Last Updated on May 6, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ
Even without maps to guide them, Australian place names mean visitors to Australia – whether overseas tourists or aliens from beyond the Southern Cross – need not fear losing their way.
In some parts of Australia, anyway.
Thanks to the daring imagination and colourful speech of our colonial past, working out your location can be as simple as describing what you see. So join me for a tour of several Australian place names that’ll have you scratching your head … NOT!
1 Big Bend, South Australia
The River Murray, part of Australia’s largest river system, wends its way from high in the Snowy Mountains, through Victoria and into South Australia where it meets the sea at – yes, you guessed right – the Murray Mouth.
But en route to this glorious spot on the South Aussie coast, the river winds through what would otherwise be the quite arid Riverland. What do you get when the river is winding through the cliffs? Bends, of course. So what would you call the biggest bend on the river just out of Swan Reach??
Big Bend, of course! Incidentally, I bet you can’t guess how Swan Reach got its name …
MORE about Big Bend, Murray River
2 Black Mountain, Queensland
If the person responsible for naming Queensland’s Black Mountain had been slightly more descriptive, it’d be called ‘Mountain covered with house-sized black rocks, unusual plants and animals and odd smells – where weird things happen’.
The odd aroma surrounding Black Mountain National Park 25 km south of Cooktown en route to Cairns is as much a mystery as the local legends about disappearing people and stock, strange noises and unusual turbulence and magnetic fields over the mountain reported by pilots.
And it’s a habitat unique enough to support three endemic species – a skink, a frog and a gecko, the names of which are all preceded by ‘Black Mountain!’
But all that’s too much to fit into a single descriptive place name, so in a grand display of brevity, the unknown (to me) name-bestower chose the two most important words.
MORE about Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) National Park
3 Black Rock Falls, Western Australia
A waterfall that flows over black rocks can’t really be called anything other than Black Rock Falls, right?
And although this Kimberley beauty near Western Australia’s Kununurra wasn’t flowing on our visit, the path of the water was visible against the black rock surrounding the falls area.
When I saw our destination on the tourist map, my well-developed Australian place names deductive powers gave me a pretty good idea that I’d be seeing some combination of black, rocks and waterfalls.
I was right!
MORE about Black Rock Falls
4 Yellow Water, Northern Territory
I’m not sure what colour the water is at midday or in the dark of night. But I DO know what colour it was at sunrise as we clambered aboard the boat for Kakadu’s world famous Yellow Water sunrise cruise.
All the better to see the crocodiles with, the glow of the sunrise turned the lagoon into a shimmering sheet of gold, perfectly captured by Pilchard before the serious business of birdwatching began.
MORE about Kakadu National Park
5 Snowy River, New South Wales
OK, Ok, ok … this photo doesn’t REALLY prove my point!
But that’s because it was taken in autumn before the winter snow started. With its headwaters just below the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak, and above Charlotte Pass, where Australia’s coldest temperature was recorded, the Snowy River is an Aussie icon. As is classic Aussie poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’!
I bet I don’t have to tell you how that got its name!
MORE about Mt Kosciuszko
6 The Pyramid, Queensland
I blame the Egyptians.
Their astounding ability to build massive and perfectly symmetrical three dimensional triangular objects from gigantic pieces of rock has given the rest of the world a ready-made name for any three-sided rock formation.
Even when the landscape in which the formations concerned are set bears absolutely NO resemblance to anything in Egypt.
I’m not sure whether or not the Pyramid at the bottom of OutBack Queensland’s Porcupine Gorge is a dead ringer for its Egyptian counterpart, but it really doesn’t matter.
I’m sure you can spot their similarities!
MORE about Porcupine Gorge
7 Circular Pool, Western Australia
To be fair, there’s a number of obvious names for a small body of water that’s pretty much round when viewed from above. So Circular Pool, in Karijini National Park could just as easily have been called Round Lake. Or Spherical Pond. Or Almost-Ovoid Baths.
HHHMMMmmm… maybe Circular Pool was the best choice after all!
