Exploring Lake Eyre & the Flinders Ranges

One of Bill Peach Journeys regulars, Wendy Borchers AM recounts her experience on our Lake Eyre & Flinders Ranges Air Tour.

In 2010 Bill Peach Journeys had its first of many Luxury Outback Air Tours to Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre.    The. high rainfall in the summer of 2010 sent floodwaters into the Diamantina, Georgina & Cooper Creek catchments of the Lake Eyre basin, with the Cooper Creek reaching the lake for the first time since 1990.  The higher rainfall prompted many different birds to migrate back to the area for breeding.

Again in early March 2011 we were lucky enough to be able to run more Luxury Outback Air Tours due to heavy local rain in the Stuart Creek and Warriner catchments filling Lake Eyre South and Lake Eyre North with water firstly from the Neales and Macumba Rivers, and later from the Warburton River.   We also saw Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre flood in 2015, 2016 and 2019 and have run Luxury Outback Air Tours every year since.  Even in the dry season the lake is a sight to behold and there is usually some water remaining in the over 200 smaller sub-lakes within its margins.


The Adventure Begins

In July, 2011, the rains had come to central Australia and the great inland rivers, including the Diamantina, Cooper and Warburton were flowing down into the normally eerily-empty Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre Basin, where an ‘astonishing transformation had taken place as the landscape filled with colour, with bird and animal life and the crowds who had come to witness nature’s grandest performance’. So one bright and sunny mid-winter’s morning, along with my husband, Max, I found myself at Execujet at Sydney Airport waiting to board our Luxury Outback Air Tour for the adventure of a lifetime!

Execujet - Private Air Tour - Bill Peach Journeys  Outback Air Tour - Luxury - Bill Peach Journeys  Flinders Ranges - South Australia - Luxury Tours

A visit to Broken Hill

First stop Broken Hill, the birthplace of my father, Frank. Although I had flown over the ‘sapphire-misted mountains’ and Central New South Wales many times, the experience had taken on a different hue as we were flying at such a low altitude. We soon found ourselves enjoying morning tea at the new headquarters of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the historic, outback mining town, after which we boarded a bus for a grand tour.  When, on an earlier visit, Max and I stumbled over a memorial to the bandsmen of the ‘Titanic’, just the place where you’d expect to find such a plinth.  Broken Hill in 1912 was in recession but the band-conscious citizens were inspired by the heroism of the bandsmen on board the ill-fated ship, who stood their ground on the deck, playing hymns, as the ship sank into the icy waters.  A public appeal raised sufficient funds to erect an obelisk in their honour, at what is now Sturt Park and our bus driver took us there so we could all pay tribute to the gallantry of those musicians.

RFDS - Broken Hill - Bill Peach Journeys  Lake Eyre – wildlife on Lake Eyre channel country – Luxury short breaks  Lake Eyre - Flood - Bill Peach Journeys

The Magestic Flinders Ranges

Wilpena Pound Resort was our next destination, where we settled into our luxurious surroundings and became better acquainted with our fellow travellers, all so excited at the prospect of the adventures in store.  Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges were spectacular enough especially when seen at sunset from the point of view of a sand-dune, glass of wine in hand, but then there was the romance and the magic of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre enticing us the next day.

Wilpena Pound - South Australia - Bill Peach Journeys  Flinders Ranges – Views of the stunning Flinders Ranges from Rawnsley Park Station – Luxury Accommodation in the Australian Outback  Flinders Ranges – ancient and rugged Bunyeroo Valley – Outback Australia Flinders Ranges

Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre

Excitement mounting, we re-joined our plane the next morning for the climax of our Luxury Outback Air Tour.  I was invited into the cockpit where I made the acquaintance of one of our pilots, Kim Wirth, who also worked as a photographer and who informed me that his job with ‘Bill Peach Journeys’ was a manna from heaven, and how he could shoot the best photographs in the world from his ‘vantage point.

Soon we were able to share Kim’s elation as the magic, breathtaking, spectacular landscape of our destination came into view.  My colleagues and friends from the ABC, Paul Lockyer and Ben Hawke, were not joking when they had told me I would be completely stunned at the sight of the myriad birds, the expanse of the water, the sand-dunes, the rivulets, how the vision would be forever embedded in my memory, which it still is after all these years.

How do the birds actually know when Lake Eyre has filled with water?  How do they know when to leave their coastal homelands and embark on a vigil to what is normally the arid centre of Australia? It was reported that there was a sign in a shop window in Geraldton, WA:  “Sorry there are no pelicans here at the moment, they have all gone to Lake Eyre on a holiday.”

