The trip from Sydney to Perth is breathtaking and definitely an interesting journey which takes you through old mining towns and popular destinations.
From aboriginal art at Ceduna, to the outstanding beauty that is Bunda Cliffs, this journey is not one to miss. You'll need 10 days for the journey, to ensure you have time to explore plenty along the way.
Day 1: Sydney to Dubbo
5hr 19min | 395km
Head out of Sydney on the M2 and B59 for the higher road over the mountains.
Before you go over the Blue Mountains to the Central West, stop for petrol and snacks at one of the service stations on the motorway in Richmond. It’s an easier route than the winding M4 and will take you through some beautiful countryside on the way to Mudgee.
Anywhere there’s a vibrant winemaking industry you’ll also find plenty of fantastic food. For picnic pieces try Dad’s Deli and High Valley Wine & Cheese. If you’d prefer pub food, try the Oriental, Roth’s Wine Bar or Mudgee Brewing Company. If you fancy something, well, fancy, try Zinhouse or Pipeclay Pumphouse.
As you come into Dubbo, drive over the Macquarie River for the family-friendly Dubbo City Holiday Park with a choice of motel rooms, studios and family cabins, plus plenty of outdoor entertainment including bikes for hire, bouncing pillow, heated pool, basketball court and a kids’ club. You could easily spend a few days exploring the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, where you almost feel like you’re on safari thanks to some clever hidden barriers between creatures and visitors. For dinner, try local produce at Veldt, The Lion’s Pride or Red Earth; Mediterranean at Dahab; or upmarket pub grub at the Old Bank.
Day 2: Dubbo to Cobar
3hr 10min | 301km
A steady journey west to take in ancient and modern stories.
Two hours out of Dubbo you’ll reach Nyngan, almost in the middle of the state. The town is also at the heart of the wool industry in NSW and very proud of its ongoing contribution. Learn more at the Mid-State Shearing Shed Museum, created by retired shearers and other locals to showcase shearing artefacts, wool-classing techniques and local art. The Nyngan Museum in the railway station is also worth a visit.
Stop at Cobar on the way through to check into your accommodation and collect picnic supplies for the afternoon. The nearly four-hour round trip from Cobar is well rewarded with Ngiyampaa Aboriginal rock art along the Mount Grenfell art site walk. It’s an easy walk to access the three main galleries, although allow two hours for the full experience.
Cobar’s mining heritage is front and centre, from the Great Cobar Heritage Centre and Cobar Miners Heritage Park across the road to its Great Cobar Open Cut (now a popular lake for swimming) and the massive new mine beneath Fort Bourke Hill Lookout. Though there’s also a fascinating exhibit upstairs at the Heritage Centre called Long Time Comin’, featuring Ngiyampaa artwork. Sleep at Cobar’s Crossroads Motel, Cobar Central Motor Inn, or Copper City Motel.
Day 3: Cobar to Broken Hill
4hr 48min | 459km
Discover the “middle of nowhere” or the centre of everything?
Now a small town on the Barrier Highway, Wilcannia was once a bustling port on the Darling River. The town’s late-1800s heyday is evident in its imposing main street architecture, including the National Trust-listed Wilcannia Bridge, Post Office, Club Hotel, Courthouse and Wilcannia Athenaeum Pioneer Museum – and in 2017 story signs were installed around town to help share Indigenous stories. Ignore the old rumours, this little outback town does welcome visitors.
A two-hour round trip on Opal Miners Way from Wilcannia, White Cliffs is an active opal mining town famous for its underground accommodation. Visit the Gallery and History and Culture Centre inside the motel then take a Heritage Trail tour to see where the opals are found.
While the town first made its mark as a mining centre, Broken Hill is now equally regarded for its art scene. Broken Hill Miner’s Memorial and Trades Hall share tough histories of mining and unionism; while the Bruce Langford Visitor Centre tells the Royal Flying Doctor Service story through interactive displays and a theatre. On the art trail, spend a few hours visiting Pro Hart Gallery, and the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery before taking in the sunset at The Broken Hill Sculptures & Living Desert Sanctuary (a gentle 20-minute drive out of town). For somewhere to sleep, try Red Earth, Ibis Styles, The Imperial or Gateway Motor Inn.
