A crossing of the Nullarbor Plain on the Eyre Highway is one of Australia’s greatest road trips. The epic 1675km highway is the main sealed road that links Western Australia and South Australia across the semi-arid plain and along the coast of the Great Australian Bight.
The highway begins in Port Augusta in South Australia and continues to Norseman in Western Australia. The remote journey promises an incredible adventure, with plenty of things to stop and see on the way. Hundreds of thousands of people set off on the Eyre Highway intending to cross the Nullarbor Plain, and it’s by far the best way to experience the region.
This article outlines everything that you need to know about the longest and flattest road in the country.
Table of Contents
- 1 About the Eyre Highway
- 2 Eyre Highway trip preparation
- 3 When to travel along the Eyre Highway
- 4 Safety on the Eyre Highway
- 5 Roadhouses
- 6 Camping on the Eyre Highway
- 7 Major towns on the Eyre Highway
- 8 Things to see and do on the Eyre Highway
- 8.1 Wildlife
- 8.2 Fraser Range
- 8.3 Balladonia
- 8.4 90 Mile Straight
- 8.5 Eyre Bird Observatory
- 8.6 Cocklebiddy Cave
- 8.7 Madura
- 8.8 Eucla National Park
- 8.9 Border Village
- 8.10 Bunda Cliffs
- 8.11 Nullarbor Roadhouse
- 8.12 Whale watching at the Head of Bight
- 8.13 Yalata
- 8.14 Nullarbor Links Golf
- 8.15 Fowlers Bay
- 8.16 Penong Windmill Museum
- 8.17 Cactus Beach
- 8.18 Ceduna
- 9 While you’re crossing The Nullarbor Plain
About the Eyre Highway
The Eyre Highway is the main connection across the Nullarbor Plain and the only sealed road that runs through the area. It connects South Australia and Western Australia from Port Augusta to Norseman, via the towns of Ceduna and Eucla. It skirts along the coast for sections of the Great Australian Bight and offers one of the best ways to see this incredibly remote coastline.
The highway is an important road link and is part of the National Highway A1 route. It is also the longest straight road in Australia, with a section continuing for almost 150km without even a little bend. It passes through some of the remotest parts of both states of South Australia and Western Australia.
Driving across this highway has become an essential bucket list adventure for most Australians and international tourists. Each year, around a quarter of a million people, set out to cross the Nullarbor via the Eyre Highway on a self-drive tour.
Despite the landscape often resembling a barren and bare land, there is plenty to see on the way. Many travellers take a few days at least and include detours off the highway to take in some of these sights. Considering this, there is a significant amount of preparation required before driving the Eyre Highway’s 1675 kilometres.
History of the Eyre Highway
The Eyre Highway is named after John Eyre. Eyre was the first European to cross the Nullarbor Plain, along with his Aboriginal companion Wylie in 1841. It was a century later before construction on the road began for the proposed highway that would allow traffic to cross the plain from east to west. The rough track remained relatively the same until the 1960s when they began sealing the entire highway. It took years to complete and was finally finished in 1976.
There has been a steady increase in traffic ever since, particularly of trucks and travellers. There is always ongoing maintenance and improvements on the highway to ensure its safe for the thousands of vehicles that use it.
Eyre Highway trip preparation
The entire distance of the Eyre Highway is 1675km. It can technically be driven in two days which would mean very few stops and no detours. However, it’s ideal to take a few extra days to really enjoy the landscape, towns and side trip addition along the way. The highway can be driven by a conventional car, with a well-maintained road. However, some of the detours and sights on the way require a 4WD and some off-road driving experience.
Due to the remoteness of the Nullarbor, there is a significant amount of planning involved in a crossing, with limited supplies available along the way. There are well-spaced roadhouses and small settlements on the highway so that you can pick up food, fuel and accommodation. However, it’s generally recommended to carry spare fuel as many of them do not have a 24-hour service. In saying that, it’s best to stop driving before dusk anyway. Accidents are most common at night because there is a lot of wildlife crossing the roads after sunset.
When to travel along the Eyre Highway
You can drive along the Eyre Highway at any time of the year. However, the weather in this part of the two states can be quite extreme. In summer, temperatures can soar up to 50 degrees on the Nullarbor and then drop dramatically overnight, similar to a desert climate.
