Crossing the Nullabor in under 10 days - Itinerary from Perth to Adelaide
Thursday 16th November 2017
By Dave Eddy
When you tell people that you’re crossing the Nullarbor you’ll be met with one of two responses: people will either think you’re mad or that it’s a great idea.
We’re going to go with the latter.
Some would say that you’re not a true Aussie road tripper until you’ve experienced the journey across the straightest, longest, and plainest road in Australia. This one is truly a test – are you prepared for the wide-open space, lack of civilisation, and hours of driving ahead of you? If you can handle it, you won’t be disappointed!
The vast, semi-arid Nullarbor Plain stretches across the southern edge of Australia, connecting the goldfields of Western Australia to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia (approximately 1500 km!).
Although Nullarbor does literally translate into “no trees” in Latin, the reality is that the Nullarbor Plain is abundant in blue-bush, mulga scrub, and even wildflowers after rainfall. There’s also plenty of wildlife including camels, kangaroos, and emus, as well as odd roadside attractions including space junk and trees decorated in toys and Christmas ornaments. We’re here to prove to you that the “Nullar-boring” stereotype just isn’t true!
For those who simply want to cross the Nullarbor, the drive can be completed in as little as three very long days. However, we wouldn’t recommend it as you’ll miss out on truly experiencing the area. Plus, it’s no fun sitting behind the wheel for 10 hours a day!
We’ve mapped out our ideal itinerary for you below, assuming a west to east route. This route is a little longer as we'll be beginning in Perth and finishing in Adelaide. Many say that the west to east route is the most comfortable, as you won’t get the afternoon sun in your eyes as you drive.
Day 1: Perth to Merredin
Distance: 3 hours (260 km) via National Highway 94 Pick up your rental van in Perth and (after familiarising yourself with the vehicle) set off on your ultimate Aussie road trip to Adelaide via the Nullarbor! Although the Nullarbor doesn’t technically begin until you reach Norseman, there are a couple of interesting places you should stop at beforehand.
From Perth, head east along the Great Eastern Highway and National Highway 94 to Merredin. This is an interesting little town, rich in history and Aboriginal culture that can be experienced through the Njaki Njaki Aboriginal Cultural Tour and the Merredin Town Tour.
Visit the Merredin Railway Station Museum, and spend your afternoon studying memorabilia dating back to the 1800s. In the evening, we suggest checking out whether any shows are on at the Cummins Theatre, which has hosted artists including AC/DC, Slim Dusty, and Lano & Woodley. You can either stay here a night or head straight to Kalgoorlie.
journey across the straightest, longest, and plainest road in Australia
Day 2: Merredin to Kalgoorlie
Distance: 3.5 hours (333 km) via Great Eastern Highway If you stayed the night at Merredin, make sure you wake up bright and early the next day for your drive along the National Highway 94 to Kalgoorlie. While in Kalgoorlie, stop by the visitor’s centre to pick up your score card for Nullarbor Links – the world’s longest golf course. You can play the first two holes in Kalgoorlie. If you’re interested in mining history, it’s worth taking a tour of the Super Pit, which is Australia’s largest open cut gold mine. You can wander through the massive machinery and old mine shafts from the mine’s internal viewing platforms. You can also learn all about Kalgoorlie’s rich mining history at the Western Australian Museum.
If you’d prefer something a little more boozy, the Beaten Track brewery is right up your alley. The brewers will tell you the tricks of the trade, including how to properly taste test beer. And yes, you’ll be able to try some “samples” as well. You’ll need to stay the night in Kalgoorlie.
Day 3: Kalgoorlie to Balladonia (via Norseman)
Kalgoorlie to Norseman: 2 hours (189 km) via National Route 94 Alternate & National Highway 94 Norseman to Balladonia: 4 hours 20 minutes (265 km) via National Highway 1
Take the National Highway 94 to Norseman, which is the gateway to the Nullarbor. This is the perfect spot to stretch your legs for a bit! You can play another two holes of the Nullarbor Links golf course here, or go for a hike along the Norseman HeritageTrail. Consider taking a detour to the Beacon Hill Lookout for views of the countryside – it’s rare to have high altitude views of the Nullarbor!