Day 4: Broken Hill to Port Augusta
4hr 31min | 412km
Visit a scruffy little dog (without a tuckerbox) and steam-age exhibits on the way to Port Augusta.
After a solid 3-hour drive south west from Broken Hill, Peterborough is a charming South Australian town full of quirks and curiosities. Start at the Information Centre where the cute Bob the Railway Dog statue greets you outside. Next, explore the Meldonfield Miniatures collection next door with its detailed models of Cobb & Co carriages, wagons and historic buildings; then relive the glory days of steam travel at Steamtown. Eat at 229 On Main in the old Capitol Theatre, Take a Break Coffee Shop, or The Tinsmith’s Cottage.
The town visited by Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov in 1959 to film The Sundowners still has the rugged good looks that made it an ideal location for “outback” scenes. If you want to step into the history of the outback, take a stroll through the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden and Wadlata Outback Centre. The Yarta Purtli Port Augusta Cultural Centre is a buzzing hub for the town’s creative community and hosts the annual Desert Fringe festival in March. Sleep at the Ecomotel, Majestic Oasis Apartments, Acacia Ridge Motor Inn or Comfort Inn Augusta Westside.
Day 5: Port Augusta to Streaky Bay
4hr 10min | 393km
Cut across the Eyre Peninsula from Port to Bay in an easy four-hour trip.
Grab a drink and snack at the Gem Shop in Kimba, about an one hour 40 minutes from Port Augusta and the first thing you’ll notice is the Big Galah. It’s an eight-metre-tall sculpture on the highway that marks a rough halfway point between Australia’s east and west coasts.
Less than two hours out of Kimba, turn right at Minnipa 15km off the National highway for 15kms towards the Gawler Ranges to picnic at South Australia’s Pildappa Rock, which looks like a series of massive waves at the south-eastern end. Bring a picnic and watch the wave change colour as the sun glides across the sky.
If you get into Streaky Bay before dark, it’s worth the extra hour round trip south on B100 to watch the sunset over Murphy’s Hay Stacks (a bizarre collection of rock formations in the middle of a paddock). Check out the great white shark model at the local Indian diner/service station on Alfred Terrace, or go al fresco a Bayfunktion Café (attached to the function centre). Stay at The Streaky Bay Hotel Motel, which welcomes families and accommodation to suit all budgets.
Day 6: Streaky Bay to Eucla
6hr 13min | 601km
A solid four-to-six-hour drive across the epic Nullarbor Plain.
Just over an hour on the Flinders Highway you’ll come to the gateway of the Nullarbor at Ceduna. Refuel on the highway first then spend some time exploring the large collection of Aboriginal art, artefacts and didgeridoos at Tjutjuna Arts: Ceduna Aboriginal Arts & Culture Centre. The town hosts a festival for oysters every summer, and if you want to try the local shellfish visit Ceduna Oyster Bar or the Bistro at Ceduna Foreshore Hotel. Stock up on extra water and supplies (perhaps even an extra can of petrol) as the next leg is a long stretch. When you’re ready drive west four or five hours across Nullarbor National Park.
If you’re driving the Nullarbor between May and September, make time to stop at the Head of the Great Australian Bight and watch the whales migrate.
Before you cross the SA/WA border stop to stretch your legs and take photos of the Great Australian Bight from Bunda Cliffs (about 4.5 hours from Ceduna).
All three places are popular rest points for Nullarbor travellers so make sure you book your accommodation well ahead. Nullarbor Roadhouse sits in isolation 4.25hrs on the Eyre Highway from Streaky Bay; Border Village Roadhouse is literally on the border and marked with a tall distance sign; while the Eucla Motor Hotel & Caravan Park complex is 10 minutes west of the SA/WA border. Check out the Big Whale in Eucla in the morning before driving to Balladonia.
Day 7: Nullarbor Roadhouse, Border Village or Eucla to Balladonia
6hr 28min | 513km
Another big five-to-seven-hour drive above the Bight before heading north.