MORE about Circular Pool, Karijini National Park
8 Rhino Head, South Australia
It doesn’t take much imagination to work out how Rhino Head got its name. At the eastern end of Stenhouse Bay and part of the spectacular scenery in Innes National Park, the Head is best viewed from the excellent Stenhouse Bay lookout walking trail.
And I can’t actually think of a better name for it. Can you?
MORE about Innes National Park
9 The Horn, Victoria
Victoria’s Mount Buffalo is a great hunk of rock like a landlocked island rising 1723 metres above the sea of the surrounding plain. While the climb (actually ‘drive’) up the Buffalo’s flank is steep, the plateau at the top belies its height above sea-level.
Mt Buffalo’s highest point is, of course, the Horn – a short but steep climb to a 360°view of the Victorian Alps.
And for an Acrophobic like me, the newly installed handrails, stairs and fence around the domed rocky summit made the whole thing a bit of a doddle. Well, almost!
MORE about Mt Buffalo
10 Pink Lake, Western Australia
The name of any lake in Australia that has a slightly different colour to normal is pretty much a foregone conclusion. But unlike other pink lakes in Australia coloured by salt, this Western Australian wonder’s unique colour is caused by beta-carotene!
Just south of Kalbarri near holiday town Port Gregory, the unusual and unnatural colour of the lake looks like a set from a B-grade science fiction movie. But there’s no doubting the colour. And hence the name …
MORE about Pink Lake
11 Redbank Gorge, Northern Territory
A dastardly combination of Australia’s ubiquitous RED Rock and our inability to think outside the square with our place names, Redbank Gorge’s name should come as no surprise.
Because yes, the rocky banks of this gorge are RED.
No secrets here! And the red is also a sobering reminder of fatal clashes between the local Aboriginal people and the early settlers.
While Redbank Gorge would fit the description of almost any of the several gorges along the Western MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs, it’s perhaps more surprising that it only describes this one.
Redbank Gorge, however, isn’t to be confused with South Australia’s Redbanks Conservation Park.
While this name doesn’t accurately describe the conservation park’s palaeontological wonderland, it DOES describe one of its main features!
See if you can work out which one from this photo … and see if you can tell which of these Australian place names is which!
MORE about Redbank Gorge, NT
Redbanks Conservation Park, SA
12 Five Rivers Lookout, Western Australia
Yes, there really ARE Five Rivers visible from this lookout on the Bastion (wonder why they called it that?!) high above Cambridge Gulf near Wyndham in the Western Australian Kimberley. The Ord, Pentecost, Forrest, Durack and King rivers all flow into the gulf but my camera wasn’t wide enough to capture all of them. Not even by stitching photos.
And even if it could, it wouldn’t do the staggering view justice. Or capture the view from what must be one of Australia’s most scenic public toilets.
So don’t take MY word for it – head up Wyndham’s Bastion and count those five rivers for yourself!
MORE about Five Rivers Lookout
13 Boulder Beach, New South Wales
What else would you call a beach covered with small boulders? At least it makes a change from the plethora of Sandy, Shelly, Rocky and Stony beaches along the Australian coastline.
And this fine beach, between Skennars and Lennox Head near Northern New South Wales town Ballina also lifts those coastal photographs out of the cliché category.
MORE about Ballina
Even though this is a long post, it’s really just a teaser! There are WAY more Australian place names that perfectly describe what you see, so YOU tell ME! Which ones have I missed??
Gosh, we are an imaginative lot down under –
how about these 2 – Elephant rocks, Denmark, Western Australia
Swan River, Perth
That’s very good, Jill! I don’t know how many Sandy Creeks and Shelly Beaches there are – maybe one day I’ll document them all!! Look out for #2 – I’ve got a few more up my sleeve!
Ha ha. See my post for more obvious named places. http://www.50shadesofage.com/2015/05/06/australian-place-names-that-need-no-explanation/
LOVED your post, Kathy 😀 Just goes to show that even with two of us writing about the same thing there’s enough obvious place names so we don’t double up!!
Another great post with fantastic photos of the gorgeous Australian countryside. We have a few places here in the states with the same type of “subtle” names. The Grand Canyon comes to mind. There is a place in Utah called Coral Pink Sand Dunes named for the…..you guessed it….coral pink sand dunes. Fun stuff.
