Driving the Nullarbor – Complete guide for your roadtrip
Planning your road trip across the Nullarbor and not sure what to expect? Driving the Nullarbor is not for the faint of heart. So far I have done this trip 4 times and would definitely do it again!
Driving the Nullarbor tips
- Allow yourself a week to do the drive from Perth to Adelaide
- Pack a tent
- Take lots of food and water
- Make sure you have an awesome music playlist
- Do your research
- Get a Telstra Sim card if you want phone service
Where to stay on the Nullarbor
Your options are basic roadhouse accommodation, camping or your car. I may have personally overnight in my car a few times. One way I try to do this safely is to park nearby trucks. For some reason I usually feel safer. In Australia you are also allowed to camp overnight.
What is great about Australia is that you can literally pull up just about anywhere and stay the night. Probably would not recommend at the side of the highway however there are loads of rest points. I have done this plenty of times and never been asked to move along. Years ago when I first moved to Australia we lived in an RV and it was only on the odd occasion we would check into a caravan park. (When it was time for my dad to empty the toilet.) Water we could get from service stations when my parents refueled.
For a list of free camping spots click HERE.
The Nullarbor is not booming with 5 star resorts so you may need to rough it for a week if you are used to the finer things in life. There is certainly more sand than Air bnb’s. In fact I would be surprised if there are any. If you know of any please do let me know!
Once you reach Ceduna you will not be able to camp within the town. Trust me this is for your own safety. It is best to stay at the Big 4 here if you are in need for a bed. I would also not wander the streets at night alone. You will run the risk of being relieved of a few items from the locals. It is no secret that Ceduna has a problem with alcohol and crime.
Where to refuel when driving the Nullarbor
When you start in Ceduna or Norseman you will fill your car. I never wanted to run the risk of running on empty so would fill up at every roadhouse. The entire Nullarbor stretch is 1675km so you will not be able to drive this on one tank of fuel. The furthest between roadhouses is 181km. Nullarbor is the most expensive fuel stop so you may want to give that a miss.
Before I enter from Ceduna/Norseman I was usually given a card that shows the distances between each roadhouse then I knew what to work with.
Do not be surprised to pay $1.70 or upwards for Unleaded. Usually the most affordable roadhouses are Mandrabilla, Nundroo and Penong. Fuel is also cheaper on the South Australian side. You can see the most recent fuel prices HERE.
What to see
I guarantee you that you will see plenty of sand, shrubs and tar road. However there are a few highlights I consider worth stopping for.
Growing up in Queensland I was always excited to see the Big Pineapple whenever we headed to the Sunshine Coast. Today I tend to stop whenever there is a big thing on my way even if I have seen it before. There is usually a tourist trap nearby however a quick selfie with the “big thing” is free.
This is a list of “Big Things” you will be able to see between Adelaide and Perth.
- World’s Tallest Bin – Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
- The Big Camera – Meckering, Western Australia
- Leeuwin Way Whale – Eucla, Western Australia
- The Australian Farmer – Wudinna, South Australia
- The Big Ant – Poochera, South Australia
- The Big Cockroach – Lower Light, South Australia
- The Big Galah – Kimba, South Australia
- The Big Kangaroo – Border Village, South Australia
- The Big Oyster – Ceduna, South Australia
- The Big Scotsman – Adelaide, South Australia
- The Big Windmill – Penong, South Australia
- The Big Wombat – Bookabie, South Australia
I have only done the drive at the start of the year however between June and October you may be able to spot whales. The best place for this is at the Head of the Bight. There are also a couple more ocean view lookouts. However outside this you would need to take a detour. Something I have never done as I would do the drive as quick as possible.
Head of the Bight
If you have never been before this is a must do! The entry fee is $12. The land is owned by the Aboriginal community and the money goes towards them. The money goes towards the indigenous communities. It is definitely worth it as you can see by these photos. During whale season it opens 8am until 5pm (1 Jun-30 Oct) and off season is open 8.30am until 4pm (1 Nov-31 May). For more information click HERE.
Time Zones when driving the Nullarbor
Driving across the Nullarbor you will come across 3 time zones. Most roadhouses will have several clocks up for each time zone. There is Western Standard Time (2 hours behind Sydney or 3 hours during daylight savings/warmer months). Heading east reaching Cocklebiddy you will then move into Western Central Time 45 min ahead of WST. Once you reach the South Australian border you will move ahead another 45 min of WCT. It may get confusing but remember you are either chasing the sun or running away from it. Keep this in mind if there are any attractions you want to see that may close.
Food and water is expensive. So fill up on these key items before leaving. I have spoken to some roadhouse employees and they mentioned they will only get a delivery once a week. For this reason you will not find much fresh food. It is mostly fast food that is available. If you prefer to eat healthier options I would suggest bringing your own food. Just be mindful when crossing the border into South Australia they have very strict quarantine laws and all fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts will need to be disposed of. South Australia is proud of their wine region and do not want those nasty fruit flies.
On a tight budget? Then have a read of how to drive the Nullarbor on a budget at Lifelong Vagabonds
Activities while driving
Largest Golf course in the world
If you are golf fanatic then this is definitely for you. Driving the Nullarbor and playing the largest golf course in the world is not something everyone can claim to have done. You may also be able to participate in an organised golf tournament. My dad gave me a set of golf clubs I drove across with however still have to play the course. So far I have always had a deadline to meet and did not drive the Nullarbor at a leisurely pace.
For more information click HERE (http://www.nullarborlinks.com/)
Longest Straight Road
Between Balladonia and Caiguna is the longest straight road in the world without any curves or bends. It is 146.6 km long. You may be tempted to place your foot a little more on the accelerator however I would not advise this. Australia has some pretty brutal speeding fines and zero tolerance.
Animal/Road Kill spotting
So far I have hit the trifecta and not with my car. I have spotted loads of kangaroos, few emu’s and wombats. However I am more content when I don’t see them. Kangaroos enjoy aiming for headlights. A wombat has been the reason a friend rolled her mini cooper. Keep your eyes peeled for the Australian signs of the warning for the trifecta. Avoid driving at sunrise at sunset. Animals are more active at this time. You do not want to end up as roadkill since they are a leading cause of accidents in the Australian Outback. You should always avoid being on the road at sunrise and sunset since this is when they are more active.
Collisions with wildlife do happen since I can count it on two hands now the amount of times a kangaroo wanted to jump into my car.
You better get used to seeing someone sticking up one finger from the steering wheel because very soon you will be too. It is also not the rude finger but your index finger. The more enthusiastic drivers will wave one hand. And the insane ones will wave both hands with both feet.
Cycling the Nullabor
Not planning on driving the Nullarbor. Well you won’t be the first to cycle it. Arthur Richardson was the first person to cycle the Nullarbor in 1899. You may also do it if you are really enthusiastic about cycling. However just driving it feels like an eternity.
If you want to cycle the Nullarbor click HERE for more information.
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