Take a break at one of the roadhouses in Madura or Cocklebiddy for petrol, water and food, especially if you stayed at Nullarbor Roadhouse last night. Cocklebiddy Cave is a popular destination for serious spelunkers, though be warned it’s not for novices. The Eyre Bird Observatory 50km south-east on the coast is likewise renown among twitchers.
The Balladonia Hotel Motel complex includes hotel suites, family rooms, backpackers dorms and a caravan park as accommodation options; plus a restaurant, bar, pool, shop and even a museum. Bizarrely, it was also the crash site of NASA’s Skylab space station in 1979.
Day 8: Balladonia to Norseman
4hr 23min | 265km
North-west from the granite forest to the gold fields.
A neat halfway point between Balladonia and Norseman, Fraser Range is in the middle of granite hills and a huge eucalyptus hardwood forest including beautiful salmon gums, blackbutts and gimlets. There are BBQ facilities and a basic store at Fraser Range Station, which was established by the Dempster brothers in 1872.
A giant tailings dump explicitly marks Norseman’s long history of mining, which began in the late 1890s and continues today. Climb a few kilometres to Beacon Hill for a good view of the landscape and to learn more about its history. The town was sweetly named after the horse that uncovered the first big nugget in the area and he’s celebrated with a large bronze statue near the Visitor Centre. The other animals that helped the town grow are memorialised in a corrugated iron camel train just down the road on Prinsep Street. Sleep and eat at the Norseman Great Western Travel Village, Norseman Eyre Motel or The Railway Motel.
Day 9: Norseman to Southern Cross
3hr 37min | 354km
Follow Highway 94 north then west through gold country.
During the last big gold rush of the 1800s Coolgardie was briefly the third biggest town in Western Australia. It’s worth a few hours stopping for coffee and seeing how the locals turned gold into fancy buildings. It’s 2.25 hours from here to Southern Cross.
Check in at your accommodation in Southern Cross then take Bullfinch Road 15 minutes north out of town to visit Lake Koorkoordine, Hunts Soak watering hole and the Aboriginal Corroboree ground at Turkey Hill.
Learn more about the “mother town” to the WA goldfields and its twin histories of mining and wheat production when you visit the Yilgarn History Museum on the site of the old courthouse in Southern Cross. Eat and sleep at the Club Hotel or Southern Cross Motel.
Day 10: Southern Cross to Perth
4hr 12min | 369km
Catch a rock wave south or go west via a little town with big pubs?
An hour and a bit out of Southern Cross, hook left at Merredin and take the Merredin-Narembeen Road south for 1.75 hours to Hyden. It’s quite a detour, although if you’ve already visited Pildappa Rock in South Australia you’ll want to see how WA’s “original” wave rock compares. There’s also a formation that looks like a yawning hippo, Aboriginal culture tours to the Humps and Mulka’s Cave, a miniature soldier museum (including a piece of the original Rabbit Proof Fence), a wildlife park and… a lace museum. It’s a 370km journey on Route 40 to Perth, so refuel and stock up on snacks before you head west.
Or, go west through Cunderdin.
Most people notice the working life size model of Ettamogah Pub just off the highway first, though there are plenty of other things to experience in this small wheatbelt town. It has a long history as a waterhole for travellers on their way to the hunting grounds thousands of years, then more recently a rest point for prospectors going to the goldfields. The local history notes that a week after a tennis tournament was held to celebrate the opening of the town’s tennis courts in 1933 an X-ray unit was also installed at the local hospital. Coincidence? Learn more about the town at the Cunderdin Museum in the old Number 3 Pump Station that was once part of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.
Watching the sun set into the ocean is blissful after many days’ travel, so after you’ve checked into your hotel, head to one of the beaches at Cottesloe, Trigg, North Beach or Fremantle (30 minutes south of Perth, home to Little Creatures Brewery). The Travelodge Perth is ideally positioned in the CBD, a block from Perth Concert Hall, Government House and the Supreme Court Gardens, and a couple of blocks from the main shopping centres, Western Australian Museum, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. It’s also an easy walk in the park to the ferries that can take you to Rottnest Island, which is a must-visit to meet quokkas, snorkel, laze on one of 63 beaches or ride a bike or an off-road Segway to explore the island’s natural and historic wonders.