Lake Eyre - Outback - Luxury Tours Australia  Cooper Creek - Lake Eyre - Luxury Outback Tours  Lake Eyre – aerial view of Lake Eyre from your private aircraft – luxury short breaks

Exploring Birdsville & Bourke

A visit to the isolated outposts of Birdsville and Bourke rounded off our sensational adventure, after which it was back to the office in ABC News in Sydney to confirm to my colleagues, Ben and Paul that they were not exaggerating when they urged me to visit the phenomenon of Lake Eyre in flood.

In a lavish coffee-table book, ‘Lake Eyre’ published posthumously by Paul Lockyer, many of the spectacular photographs Paul used in its publication were shot by Kim Wirth, pilot, ‘Bill Peach Journeys’ on our Luxury Outback Air Tour, ‘Flightseeing Lake Eyre’.

Birdsville Hotel - Queensland - Luxury Outback Air Tour  Big Red Sand Dunes – sunset in the Simpson Desert – iconic Australian outback  Birdsville Hotel - Outback - Bill Peach Journeys

*Please note that our 2023 Lake Eyre & Flinders Ranges Air Tour varies to this itinerary.  We begin and end the stay in Adelaide. We also stay at the incredible Rawnsley Park Station and the Birdsville Hotel.   For more information on 2023 Lake Eyre & Flinders Ranges Air Tour CLICK HERE





Explore Australia with Bill Peach Journeys

Join Bill Peach Journeys, the leader in private air tours in Australia. These Australian outback tours provide more time to discover each destination intimately through leisurely cruises, revealing ground excursions and contact with local people.

One guest reveals his experience on the Great Australian Aircruise.

Above and Beyond

After hearing about Bill Peach Journeys from a friend (“I’ve travelled with several high-end Australian travel companies, but Bill Peach Journeys is the best… my trip was flawless.”), we decided to sign up for the company’s signature journey: The Great Australian Air Tour. These famous Australian outback tours depart from Sydney, and then follow a circular route around the northern half of Australia during an adventure-packed 12 days.

There’s an art to these luxury outback tours – making each day brilliant, each experience authentic, each leg flown over that extraordinary country truly memorable.

We flew at low altitude over remote deserts and coastlines; visited private cattle stations; cruised down rivers that were home to crocodiles and exotic birds; explored dramatic gorges and sacred aboriginal sites; and swam off pristine beaches along the Indian Ocean.

The beaut thing about travelling on luxury outback tours with Bill Peach Journeys is it doesn’t matter if you are on the wrong side of the plane when something as incredible as, say, Kata-Tjuta comes into view. The pilots always turn the aircraft to give passengers on both sides ample time to take in the view and get aerial photographs – sometimes from as low as just a few hundred metres.

Bill Peach Journeys makes crossing Australia’s vast distances entirely comfortable, with an average daily flying time of a little more than two hours. Which still leaves plenty of time to experience the greatness of the outback up close and personal on the ground. Try doing this on a commercial airline schedule and you’ll spend half the time in airports.

The legendary Bill Peach

Along the way, we learned about Bill Peach himself and what inspired him to set up these luxury outback tours. Peach founded his Australian outback tours in 1983 after leaving behind a successful career in television (as host of ground breaking This Day Tonight). Having wanderlust, he decided to travel more and to produce travel documentaries.

During his extensive travels (Peach journeyed the equivalent of 50 times around the globe!), he concluded there was a glaring gap in the travel market for “educated travellers who just didn’t want to do it in a tent or travel huge distances by car.” The market was calling out for luxury outback tours and so it all began.

The rest is history. Today the company offers Australian outback tours, as well as short break tours in regional Australia and New Zealand. Sadly Bill passed away in 2013 but his legacy continues.

Kata Tjuta - sunset - outback tours in Australia  Bill Peach - outback explorer - Australian outback tours Purnululu National Park - Western Australia - Kimberley tours


So many highlights

What were the highlights of our journey? It’s hard to single out one experience more fascinating than another. But some moments stand out with these luxury outback tours. A sunset boat cruise in Kakadu National Park, the large World Heritage wetlands offered close encounters with crocs and some of the hundreds of bird species that nest there: magpie geese, black-necked cranes and white-breasted sea eagles, to name a few. Seeing first hand ancient Aboriginal rock art was also a highlight.

