Plains so picturesque

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If it’s not already on your holiday itinerary for the summer, driving through Nullarbor country needs to be

First, a route check: Perth – Norseman – Balladonia – Caiguna – Madura – Border Village – Ceduna

Driving across the Nullarbor Plain is an expansive, treeless and beautiful journey of six days covering over 2000 km. Worth it?  More than once in a lifetime.

Traversing the Nullarbor Plain can begin from Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and drive west to east or east to west along the Eyre Highway. Whatever your direction, it’s the drive that makes the impact—the slow gradation from tree-lined hills into bush-bundled plateaus, kangaroos hopping near the road, vibrant cattle stations, roadhouses and campsites, historic homesteads, outlying railway outposts, rare birds, rarer fish, it’s a beautiful way to spend the vacation time you have ahead of you this summer.

The name ‘Nullarbor’, incidentally, was derived Latin term ‘nullus arbor’ meaning ‘no tree’.

The South-West, Beaches and Goldfields Drive takes you from Perth to Norseman, where the journey begins. You can spend the day here as you see life-sized monuments to the early camel trains, the woodlands of Dundas Nature Reserve and even climb the scenic granite hills of Fraser Range. This is where you will come face to face with the world’s largest eucalypt hardwood forest, home to 20 species of the minty-smelling tree. Take a peek at the peak of Mt Pleasant while you set down to picnic. There are several roadhouses or connected camp sites where you can spend the night.

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Dead Dog Cave

The next pit-stop you need to aim for on day two is Caiguna, 200km south to the white beaches and granite outcrops of Cape Arid National Park. Continuing east from Balladonia, you’ll pass Afghan Rocks, named after the camel driver who was shot by travelers for washing in an unpolluted waterhole. You’ll be driving along the Ninety Mile Straight, which at 147km is one of the world’s longest straight stretches of road. It ends in Caiguna, where you can catch up on some sleep, before taking on the next leg of your drive to Madura.

Zig-zag along the highway to the Nuytsland Nature Reserve, where you can drive through a series of small caves and collapsed caverns known as Dolines. Most popular here is the Dead Dog Cave, where the mummified remains of a Tasmanian Tiger was found.  Locals also love to talk about the geologically unique karst formations of Cocklebiddy Cave, which contains one of the world’s longest underwater passages. It’s a spot for avid cave divers, but you’ll need to get a permit and carry your own equipment. Birdwatchers can make a 50km detour south-east to Eyre Bird Observatory, home to about 230 species of birds.

From Madura it’s time to drive on over the South Australian border to Border Village and a whole new time zone. In terms of the view, it’s all about hills, plateaus and sand dunes here. Stock up on food and fuel before climbing back to the top of the Hampton Tableland to Eucla, home to the shifting sand dunes of Eucla National Park.  See the old telegraph station, once Australia’s busiest regional telegraph station, being slowly subsumed by the dunes.

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Cape Arid National Park

Once at the Border Village, follow the Eyre Highway through Nullarbor National Park, alongside the incredibly sheer Bunda Cliffs.  See Australia’s southern edge drop dramatically to the sea from any of the five signposted lookouts over the limestone cliff tops (be careful here though, it can get slippery). From here on, the highway journeys through classic treeless and limitless Nullarbor country. To go deeper into this landscape, detour 100km north to Cook, an isolated outpost on the Trans-Australia Railway. The Indian-Pacific thunders through here twice a week on a route that has the world’s longest straight stretch of railway line—almost 500km.

From here until Nundroo you’ll be travelling through Yalata Aboriginal land and will need a permit to venture off the highway, which you can pick up from the White Well ranger station. Back on the highway, drive to the next roadhouse of Nundroo, where you can turn south for the picturesque fishing haven of Fowlers Bay, where you can watch whales from the rugged sea cliffs. Return to the highway and continue on to Penong, where you can see windmills and surf the world-class breaks of Cactus Beach. Taste succulent oysters in Denial Bay on your way to Ceduna.

And when you get there, hit the brakes, turn off the engine and relive a journey you will most certainly remember as one of the most breathtaking you have ever taken.

 

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