Crossing the Nullarbor

Nullarbor Plain, Eyre Peninsula, SA. © SATC & Adam Bruzzone

Crossing the Nullarbor

Perth – Norseman – Balladonia – Caiguna – Madura – Border Village – Ceduna
2,000km / 6 days

Widen your horizons driving the Eyre Highway across the vast, treeless and mesmerising Nullarbor Plain. You can connect to this journey from Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and drive west to east or east to west along the highway. Whatever your direction, the scale of the scenery has a powerful impact. Watch wooded hills flatten into bluebush-studded plateaus and see mobs of kangaroos lining the road. Visit vast cattle stations, historic homesteads and remote railway outposts. Get up close to rare birds in Eyre, spot southern right whales from the rugged Bunda Cliffs and fish in Fowlers Bay. Sleep overnight in the roadhouses and campsites dotted across the highway. While this is a sealed road, it travels through remote areas and requires thorough preparation. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle to venture off the highway.

Shearers quarters, Norsman, WA
Shearers quarters, Norsman, WA

Day 1 - Norseman to Balladonia

The South-West, Beaches and Goldfields Drive takes you from Perth to Norseman, where the journey begins. Check out life-sized monuments to the early camel trains before heading east along the Eyre Highway. Drive past the woodlands of Dundas Nature Reserve and climb the scenic granite hills of Fraser Range, which are circled by the world’s largest eucalypt hardwood forest. Walk through the towering blackbutts, salmon gums and green gimlets, just some of the 20 species of eucalypts.  See the peak of Mt Pleasant rise over the forest, visit the Fraser Range sheep station and spot birds, camels and wildflowers on a bushwalk. Drive to Newman Rocks for views of forest, range and plains. This is also a good spot to picnic. A little further lies Balladonia, where parts of the US Skylab space station plummeted to earth in 1979. Spend the night in the roadhouse or connected camp sites.

Cape Arid National Park, WA
Cape Arid National Park, WA

Day 2 - Balladonia to Caiguna

You can 4WD north to Rawlinna, a remote railway siding visited by the Indian-Pacific twice a week. Learn to muster on the huge sheep station, or watch local pastoralists show off their horse and bull riding skills at the annual Nullarbor Muster in mid-April.  From Balladonia, another 4WD track leads you 200km south to the white beaches and granite outcrops of Cape Arid National Park. Continuing east from Balladonia, you’ll pass Afghan Rocks, named after the camel driver who was shot by parched travelers for washing in an unpolluted waterhole. See his grave before driving onto Balladonia Homestead, built in 1889 and now home to an art gallery depicting the region’s history. You’ll be travelling along the Ninety Mile Straight, which at 147km is one of the world’s longest straight stretches of road. It ends in Caiguna, where you can sleep in the roadhouse, motel or camp sites.

Nuytsland Nature Reserve, WA
Nuytsland Nature Reserve, WA

Day 3 - Caiguna to Madura

See the Caiguna blowhole before zig zaging along the highway to the Nuytsland Nature Reserve, where you can 4WD to a series of small caves and collapsed caverns known as Dolines. See Dead Dog Cave, where the mummified remains of a Tasmanian Tiger was found.  Check out the geologically unique karst formations of Cocklebiddy Cave, which contains one of the world’s longest underwater passages. Seriously experienced cave divers can dive the passage, but you’ll need to get a permit and carry your own equipment. Birdwatchers should make the 50km detour south-east to Eyre Bird Observatory, home to about 230 species of birds, many rare and endangered. You’ll need a 4WD or to ring ahead to be collected. It's 74km from Caiguna to Madura, where robust horses known as ‘Walers’ were bred for the Indian Army. Today mostly sheep graze at Madura, alongside a roadhouse for rest and refueling.

Border Village, WA
Border Village, WA

Day 4 - Madura to WA/SA Border Village

From Madura the hill-flanked highway stretches into the horizon without interruption for 116km to Mundrabilla. Stock up on food and fuel before climbing back to the top of the Hampton Tableland to Eucla, home to the fascinating, shifting sand dunes of Eucla National Park.  See the old telegraph station, once Australia’s busiest regional telegraph station, that is being slowly but surely subsumed by the dunes.  Depending on the winds, you might see a chimney poking out of the sand or the entire ruins.  Walk to the now-derelict jetty once used to ship supplies to pioneers. Visit the small museum and take in sweeping views over Eucla and coastline from the top of the escarpment.  Another track heads north from Eucla to Forrest, where the six cottages once used by Bureau of Meteorology staff are. From Eucla, it’s another 12km along the highway to over the South Australian border to Border Village and a whole new time zone.

Eyre Highway, Nullarbor plain, SA
Eyre Highway, Nullarbor plain, SA

Day 5 - WA/SA Border Village to Nullarbor Roadhouse

Tackle a rugged 4WD adventure along the old highway, which runs parallel with the new Eyre Highway for almost 200km. Keep in mind this route is prone to flooding and requires preparation. Otherwise, follow the Eyre Highway through Nullarbor National Park, alongside the incredibly sheer Bunda Cliffs.  See Australia’s southern edge drop dramatically to the sea from any of the five signposted lookouts over the cliffs.  Be careful when treading around the limestone cliff tops. From here the highway traverses classic Nullarbor country – treeless and seemingly limitless plains. The name 'Nullarbor' was derived Latin term 'nullus arbor' meaning 'no tree'. To go deeper into this hypnotic landscape, detour 100km north to Cook, an isolated outpost on the Trans-Australia Railway. The Indian-Pacific thunders through here twice a week on a route that has the world’s longest straight stretch of railway line – almost 500km. Meet the families who work on the railway before heading back to the Eyre Highway and Nullarbor Roadhouse.

Head of Bight, SA
Head of Bight, SA

Day 6 - Nullarbor Roadhouse to Ceduna

From here until Nundroo you’ll be travelling through Yalata Aboriginal land and will need a permit to venture off the highway. Pick up one from the White Well ranger station, on the short journey south to the Head of Bight. Stand on the towering Bunda Cliffs and watch southern right whales that mate and calve in these protected waters between May and October. Back on the highway, browse Aboriginal art and crafts at Yalata Roadhouse and drive to the next roadhouse of Nundroo, where you can turn south for the picturesque fishing haven of Fowlers Bay. Watch whales from the rugged sea cliffs, hike along the sand dunes and white beaches and spot wildlife in Fowlers Bay Conservation Park. Return to the highway and continue on to Penong, where you can see windmills and surf the world-class breaks of Cactus Beach. Taste succulent oysters in Denial Bay on your way to Ceduna, on the sandy curves of Murat Bay. From here you can fly back to Adelaide, or begin the drive, which is close to 800km.

Crossing the Nullarbor

Crossing the Nullarbor

 

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