers on scenic flights over the lake in 2014.
“Last year we flew about 4,000,” Ms Mann said.
“We have already done almost 4,000 this year to date so it is a huge part of our business now.
“The pink colour is romantic to them and of course they love the clear skies and the clean, white clouds.”
But she said improving infrastructure on the ground was urgent given the massive growth in visitor numbers to the lake.
Tourists make tracks through bush to reach the lake’s edge. (ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Cecile O’Connor)
“I believe it is quite urgent because the viewing area is small,” Ms Mann said.
“You can probably only take about 10 vehicles there. People are pulling up rapidly, without thinking, on the causeway that goes across to Port Gregory.
“When you look down and see so many people viewing … I am always glad I am up in the sky.”
A draft master plan for the site is expected to be released later this year.