Adelaide to Perth: the Nullarbor
Adelaide to Perth
Est Driving Time10-21 days
Leg 1 Adelaide to Port Lincoln
Est Driving Time9 hrs
Adelaide is something of a little sibling to the much larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but it has slowly gained a reputation for being one of the best cities in the country. It has the ocean on one side and hills on the other, and is fast becoming known for a laid-back lifestyle that the bigger Australian centres could only dream of. Naturally, once you’ve picked up your motorhome rental in Adelaide, you’ll need a few days to explore this city before leaving for your road trip. The Adelaide Oval is much more than just a cricket ground, it’s also an attraction in its own right. It has recently enjoyed a massive renovation, and you can check it all out (as well as a wealth of cricket history) on a guided tour. The Adelaide Central Market could easily take a whole day of exploring, too. Open five days a week (bar Sundays and Mondays), the markets are a collection of more than 80 stalls that together make up a bustling food hub that regularly hosts live music and tasting events. Once you’ve filled up on treats from the markets, walk it off in Adelaide’s historic port area. You can do a self-guided walking tour with a map from the info office and take a kayak out on Port River for the chance to see the local dolphin colony. And since it’s Adelaide, be sure to visit a beach or two such as busy Glenelg or Henley and Grange.
You’ll have to make one more stop before really leaving Adelaide, and that’s at the Cleland Wildlife Park just 20 minutes from the CBD. This conservation park is one of South Australia’s most popular attractions, and even though it’s just a stone’s throw from the central city, it feels as though it’s far into the country’s wilderness. The focus here is to give visitors a closer look at some of the country’s animals in a natural environment. You can hold a reptile, cuddle with a koala, and take a guided walk in the day or night. Plus, this is where you can trek to the top of Mount Lofty Summit for panoramic views over Adelaide - then grab a bite to eat and a coffee from the cafe before getting back on the road.
The Barossa Valley is a name synonymous with incredible wines, and it would be a real waste to pass through South Australia without sampling the region’s fare for yourself. Roughly 1.5 hours north of Adelaide, the valley is everything you could hope for in a wine region. There are a number of self-guided tours that would be ideal with a South Australia motorhome rental, but if you prefer to let everyone on the trip partake in the wining and dining, you may be better off booking a tour. After all, it is home to roughly 150 wineries and is one of the country’s oldest wine-producing regions, so it would be a shame for anyone to miss out! Note that you may even be able to time your visit to align with one of several wine festivals in the region. It’s Aussie Wine Month in April, there’s a Cellar Door Wine Festival in February, and August brings about the biggest event of the year with the Barossa Gourmet Weekend.
But wait - there’s more. The Clare Valley is another 1.5 hours north of the Barossa, and while it’s not quite as famous or as expansive as its southern neighbour, it can boast more of the same fantastic wines. There are more than 30 wineries in this area, all dotted around the lush rolling hills that make wine growing here so worthwhile. You can again try a self-guided tour or one where no one has to drive, or you can jump out of the motorhome and onto bikes to spend a little more time outdoors and get around on two wheels instead of four.
After the Clare Valley, continue heading north to the small town of Port Augusta. The unique location of this town has put it on the map and is known as the ‘crossroads of Australia’, as it’s a seaport, railway junction, and road pit stop that’s vital to all of the country. It was even once considered for the title of Australia’s national capital! While passing through, take a look at the Arid Lands Botanic Garden and the Wadlata Outback Centre for a gorgeous stroll through the outdoors followed by a fascinating glimpse into Australia’s past.
The final stretch of this long first leg is a scenic drive down the coast to Port Lincoln, starting on the A1 before switching to the B100 for the rest of the way. There are countless small towns and beaches along the route so make as many stops as you like for breaks and photo opportunities!
Leg 2 Port Lincoln to Nullarbor
Est Driving Time8 hrs, 30 mins
Port Lincoln is known as the Seafood Capital of Australia, and is renowned for its diverse water-based activities. The number one attraction is arguably shark cage diving, as this is the only place in Australia where you can lock yourself in a cage and watch as Great White Sharks circle around you. There are several operators that offer the experience just off the coast at the Neptune Islands - it’s truly a thrilling adventure not to be missed while you’re in town. If you don’t like sharks (or simply like getting in the water with local wildlife), another option is to swim with the sea lions. These animals are endangered, gentle and inquisitive, and the stunning location is worth the trip offshore by itself. As the town is known for its seafood, anglers can also book themselves in for a fishing charter - in a completely different part of the coast to the shark and sea lion experiences, that is. Yet another water-based activity is the chance to simply scuba and snorkel around these glorious waters, where you’ll see even more wildlife in their stunning underwater worlds. Back on dry land, you can explore the Lincoln town centre and spend time discovering the many top-quality seafood restaurants in the area.