Flying at 1000ft above one of the most breathtaking parts of Australia, each of us mesmerised by the unexpected beauty of this serene and untouched coastline. Suddenly, a humpback whale, shadowed by a tiny calf, breaks the surface of the turquoise bay below us – a special moment that brings shrieks of delight from throughout the cabin. We see whales five times more as we continue cruising south in our private aircraft above the islands, tidal waterfalls, and towering cliffs and gorges of Bonaparte Gulf and Buccaneer Archipelago off Western Australia’s remote Kimberley coast. We are told by the pilots that on all of the companies luxury outback tours that “flightseeing” is a main highlight – and we can see why.

Each day on these luxury outback tours is the best for someone. Intricacies of irrigation systems impress a guy in his 40s who has sold his farm to move earth as a business. He is flying over the land to get a better feel for its ebbs and flows, its natural canals, plateaux and river ways. For women travelling solo – there are several in our group – the pearl town of Broome is heaven. Staying at the Cable Beach Resort is blissfully relaxing. A fellow passenger made it clear to us all: “It’s as if you’re seeing your own country for the first time.”

Buccaneer Archipelago - Western Australia - Kimberley tours  Cable Beach Resort - Paradise in Broome - Outback Australian Tours  Yellow Waters Cruise


So many inclusions

Throughout the journey, our plane was more than transportation. It was a high-altitude “home” that fostered camaraderie and wholesome fun. The cheerful staff constantly pampered us with gourmet snacks, light meals, beverages (teas, coffees, excellent wines, champagnes) and good conversation. Surprisingly, the distances seemed short. At the end of our trip, one guest concluded, “This is the first plane I haven’t wanted to leave!

On the ground the food & wine on this classic Australian outback tour is first class. In Katherine we sit by the banks of the river – it’s a great barbeque spread and we sit at tables with linen cloth in the fading, golden light. Everywhere we go, effort is made. Another day we’re on board a big yacht, off Darwin, eating fat prawns and oysters. Halfway up the Ord River, we disembark for a picnic lunch fit for wedding guests. At Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome, we sip champagne at sunset overlooking Cable Beach and try pearl meat amongst an incredible collection of paintings by Sir Sidney Nolan, Elizabeth Durack and Humphrey Price-Jones. A personal highlight was the Sounds of Silence Dinner under a starry sky in the Red Centre.

On all of Bill Peach Journeys Australian outback tours you also get to stay at the pick of accommodation, such as Cable Beach Resort in Broome, Sails in the Desert at Uluru and the Mantra in Darwin. In some of the more remote towns the choice is extremely limited for a group of our size (28 passengers), so the organisers more than make up for it when they can.

The whole operation is seamless, effortless, and somehow it’s made to look easy thanks to many years of practice and fine tuning.

Would we embark on another tour with Bill Peach Journeys? You bet. These luxury outback tours had us captivated, surprised and gob-smacked by the ever-changing scenery outside the aircraft window. So go. Go soon. And see your own backyard


Gourmet Food - Bill Peach Journeys - Luxury outback tours  Sails in the Desert - luxury in the outback - Australian Outback Tours  Sounds of Silence - Uluru - Luxury Outback Tours


Your Tour Highlights

  • Explore a collection of famed outback towns – Longreach, Kununurra and Alice Springs
  • Experience spectacular aerial sightseeing of the ancient Bungle Bungle Range, remote Mitchell Falls and Buccaneer Archipelago
  • Watch the sun set on the Indian Ocean at Cable Beach Resort & Spa, Broome
  • All touring, transfers and meals included
  • Unparalleled Australian outback tours

Contact Us to find out more about our Great Australian Air Tour

Birdsville Hotel - Outback Queensland - Luxury Air Tours  Uluru - Northern Territory - Luxury Outback Air Tour  Ord River - Kimberley Region - Luxury Outback Tours

Luxury Short Breaks with Bill Peach Journeys

You can enjoy the ultimate night of opera on Sydney Harbour, enjoy a world class concert or an exhibition with the leaders in small group luxury travel Bill Peach Journeys. As renowned Australian short break specialists, Bill Peach Journeys offers you a fully-inclusive, seamlessly designed travel experience. We have designed the perfect getaway for couples and solo travellers, wanting a little more luxury and time to explore.

One guest reveals her experience as a solo traveller on one of our popular opera Sojourns.

Luxury short break specialists – looked after every step of the way

Swept away in movie-star style, I was greeted at the airport with my name on a sign, escorted to a car with dark-tinted windows and driven to my elegant city hotel. It started how it went on: special treatment every step of the way, with everything taken care of. After settling in to my generous room, I met up with others on the tour for our welcome dinner, admiring Sydney’s magnificent city skyline.

