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
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??