Your next stop, Coffin Bay, isn’t far from Port Lincoln, as it’s located just 30 minutes across the peninsula. Fewer than 1,000 people call this tiny town home, but it’s an incredibly popular destination purely for its oysters. The bay is extremely sheltered, and one of the best activities here is the ‘Oyster Walk’, a 15-kilometre walking trail around the foreshore of the town that promises beautiful views at every turn. Naturally, you’ll have to taste the oysters while you’re in town, but you can also get back in the water for more snorkelling, swimming, and wildlife watching.
Further up the coast, you’ll come across another oceanic gem - Baird Bay. It’s another tiny fishing town, but it has become one of the Eyre Peninsula’s most popular attractions thanks to the Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience. This is where you can swim with sea lions and bottlenose dolphins in a completely natural and wild setting. There are morning and afternoon tours, and since the operators have been visiting this spot for more than 20 years, the local wildlife are accustomed to their human visitors, so you can get quite close to these incredible creatures!
Murphy’s Haystacks make for a great little quick stop along this trip. They’re not real haystacks, but rather ancient pink granite rocks that have slowly formed over the last 100,000 years, slowly being worn away by winds and weather to create the strange and wonderful shapes they are today. To scientists they’re known as inselberg, which are by definition any isolated rocks or ridges that seem to rise from nowhere on otherwise flat terrain. Today, they’re one of the most photographed attractions on the Eyre’s Peninsula and you can find them by following the Flinders Highway before turning off to Calca Road.
You’ll find Ceduna further up the coast at the intersection between the Flinders and Eyre Highways. This town is the last stop before you’re officially crossing the Nullarbor, and as it’s name - which means ‘resting place’ - suggests, it’s a good place to take a break before continuing on. Head down to the jetty for a lazy stroll amongst gorgeous scenery, trek the Endeavour Walking Trail, and spend a day on Alexander’s Beach just north of the jetty and right next to the main street and its collection of shops, cafes and restaurants.
As you drive from Ceduna to your final stop before Nullarbor, you’ll be heading along the coastline of the Great Australian Bight, a spectacular open bay along the south coast of Australia. There are countless places to stop and take a look at the views along the way, but one of the best is the Head of the Bight Lookout right before you reach Nullarbor. If you’re there between June and September, you may even spot Southern Right Whales as they pass on their migration. You’ll also get a great view of the Bunda Cliffs, a natural formation of 65-metre sheer drops that stretch for 200 kilometres along the coastline into the churning waters below.
Leg 3 Nullarbor to Balladonia
Est Driving Time7 hrs, 30 mins
Nullarbor is actually a small town along this route, and of course you’ll have to make a stop here. The Nullarbor Roadhouse is the big attraction in this tiny place, as it’s where you can fuel up and get ready for the road. If you’re there during the Southern Right Whale season, you can take a short scenic flight from Nullarbor to get a closer look at these animals and the iconic cliffs along the shoreline. The other major attraction in the area here is the Nullarbor Conservation Park, a massive 200-kilometre by 50-kilometre strip of land that stretches to the ocean and the Bunda Cliffs. It’s the world’s largest semi-arid karst landscape and is full of fascinating underground caverns, heritage sites and wildlife such as the hairy-nosed wombat. There are camping sites available so you can stay the night and spend a little more time exploring this southern natural gem.
Even if you’ve already taken a look at the Bunda Cliffs before reaching Nullarbor, note that it’s not your only opportunity to grab photos and memories along the way - especially if you can manage to see them at sunrise or sunset. There’s another fantastic lookout (one of six) shortly before you cross into Western Australia and pass through Border Village, so take this chance for another stop and a whole new view!
