Driving the Nullarbor is a road trip rite of passage in Australia. It’s one of those iconic stretches of road that you really have to experience for yourself. It’s miles of flat, straight road through one of the most isolated places on earth. But before you can drive across the Nullarbor Plain, you have to get to where it starts, and that’s where this road trip comes in. Here is everything you need to know to plan your trip to Nullarbor, Australia.
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Getting To Driving Nullarbor Plain
The Nullarbor Plain is huge, it stretches for about 1100km across the top of the Great Australia Bight. Its expanse crosses the border between South Australia and Western Australia. The eastern edge of the Nullarbor Plain is generally said to start a few kilometres west of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which will be our final destination for this road trip.
The drive from Adelaide to the Nullarbor Roadhouse is just under 1100km. You could do this in one very long driving day, but I recommend breaking it up into three days to allow plenty of time to see some of the sites along the way.
Adelaide to Nullarbor Plain Map
DAY 1 - Adelaide to Port Augusta
Today you will drive just over 300km north from Adelaide to Port Augusta. I suggest you drive fairly steadily to Port Augusta so that you will have some time to look around the town. Here are some of the highlights to look out for along the way.
Around 60km north of Adelaide you will see some large steel sculptures along the side of the road. Erected in the 1990’s by a local resident as a protest against a proposed rubbish dump, they have become a treasured reminder of the politics and culture of the time.
Lake Bumbunga (Pink Lake)
Stop in the tiny town of Lochiel and take a short walk to check out Lake Bumbunga. At certain times of the year the lake will take on a distinctive pink hue. Perfect for those instagram photos. Also, be sure to go and find “Nessie” Lake Bumbunga’s very own Loch Ness monster.
"The Big Blade" at Snowtown
Detour slightly off the main highway into the town of Snowtown. Check out “The Big Blade” and learn about the local wind farm industry and see the painted water tower dedicated to some local heroes. While it’s not marked, you can also try to find the infamous bank that the town is most well known for unfortunately thanks to some gruesome events.
Port Germein Jetty
When it was built, the Port Germein Jetty was the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a little shorter now, but at over 1.5km, it’s a good length walk to stretch the legs after the driving you have been doing.
Wadlata Outback Centre - Port Augusta
Once you arrive it’s time to explore this city at the crossroads of Australia. Visit the Wadlata Outback Centre to learn about the history of both the Aboriginals and the European settlers of the area. Port Augusta is the last stop with substantial shopping options. Now is the time to stock up on supplies for the rest of your trip.
Port Augusta Accommodation
DAY 2 - Port Augusta To Ceduna
The drive today is around 470km from Port Augusta to Ceduna. I would plan on taking all day to arrive at Ceduna, stopping frequently along the way to explore some of these attractions
Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens - Port Augusta
Before starting your drive, call in to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Take an early morning walk among the local flora, looking out for the wildlife too. Walk (or drive) out to the Red Cliffs to see them glowing red with the morning sun on them. Grab a late breakfast or a snack at the cafe before hitting the road.
"Halfway Across Australia" - Kimba
There are plenty of reasons to stop in this town that claims to be “Halfway Across Australia”. You can’t miss the beautiful silo art, but also look out for the big galah too. Drive up to White’s Knob Scenic Lookout to see the Edward John Eyre sculpture and learn about his pioneering explorations in this area. If it’s time from a early lunch or late morning tea, I recommend Eileen’s Cafe
It’s time to stretch your legs by climbing Mount Wudinna, the second largest monolith in Australia (Uluru is the first). Don’t worry too much though, this granite outcrop only reaches 260m above sea level, and the climb to the top is much less than that and only takes a few minutes. You will be rewarded with expansive views over the almost perfectly flat surrounds. While in Wudinna itself, check out the two sides of the Farmer statue. If you need a snack, the locals love the Golden Wattle Roadhouse.
Pildappa Rock - Minnipa
Just outside of town is Pildappa Rock, another huge granite structure. This one though has incredible wave formations along the side and it well worth checking out.
Once you arrive in Ceduna you will likely need a rest. Grab some takeaway and relax on the foreshore while watching the sun sink into the sea.
In Ceduna stay at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel Motel, or if you are after a caravan park, try the Ceduna Foreshore Caravan Park.
DAY 3 - Ceduna To Nullarbor Roadhouse
Today is the final leg of driving before reaching the Nullarbor Roadhouse. In total you will cover around 300km, but I recommend taking a detour or two off the highway to explore along the way.
Play The Worlds Longest Golf Course
Begin the morning with a hole of golf! Ceduna is home to the first hole of the world’s longest golf course, Nullarbor Links. Hole 18 is in Kalgoorlie, almost 1400km away. As you drive between the two, stop and play each hole.
"Town of Windmills" - Penong
The “town of windmills” took its name seriously and has created the Windmill Museum. Stop to take a look at this free open air museum which is home to the biggest windmill in Australia, and dozens of others. Call into the last shop for 1000km and stock up on road trip snacks. The coffee is pretty good too.
Cactus Beach & Lake MacDonnell
Just outside of Penong take a detour towards Cactus Beach to explore one of Australia’s iconic surfing beaches. On the way there you will pass by Lake MacDonnell, another of the incredible pink lakes, and some of the whitest Sandhills anywhere.
Another detour off the highway into the last town for many kilometres, Fowler’s Bay. From here on it’s just Nullarbor Roadhouses until Eucla, across the Western Australian border. Fowler’s Bay is great for a walk along the beach, or if you have time and the season is right you can take a whale watching tour by boat.
Head Of The Bight
Speaking of whales, if you are passing between May and October, a detour here is a must. Spend some time standing on the cliffs watching these majestic creatures with views like nowhere else. You will also see the start of the Bunda cliffs which continue along the edge of Australia for another 100km.
You have finally arrived at the last stop before crossing and driving the Nullarbor Plain. You will likely be very underwhelmed by this isolated spot out on the treeless plain, it’s simply one low, sprawling building. Spend some time appreciating exactly how isolated this area is and enjoy sunset over the Nullarbor.
There is only one choice of accommodation here and that’s at the Nullarbor Roadhouse itself, unless you are planning to continue on. There are motel rooms and space for camping, caravans and RVs.
Whether you are now continuing on with your Nullarbor travel into Western Australia or returning back to Adelaide, this road trip through South Australia will leave you with experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
Josie Kelsh is a born and bred South Australian, growing up in the country with road trips a part of life. While now living in Adelaide, she loves to get out on the road to continue to explore both here at home and further afield.