Our Nullarbor Adventure – Wrap-up

Five months after completing our journey we have finally completed our blog posts. As usual, I like to produce some statistics as a result of our trip and maybe it will even help other travellers wishing to cross the Nullarbor.

  • travelled a total of 8248 kilometres.
  • filled a total of 1106 litres of fuel.
  • averaging 13.4 litres per 100 kilometres.
  • average price of fuel was 115.6 cents per litre.
  • spent a total of $2094.
  • travelled a period of 16 days.

and a quick pie chart of our expenses.

Our Nullarbor Adventure – Melbourne to Perth

After about five days in Melbourne we started our long drive back to Perth. We planned to follow the coast on the way back providing a change of scenery, and due to the extra distance decided to take give ourselves a little over six days of travelling time.

Day 1: Great Ocean Road drive (Melbourne – Geelong – Apollo Bay – Port Campbell)

We left Melbourne on the morning of 4th January to start our long journey back to Perth. Our first stop was Urquhart Bluff where we stopped to have lunch. Urquhart Bluff, located 200m above sea level gave us a nice view of the beaches while we enjoyed lunch.

Continuing along Great Ocean Road we stopped at the Split Point Lighthouse overlooking Airey’s Inlet. After the lighthouse, we came across a more official overpass signage for the Great Ocean Road, naturally we stopped to take more photos of the sign and the statues. The Great Ocean Road is as you would expect a great road that follows the ocean. The 243km road is interesting for the first hour, but after a while the scenery becomes repetitive and the bends inconvenient. A journey that should only take a little over two hours turns into an over six hour ordeal, and for us the whole day.

Some of the interesting things on the way were some koalas in the trees on the side of the road which were quite an attraction; we also managed to catch the Twelve Apostles before sunset. The Twelve Apostles have been highly touristized to the extent of making accommodation extremely difficult to find in nearby Port Campbell. That night we set up tent on the town’s recreation oval, but at least it was free.

View from Urquhart BluffSplit Point LighthouseGreat Ocean Road Sign
Winding Great Ocean RoadKoala in a TreeSonya and the Twelve Apostles

Day 2: Port Campbell – Warrnambool – Portland – Mount Gambier – Kingston – Victor Harbor

Our first stop for the day were two arches; The Arch and London Arch, both natural arches formed by the erosion of limestone, followed by two bays; Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands. The end of Great Ocean Road brought us to the large town of Warrnambool. As we drove around we found an interesting sign ‘Granny’s Grave’ which we found out was the grave of the first white woman buried in Warrnambool.

We reached Mount Gambier early in the afternoon and were greeted by the Lady Nelson; a sail ship at the entrance to the visitor’s centre. After gathering more tourist information we headed to Kingston, famous for the Big Lobster (which apparently was For Sale). We continued north along the coast, passing a number of salt lakes heading towards Wellington. As we reached Wellington we abruptly arrived at Murray River and were a little confused to the lack of bridge. It then clicked when we saw the car ferry approaching from the other side. It was quite an interesting experience, the ferry even managed to fit a road train besides us.

Realising we were quite late if we wanted to get to Victor Harbor that day, we hastily drove nonstop for the rest of the day.

The ArchLondon ArchTravis and Grannys Grave
The Lady NelsonSonya and the Big LobsterMurray River crossing

Day3: Adelaide (Victor Harbor – Adelaide)

We planned to give ourselves a whole day to spend walking around Adelaide, which gave us a lot more time to enjoy things. We arrived in Adelaide a little after 9am and starting walking down King William St, through Rundle Mall towards the cultural boulevard of North Terrace. Walking along Adelaide’s streets we stumbled upon many statues, sculptures, memorials and interesting buildings. In the town hall we saw a statue of Queen Adelaide, along Rundle Mall we met bronze pigs, and towards North Terrace the South Australia National War Memorial.

On the North Terrace are situated the Art Gallery of South Australia, South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide all magnificent Victorian style buildings. We briefly visited the Art Gallery, and then walked though the University of Adelaide’s buildings towards Torrens River. As we walked along the river, Sonya enjoyed photographing the wildlife, particularly the ducks (she he has an abnormal fascination with ducks). By accident whilst heading back down Frome Road we stumbled upon Adelaide’s Botanical Garden.

