If you’re hankering to get off-planet and explore alien landscapes, your options for getting into space as a tourist are kind of limited and expensive right now. Plus, you can’t really go anywhere cool in space just yet, all you can do is float around a bit.
Whilst floating around in space still sounds pretty awesome, the price tag is quite high for such an experience. So if your bank balance doesn’t have multiple zeros before the decimal point, you might instead consider heading to Australia.
Why Australia? Well, in some of the remote outback locations of this vast country, it’s not hard to imagine you’re on an alien planet.
But don’t just take my word for it. Numerous films have used Australian scenery to stand-in for either other planets, or post-apocalyptic landscapes, including Pitch Black, Mad Max 2, The Osiris Child and Red Planet, to name but a few. So I think it’s fair to say that there’s no shortage of otherworldly landscapes in Australia.
I spent a year travelling all around Australia in a four wheel drive, and encountered a number of seriously alien landscapes on my adventures.
Based on my experiences, and my love of science fiction, I wanted to share some of my favourite alien landscapes in Australia. You can visit them all, and should get a definite off-world vibe when you do. Just be aware that many of these are very remote and challenging to access!
11 Alien Landscapes in Australia
1. Coober Pedy
If there were a real world Tatooine, I have a feeling it would be Coober Pedy. Minus the scum and villainy of course. Whilst Star Wars wasn’t filmed here, a number of other popular science fictions films were, including Pitch Black. In fact, one of the main film props from that film, a huge chunk of spaceship, can still be found in the town. This certainly adds to the off world vibe.
The appeal of Coober Pedy is two-fold for space fans. First, a majority of the town is actually located underground. This is an opal mining town, and the residents took advantage of all that mining equipment to construct underground dwellings, which include homes, a hotel, a church, and even a golf course. Being underground means that the temperatures remain pretty much constant year round (handy for the desert!).
If you’re interested in checking out the underground life in Coober Pedy, this tour will take you to a number of sites, including a former mine and an underground church.
The other thing about Coober Pedy is that the landscape is seriously surreal. Just outside of town is the “Moon Plain”, so called because it looks like the surface of the moon. Just a little further out of town is the “Painted Desert”. Which is a desert of wacky colours. No wonder that so many science fiction films base themselves here!
2. Broken Hill
If you’re more into post-apocalyptic looking landscapes, head to the mining city of Broken Hill in New South Wales. This was where many of the exterior filming locations for Mad Max 2 were shot, and if you’ve seen that film you’ll appreciate how alien the landscapes seem.
Broken Hill itself is a remote mining city, surrounded primarily by semi-desert. There’s a great deal of wilderness out here, the sort of thing you might see in a Star Trek away mission.
There’s lots to do here, but near the top of your list should be a trip to Silverton, an “almost” ghost-town near the city, which is home to a number of artists. The landscape surrounding the town is stunning, and over 140 films have been shot in this area.
3. Pink Lake
Nothing says foreign planet quite like a giant pink lake. After all, we’re used to lakes on earth being various shades of blue. Or maybe slightly green. But generally, not bright pink.
So when you find a giant bright pink lake, it would stand to reason that you’ve found yourself on a distant planet, presumably with alien ecology, and maybe an extra moon or two.
Or, it could be that you’re in Western Australia, where there are a number of unbelievably pink lakes. Unfortunately, aliens didn’t give the lakes their colour – that is as a result of a reaction between the organisms in the lake and the water’s salt content.
There are two so-called “pink lakes” that can be visited, one near Esperance, and one located a six hour boat ride from the mainland, which you can also see on a sight-seeing plane ride.
The former lake has sadly not been pink for some years now (maybe the aliens left?), but the latter at the time of writing is still pink, and I’d recommend taking a sight-seeing plane ride as the best way to see it.
4. Lake Ballard
As you might have started to grasp by now, Australia has no shortage of remote locations and wilderness. Take Lake Ballard for example, which is truly in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia – either an 11 hour drive from Perth, or over 4 hours drive from Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
If you do make the effort to visit this huge dried out lake, you will find yourself surrounded by strange humanoid figures who spend their days standing on the dry lake bed and, well, not doing very much.
These figures are not the vanguard of a very slow moving alien race hellbent on the invasion of earth, but are in fact the work of British sculptor Antony Gormley, who put this installation together.
Called “Inside Australia”, you really have to be a fan of the artist to make the long trek out here. It definitely feels like you have stumbled across the remnants of an extinct alien civilisation though.
