After crossing this expanse of Australia again I can safely say….it’s a ‘heck of a long drive’!! Most people can do it easily in 2 days – we took around 7 days to get from Norseman to Ceduna, but who’s counting?!
We did however have a slight setback on Day 1 – a blow out on the truck!! Our first (and hopefully last) whilst towing. B was amazing keeping the truck and caravan under control. The passenger side rear tyre blew sending us over both lanes (no on coming traffic) and into the dirt. Once our hearts had returned from our mouths to our chests, we got about unhitching the van and moving the truck to firmer and flatter ground for the glorious task of getting the buggered tyre off and getting another on.
An hour or so later, we were on our way again. I did make an observation though…of the many traveller’s & trucks that passed us whilst doing this repair, only ONE caravanner stopped to offer assistance!
So night 1 we headed for the nearest camp site which happened to be Newman’s Rock. It has a beautiful vista at sunrise (we had clouds) and when not too many people are camped there, the cattle and animals drink from the waterhole. I will admit a couple of alcoholic beverages were partaken that evening!
At Balladonia Roadhouse we stopped to look at the museum – the main focus is on the fiery re-entry of NASA’s Skylab space station in 1979. The collection includes documents from NASA, a recreation of actual events, and photos. They even have a life-sized replica of some of the debris sitting on top of their roof!
As expected we saw many Wedgetail Eagles indulging in a fresh piece of road kill (weirdly they were all on the WA side). We stopped the night at Jilah Rockhole, a big camp area with plenty of room. The next day the dust & wind started…and continued basically staying with us for the rest of the week!
It wasn’t that far to Eucla then the WA border. We finally gained the 2 hours we lost coming over nearly 2 years ago!! Because of the wind we stopped the night in a gravel pit overlooking the Great Australian Bight – how good is that? Full moon, not much road noise and no neighbours.
After getting up at sunrise (which is freaky because it’s now 7:30am not 5:30am!) we packed up and ventured off the highway to a favourite spot, Koonalda Homestead, about 18kilometres north of the Eyre Highway. Warning to non off road travellers: I wouldn’t go this road if you aren’t fitted out for rough roads. We let our tyres down and took it slow. The first 4-5 kms are rough, then it’s dirt with ruts but better (as long as there hasn’t been any rain). We had dust and wind and march flies nearly the whole time there which almost ruined it, but the sunrise was worth the drive in. The Shearing Shed and blowhole are also worth a look. The Homestead used to service the old Eyre Hwy for fuel, accommodation etc. Oh, and they now have a drop loo!
I will give a blatant plug to a farm stay we recommend- Coorabie Farm. The following info is from their Facebook site: “Coorabie Farm Accommodation is 8km off Eyre Highway on the eastern edge of the Nullarbor, 5kms east of Nundroo or19 kms west of Fowlers Bay. There are unpowered & powered sites and can sleep up to 15 people in the accommodation area. Coorabie Farm Accommodation is ideal for fishing or tour parties. Facilities include a self contained cabin + 5 separate bedrooms all with reverse cycled air conditioners in (Linen is available on request). Fully equipped kitchen/lounge area with TV & Mobile Coverage. Amenities block with laundry, all on rainwater. Gas BBQ & Camp fire area. Fish cleaning area & cool room available. There is a Private Aircraft Landing Area 900m long x 25m wide within walking distance from the accommodation. Please ring for permission.”
We spent 2 days at Coorabie when crutching was in progress. Deb & Poggy are great hosts and have all the local info you need to enjoy your visit to this area. Unfortunately that rotten wind and dust followed us there too. In the cooler months you’ll just love their unique firepit!
So we were nearly at the end of our Nullarbor trip….smoko at Fowlers Bay, a quick visit to the new Windmill Museum at Penong (which boasts the Biggest Windmill) then on to the quarantine station at Ceduna. We are currently getting repairs done before venturing around the spectacular Eyre Peninsula.
This blog is a bit delayed as we are now in Ceduna SA, but I’d still like to tell about two beautiful areas we found before heading across the Nullarbor again plus our drive around Esperance….
Esperance: we did the obligatory 40 kilometre Great Ocean Drive. This took us to some amazing beaches: West, Salmon, Picnic, Twilight, 11 Mile & Observatory Point. We had our days exercise walking up the trillion stairs at Observatory Pt to take in the views. At 11 Mile, which is the end of the beaches, we had smoko overlooking a spectacular beach and swimming shallows. Highly recommend this drive….
