Driving across the Nullarbor Plain is one of the world’s great transcontinental journeys. It might be notorious as Australia’s longest, flattest, straightest road, but there’s a lot more to see and do along the way than most people think.
Peer over the edge of the Great Australian Bight, watch whales frolic with their calves beneath the longest line of sea cliffs in the world, play the world’s longest golf game, uncover a lost town buried by moving sand dunes and find the spot where a space station came crashing down to Earth.
Day 1: Ceduna to Nullarbor Roadhouse
3hr | 297km
Start your journey teeing off on the Nullarbor Links. Spread across two states and two time zones, the 18 hole par 72 golf course spans 1365km, with one hole in each town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway from Ceduna to Kalgoorlie. Golf clubs are available for hire for $5 at each hole. Play the whole course and you’ll get a certificate – a souvenir worth keeping.
Snap a photo of the biggest windmill in Australia at Penong Windmill Museum, then take a short detour off the highway to Fowlers Bay and stretch the legs with a walk along the long jetty that juts into the sea. Check out the views from the whale watching platform at Head of Bight –between June and October you can sometimes see up to 100 southern right whales and their calves lolling in the water at the foot of the cliffs.
If you need to stop for the night, the Nullarbor Roadhouse – hole number 5 on the Nullarbor Links – has motel style rooms as well as a caravan and camping area. Relax at the bar with a cold drink and admire the colourful murals that decorate the walls.
Day 2: Nullarbor Roadhouse to Eucla
2hr | 196km
Take your time on today’s drive because there are lots of side tracks that lead to lookouts on the edge of the Bunda Cliffs. These amazing cliffs are more than 65m high and stretch for well over 100km, making them the longest line of sea cliffs in the world. Eucla is just west of the SA/WA border (where you’ll have to surrender any fruit or vegetables you have with you). Built in 1877, the abandoned Telegraph Station here is slowly being swallowed by massive shifting sand dunes – see it while you can.
Enjoy a swim, or simply soak in the ocean views at the Eucla Motor Hotel, which offers budget rooms, alongside family rooms which accommodate up to five people.
Day 3: Eucla to Balladonia
6hr | 513km
The Nullarbor might feel like the flattest road in the country, but you’ll be surprised just how far you can see from the top of the small rise near Madura, around two hours’ drive west of Eucla – and the halfway hole (number 9) if you’re playing golf. If you’re a birdwatcher don’t miss the Eyre Bird Observatory, the oldest in the country. It lies 17km east of Cocklebiddy and you’ll need a 4WD to get there.
Next, hit the famous 90 Mile Straight, the longest, straightest stretch of road in Australia, which runs 145.6km between Caiguna and Balladonia and doesn’t have a single bend. Be sure to snap a photo of the iconic road signs at either end. The restaurant in the Balladonia Hotel Motel is probably the best on the Nullarbor – it certainly serves the finest coffee. They also provide rooms, suites and caravan spaces to suit all travelers needs.
Day 4: Balladonia to Kalgoorlie
5hr 30min | 450km
Don’t leave Balladonia without visiting the museum. In 1979, tiny Balladonia become the focus of the world when a NASA space station called Skylab crash landed nearby. Legend has it the local council presented NASA with a littering fine and President Jimmy Carter rang the roadhouse to make his apologies. Some fragments of the space station are now on display there along with other artefacts.
Stretch your legs at Norseman – named after a horse that pawed the ground in 1894 and uncovered a gold nugget.
Time your arrival into Kalgoorlie to take in the sunset from the lookout above the Super Pit, Australia’s largest open pit gold mine.
The Balcony Bar and Restaurant at The Palace Hotel in Kalgoorlie also has a great view, overlooking the grand main street, and does a good steak for lunch.
There’s plenty of accommodation to choose from in Kalgoorlie – The View on Hannans offers modern and comfortable motel rooms and apartments, alongside the award-winning Blue Monkey Restaurant. The Recreation Hotel provides historic hotel rooms and food at Sheffields Bar & Restaurant.
Day 5: Day trip to Lake Ballard
4hr | 415km
If you’ve got a day to spare, take a day trip out to Australia’s largest outdoor art gallery at Lake Ballard, 70km north east of the old gold mining town of Menzies. There, 51 metal sculptures – based on body scans of locals – by artist Antony Gormley are scattered over 10sq km of the salt lake. Called Inside Australia, it’s one of the Outback’s most extraordinary sights and is worth the detour.
Set up camp beside Lake Ballard – it’s free but you’ll need to bring your own water – or head back to Kalgoorlie for the night.
Day 6: Kalgoorie to Perth
6hr 30min | 593km
Drive across the heart of the goldfields and into the wheatbelt, through towns like Coolgardie and Southern Cross, where you’ll see fine examples of grand gold rush era buildings.
Merredin makes a good halfway stop for lunch – the range of healthy meals and treats at Dimensions Cafe are a welcome change from the roadhouse food you’ll have consumed on the Nullarbor. If you’re a railway buff call into the museum in the old railway station, or stretch your legs on the heritage trail around town before driving the final three hours into Perth.
Travelodge Hotel Perth is right in the heart of the city and only a few minutes’ walk from the Swan River and plenty of coffee shops and eateries. Or stay at Adina Apartment Hotel Perth located in the CBD and near public transport. With an outdoor pool and fitness centre, it's great for families.