Can´t wait for more!
Awww. Just…. couldn´t you have done this pre-1999? I was in Wyndham and just didn´t know! Your Loo-calendar was a big hit, btw! 🙂
Wonderful photos, beautiful place, beautiful colors …!
Wow – another stunning series of shots.
Ah Red! Such beautiful photography, so vibrant. Congratulations on showing up all the wondrous beauty of Oz for 300 posts, and many more to come!
Yep, those weren’t subtle — even I could figure out why these places were named as they were. Yellow River and Pink Lake are my favorite…all are amazing.
@Linley S – Thank you!! And yes, I’ve seen the pix of Dog Rock which is SO weird! I hope to visit it one day but in the meantime I’ll just keep checking out your blog!
@Saucy – It’s ALWAYS a pleasure to hear from you and I thank you for your support and comments – and that great guest post where you brought me my FIRST international scenic toilet!! I look forward to sharing more with you over the next 300 posts (I feel exhausted already)!!!
@Pauline – Hahaha, there are still a few of those creeks, but probably not as many as before metric measurement! Now there’s lots of Rocky, Stony, Wild Dog and Crocodile creeks!!!
@whiteangel – Putting captions on my photos made me think of it – like ‘Black Rocks at Black Rock Falls’!! So you’ve got blogging to ‘thank’ for my inspiration!
@Rose – I watched that too!! I think I’ll have enough material to do a follow up post on place names sometime in the future! What’s up your way?!
@Sami – Well, Pink Lake is a GREAT start!! See you on the road somewhere!
@FigMince – Wave Rock is RIGHT up there … except for the fact I haven’t been there and have no pix of it!! Next time … I also visited Dead Horse Gap near Lake Argyle – the mind boggles!!
@Sallie – So glad you haven’t lost your super-deductive powers!! Thanx for your visit – look forward to a virtual catch up soon!
@Kay – It’s my pleasure to share the photos!!! And to travel around taking them!! So glad you liked them 🙂
@Vicki – I LOVE the Bight/Bite nexus!! And Victoria’s Grampians also have their fair share with ‘The Pinnacle’, ‘Elephants Hide’ and Venus Baths!! We’re SUCH an imaginative nation! Thanx for your good wishes too!
@Jo-Anne – Well, I’ve only been to the Snowy River once – as an adult! I’m always torn between re-visiting good spots and seeing somewhere new!!
@Eileeninmd – Thank you! And thanx for being a WAAAAAY better follower than I will ever be!! I love comparing notes with you too, and sitting back to enjoy your travels from the comfort of my lounge!
@River – HHHMMMmmm… I hadn’t thought of that!! Leave it with me … thank you so much for being one of my most regular commenters – it’s been a pleasure to show you the Australia I’ve found and hopefully inspire your future travels!
@Joan Elizabeth – I’ve been meaning to write about Black Mountain for AGES and this seemed the perfect opportunity!! I’ll check out your post too!!
@Doronette – Wow! So glad you could drop in from such a distance!! I look forward to seeing your world while you are discovering mine!
@Andrew – Thank you!! It’s a toss up between you & River as to who’s made the most comments all up – so whether or not you’ve learned/forgotten, it’s been an enjoyable experience for me, at least!
@SFlaGuy – HAhahaha!! I NEARLY put in a pic of ‘Red Bluff’ – that’s probably getting pretty close!!!
@FruitCake – Thank you! I’ll be honoured to have your company for the next few hundred!!! Perhaps by the end of my next 300 posts, ‘Brighton’ will have become synonymous with ‘Boulder Beach’, who knows?!
@Fun60 – I’ve enjoyed nearly every minute of those travels!! I think Pink Lake stands out because it’s SOOOO obvious as a name, but such an unusual landmark! Maybe you’ll get to see it on your next trip!
@TFG – HHHMMMmmm… maybe the sense of humour is an Aussie thing. As is the spelling of ‘humour’ …
@LONDONLULU – HAha, don’t tell me I’ve at LAST found something Australian that doesn’t remind you of Hawaii??!!!