Other sites not to be missed would be the Whale Tail sculpture on the foreshore, a walk along the whole foreshore area including a look at the old Tanker Jetty. We didn’t get to visit the Tearooms, but Taylor’s Cafe is said to be a good feed.
Early March: After leaving Esperance, WA we headed east to a couple of camp areas – we visited Membelup Beach – rough, long track in but no available sites big enough for us and very mozzie-fied! Earlier that day we’d found the most beautiful area, Wharton & Little Wharton Beaches, in Duke of Orleans Bay. As we are unable to go into Cape La Grand National Park because of our dog Jeda, we found the next best thing. This beach is pristine! We made a note to come back later.
Alexander Bay east of Duke of Orleans Bay – we arrived a few days before the WA Labour Day long weekend, but the campsite was nearly full. We unfortunately had a ‘boggy’ problem trying to get to a sandy site, but I won’t elaborate on that 😦 We eventually found one area in the Fisherman’s Camp that wasn’t boggy & wet so we nabbed it. As it turned out we were neighbour-free all the long weekend – sweet!
We spent 5 days there fishing, walking the beach, enjoying the sunrises and sunsets and generally chilling. After the long weekend we packed up and headed back to Wharton Beach. It was beautiful. We spent most of the day enjoying this beach & photographing the amazing turquoise waters before stopping at Condingup Reserve for the night (free camp at the sports ground).
Before the big trek across the Nullarbor, we stopped for a couple of nights at Grass Patch Park n Stay, a small community run van park with clean public amenities and gravel sites (they also offer free washing machines). We enjoyed yaks with the locals and walking around this little quiet town.
From here we headed to Norseman for fuel then it was onto the Eyre Highway for the 1200+klm trek to South Australia!!
With the house sit at Laura Bay (Ceduna) over after two months of living by the sea, we headed west across the Nullarbor Plains.
We took about a week, with a 3 day stay at a lovely farm called Coorabie Farm near Fowlers Bay, SA. I highly recommend a stop over there to all as it’s a working farm with wonderful hosts, a huge fire pit that is a god send on cold nights, and reasonable rates and clean amenities. www.facebook.com/pages/Coorabie-Farm/139153909615570
We found camp spots all the way across, but we did particularly enjoy exploring Koonalda Homestead on the Old Eyre Highway. The turnoff isn’t marked but most GPS’s should help find it. It was an old Roadhouse until closed with all the vehicles left to rust in the paddocks. The homestead and hut has been restored, but you must be self sufficient (water tanks available). Nearby is Koonalda Caves which was the water source, plus an old shearing shed. Very peaceful (only dingo’s howling at night) – road in is a bit rough so take it slow when necessary. Nullarbor Roadhouse – Koonalda Homestead
One thing for those crossing, make sure you have plenty of water, as this is scarce unless you stay in a roadhouse/van park. After crossing the WA border and quarantine, we headed to Eucla then Mundrabilla Roadhouse for fuel ($1.72 4 June 15) and camped at Jilah Rockhole overnight. Next day was a long stretch with not many sights until we had enough and stopped at Harms Lake RA, amongst the trees off the highway.
Once we passed through Norseman we decided we’d head north along the Goldfields trail as it was beginning of winter and it would only get colder! So we visited Coolgardie which we loved (do visit a private sign collection in the main st called ‘Signs of the Past’ – if he’s open!) Stopped at 24hr RV stop in back streets at Railway Station, quiet and has water and dump point nearby.
Then on to the ‘big smoke’ Kalgoorlie and Boulder. Another recommended van park is Prospector Holiday Park – Prospector Holiday Park. Friendly people, dogs accepted, close to town. Spent a week sight seeing and doing the Town Hall tours (free) at each town – what a lot of history and it’s the best way to find out about each town. We did do the Questa Casa Hay St Brothel tour with Madame Carmel which is another recommended tour (if you aren’t too prudish). You can book at Visitor Info Centre.
All touristed-out we kept heading north to Menzies and out to Lake Ballard to view the Antony Gormley sculptures (51 around the salt lake) – wonderful at sunset & sunrise. Onwards to Niagara Dam, Kookynie (Ghost Town), Malcolm Dam, Gwalia, Leonora & Leinster. Loved the miners shacks at Gwalia Ghost Town and the history. A cold snap has come in so we are taking refuge in a Caravan Park at Leinster and will continue our northern journey soon….