Spring and autumn are popular times to travel across the highway because the temperatures are more moderate and stable. However, winter is also a great time to make a crossing of the Nullarbor. The temperatures are much cooler, although the days are still nice. Winter is also the only time that you can have the chance of spotting Southern Right Whales off the coast. These migratory mammals make their way to the Great Australian Bight from Antarctica during the cooler months.
Safety on the Eyre Highway
The speed limit along the Eyre Highway varies but is often 110 kilometres per hour. This does reduce when passing through towns and settlements along the way. You should be conscious of long road trains and freight trucks along the Eyre Highway. They can be quite intimidating if you’ve never driven on these long, remote roads before.
It’s important to know that there is limited mobile phone reception along the Eyre Highway, especially once you hit the Nullarbor. You will find plenty of service in major towns like Ceduna, but from there heading west, you will find very little. This means that you should inform relatives of your travel plans for extra safety while you’re out of range.
As already mentioned above, you should avoid driving at night along the Eyre Highway. The risk of hitting wildlife is higher then and, with only simple roadhouses along the way, it can be a dangerous place to have an accident. Most people spend the night in one of the roadhouses which make for convenient and comfortable rest stops.
It’s also a good idea to carry some essential safety and repair equipment with you in the car. Items like a car jack, spare tyre, oil and coolant, jumper leads, and tow rope can be good additions to have with you in case of something happening along the way.
Roadhouses are the small multipurpose service stations that are relatively well-spaced along the Eyre Highway. They are practically the only form of settlements that you will find on the Western Australia side and provide the only supplies and fuel on the way. On the South Australia side, there are more towns as well as roadhouses that supply the highway.
These roadhouses are spaced anywhere between 65 and 180 kilometres apart, so technically you can reach one without having to carry extra fuel. They are generally a combination of petrol station, hotel, caravan park, bar and restaurant. They’re not exactly the cheapest to stay and eat at, but the remote location means that things have to be brought in from quite a distance away.
Camping on the Eyre Highway
Camping is a popular thing to do on the Eyre Highway. There are free camps spaced along the highway which you can find on helpful apps like Wikicamps. Otherwise, the roadhouses allow camping with their facilities if you prefer something more comfortable.
While free camping is one of the best and cheapest ways of exploring the landscape of the Nullarbor and the coast, it’s important that you leave no trace and take all of your rubbish away with you. If you do the right thing, you can help preserve the environment and keep it waste-free for everyone to enjoy.
Major towns on the Eyre Highway
The biggest towns are on the South Australia side, while the West Australia side of the highway is more remote. You might want to take a note of these important pitstops on the highway, as this is where you’ll find a choice of accommodation and be able to pick up all the essential supplies. They also make a good base from which to explore more of the surrounding area and take a few days to relax and unwind.
This is the largest town on the Eyre Highway in South Australia and also marks the beginning of the road if you’re heading west. It’s approximately four hours from Adelaide and is a good place to grab supplies and have a break before continuing on your journey. You’ll also find a number of major takeaway food outlets and supermarkets for convenient food stops.
Ceduna is another major town on the Eyre Highway and is an especially important stop for travellers. The town sits on the eastern fringes of the Nullarbor Plain and is the last major settlement before heading west across the remote semi-arid plain. Ceduna is four hours on from Port Augusta and is a popular overnight stop, with a good choice of accommodation, a supermarket, hardware store, pharmacy and more. There are also plenty of things to do and see around Ceduna and is a great base for exploring of the Eyre Peninsula and the Nullarbor.
Eucla is a small town just over on the Western Australia side of the Eyre Highway. It sits just on the western fringe of the Nullarbor Plain and is a very small settlement of around 50 people. It’s a popular stop for travellers wanting to explore the Eucla National Park (more on this below).
This large town marks the end of the Eyre Highway in Western Australia. It’s the only major town on the Western Australia side of the road and has supermarkets and accommodation to restock and refresh yourself after the long drive across the Nullarbor.
Things to see and do on the Eyre Highway
There are plenty of things to see as you drive along the Eyre Highway. Whether it’s the dramatic coastline or incredible wildlife sightings, you can easily take a few days to explore the Nullarbor Plain via this long road. Here are some of the best things to see on the way:
Despite the Nullarbor being a vast arid plain, there is still an abundance of wildlife to see. You’ll likely come across kangaroos, emus, wombats and wild camels on the Eyre Highway. This is also the main reason why it’s important not to drive at night, as hitting an animal is higher at that time. In winter, you can also spot Southern Right Whales off the coast of the Great Australian Bight with a few fantastic land-based viewing platforms off the Eyre Highway to spot them from.