The botanical Garden was the highlight of Adelaide for me, there were a ridiculous amount of plant varieties, unfortunately we didn’t get to see them all. there were plants with weird seed pods, a green house featuring the giant Amazon Waterlily and plenty of roses in the National Rose Trial Garden. As we exited the gardens we came upon the National Wine Centre, not surprising as Adelaide is famous for its vinification. The National Wine Centre has an exhibition area with information of grape varieties, viticulture and all other things associated with wine making.

We left Adelaide in the early afternoon and after a little over four hours of driving, reaching Port Augusta where we camped. That night was the windiest night we had experienced, I couldn’t get much sleep as the tent flapped and I worried it would blow away.

Sonya on a park benchSouth Australia National War MemorialThe Art Gallery of South Australia
The University of AdelaideVictorian style buildingRiver Torrens
DucksEntrace to the Adelaide Botanic GardenGiant Amazon Waterlily

Day 4: Port Augusta – Whyalla – Wudinna – Port Kenny – Ceduna

On the way to Whyalla we stopped at three Geocaches, which were all a short distance from the main road, one did require the crossing of train tracks though.

Whyalla greeted us with the HMAS Whyalla J153 at the entrance to the Whyalla Maritime Museum, after a number of pictures with the ship we continued towards Cowell. Cowell is known for its farming of Pacific Oysters, so naturally we had to purchase some for lunch ($5 for half a dozen). One of the more interesting Geocaches was the old Mindrow Creek School located about 10km from Cowell on the Birdseye Highway. The school was opened in 1918 and was in use for twenty years. We decided to have lunch at Cleve a small agriculture town.

Towards Streaky Bay from Port Kenny are interesting shaped rocks, known as Murphy’s Haystacks. The name arrived due to initially being thought to be hay stacks from afar; the peculiar shaped lip is due to the strong winds blowing from only one direction. South West of Streaky Bay between Corvisart Bay and Sceale Bay is Westall Way Loop Drive, which is a scenic drive that follows the coast and provides access to a number of beaches and natural features. In order of arrival to these were High Cliff, the Dreadnoughts and the Granites. The Granites are a rocky coastline with areas of small pools.

From Streak Bay we drove to Ceduna where we camped overnight.

HMAS Whyalla J153Travis and the old Mindrow Creek School GeocacheSonya and the old Mindrow Creek School
Murphys HaystacksTravis and Murphys HaystacksSonya and Murphys Haystacks
The Granites off Westall Way Loop DriveSonya at the GranitesOur Ceduna accommodation

Day 5: Nullarbor Return (Ceduna – Point Sinclair – Koonalda – Balladonia)

The unfortunate thing about the Nullarbor is that there is really not much to see, and if you have been through there once, you have pretty much seen it all. Unfortunately, this day of driving marked our return trip across the Nullarbor. To break the driving up, I tried to stop at as many Geocaches as possible (Sonya wasn’t quite so happy about this), and we would take the time to travel away from the Eyre Highway which did bring us to some very nice spots which we would have normally never found.

Heading towards Point Sinclair (about 20kms of the main Eyre Highway), we came across an interesting salt lake known as Red Lake, as the name suggests, the lake was red in colour. What was further interesting was that across the Panong to Point Sinclair road was Lake MacDonnell which was your normal looking blue colour. Unfortunately, the Geocache at Point Sinclair had been muggled (broken into by the non-Geocaching public, if you needed to read this, that would be you).

From Point Sinclair we travelled towards the heart of the Nullarbor National Park another Geocache took us to Koonalda Homestead, an abandoned sheep station and road house situated on the Old Eyre Highway. The surrounds of the homesteads served as a graveyard for cars that couldn’t make it all the way across the Nullarbor, there were many vintage Holdens and Fords, which presented nice photo opportunities. I wanted to go into the buildings but Sonya wouldn’t let me. The whole area was quite spooky.

The rest of the day we spent making headway, finding two more Geocaches and again crossing the “Australia’s Longest Straight Road”. We arrived after sunset in Balladonia and had a very simple and quick dinner of corn, tuna, rice and packet soup. Note to fellow campers, the rice was a mistake as it took an extremely long time to cook.

That day we travelled over 1000km taking a little over 12 hours. The advantage of driving east to west is every days worth of driving you gain about 30 mins more before sunset.

