Crossing the Nullarbor
Widen your horizons driving the Eyre Highway across the vast Nullarbor Plain, four times the size of Belgium.
By Sue Gough Henly
Feel the wide open space of Australia's vast outback beneath your wheels on one of the world's greatest adventure drives as you cross the vast, semi-arid Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor stretches across the southern edge of Australia between the goldfields of Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. You can connect to this journey from Adelaide or Perth and drive west to east or east to west along the Eyre Highway. While this is a sealed road, it goes through remote areas and the trip requires thorough preparation. You should carry extra petrol and plenty of water and food. You'll need a 4WD vehicle to venture off the highway. If you'd rather make the trek with a tour, check out the epic adventures offered by Xplore Eyre and Nullarbor Traveller.
What to expect
- Watch whales beneath the world's longest line of sea cliffs
- Drive the longest, straightest, flattest road in Australia
- Play a round on the longest golf course in the world
- Time: 6 days
- Distance: 1,256 kilometres (781 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Perth and Adelaide
- Price: $
Nullarbor means "no trees" in Latin, but in reality, the Nullarbor is covered with bluebush and mulga scrub, and even wildflowers after rain. You'll see plenty of wildlife, including wild camels, kangaroos and emus (be careful at dusk), meet eccentric outback characters and even discover space junk that fell to earth. Go whale watching on a clifftop lookout, visit vast cattle stations, and play the world's longest golf course – an unbelievable 1,365 kilometres (848 miles) long, with a hole at each town or roadhouse along the way.
Day 1: Norseman to Balladonia
An eight-hour drive from Perth brings you to Norseman, where your Nullarbor journey begins. If you would like to play the 18-hole, par 72 Nullarbor Links, which is spread across two states and two time zones, be sure to make a detour to the gold rush town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, where you can buy your scorecards from the Visitor Centre. Play the first two holes at the Kalgoorlie Golf Course, one hole at the Kambalda Golf Club and two holes at the Norseman Golf Club (clubs can be hired at each course). It is 190 kilometres (118 miles) between Kalgoorlie and Norseman. Check out life-sized tin monuments of the early camel trains before heading east along the Eyre Highway. Drive past the woodlands of Dundas Nature Reserve and climb the granite hills of Fraser Range, circled by the world's largest eucalypt hardwood forest. Walk through the towering blackbutts, salmon gums and green gimlets, and see Mount Pleasant rising over the forest. Visit the Fraser Range sheep station (105 kilometres or 65 miles east of Norseman), spot birds, camels and wildflowers on a bushwalk, and play the Sheep's Back par three hole. Drive 40 kilometres (25 miles) east to Newman Rock for views of forest, range and plains. It is just another 50 kilometres (31 miles) east to the Balladonia Roadhouse, which is the first stop on the Nullarbor journey from Western Australia to South Australia. In 1979, Balladonia hit the world news when parts of the US Skylab space station fell to earth around here. You can see some bits at the free Balladonia Cultural Heritage Museum, which also has exhibits of Aboriginal heritage, European exploration and settlement and local flora and fauna. It is located at the Roadhouse, where you can cool off in the pool, have dinner and spend the night in a motel room or the caravan park.
Day 2: Balladonia to Caiguna
Start your day with an excellent coffee at the roadhouse and stock up on water, food and petrol before playing the par three Skylab hole through the scrub (beware of snakes). This is where the golf course starts to get peculiar. The holes in the Nullarbor comprise greens and tees and rugged fairways through the scrub. Playing the course becomes a quirky Aussie outback experience. Ask at the roadhouse for directions to the nearby Balladonia Rocks (loosely translated, Balladonia comes from an Aboriginal word meaning "big red rock") for superb views of the flat plains. The Afghan Rocks are 14 kilometres (nine miles) east of Balladonia, where fresh water dams provided water for the early Afghan camel drivers. From here drive the 90 Mile Straight, which at 147 kilometres (91 miles) is one of the world's longest stretches of straight road (don't forget to take a photo at the iconic wildlife road sign). It ends in Caiguna, where you can drive south to the coast to check out the Caiguna Blowhole. Play the par four 90 Mile Straight hole through the trees before dinner and a night spent at the John Eyre Motel and Caravan Park.
