Lake Argyle is Australia’s largest man-made lake by volume, and covers an area of about 1,000 km. Lake Argyle is Australia’s most under-utilized lake–as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme, it was to be used to irrigate rice fields for export to China, but Magpie Geese ate the rice faster than it could be planted.
Although the damming of the Ord River, the major watercourse which flows into Lake Argyle, significantly altered the landscape, Lake Argyle is now its own vibrant ecosystem, home to over 25,000 freshwater crocodiles, over 25 species of native fish, and numerous waterfowl and birdlife. Together with Lake Kununurra, Lake Argyle forms the Lakes Argyle and Kununurra Ramsar Protected Site, which recognises its importance as a wetland ecosystem.
Nearby is the Argyle Diamond Mine, producer of over 90% of the world’s pink diamonds. Although it has been commercially successful, it is set to close in 2018 thanks to the low proportion of gem-quality diamonds currently being mined. It is owned by the Rio Tinto Group, which is famous for mining iron ore in the red hills of the Pilbara.
Named after the property it submerged, Argyle Downs, Lake Argyle was formed by the construction of the Ord River Dam, completed in 1971. The dam is 98 metres high and 335 metres long, with an impervious clay core.
The area was settled by the Durack brothers, successful cattle farmers who trekked across the north of the continent from their property in Queensland.
Their homestead was constructed in 1895 out of limestone bricks and termite mound-mortar. Dismantled in the 1970s to make way for Lake Argyle, the homestead was relocated to the shores of the lake and now serves as a museum to document the history of the area. It’s well worth a visit and a small fee is required for entry.
About 827 km from Darwin, to get to Lake Argyle you follow the National Highway 1 towards the Northern Territory border. After the border, you’ll come to Lake Argyle Road. Follow it to Lake Argyle.
Pretty easy drive from Darwin with a paved road all the way.
Best time to visit
Most tourists will visit this area during the dry season, from April to November, simply because the temperatures are a little lower during this period (low 30s instead of mid to high 30s) and the humidity is lower. The lake itself is great to visit all year round, although it will be a little lower by the end of the dry season. If you can stomach the heat and humidity, you’ll probably get cheaper prices during the wet season, and less crowded tourist areas.
The most popular, and closest option for accommodation is Lake Argyle Resort, which in addition to providing unpowered and powered caravan sites, also provides villas, units, studios and cabins, as well as a restaurant, bar and shop with basic supplies such as water, food and fuel.
It is also a viable option to stay in Kununurra and make day trips out to the Lake. There are several options for accommodation in Kununurra, which are outlined in more detail on our Kununurra page.
What the travel brochure doesn’t mention
The caravan park provides wrist bands for adults to minimise non-paying visitors from swimming in their famous pool.
Get down to the causeway early morning and try your luck for a big barra.