@Joop Zand – Thank you! But I bet if you came to Australia, your photos would look at least as good as mine, if not better!! It’s easy to take good photos with scenery like this!
I’d have thought WA’s Wave Rock might’ve been a contender, Red. My personal un-favourite place name is Bullock’s Head Creek on the western edge of Brisbane – I always wonder how it got to be called that.
Congratulations on your 300th post. The only place I have been to is Pink Lake…I still have a lot to travel!
Congratulations on the ‘big’ number of post.
It’s obvious the names if you think about it, but to tell you the truth I haven’t!
G’day Red! 300 posts! Congrats and here to another 300.
What a spectacular around Australia trip over my morning coffee! – especially following an ABC production last evening on Australia’s formation.
So many places I would love to visit, I have been to the Snow River a few times but that is all
Great post for your 300th. I look forward to your next 300. You’re right about the place names, I immediately thought of all the 1 mile, 2 mile, 10 mile creeks I’ve seen. Are they still called that or have they changed over to kms? It’s so long since I’ve travelled in Oz.
Dearest Red – WOW – I am outta breath with the beauty in this post. I have experienced it all or thought I had, until you took us on this whirlwind tour through water, mountains, crevices and small lakes. I could just imagine scaling that wall at Black Rock Falls or figuring out myself the mystic of Black Mountain. Five Rivers lookout most impressive and I love the boulders at boulder beach – I love rocks and crevices also. So…..any takers on Pink Lake with all that rich beta-carotene within it – Eh – bet the rabbits would be happy. he,he
Absolutely love all photos, but especially Yellow River Sunset. Great Job Red and thank you for this wonderfully bright virtual tour for your 300th post. Take care Kiddo, Eh 🙂
300 extremely interesting posts. How about “The Grandstand” at Kalbarri or Dog Rock in Albany WA, or Great Australian Bight.
Fantastic ! The 1st picture is the best !
Happy to find your lovely blog !
Best regards from Sarajevo
I can’t think of other place names but I’ve gotta say the Black Mountain near Cooktown is much more aptly named than the one in Canberra.
As it happens I posted Black Mountain yesterday.
Happy 300th, Red!
Thanks for the fantastic photos and great writing.
I loved this post, and was very interested in Black Mountain. I went and read up about it, and I do believe it could be Australia’s “Bermuda Triangle”. Some seriously spooky stuff.
And, I can only come up with, “The Gap” and “Dog Rock” in Albany. And, Elephant Rocks near Denmark – if you squint hard, they kinda resemble a herd of elephants taking a dip in the cool blue-green water.
It’s a lovely place to visit too.
Oh, and to me, from the air, The Great Australian Bight looks as though a huge great white has taken a “bite” out of the bottom of this continent 🙂
So glad you have much more to show. Bring it on!
These are fabulous! I would like ALL of TODAY’S photos as a 15 month calendar.
please, please, pretty please.
Congrats on your 300th post. I enjoy traveling around Australia with you! I would like to visit everyone one of these places above. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing. Have a happy week!
Thank you so much for sharing the photos. I will never get to see these things except through your camera lens.
Oh goodness, true Aussie stunners! I am especially taken by that Pink Lake – wow!
Once again you have provided a great post. I’m enjoying all these photos and your sense of humor. Terrific reflections in that last picture. People are sometimes captured by the obvious when they name things, and you have proved that point.
Congrats on your 300th post. Quite a lot of travelling to gather those pictures. Can’t decide on a favourite but the pink lake was a bit more unusual than black rock mountain.
Wonderful photo’s….they are very good.
What else would you call a beach covered with small boulders? The English would call it Brighton, but I guess that’s not an answer that’s within the rules of the game.
Suitably stunning photos for the occasion of your 300th post. I’m sure I’ll be enjoying hundreds more 🙂
I am not seeing “Red Nomad Mountain” anywhere in this list. I think you are missing an opportunity here. Just throw up a few official looking signs on your travels. I’m sure it will catch on. Hurry before every Tom, Dick, and corporate sponsor start renaming the place.
Well done you on 300 posts. I have learnt a lot and possibly forgotten a lot too. I get Rhino Head but not Mount Buffalo. Pink Lake is pretty interesting.