Norseman's iconic tin camels!
When you’re ready, continue your drive along the Eyre Highway (National Highway 1) through the Fraser Range toward Balladonia. While in the small town of Balladonia (which has a population of just nine people) you should visit the local museum that covers the town’s early pioneering days and the dramatic crash of the Skylab space station in 1979.
The remnants of the Skylab are particularly interesting (and amusing) as the local council issued NASA with a littering fine and the US President Jimmy Carter personally phoned the roadhouse to apologise!
We recommend staying here for a night, before continuing on to tackle the notorious 90 Mile Straight.
Day 4: Balladonia to Cocklebiddy via Caiguna
Balladonia to Caiguna: 4.5 hours (195 km) via National Highway 1 Caiguna to Cocklebiddy: 2 hours 29 minutes (118.8 km) via National Highway 1 The next morning, make a visit to the Afghan Rocks (14 km east of Balladonia) where you’ll find fresh water dams that once provided water for the early Afghan camel drivers. From here, begin your drive along the renowned 90 Mile Straight – this is where you’ll definitely need to make sure your drive is lively to keep your mind alert.
The drive ends in Caiguna, from here make a detour south to the coast to check out the Caiguna Blowhole and Baxter Cliffs. This is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs for a bit and take some beautiful snapshots of the scenery. If you’re still playing the Nullarbor Links golf course, there’s a par 4 hole at Caiguna.
The jaw-dropping Baxter Cliffs
Next, make the drive to Cocklebiddy and visit the nearby Cocklebiddy Cave, which has the world record for the deepest cave dive in history. Nearby, you should also check out the incredible limestone cliffs that line the Great Australian Bight, as well as the Eyre Bird Observatory. After a full day of exploring, we suggest you stay the night in Cocklebiddy for a well needed rest!
Day 5: Cocklebiddy to Border Village via Madura
Cocklebiddy to Madura: 1 hour 20 minutes (92.2 km) via National Highway 1 Madura to Border Village: 2 hours (195 km) via National Highway 1
From Cocklebiddy, head east along the highway to Madura – now you’re officially halfway between Perth and Adelaide! Although it’s not a long drive from Cocklebiddy, you should stop to check out Madura and the stunning view that can be seen from the lookout. Interestingly (and hard to imagine), sea levels once repeatedly advanced and retreated across the Madura Pass and Roe Plains – some 15 to 45 million years ago! You can also play another hole of the Nullarbor golf course here, or take a detour 28km north-west of Madura to the Mullamullang Cave – the second largest cave in the Southern Hemisphere.
The view from the Madura lookout
After your brief stopover, jump back in your van and set off to Border Village. Consider stopping by the Eucla National Park to see the magnificent sand dunes and an old telegraph station that was once Australia’s busiest telegraph station. Take a stroll to the rundown jetty and enjoy the white, sandy beach for the afternoon. There’s also a small museum nearby to check out!
The Eucla National Park
Just a further 12km east along the highway will take you to Border Village, a key rest stop on your Nullarbor journey. Along the way, you’ll come across the Big Roo – a tourist hotspot and a major icon of the town (you can also play a hole from the here). A photo with the giant kangaroo is simply mandatory. Also check out the Border Village distance sign, telling you just how many kilometres you are from capital cities around Australia and the world.
If you’re feeling like a good break from driving, stay here for the night. Grab a bite at the Border Village Roadhouse and even have a dip in the swimming pool, before turning in for the night.
Day 6: Border Village to Nullarbor Roadhouse
Distance: 1 hour 50 minutes (184.3 km, excluding detours) via National Highway A1 This will be one jam-packed day of sightseeing, so make an early start to get the most out of it. Between Border Village and Nullarbor Roadhouse is the Nullarbor National Park, which will take you alongside the dramatic 90-metre-high Bunda Cliffs that stretches along 200 km of the South Australian coastline. If you’re travelling during June and October, it’s very possible that you’ll see the pods of migrating Southern Right Whales! Continuing your drive east, the highway succumbs to the classic feature of the Nullarbor Plain – seemingly limitless and treeless plains with monstrous road trains making their way across the state.