Day 3: Caiguna to Madura
Drive from Caiguna Roadhouse 65 kilometres (40 miles) to Cocklebiddy, once an Aboriginal mission, where you can play the par four Eagles Nest hole. If you have a 4WD and are experienced in rough conditions, explore the Nuytsland Nature Reserve to see some of the world's longest unbroken cliffs, along with stunning coastal scenery and beaches. Book ahead to visit (you can also stay overnight) the Eyre Bird Observatory, Australia's first bird observatory. It was established in 1977 in the 1897 stone telegraph station nestled between woodlands and white dunes within walking distance of the beach. It is a 34-kilometre (21-mile) detour (via 4WD only) south-east of the Eyre Highway. You'll be rewarded by seeing the likes of silvereyes, singing honeyeaters, brown falcons and the pretty pink and white Major Mitchell's cockatoos. Back on the Eyre Highway continue for 92 kilometres (57 miles) to Madura, the midway point between Adelaide and Perth, where robust horses known as Walers were bred for the Australian Light Horse Brigade in World War I. Today, sheep graze alongside the roadhouse, where you can rest and refuel for the night after playing the par three Brumby's Run hole (a brumby is a wild horse).
Day 4: Madura to Border Village
From Madura, the hill-flanked highway stretches into the horizon without interruption for 117 kilometres (73 miles) to Mundrabilla Roadhouse, where Australia's largest meteorite was discovered. Play the par four Watering Hole and stock up on food, water and fuel at the roadhouse before driving 66 kilometres (41 miles) to the top of the Hampton Tableland at Eucla, home to the fascinating, shifting sand dunes of Eucla National Park. See the old telegraph station, once Australia's busiest regional telegraph station, which is being slowly claimed by the dunes. Walk to the derelict jetty that once was used to ship supplies to pioneers, and enjoy the white sandy beach. Visit the small museum and take in sweeping views from the top of the escarpment. Back in Eucla, play the par four Nullarbor Nymph hole on the Eucla Golf Course before driving 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) to cross the South Australian border at Border Village. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool, a bite to eat and a comfortable bed at the Border Village Roadhouse.
Day 5: Border Village to Nullarbor Roadhouse
Head over to the Giant Kangaroo to play the par three Border Kangaroo hole before you stock up on water, food and petrol. Follow the Eyre Highway through Nullarbor National Park, alongside the sheer 90-metre (300-foot) high, 200-kilometre (124-mile) long Bunda Cliffs, the longest line of sea cliffs in the world. 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 clifftops as they crumble easily. From here, the highway traverses classic Nullarbor country – treeless and seemingly limitless plains where you will see lots of semitrailers and road trains hurrying goods across the continent. It is 184 kilometres (114 miles) between Border Village and the Nullarbor Roadhouse. Play the par five Dingo's Den hole at the recently upgraded roadhouse before checking out the Aussie music icon murals in the bar, where you can play a round of pool with passing truck drivers (truckies) and grey nomads (retirees driving around the country pulling caravans) after dinner. Don't forget to look at the night sky to see the Southern Cross and other Southern Hemisphere constellations – there's no light pollution out here.
Day 6: Nullarbor Roadhouse to Ceduna
From here to Nundroo you'll be travelling through Yalata Aboriginal Land and will need a permit to venture off the highway. Pick one up from the White Well Ranger Station on the short 20-kilometre (12.5-mile) journey south to the Head of Bight. The whale watching platform here is one of the world's best land-based vantage points to see a whale nursery. Southern right whales, which can grow to 18 metres (59 feet) long, mate and calve in these protected waters between May and October. Back on the highway, drive about 130 kilometres (81 miles) to the next roadhouse, at Nundroo, and play the par five Wombat Hole. You can take a 55-kilometre (34-mile) detour to the picturesque fishing haven of Fowlers Bay. Watch whales from the rugged sea cliffs (you can also do a whale watching boat tour, on which you can spot fur seals and sea lions), hike along the sand dunes and spot wildlife in Fowlers Bay Conservation Park. From here it is 71 kilometres (44 miles) to Penong, where you'll see dozens of old-fashioned windmills at the windmill museum and play the par four Windmills Hole at the Penong Golf Course. Just 22 kilometres (13.5 miles) south of Penong, surf the world-class breaks of Cactus Beach or swim in the netted enclosure. From Penong, it is 72 kilometres (45 miles) to Ceduna, on the sandy curves of Murat Bay, where you can buy Aboriginal art and craftwork from the Ceduna Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre and play the last two holes of the Nullarbor Links (the par five Oyster Beds Hole and par four Denial Bay Hole at the Ceduna Golf Club). From here fly to Adelaide, or begin the drive, which is almost 800 kilometres (497 miles).
Spend a few days in Adelaide, or continue your journey through South Australia. Kangaroo Island is brimming with wildlife, while the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's most magical coastal road trips.