Red LakeTravis looking for Point Sinclair GeocacheSonya and the Nullarbor Plain sign
Koonalda Homestead car graveyardKoonalda Homestead abandoned road houseTravis and the 90 Mile Straight sign

Day 6: Balladonia – Norseman – Esperance

We woke up early, ready to drive to Esperance, I initially wanted to take a little shortcut onto the gravel Balladonia Road, but after driving about 14km taking about 14 minutes we decided that it was too risky for our car, especially given it was supposed to get a lot worse further on. After wasting about one hour, we got back on the Eyre Highway and headed to Norseman.

In Norseman we searched for a Geocache on Beacon’s Hill, it took as a little time to find the correct road with most of the roads being private mine site roads. A little from Norseman near Bromus Dam we found another Geocache. There was a spider web with spider above the location of the Geocache which Sonya was quite scared off. From there it was non-stop to Esperance where we arrived a little after lunch giving us plenty of time to explore the surrounding areas.

For the first time we set up camp early in the day, had a very cruisy lunch next to our tent, and then headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park. Cape Le Grand is 56km east of Esperance and features some of the nicest looking beaches. Once in the national park the predominant Frenchman Peak catches your eye as your begin to approach the park. We arrived at the base of the peak; a sign stated it was a two hour return journey to the top, so we decided to give it a miss.

We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the beaches, first was famous Lucky Bay, which as per photos had amazingly white sand and blue water. From there we drove a little to Rossiter Bay which was a let down as the beach was covered in seaweed. We drove back past Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove; the beach had an interesting mix of rocks and sand. Finally we drove to Le Grand Beach passing some kangaroos along the way.

That evening for our last dinner we had steak, a side of pasta and salad, not too shabby at all.

Norseman Beacon LookoutNorseman Tin CamelsFrenchman Peak
Sonya strolling down Lucky Bay beachLucky BayThistle Cove rocks
Thistle CoveCape Le Grand National Park kangaroosOur last supper

Day 7: Esperance – Ravensthorpe – Hyden – Perth

We packed up the tent for the last time and left Esperance towards The Great Ocean Drive, (Western Australia’s version of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, not the subtle naming difference). By now I was in Geocache crazy mode and the only reason I was keen on this drive was that my GPS was showing four Geocaches around the area.

Our first stop was Rotary Lookout, while Sonya took photos from the lookout, I went into the bushes (to search for the Geocache). The next Geocache was on a hill next to Twilight Bay. Again while Sonya photographed the beautiful beach, I went in search of the Geocache. We had a brief stop at Observatory Point, which gave us nice views of the smaller islands, unfortunately no Geocaches was near. From Observatory Point we headed to Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm, I think this was our third or fourth wind farm on the trip. However, it was better then the others as we could go right up to the tower. Coincidently, there was a Geocache right next to the tower as well. From there we continued on the Great Ocean Drive loop which headed back to Esperance, passing Pink Lake, which wasn’t pink at all.

We left Esperance at a little after 10am, Esperance to Perth is about a 700km journey, meaning it would take roughly eight hours. We had a few stops along the way with the main one being to visit the famous Wave Rock in Hyden. We left Wave Rock disappointed, maybe it was the heat or maybe the travelling had finally worn us down.

We reached Perth at 7pm, on arrival we washed, waxed and buffed the Tucson before returning it to Sonya’s dad.

View from the Rotary LookoutTwilight BayTwilight Bay
Observatory PointTen Mile Lagoon Wind FarmHyden Wave Rock

The holiday was a great adventure, and it turns out that crossing the Nullarbor is extremely easy. There are a few things we would have done differently, with the main one being more time. The allowance of two and a half weeks was simply not enough to view and appreciate the Australian landscape. Secondly, a decent 4WD is also required if you want to not be confined by the bitumen roads. I am sure we will cross the Nullarbor again someday.

Our Nullarbor Adventure – Perth to Melbourne

Last Christmas holidays Sonya and I decided to do a little bit of driving from the one end of Australia to the other. And by from one end to the other I mean all the way from Perth to Melbourne and back again for a total of a little over 8000kms.

