Part 10: The Nullarbor Plain

Posted on: 20/10/2016

The Head of the Bight on the Nullarbor Plain

From the colour and vibrancy of the Pilbara, our Hema Nomad Explorers headed southeast to traverse a section of Australia famous for being devoid of almost anything: the Nullarbor Plain.

After such a wonderful run of warm, sunny weather, Geraldton heralded our instant return to the cold. As we headed through to Denham, we encountered some early wildflowers, but even they weren’t putting in an appearance in the colder south. 

That said, we enjoyed some wonderful campfires along the south western stretch to Bunbury. We had a great time at Monkey Mia, where the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort made us very welcome. Many kindred spirits attended Happy Hour, where we were able to share our Hema story. Having arrived on a very windy and wet day, we were pleased that both the weather and the dolphins put on a show on our second morning; it was easy to see why this is such a popular spot.

A dolphin leaping out of the water in Monkey Mia

On our way to Perth, and with no stopovers planned, we found two surprise gems that we though we would share. The first of these was Oakabella Homestead. This historic site is well known for its ghosts, and while we didn’t take Loretta’s guided tour (or encounter any ghosts ourselves), we did enjoy her unique bush flavoured scones and her enthusiasm for both the property and the region. The grassy campsite that was ours for the night was a luxury, especially after so much time spent camping in red dirt. The other special site was Sandy Cape Recreation Park. The host, Tom, makes the stay even more special with his knowledge, and more importantly with his coffee and food van. Serving up old fashioned burgers and real milkshakes with malt, he also took the time to come on a 4WD trip with us to point out the tracks that were public access and the highlights of the Cape. It was disappointing to hear that some travellers sneak in on the private access roads to avoid the modest fee for this site, as it is well worth every cent to have access to such a gem. We will be back next time we are on the west coast.

Tom at Sandy Cape was the perfect caretaker
Sandy Cape and the Hema Nomad Explorers

 

Our time in the South West was brief, as we then headed to Kalgoorlie to attend the Goldfields Caravan and Camping show. This show was a real country delight, and even the deluge on day one didn’t bother the locals, who were happy to spin some tales of gold finds they or another prospector had. I think Wal was hooked, and so I’m sure we will become casual prospectors soon! That’s the thing about travelling – we start out planning to tick places off the bucket list, but end up adding many more and wanting to return for longer. We are really beginning to understand and love the long-term nomad lifestyle.

From Kalgoorlie we headed to Norseman, before finally starting across the Nullarbor. Norseman is a lovely town with most supplies available, reasonably priced fuel and good tourist information. By now I had heard all sorts of stories about how long, boring, dangerous and remote the Nullarbor is - they must have been memories from times gone by. We found that the furthest distance between fuel is a mere 190kms, and with fuel generally comes a commercial campground and fast food. None of this was important to us but it did demonstrate that anyone can cross the Nullarbor with all the comforts of home. We even found good drinking water available at a purpose-built water tank rest area, as well as at Koonalda Homestead Campground. Unfortunately, the rain and strong winds continued to dog us, so the stopovers and photo opportunities weren’t as enjoyable as they could have been.

Camels wombats and kangaroos along the Nullarbor Plain
An old broken down vehicle on Koonalda Station

 

Bunda Cliffs on the Nullarbor Plain

As far as the Nullarbor is concerned, there is no doubt in my mind that the Head of the Bight is the crowning jewel of the trip. The interpretive centre and well-constructed boardwalks and shelters make it easy to access many stunning views of the Bight. A fee is payable at the interpretive centre, which is open year-round. We were fortunate to find that many whales and calves were in the bay, and although the bitter winds persisted, the rain almost held off for the time we were there. Another special place on the Nullarbor is Eucla, which is home to the Telegraph Station ruins, beach and jetty. Next time, we will make sure to spend a day or two around Eucla just enjoying the windswept dunes and the beach. It’s important to note that for travellers heading west, quarantine at Eucla poses a fresh vegetable dilemma, so forward meal planning is more important heading west.

Eucla Telegraph Station ruins

It is easy to see how one would be tempted to get a closer look at the Bunda Cliffs, but the danger in doing so is real, so we appreciated the access on offer and stuck to the approved viewing areas. If you are a golfer, there is also the unique Nullarbor Links Golf Course: the longest course in the world, with holes all the way from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna.

There are plenty of designated rest areas across the Nullarbor, with varying facilities. A self- contained vehicle is spoiled for choice, however those travelling without an on board toilet would likely find the roadhouse and station campgrounds more suitable. Ceduna is a welcome oasis of civilisation offering plenty of cafés, caravan parks and general goods for sale, along with local fresh seafood. There is a quarantine station at Ceduna for travellers heading east, so it is important to plan your fruit and veggies to run out as you reach the town.

It was tempting to traverse the lush green and beautiful sandy beaches of the Eyre Peninsula, so we snuck down to Perlubie Beach for a couple of nights and into Streaky Bay. That was as far as we got, so the rest of the Peninsula will have to wait for another time.

As we head further into South Australia we come to the realisation that our trip will soon be over. We look forward to bringing you some more on South Australia and our reflections on the good and bad of the trip and equipment in our next story.