The Nullarbor is one of the longest and straightest roads in Australia. Some say it’s also the most boring but I disagree.
Whilst the Eyre Highway, aka the Nullarbor, can be done in a much shorter time (the record is 24 hours), I reckon this quintessential Aussie road trip deserves to be taken slowly. We found the Nullarbor to be full of diverse and surprising delights.
Doing the Nullabor Links with fellow traveller Sue was part of the reason. For those who didn’t read my last post, the Nullabor Links is the world’s longest golf course with 18 holes spread over 1,365 kilometres, two states and two time zones.
To make things interesting, the day before we hit the Nullarbor I’m stung by a wasp in the Norseman pool. It’s on my left thumb, it swells up and it’s excruciating. I briefly wonder how it’s going to affect my already lack lustre golf swing. Takes being handicapped to a whole new level.
Day one on the Nullarbor – from Norseman to Balladonia
We head into Norseman for some last supplies, snap some photos of the colourful town murals and top up on diesel. It’s $1.91 litre which is cheap in comparison to what we’ll pay on the Nullarbor.
Our first stop on the Nullarbor is at Balladonia. It’s also the next hole on the Nullarbor links. The guys wait inside the Skylab Roadhouse while Sue and I complete the hole.
The hole is a short one, 175 metres through the dry scrub, but the flies are ferocious and we reach the hole in record time. I’ve never swung faster and better, even with my sore thumb.
That night we pitch camp at Woorlba, a rest area with plenty of space to get away from the noise of the highway. We find a nice secluded area to park our vans and, for the first time on our almost nine month road trip, we set up the fly tent. Those flies can stay outside!
The large mesh tent becomes our refuge and entertaining area for Sue’s birthday celebration that night. We toast to her on the Nullabor with a dinner of eggplant pasta and tirimisu and a night of laughter and new memories.
Day Two on the Nullarbor – on to Cocklebiddy
The heat and flies have disappeared and it’s a late lazy getaway from Woorlba. We’re in no rush and we’re keeping our days short. In fact time seems to be irrelevant out here.
There’s something wonderfully freeing about taking it slowly and having no set timelines. It’s one of the things I’ve loved most about this entire trip.
We reach the 90 Mile Straight sign and stop for a photo then continue on the straightest stretch until we reach the Cauguna Roadhouse.
At the 90 Mile Straight Par 4 we hit a ball and a tee into the scrub. Trying to find it is like looking for a needle in a hay stack. It doesn’t help that my thumb is still swollen and throbbing.
Cocklebiddy Roadhouse is our next tee off, with the Eagles Nest course at the end of the motel units. We camp nearby on an unnamed narrow track just off the highway. It’s a large shady area with plenty of room for big rigs. On WikiCamps it’s known as Big Van Turnaround.
That night it’s cool and so have a campfire for the first time on the Nullarbor. The sky is full of stars and the night feels more of magic.
Day three on the Nullarbor
We leave camp early, last nights brief rain glistening on the nearby trees. Not far off the road we turn off onto a side road and check out the signs to the Eyre Bird Observatory. Australia’s first bird observatory.
It’s a 34-kilometre detour (via 4WD only) and sounds amazing but it’s been raining, the track is steep and notoriously rocky, so we decide to stay hitched up and keep going. Apparently the observatory is currently closed anyway and they’re advertising for new caretakers. A new job perhaps?
From Madura we continue to Cocklebiddy where we play the par four Watering Hole. Not so much of a watering hole back at the Roadhouse, as they’re out of diesel, but we’ve got enough to get us to Eucla tomorrow.
That night we stay at a gravel pit site. I know it doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s level, away from the road, protected from the wind and we even have some phone coverage. My thumb is slowly getting better.
Day Four – from Eucla to The Best of the Bight
This night is the highlight of our trip. Camping on the top of the Bunda Cliffs had been a bit of a wish list item for me. But I never expected it to be this good.
We refuel at Eucla then drive out to the ruins of the old telegraph station, once Australia’s busiest regional telegraph station, slowly being engulfed by the dunes. Back in Eucla, we play the par four Nullarbor Nymph hole on the Eucla Golf Course before driving 12 kilometres to cross the South Australian border at Border Village.
After nearly eight months of amazing experiences in the West we’re officially out of West Australia and suddenly the time has changed and we’ve lost two and a half hours.
We tee off near the giant Kangaroo, snap the requisite pic and enjoy a much needed shower (available at the caravan park for just two dollars) before setting off for the cliffs.
That night our camp is at The Best of the Bight on top of the spectacular cliffs and the Gods are smiling on us. Known to be notoriously windy, it’s calm so Sue puts the drone up.