So why did we chose to spend our holidays driving for over 11 days? Well, we wanted an inexpensive holiday, and during the peak Christmas and New Years period flights are actually about the same as the cost of driving (which is mostly the cost of fuel). The poor Australian dollar meant overseas holidays looked less attractive, and the fuel prices were actually coming down. But the main reasons were it gave us an interesting experience, the opportunity to see a lot of Australia we had never seen before and an opportunity to catch-up with friends and relatives in Melbourne.

Having camped before, we had a better idea of what to bring and what not too, though we still forgot some key items. As much as I tried to convince Sonya to take my Holden Gemini (are car almost my age), for some reason she preferred her dad’s Hyundai Tucson (a semi four-wheel-drive).

We started our journey on Boxing Day morning aiming to travel roughly 750kms a day, or about 7 to 8 hours.

Day 1: Perth – Northam – Kalgoorlie – Norseman

Northam was the first country town 97km north of Perth, and merely served as our first Geocache of our trip. We stopped a little of the main road and found Northam Vista, a scenic lookout. From Northam to Kalgoorlie we followed the famous Goldfields Pipeline, a 530km pipeline originally constructed in1903 to supply water to Kalgoorlie. Along the way we had the opportunity to stop at the original Cunderdin pumping station, No 3 out of 8 original pumping stations now converted to a museum.

Kalgoorlie is a famous gold mining town and on arrival we immediately went to view The Super Pit, basically, a 294,700,000 m3 hole in the ground. The town of Kalgoorlie was formed in 1893 with the finding of gold by the famous Paddy Hannan, we walked down the main street (Hannan St), taking photos of the old buildings and photos next to Paddy Hannan (a memorial).

From Kalgoorlie we travelled to Norseman and arrived there during sunset, where we camped at a caravan park overnight.

Sonya sitting on Mount Ommanney HillSonya at looking down the original Goldfields PipelineTravis at the original Cunderdin Railway Site
Kalgoorlie Super Pit gold minePalace Theatre KalgoorliePaddy Hannan Statue Kalgoorlie

Day 2: Norseman – Balladonia – Eucla (- Border Village – Eucla)

Norseman marked the start of the long hours driving and towns that consisted of no more than a hotel and fuel station. On the outskirts of Norseman we picked up a nice Geocache Buldania Rocks which was a little from the main road.

One of the most unusual features of the roads on the Eyre Hwy was large zebra crossings that seemed to exist in the most arid areas. These marked the occurrence of Emergency Landing strips for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Sonya and I had some fun taking photos of us crossing these zebra crossings.

Reaching Balladonia, a ‘town’ made famous by the re-entry of the Skylab Space Station, it marked the start of Australia’s longest straight road at 146.6km. Fortunately, there was a Geocache along the way to allow us to both stop, and at the end of the Straight we reached the town of Caiguna. A little more driving (392km) we reached Eucla. Unsure if we wanted to stay the night in Eucla we drove through the Western Australia / South Australia border to a town rightly names Border Village.

On arrival in Border Village we realised we made the wrong decision and turned back around to Eucla having to pass through the Western Australia customs which took our 2 lemons and 2 onions. After setting up the tent we decided to visit the old Eucla Telegraph Station opened in 1877 and formed the initial town site of Eucla. There and on the way back we managed to see many kangaroos giving Sonya the opportunity to take many photos.

Sonya and Travis 'A Woodland Wonderland' NorsemanFlowers at Geocache 'Buldania Rocks'Royal Flying Doctors Service crossing
Sonya logging Geocache 'Straight'Travis infront of the Eucla signSonya and the Eucla Whale
Eucla KangaroosTravis and the Old Eucla Telegraph StationOur camp at Eucla

Day 3: The Nullarbor (Eucla – Ceduna – Streaky Bay)

Afterpassing the WA/SA border for the third time, we drove along the Eyre Highway with the Nullarbor National Park on one side and the Great Australian Bight on the other. Even though all the driving is done through the hot, arid Nullarbor Plain, there are about half a dozen stops along the Great Australian Bight with magnificent ocean and cliff face views.

About 200km from Eucla, we reached the Nullarbor Roadhouse, another fuel station in the middle of nowhere. A little further east we reached the Head of the Bight, as the name suggests, this is the tip of the Great Australian Bight. At the Head of the Bight there were some stunning rock faces and vertical cliffs (though not quite as nice as photography stop 4 along the way).

Driving further south, past Fowlers Bay, we reached the lovely small town of Penong. Penong is famous for its windmills, which there where plenty of. Sonya and I both enjoyed taking lots of photos of the iconic Australian structures.