5. The Lost Cities of Limmen
These huge expanses of weird rock formations really do give you the feeling that you’re wandering through the ruins of a forgotten civilization in a far corner of the galaxy. The fact that they’re very remote and far off the beaten path definitely helps add to this feeling.
Probably the most famous rock in the world, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is a 550 million year old rock which towers over 1,000ft above the surrounding desert. It almost looks like a fossilised space ship, left here by a space-faring race millions of years ago.
Uluru has been sacred to the Pitjantjatjara for thousands of years. It also draws tens of thousands of visitors every year from around the world. This despite its incredibly remote location in the centre of Australia. Of all the alien landscapes on our list, Uluru is definitely the most popular.
For a long time it was possible to climb Uluru, however due to the rock’s sacred nature, this is no longer possible. However, you can take a lovely walk around the base, and the rock is spectacular to behold especially at sunrise or sunset. There’s a fee to visit, and you can read more on the official website for the park here.
7. Wilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound, also known as Ikara, is a massive natural amphitheatre of mountains found around 400km north of Adelaide in South Australia. It’s a popular location for hiking and outdoor activities, and the landscape here is truly spectacular.
Given the huge amphitheatre, it’s not hard to imagine that it may have been sculpted by massive alien forces.
Or, geology I guess. I loved my visit here and did some hiking, but my camera battery was flat on this day (tip, always have spare batteries), so I have no photos to share unfortunately!
A little further north (by Australian standards, which equates to a 4 hour drive) from Wilpena Pound, is the remote wilderness sanctuary and village of Arkaroola. This hot and arid location is a famous destination for birdwatchers and astronomers alike, with the clear skies here offering excellent star gazing opportunities.
The harsh and dry landscape here is definitely otherworldly. So much so in fact, that it’s commonly used as a stand-in for Mars when space agencies and researchers want to test their equipment. The area was selected by the Mars Society of Australia as a prime Mars analogue, and Mars Robot challenges are held here on a regular basis.
So if you find yourself bumping into a rover whilst out and about here, don’t be surprised.
9. Mungo National Park
Found in New South Wales, around 900 kilometres to the west of Sydney, the 274,000 acre Mungo national park is a World Heritage Site. The park is particularly known for Lake Mungo, which is a huge dried up lake bed, where the remains of “Mungo Man” and “Mungo Woman” were discovered.
The remains of Mungo Man were dated at around 42,000 years old, making these the oldest human remains to be discovered in Australia.
So far, not so alien. However, the lake itself certainly has an alien vibe. The dried up lake bed is also home to a series of lunettes. These are an ancient sand dune formation which tower up to 40 metres in height, and which stretch for 33km.
They don’t really look like sand dunes though, more like oddly worn towers, weathered over the ages, and a little like the crumbling remains of an ancient alien civilisation.
10. Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater
If you can’t quite get to space, how about a place on earth created by an object *from* space?
The Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater, found 150km south of Halls Creek in Western Australia is almost a kilometer wide, and is believed to have been formed by the impact of a 17,000 tonne meteorite.
Or, you can believe it was made by aliens.
Whichever, this crater really is a wonder to behold, with the rim and impact whole being clear to see. A must if you happen to be in the area.
11. Pinnacles Desert
Last, but by no means least, in our list of alien-like landscapes that you can find in Australia, is the Pinnacles Desert. This is found within the Nambung National Park in Western Australia, around 200 km drive northwest of Perth.
The limestone pinnacles here tower up to 3.5 metres above the surrounding sands, and are formed from ancient marine sealife. The exact process which led to their current look is still under debate, but regardless of how they formed, they certainly look otherworldly.
And that’s it for my guide to some of the most remote and off-world locations you can find in Australia, which were a lot of fun to explore when I spent a year travelling there.
If reading this post has inspired you to take an adventure around Australia in search of some spectacular scenery and alien landscapes, then I have some more content that might help you plan that trip.
- I have a guide to how much it costs to travel in Australia
- A guide to visiting Fraser Island
- Tips and advice for driving offroad
- Some of my highlights of Australia’s Red Center
- My favourite day hikes in Australia
- My highlights of Australia’s Northern Territory
- For more space content, see our guide to the New Mexico Space Trail, and our tips for getting into space as a tourist.
And that’s it! As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback on this post, just pop them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!