Upon arrival at the Nullarbor Roadhouse you can play the par 5 Dingoes Den hole near the roadhouse. Stay here for the night and admire the Southern Cross and other constellations in the night sky – here there is no light pollution and the sky is perhaps the clearest in all of Australia. Or, if you’re not looking for a quiet one, head to the local pub and hang out with the truckies and other road trippers.
Day 7: Nullarbor Roadhouse to Ceduna
Distance: 3 hours 6 minutes (296.6 km) via National Highway A1 Travelling further east you’ll be passing through Yalata Aboriginal Land, meaning you’ll need to pick up a permit from the White Well Ranger Station to venture off the highway. Take a detour south to the Head of the Bight if you’re travelling between May and October - you’ll be in prime position to view the whale nursery of calves and their mothers. Continue your drive along the highway and you’ll come to the Nundroo Roadhouse, where you can play a par 5 hole of the Nullarbor golf course.
Up close and personal with the whales at the Head of the Bight
We suggest you take another detour to the picturesque seaside town of Fowlers Bay for more whale watching from the cliffs, or head out on a boat tour where you’ll see whales, fur seals and sea lions up close and personal! You should also check out the sand dunes and the wildlife in the Fowlers Bay Conservation Park.
Continue your drive towards Penong, where you’ll spot old-fashioned windmills scattered around the town. You can play another hole of golf here too. Head south for a swim and surf at the renowned breaks of Cactus beach, or keep driving to Ceduna at Murat Bay. Watch the picturesque sunset over the long Ceduna jetty as a relaxing end to your day.
Ceduna is technically the final stop of your road trip across the Nullarbor, but if you’re heading to Adelaide you’ve still got another one or two days ahead of you.
Day 8: Ceduna to Port Augusta
Distance: 4 hours 54 minutes (470km) via National Highway 1 Depart Ceduna early in the morning for your drive to Port Augusta. This is a long one so it’s recommend that you make a few stops along the way. The first stop being Wudinna, where you can enjoy the Mount Wudinna Recreation Reserve. Stop here for a bushwalk (or climb!) to the top of the mountain. It’s only 260m so it’s completely achievable! When you’re ready, continue your drive to Port Augusta.
Once you arrive, you can visit the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. These gardens are a bit different from other botanical gardens as they showcase plants and animals that can survive the droughts and extreme temperatures of the region. You can also climb to the top of the Water Tower Lookout for views across the gulf.
Check out the Wadlata Outback Centre for a historical trip back in time,;learn about the traditional Dreamtime stories, and how the land here formed. If you’re wanting a creative kick, head to the Yarta Purtli Cultural Centre and enjoy the artwork from local and international artists. After a long day of driving and sightseeing, you’ll want to stay here for a good night’s rest.
Day 10: Port Augusta to Adelaide
Distance: 3 hours 27 minutes (305 km) via Princes Highway This is the last day of your road trip and luckily the drive to Adelaide isn’t too long. Cruise down the highway and stop by Port Pirie for lunch and to stretch your legs. When you reach Adelaide, you’ll be met with many things to do – check out the laneway bars, visit the Adelaide Zoo, sample fresh produce from farmer’s markets, wander through the historic Port Adelaide, or simply just relax at the beach.
Welcome to Adelaide!
• Always make sure you have enough petrol – fill up at every stop if needed, just in case. • Don’t drive at dusk or dawn, this is often where the wild animals are out (the kangaroos are everywhere). • Be aware of quarantine stations. You can’t take fresh produce across the border and officials will search your car. • Don’t forget to bring non-perishable food and lots of water. • Know how to change a tyre. • Be aware of road trains (massive trucks) and when it is safe to pass them.
Obviously, you'll need a good caravan, camper van or motorhome to complete this road trip, if you haven't got one of your own then check out the vehicles for hire on Camplify.
And if you need a place to crash overnight while you're crossing the Nullarbor, visit Campstay and search the caravan parks and camp sites available along the way!
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