Enjoying delicious fare, I had easy conversations with several women who were travelling solo as they are widowed or had husbands who didn’t want to travel. There were also couples who had joined up because they like to be looked after well and appreciate not having to bother with details.

Whilst Bill Peach Journeys are renowned for their outback air tours they also specialise in short break regional tours in Australia & New Zealand, like the one I was on. These are based around a special event, usually a concert or a visiting international exhibition and the itinerary is woven around that with high-end accommodation, meals and all the fine points travel entails.

A short break might be for the Melbourne Cup, Australian Wildflowers or the Australian Open Tennis. I am in town for what is widely regarded as Sydney’s best night out and “the ultimate Sydney experience” – Handa Opera under the stars.

Opera House - Sydney - Luxury Australian Tours  Four Seasons Hotel Harbour View Room - Sydney - Luxury tours Single Travellers - Solo Tours - Luxury Tours in Australia & New Zealand

A Sparkling Evening Replete with Chandeliers & Fireworks

Every year, Sydney hosts an outdoor Handa Opera production, this year it is Puccini’s La Boheme. On arrival, we have a wonderful French inspired meal with matching wines as the sun sets over Sydney’s spectacular skyline, a magnificent backdrop as dusk falls. All just metres from the magical setting of Sydney Harbour’s Mrs Macquarie’s Point, against the iconic backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

As it begins to get dark we are taken to our A grade seats and watch as the drama of La Boheme unfolds. This Opera just opens your soul to emotions stirred by Puccini’s passionate music. As the six friends bare their hearts in a Parisian winter, we all fall in love, flare with ache and loss, right alongside them. I turn to look at some of my travelling companions and see quite a number in tears.

Once the clapping had died down, we made our way out of the arena to our waiting coach and passed queues of people waiting for taxis or trekking back to far-flung cars.

Every year there is a different opera but the standard is high and it will be without question, as stunning and as much fun as this production. You can expect rousing, high-energy operatic performances, fireworks, a live orchestra and spectacularly dramatic lighting.

2023 Performance Details Announced 

Bill Peach Journeys is pleased to announce that the 2023 Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will be a spectacular production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. A tale of longing is captured in the score which is sweeping, uplifting, enchanting and intensely moving. Puccini’s intimate ode to unrequited love is as compelling as its famed aria, ‘One Beautiful Day’. Immerse yourself in the drama and romance of this quintessential story and be awed by a stage setting unlike any other as it floats on Sydney Harbour. Relish in a magical evening of music, glamour, gourmet food and fireworks as you are swept away by this poignant opera. Find out more details HERE.

Interesting touring throughout

The great thing about these small group luxury tours is the variety of day trips that occur. For our tour the group travelled north of Sydney to Hawkesbury River to cruise around its fascinating waterways. On another day we went south along the Grand Pacific Drive and weaved our way through one of the one of the oldest national parks in the world and then over the Sea Cliff Bridge, an engineering marvel. After a local lunch, we visited the charming coastal towns of Coledale, Austinmer and Thirroul, places I hadn’t visited since I was a child.  On other tours it may be a couple of nights stay in the Blue Mountains or a visit to a historic home – the programmes are so interesting and so varied.

Blue Mountains - Destination NSW - Luxury Australian Tours  Hydro Majestic - Blue Mountains - Luxury Australian Tours  Scenic World - Blue Mountains - Destination NSW

All inclusive

The wonderful thing about travelling with Bill Peach Journeys is that there is nothing to worry about once the journey begins. Absolutely everything is taken care of. On this journey, we had gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We dined in Sydney’s top restaurant Quay – something I had wanted to do for some time. We also had a beautiful seafood lunch on the cliffs at Scarborough and on the cruise of the Hawkesbury a buffet lunch fit for a king.

Our accommodation was at the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park. All of our rooms faced the park and it was just so lovely to wander around the shops and parklands so close to the hotel.

At the end of the tour, I exchanged contacts with several of my fellow travellers. They were an interesting well-educated crew; seasoned, motivated travellers who enjoy the finer things in life. I was jealous, hearing their plans to join another Short Break but grateful that I had such a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand why Bill Peach Journeys is the leader in small group luxury travel.

To find out more about Bill Peach Journeys Luxury Short Break Collection CLICK HERE

Opera House - Sydney - Luxury Australian Tours  Handa's Opera on Sydney Harbour - Sydney - Solo tours Australia  Handa's Opera on Sydney Harbour - Sydney - Singles Tours in Australia