The Fraser Range is around halfway between Norseman and Balladonia on the Eyre Highway. It is a beautiful range of eucalyptus forest and granite hills. The Fraser Range Station was settled in 1872 and was the first in the Nullarbor Plain area. They now offer accommodation at the Station for something a little different.
This is the first major roadhouse stop going eastwards from Norseman in Western Australia. The Balladonia Cultural Heritage Museum has fragments on display of the US Skylab space station that fell to earth here in 1979. They also have exhibits on Aboriginal history and European exploration.
90 Mile Straight
This is the longest and straightest road in Australia at 147km long. It goes from Caiguna to near Balladonia and is known as the 90 mile straight. A photo with the road sign here is a must!
Eyre Bird Observatory
This was Australia’s first bird observatory established in 1977. It’s a 34-kilometre detour along a 4WD-only road off the Eyre Highway. The observatory is a remote research station amongst woodlands and sand dunes and is a popular place to visit for dedicated bird watchers.
The Nullarbor Plain is home to the largest arid area of limestone bedrock in the world and there are hundreds of caves that dot the area. Cocklebiddy Cave is the most well-known and is considered one of the longest caves in the world with a single passage of 6km.
Madura is a popular roadhouse and overnight stop along the Eyre Highway. It marks the halfway point along the long drive between Adelaide and Perth, which offers much to celebrate for weary drivers.
Eucla National Park
This vast national park is situated on the south-east corner of Western Australia, just outside of Eucla town. You can explore the stunning sand dunes, white sand beaches and an old telegraph station inside the park. There is also a caravan park, motel and service station in Eucla town just outside of the national park.
This roadhouse marks the border between South Australia and Western Australia. They have a swimming pool, homecooked meals and comfortable beds for weary drivers crossing the Nullarbor.
The Bunda Cliffs are the longest continuous stretch of sea cliffs in the world. They stretch for 100 kilometres and are a staggering 90 metres high. There are five lookouts along the dramatic edge where you can stop and take photos of this beautiful natural feature of the Nullarbor National Park.
This is probably the most iconic of all the roadhouses and is considered a must-stop for many travellers. It’s located 95km west of Yalata on the Eyre Highway and is nearby to some popular detours. It’s 11km from the ancient Murrawijinie Cave and just 24km from the Head of Bight Lookout.
Whale watching at the Head of Bight
The Head of Bight is the northernmost extent of the Great Australian Bight. It is a short 20km detour off the Eyre Highway and is worth the drive. There is a lookout platform here which is considered one of the best land-based whale watching spots in Australia. During winter, Southern Right whales can be seen here between May and October.
Yalata is an Aboriginal community on the Nullarbor Plain about 200km west of Ceduna along the Eyre Highway. It’s the first major sign of civilisation on the South Australian side if coming from Western Australia.
Considered the longest golf course in the world, the 18-hole par 72 Nullarbor Links golf course spans 1365 km with one hole in each roadhouse along the Eyre Highway beginning in Ceduna. It’s a completely unique way to experience the highway.
Fowlers Bay is a hidden gem of a coastal fishing town and a great stop off the Eyre Highway not far away from Ceduna. It’s especially popular with fishing and surfing enthusiasts and is a quiet spot to stop for the night.
Penong Windmill Museum
This is one of the most popular stops around Ceduna off the Eyre Highway. The museum in Penong showcases old, new, small and big Windmills, including “Bruce” the biggest windmill in Australia. It’s a unique photo opportunity for your trip and an interesting walk to stretch your legs.
Cactus Beach is a world-famous surfing destination located just outside of Penong off the Eyre Highway. The beach is a popular place for experienced surfers who come to tackle the two left-hand breaks and one right-hand break. It’s notorious for great white sharks and tough swells, so novice surfers should head to Fowlers Bay for their surf.
Ceduna is one of the major stops on the Eyre Highway with the road running through the centre of town. It’s considered to the gateway to the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia, as it’s the last major town before heading west. The town is a popular place to stop overnight with plenty of things to see and do around the area. It’s especially known as the Oyster Capital of Australia, and many people visit the town to sample some of the best seafood you can taste in the country.
While you’re crossing The Nullarbor Plain
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