The Nullabor. It’s almost a rite of passage. One of those things you have to do once in life, but never again. Thousands of kilometres of dead straight, boring road with nothing to see but lifeless desert with no trees (‘nullabor’ literally means ‘no trees’). At least that’s the impression we had from everything we had heard. But it wasn’t like that at all for us. We thoroughly enjoyed the drive and found the scenery interesting and varied. We also found some great campsites and plenty of trees.
It’s not really clear to us where the Nullabor starts and ends. It seems to be one of those fairly vague things, although the bumper sticker we bought suggests it runs from Norseman in the west to Ceduna in the east. We, however, skipped Norseman by using a shortcut that runs from Cape Le Grand NP along Parmango and Balledonia Roads to the Balladonia Roadhouse.
I had originally wanted to continue east from Cape Le Grand NP into Cape Arid NP and then along the coast via Israelite Bay, Bilbunya Dunes and the Baxter Cliffs. There is apparently a 4WD track that runs all the way along the coast to the Eyre Bird Observatory, probably more than a third of the Nullabor. It looks like a fantastic drive but would take much longer than we had. Next time.
I had got all sorts of dire warnings from the Esperance information centre about the Balladonia Road in particular (‘We’re not allowed to recommend that road; it’s not maintained’) but a little further research on WikiCamps convinced us it would be fine, and it was. It was certainly quicker than driving an extra 200kms or so along the main road back through Esperance and Norseman.
The Balladonia Road was a good, fun drive. It is probably 4WD only, but only just. There were quite a few large potholes and the recent rain had turned them into puddles so Liam and Mali got the dirtiest they had been in a while. One particularly long puddle had Liam and Mali sliding sideways for a few moments, which some of us found less exciting than others!
Along the Balladonia Road we came across the Deralinya Homestead. The homestead was obviously abandoned many years ago but a small group of keen locals have taken on the job of restoring it and they have done an amazing job as you can see from the photos. They are now happy for travellers to stop and stay in the homestead as long as they look after it, which of course most do but some don’t judging from the logbook comments.
Into South Australia
Coming off the Balladonia Road we joined the Eyre Highway just before the longest straight of road in Australia. 146.6km of dead straight road.
The drive along the Balladonia Road had taken most of the day so we only got about a third of the way across the straight before deciding to camp. Thanks to WikiCamps we found a nice little area called Taylor’s Maze (on WikiCamps anyway). It was indeed a maze of tracks just off the road where clearly many others had camped previously. We found a reasonable spot and settled down for our 200th night travelling.
The following day we were back on the highway heading east. It wasn’t long before we came across the most random sight of the Nullabor, and possibly our whole trip. I was driving and I gradually watched as something took shape out of the mirage in the distance. At first I thought it was a kangaroo but soon I realised it was a man. Running. With a baby pusher. Across the Nullabor. I was actually kind of disappointed when I realised he wasn’t taking his baby with him in the pusher but that it was just full of supplies.
Driving across the Nullabor there is a surprising amount of traffic, including a lot of trucks and road trains freighting stuff across the country. In particular I noticed a lot of brand new caravans and boats on the back of trucks, presumably being delivered to customers in Perth.
There are plenty of roadhouses, probably one every 100km or so, and we obviously didn’t stop at them all but they all looked like pretty standard roadhouses. We did stop at Eucla for diesel and ice-creams just before crossing the border. Once over the border we were into the Nullabor National Park and the road comes back close to the coast for the most spectacular part of the drive. Just inside South Australia we found an amazing campsite on top of the cliffs looking over the Great Australia Bight. It was impossible to bang tent pegs into the limestone and it was a little windy but still it has to be one our most impressive campsites of the trip.
All the way along the Nullabor there are plenty of places like that where tracks lead off the road to nice campsites or views, or both. You could really spend a week, or more, driving across the Nullabor and exploring all the little side tracks.
Hole and Hat
The drive the next day was beautiful, following the cliffs above the Bight for most of the day with plenty of lookouts, both official and unofficial. The most impressive one we found was unofficial, just a small track leading over to the cliffs. A short walk down to the very edge and we found ourselves watching the waves crash into incredibly high cliffs for as far as we could see and a couple of sea eagles gliding around their nest.
That day we also found a large and impressive sinkhole which proved to be a perfect backdrop for lunch.
Soon we were coming out of desert and into farming land. We headed off the main road by a bit into Fowler’s Bay Conservation Park and camped at a spot called Mexican Hat Bay. It was a gain a lovely campground, although this one was an official, paid, site complete with a toilet. Amazingly we were the only ones in the large campground for the night.
We started the final day by driving along a 4WD track right along the top of the cliffs towards Fowler’s Bay, which was again impressive and reminded me of the wonderful drive we had done from Steep Point on the west coast.
Then it was back onto the main road to Ceduna for lunch and some supplies before heading up to the Gawler Ranges.