On the ground we make ourselves cocktails, Espresso Martinis, and enjoy a magical night under a moody sky.
We sing and dance to Goanna’s Solid Rock with the ocean as a soundtrack and the canvas of the cliffs beyond us. We feel high on life and connected to the expansiveness of it all.
Day Five – From the Bight to Bunda Cliffs
Today is another short day. The cliffs are calling us back again so we travel just 96 kilometres before turning off to the Bunda Cliffs and find a spot to park for the night.
Campers need to be fully self contained out here. There are no facilities and we’re mindful of our water usage and doing the right thing. Leave no trace is always a good motto to live by when camping in nature.
Once again we’re blessed as there’s very little wind on the cliff tops although the flies are fierce. So the fly tent goes up again, for the second time on our trip.
The rest of the day is one of rest. Where yesterday’s cliff top camp was all about fun, today it’s about relaxing. The guys both enjoy a siesta, while Sue and I do our own thing. There’s time to read, write, walk, enjoy the spectacular view and simply contemplate life.
That night we walk on the cliff tops at sunset and marvel at the wonders of nature.
Day Six – From Bunda Cliffs to just out of Penong
Our next stop is the iconic Nullabor Roadhouse. Diesel is $2.56 litre. The golf tee is a long one at Dingo’s Den and afterwards we reward ourselves with lunch and a famous Nullabor Burger. It’s a great spot for a rest.
A bit further down the road we detour 12kms off the Highway to visit The Head of Bight, a premier whale watching destination. Although it’s not whale season we hit the boardwalks, heading down to see the wild and windswept coast. Here the sand dunes and beaches meet the Bunda cliffs where we’ve just been. It’s so windy we nearly get blown to Antarctica!
Onwards we continue as the day’s getting on to reach Nundoo Roadhouse. Diesel has come down to $1.98 litre. Sue and I play our next tee, Wombat Hole Par 5, 538 metres. I go way over par again but this time I’m blaming it on the swarms of yellow locusts that seem to be following me round.
That night we stop at a free rest area 16kms west of Penong. It’s spacious, set off the road and we park at the back overlooking the wheat farm. It’s peaceful but it’s late so we cook inside and have a quiet night.
Day7 – Penong
We decide we’ll stay in Penong for the night and opt for the first time, after six straight nights of free camping, to stay in a powered site. We need to top up on water, power up and it will be good to have access to facilities.
Penong is a quintessential Aussie town with a truck stop, a pub and cafe and a whole lot of windmills. Hence why it’s known as the town of windmills. Across the road the Penong Caravan Park is super friendly. It’s only a small park, privately owned, but it has everything you need, wonderful clean amenities plus a huge camp kitchen and a great vibe.
The park is located opposite Penong’s famous Windmill Museum and the Nullarbor Links Hole 3 Golf Course and this afternoon we play our second last hole. Of course the hole is aptly named The Windmills. I play my best round yet. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this.
That night we enjoy a social meal over in the camp kitchen. I get talking to a woman who was born in Rosedale, a town close to my hometown Sale. What a small world.
Day 8 Penong – Detour to Cactus Beach
We decide to stay at Penong an extra day as it’s a great base to explore a couple of iconic sights in the area. This afternoon we head out to the remote locations of Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair, 21kms south of Penong. It’s reached via the pink salt lake of Lake Macdonnell, though it’s not so pink when we visit.
The story goes that Cactus itself was actually called Point Sinclair and was given its current name by the first guys who drove up there, looking for surf. When they first saw it, the surf was pretty poor and someone said, “this place is cactus!” meaning ‘no good’ but how wrong they were, as Cactus is now regarded as one of the best breaks in Oz! There’s also a great campground nearby at Point Sinclair.
That night we all put beanies on our head for the first time in ages, as we walk through town. It’s cold and for the moment it feels as if Summer is well and truly over.
Whichever way you’re heading for your Nullabor adventure, Penong is either your first or last stop and it’s a worthwhile one.
Day 9 – Penong to Ceduna
We leave the land of the windmills bound for Ceduna and the last two holes of our golfing adventures. It’s only 72kms to the quarantine checkpoint and our caravan park for the night at Shelly Beach.
At Ceduna we play two rounds, thereby officially completing our golfing on the Nullarbor links and earning ourselves a Nullabor Links Certificate.
We’re homeward bound now but, in our usual way, we’re taking it slow and making the most of every day. After all, it’s never been about the destination, it’s all about the journey.
Wishing you all love, light, joy and peace as we continue this adventure called life.