What is it?

Inside Australia is an art installation consisting of 51 carbonised steel sculptures depicting life-sized human-like figures. They’re scattered across an area of 10 square kilometres on a vast salt pan at the western end of the mostly-dry Lake Ballard. The sculptures are up to 750 metres apart, and from each figure, you’ll be able to see a several more, leading you further towards the shimmering horizon. From a distance, it’s hard to determine if the shadowy figures before you are human or art.

The sculptures are the work of British artist Sir Antony Gormley, who was commissioned by the Perth International Arts Festival (now called the Perth Festival) to celebrate the festival’s 50th year in 2003. Originally intended to be temporary, the sculptures have now been gazing across their remarkable desert landscape for more than 20 years.

Based on the naked body scan images of 51 real residents of Menzies, the sculptures depict the stylised images of men, woman and children. Footprints of other visitors create routes between the sculptures, and these can give the illusion that the figures themselves have been walking.

Near the car park, you’ll see an ironstone hill, which becomes an island on the rare occasion that the lake holds water. A roughly-formed track leads to the top, providing a view of Inside Australia that stretches out in every direction.

How do I visit?

Lake Ballard is located 51kms north-west of Menzies on the Sandstone Road. The road is sealed, and accessible by two-wheel drive vehicles. The turn-off is sign posted, and on the way in to the car park, stop to read the interpretive signage.

Bring a picnic or barbecue supplies, or even better, stay in the free campground with long-drop toilets. Campfires are permitted in cooler months in the concrete fire pits provided (fire restrictions apply from November through to March), but please bring your own wood. Note that drinking water is not supplied, and campers must be self-sufficient. If you’re not camping, book a cosy family cabin at the Menzies Caravan Park.

Continuing a couple of kilometres further west on the Sandstone Road, you’ll find a turnoff to Snake Hill Lookout. Although you won’t see the sculptures from here, the lookout gives a great perspective on the immense proportions of the Lake Ballard.

When’s the best time to go?

The most comfortable time to visit is during the cooler months of March to November, as summer temperatures (December to February) can be extremely hot. The most spectacular viewing and best lighting for photography is at the start or end of the day, when the landscape seems to glow. Long shadows form beside each figure and they’re at their ethereal best.

Take care

The Lake Ballard salt pan is covered in a fragile, thin crust, and there can be mud underneath. To avoid becoming stuck, and for the protection of the environment, visitors should never drive vehicles on the lake.

Bring along sunscreen, water, and a hat, as sun can reflect off the white salty surface. Old shoes are recommended! There are no petrol stations on the way, so fuel up in Menzies at the automated, credit-card operated bowsers in town.