Driving across the great Nullarbor Plain is one of those rights of passage that many Aussies take at some point in their lives. Some do it in a beaten up old hatchback older than they are as soon as they reach driving age, some do it later in life in a little more luxury with a caravan or camper on the back, others might do it by tour bus or bike!
When I started planning my first trip across the treeless plain at age 32 in a luxury motorhome with three friends, I had next to no idea what to expect. We travelled east to west, from Melbourne to Perth via western Victoria and South Australia’s Mt Remarkable, before starting our Nullarbor journey from Streaky Bay, SA, arriving at Eucla, WA, a day and 601km later. The following day, we pushed on to the spectacular Fraser Range Station, WA, another 605km later.
Before travelling the Nullarbor, I pictured it as a long, straight expanse of nothingness with more of nothing in between, so ensuring we had enough fuel range and capacity between stops was a paramount consideration. However, the reality is, you will not travel more than a couple of hundred kilometres at any point before passing a town, roadhouse or fuel station. All you need to do is use common sense, and refuel at every (or at least most!) opportunity. As a rule of thumb, we refuelled every time the tank hit the halfway mark and this kept us well out of the red for the whole trip.
Ceduna to Nundroo: 153km
Nundroo to Nullarbor Roadhouse: 145km
Nullarbor Roadhouse to WA/SA Border Village: 185km
WA/SA Border Village to Madura: 194km
Madura to Caiguna: 157km
Caiguna to Balladonia: 182km
Balladonia to Norseman: 193km
Whether you’re towing your accommodation behind you, in the form of a caravan or camper; driving it, in a motorhome; or travelling unencumbered in a solo vehicle, there are plenty of accommodation options across the Nullarbor. Most of the major roadhouses, including the Nullarbor Roadhouse, Eucla Motel, Hotel and Caravan Park, and Border Village Roadhouse offer powered and unpowered campsites, as well as budget motel rooms or cabins. We encountered all sorts of people on our trips west, including a gentleman driving around Australia on a three-wheeled motorbike. He was carrying a swag on the back and camping along the way, but spent the odd night in a cabin for a bit of ‘luxury’ and a comfortable bed.
But if you’re relatively self-contained and happy to forgo a bit of civilisation, there are many fantastic free bush camping options along the Eyre Highway between the Nullarbor Roadhouse, SA, and Border Village, WA.
It’s not called the ‘Treeless Plain’ for nothing, but if you thought the Nullarbor was a desolate stretch of nothing as far as the eye can see, think again! I was Gobsmacked at the scenery and variety of landscapes along the route and the views out to Great Australian Bight – where the road travels parallel and within a few hundred metres of the coast – are some of the best coastal outlooks you’ll find in Australia.
Sure, it’s flat and scrubby but you just need to look beyond that to notice subtle differences in the vegetation and the colours that make this place so special.
Wild camels and wedge-tail eagles topped our list of wildlife we hoped to see along the way and we were very cautious of planning our route to avoid driving at dawn and dusk – peak wildlife time! But it wasn’t until we passed Port Augusta and reached the Nullarbor proper that we saw any signs of life, other than our fellow travellers. And, unfortunately, with the exception of the clusters of spectacular eagles feasting by the roadside, not much of it was alive anymore.
Whales are another spectacular sight in the waters of the Bight between June and October every year.
We carried a HEMA HX-1 navigation system capable of sending our location via GPS back to home base, a satellite phone for emergencies, and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB or EPIRB) as a last resort. However, I’m happy to say the latter two devices stayed stowed away in a cupboard and the HEMA was only used to count down the kays to the next roadhouse or campsite!
If it’s your first time crossing the country via the Nullarbor you might be surprised, as I was, to discover that there’s Telstra mobile phone coverage almost the whole way across. We encountered the odd blackspot but, overall, we were never without coverage for too long. You may, however, encounter issues with carriers other than Telstra. One of our party who had an Optus phone was without reception for days.
There may be no grass – or anything green, for that matter – in sight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a hit on one of Australia’s most iconic golf courses! The Nullarbor Links is an 18-hole, par 72 course which stretches 1365km from Kalgoorlie, WA, to Ceduna, SA, making it the longest golf course in the world.
The ‘green’ fees are reasonable when you consider the experience you’re getting ($70 to purchase a scorecard, including a certificate if you finish), there’s a very casual dress code at most of the holes (singlet and pluggers, anyone?) except Holes 1 & 2 at the Kalgoorlie Golf Club (must wear shoes, long trousers and no denim), and it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait for the crowd ahead of you to tee off.
The Links was created in 2009 by Eyre Highway Operators Association, aiming to increase tourism along the Nullarbor and give travellers a reason to stop at the many interesting roadhouses and towns along the way.
MEET THE AUTHOR
An RV journalist working across Australia’s premier caravanning and camping magazines for the past five years, Laura is also a judge at the annual Best Aussie Vans awards. She has been camping in the great outdoors since the of two, when she was packed, by day, into a Toyota LiteAce van and, by night, into a brown canvas tent with her parents and two siblings for an extended trip around the vast playground that is northern Western Australia.