For an experience that’s little different but very special, book in a stay at the Eyre Bird Observatory, the first of its kind in Australia and an incredibly scenic spot to boot. You can get there by turning off the highway roughly 17 kilometres east of Cocklebiddy, then following the gravel road as far as the lookout. All campervans must be left at the lookout, but the observatory caretakers can pick you up from here for the final 10 kilometres to stay overnight. Once there, you can relax in the beauty of the place. The building itself is stone, and it’s surrounded by gleaming white sand dunes and lush woodland. There’s a small museum and natural history library here, and the bushwalks in the area are unforgettable. Note that you can also visit during the day, just be sure to book ahead.
Once you’re back on the road heading west, it won’t be long before you need to turn off again to get to Cocklebiddy Cave. In an area dotted with caves, this is arguably the most famous of the Nullarbor as it’s where divers set the world record for the longest cave diving penetration in 1983 (although this effort has since been broken). The cave is part of the massive karst system in the Nullarbor, and offers more than 6 kilometres of underwater routes. Unfortunately, it’s too dangerous to enter the cave, but you can take a look at the 300-metre chamber at the entrance - just don’t go any further than the signage allows.
Caiguna is another of the tiny spots along the way where you can stop for a refresher at the local roadhouse or spend the night in the campervan park. The real attraction here, however, is the Caiguna Blowhole. This is where you can feel the earth breathing, as underground pressure is equalised with above-ground pressure, resulting in incredible gusts of air that pass through the blowhole at rates of roughly 70 kilometres per hour. Local legend once believed that this was the breath of the spirits, and now you can visit it for free just off the highway (simply follow the signs). Before leaving Caiguna, stock up on supplies, as this is roughly the start of the massive Ninety Mile Straight, Australia’s longest and straightest road that stretches 146 kilometres along the massive Eyre Highway.
Leg 4 Balladonia to Kalgoorlie
Est Driving Time5 hrs, 30 mins
Balladonia itself isn’t much more than another roadhouse, but as it’s the first stop after the country’s longest and straightest highway, it’s probably one you’ll want to visit. There are a couple of local attractions however, both of which are ideal for travellers looking to rest their legs. For example, Balladonia is one stop along the Nullarbor Links Golf Course - the longest course in the world. While it starts back in Ceduna and doesn’t finish until Kalgoorlie (more than 1,300 kilometres away), you can tee up here for holes 12 and 13. The Balladonia Museum also offers a little history on the area, including information on the construction of the Eyre Highway that you now know so well, the mining history, and local flora and fauna.
Pretty much all of the Nullarbor is bare and treeless (it is, after all, treeless by name), but the exception is the Fraser Range halfway between Balladonia and Norseman. The range is densely covered with eucalyptus forest, and is virtually impenetrable off the beaten tracks. One of the highlights here is the Fraser Range Station, the first to be founded on the Nullarbor Plain back in 1872. Here you can book in for a sightseeing tour by those who know it best, and take a look around this operational station with a guide. You can stay onsite at the shearers quarters or book in at the campervan grounds to spend a night or two and thoroughly explore this wild and wonderful area.
While Norseman is still technically a small town, it’s still one of the biggest you’ll come across on your drive across the Nullarbor. Legend has it that it’s named after a horse that was called ‘Hardy Norseman’, who was left tethered to a tree overnight and somehow unearthed a golden nugget for its owner. You’ll find a statue (made of bronze) of Norseman the horse in the town, so be sure to get a photo with this local legend. Similarly, the giant corrugated iron camel statues on Prinsep Street are an ode to the old camel trains that used to run in the area, and are why Norseman still has such wide streets today. Other attractions here include the Beacon Hill Lookout, which gives you incredible views of the salt lakes, township and mine tailings dump, and the incredible wildflowers that bloom throughout the region throughout winter and spring.
A little south of Norseman lies the Dundas Rocks and Lone Grave at the original site of the small settlement of Dundas. Back in the late 1800s, people flocked to this area in hopes of striking it lucky and finding gold. It was a tough life, but the potential rewards were great. You can drive the Dundas Coach Heritage Trail on a 25-kilometre track that runs from Norseman to the original township, stopping at 10 places along the way to learn more about the history. The fantastic Dundas Rocks are millions of years old, and you can even camp here overnight or simply stop for a picnic. Another of the famous sites is the Lone Grave, a sombre reminder of the realities of the Outback life, as it belong to a seven-month old baby by the name of Stanley Whitehead.