We passed through Ceduna, and through large fields of yellow, which we worked out were Canola (Sonya takes full credit). After taking a number of photos near the fields, we finally reached our final destination Streaky Bay just before sunset. Streaky Bay, by far had the nicest caravan park, with the camping area located on the edge of the beach, pity about the overcast weather that day.

Sonya and Rooey 2Western Australia and South Australia BorderSonya and one of the many Great Australian Bight Marine Parks
Sonya and Unstable Cliff Edges signTravis at the Great Australian BightNullarbor National Park Geocache
Us at the Head of the BightHead of the Bight signPenong Windmills

Day 4: The Gawler Ranges (Streaky Bay – Clare)

This day was made up of an event that Sonya and I (but mostly Sonya) will never forgot, the Gawler Ranges. The day started out like any other day, from Streaky Bay we drove to Minnipa the entrance to the Gawler Ranges National Park, Sonya was craving some real Australian country, and naively suggested we visit the Gawler Ranges Nation Park. How lovely we thought, I’m sure it we be just like Yanchep National Park back home. We entered park from Wudinna, along Barns Road, through the self-serve entrance station.

Reaching the Old Paney Scenic T-junction, we made a (bad) decision to drive around a little 43km loop, which would start to the left and end back on the right, while passing through Kolay Hut. We realised it would be a 4WD track, but didn’t realise there would be little or no track, predominately large rocks, something our Hyundai Tucson wasn’t really designed for. The drive started of well with a slow but relatively easy drive down the Turkey Flat Track, from there as we drove towards Kolay Hut; we ascended up and around Mt Fairview.

At one point track disappeared to just rocks and I needed to get out of the car to see which way to go, Sonya was about to break down in tears. The rest of the journey was painfully slow, I would count down each km we had to go, taking about 10 mins per each km. Finally, we reached the 2WD track again to our relief, and arrived at the shearing shed where we had a well earned break and took some photos.

We exited the Gawler Ranges through Buckleboo Road, which took us to the town of Kimba. Kimba is famous for two things; the Big Galah and being the town on the Eyre Highway that is ‘Halfway Across Australia’ both witch are located at the same spot. Travelling further East and passing through Iron Knob (famous for iron ore), we reached Port Augusta. Port Augusta is a fairly large town located at the head of the Spencer Gulf. We decided to skip Adelaide, favouring to see it on the way back when we travelled along the coast from Melbourne, so we travelled a little inland along Main North Road which would eventually lead us to some of Australia’s best wine regions; Clare Valley and then further south the famous Barossa Valley.

We did plan the stop at Barossa Valley, but having spent fair too many hours in the Gawler Ranges, we could only reach the town of Clare and being after sunset we decided to stay at a motel for the night.

Travis at Chandada Pioneer ParkGawler Ranges InformationGawler Ranges Entrance Station
Gawler Ranges Mt FairviewSonya Outside Gawler Ranges Shearers ShedGawler Ranges Shearers Shed
Sonya Half Way Across AustraliaIron Knob EmusFlinders Ranges

Day 5: Barossa Valley – Murray Bridge – Ballarat – Melbourne

We woke up earlier than normal as we had to do a large amount of driving as we didn’t reach our intended destination the night before. From Clare Valley we headed to Barossa Valley with the intent of stopping at Penfolds (producers of Australia’s most famous wine).

We took some photos in front of the Penfolds building, and wandered inside. It was evident how commercial Penfolds had become with the large range of branded items. Penfolds is also bloody expensive, but they had a nice sale so we picked up three of their cheaper varieties.

With not enough time to follow all the wineries on the wine trails, Sonya suggested we stop at Jacob’s Creek. We tasted a number of their wines and took some photos near the vineyard. From Barossa Valley we headed straight to Ballarat with minimum stops along the way.

Ballarat is a about 100kms north-west of Melbourne, originally formed during the Victorian gold rush. We arrived around sunset which gave us enough time to walk down the main street snapping photos of the buildings and monuments. When it was too dark we finally made our way to Melbourne.

Hay StacksSonya infront of Penfolds Barossa ValleyJacobs Creek Barossa Valley
Sonya and the Giant KoalaBallarat Robert BurnsBallarat Street