The final stop on this leg is one that’s a little out of the way but extremely worth the views. Lake Lefroy is a stunning, bright white salt lake that looks like it was transported from another planet. If you visit here, you can’t leave without strapping yourself in for the ride of your life on a land yacht. These contraptions zoom across the salt beds at up to 100 kilometres per hour, giving you a surreal flying sensation and adding a strong serving of adrenalin to your road trip. After this experience, head up to the Red Hill Lookout for epic views across the lake and the chance to see the mirages as the sun reflects off the salt before you.
Leg 5 Kalgoorlie to Perth
Est Driving Time7 hrs, 30 mins
Kalgoorlie - now known as Kalgoorlie-Boulder, or just ‘Kal’ to the locals - is the Outback’s largest town, and one steeped in gold-mining history. It’s the first place you’ll have seen for a long time that has a strip of bars and clubs, so make the most of the buzzing social scene while you’re in town. One of the best attractions here is the aptly named Super Pit, an astonishingly large open cut mine that’s one of the biggest in the world. It’s 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, and it produces as much as 900,000 ounces of gold every year - making it one of the richest deposits in the world. You can get a great view of the pit from the KCGM Super Pit Lookout to get a better idea of just how massive this mine really is. Of course, you can play another round of golf on the Nullarbor Links course, then head up to Mount Charlotte next to the township for a stunning sunset vista.
After Kalgoorlie, you’ll be heading west all the way to Perth. The next town worth a visit is Coolgardie, another gold mine hub and outback classic. The best attraction here is the Goldfields Museum and Visitors Centre, which gives you plenty of additional history on the lives of settlers and the geography of the area. After that, get outside for a quick camel ride to make you really feel like you’ve ‘done’ the Outback!
After you leave Kalgoorlie, you’ll start heading away from the gold mine area of Western Australia and heading into the Wheatbelt. While there are numerous towns dotted about this region, one of the best stops is that of Bruce Rock, which you can get to by turning off Route 94 at Merredin onto the Bruce-Rock-Merredin Road. This little town offers a collection of historic items at the Bruce Rock Museum, as well as the country’s third largest monolith - Kokerbin Rock. You can head out to this spot for picnics, then make your way to the Old Railway Dam for incredible views of the area and township.
Mundaring Weir is your last attraction before finally reaching the city of Perth. This site isn’t just pretty - it’s important, too. The weir is the start of the water pipeline that made life in the goldfields possible, as it carries water across 700 kilometres of hot Australian Outback to reach the fields. It was completed in 1903 and is considered one of Australia’s - and the world’s - best feats of engineering. You can take walks around the area, stroll across the Weir itself and learn more about the history of the place at the Number 1 Pump Station Museum.
From here, it’s just a 40-minute drive to Perth. The capital of Western Australia, there are roughly 2 million people living here - so it will definitely be a real change from the last few hundred kilometres! There is an endless list of things to do in Perth. You could start with some time off the road and on the sand at Cottesloe Beach, then say hello to the 160 species of gorgeous wildlife at the Perth Zoo. Check out the greenery at Kings Park and the Perth Botanic Gardens for a change from all the red earth, as these areas make up one of the largest city parks in the world. Don’t leave the city without taking a quick trip out to Rottnest Island to meet some of the cutest little animals you’ll ever see. Quokkas primarily make their home on this island so it’s a very special final experience before you head back home. That said, it’s a stunning place in its own right, and you can spend time here surfing, fishing, and golfing, or even taking a scenic flight for a stunning view of the whole area.
Before you hand over the keys to your campervan, take it for one last spin to Fremantle, a historic township known for its history, architecture and culture. The Fremantle Prison is one of the premier attractions in the town, as its towering walls, solitary cells and gallows make for a ghostly reminder of what jailed-life was like for convicts in the region for almost 140 years. Another not-to-be-missed spot in town is the Shipwreck Galleries museum, a collection of hundreds of relics from unfortunate ships that met the Western Australian coastline and lost. When you’re ready to relax and cool off, make your way to South Beach for some time spent on the shore and in the water!
From a major city, winery-filled valleys and shark-filled bays to historic towns, mining sites and natural formations, this road trip gives you a smattering of everything that you can expect from Australia in one quick road trip. No matter what you enjoy in your travels, you’ll find it on a road trip from Adelaide to Perth across the Nullarbor plain.
- Underwater camera
- Swimming gear
- Beach towels
- Extra food and water
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