How the Road Trip across the Nullabor Plains has Changed over Years

Have you ever thought about traveling across Australia by road?  Years ago before the road was sealed it truly was an adventure of a lifetime.  People made money out of selling stickers that said “I crossed the Nullabor”.  You can still see them today although the adventure is not the same. Because it is one very long road without many places to shop, in fact there is only a few roadhouses where you can buy fuel and the essentials.

The car we were going around Australia in but we got homesick

How it was back then

Before leaving home we drew a map of Australia on both front doors intending to go right around but we didn't make it all the way.  In those days, you never knew what to expect or what you might see around the next corner, if there was a corner. Often the bend in the road was due to property gates that allowed access to the traffic. There were miles and miles of red dust, yes in those days it was in miles now it is kilometers. The dust was so thick at times that you could not see very far in front of you. More so without rain and when the wind blew you could not see a thing.

My husband thought he would be clever and sealed up all the air vents in our old Vauxhall Cresta car. Wrong, we looked like a couple of kids in need of a bath. We could not even read the road maps as they were covered in red dust. In those days the bitumen road ended in Balladonia in Western Australia and started again in Ceduna which is in South Australia. In those days you could travel most of the day without seeing another car or human being.

After traveling like this for a couple of days we stopped at a water tank and noticed another couple with no dust. On making enquiries they told us to unblock the vents. Oh boy, it was heaven after that. We also had to watch out for the bull dust holes. These were large pot holes filled with red dust; you didn’t know they were there until you hit them, often doing a bit of damage here and there. I tell you what in those days cars were made strong and if something came off you could put it back on with a piece of wire, that usually did the trick.

You would see old wrecks laying about, shattered dreams of hopefuls that never made it. We were lucky actually to make it without too much damage, especially as we left home with fifteen pound borrowed from my Mum as all our money went on maintenance to make sure the car would do the trip before we left. I did not tell Mum that was all we had though. We did use our head and stocked up with plenty of water and food before we left. And we arrived safe and well in Ceduna with two pound in our pocket. We both soon got jobs and replenished our pockets.

Camera lookout of cliffs at Eucla

Local habitant

Beware of Kangaroos when driving at night

There are still Kangaroos to watch out for today, that’s one thing that has not changed. And the traffic has increased with heaps of trucks, semi trailers, cars and caravans of all descriptions.  You will not escape the traffic no matter where you are, which can be a good thing in case you break down.

Chilly nights

Even today whether you cross the Nullabor in the forty plus degree temperatures of the summer or the below zero in the winter it is still very cold at night.  So be prepared and pack the blankets to keep you warm and the thick socks and beanies to keep your ears warm in front of your camp fires.  No you will not do this trip in a few hours; it will take a couple of days or more normal travel.  We left Melbourne on a Friday night and arrived in Perth on the Monday many moons ago, but oh boy we were both driving virtually nonstop except to fuel up and eat.  The Kangaroos were thick around Balladonia and still are today.

Nullabor Plains

This is the longest straightest roads in Australia, the word Nullabor means no trees.  That is exactly what most of this road crossing from one side of Australia to the other is like.  This is a very dry barren land in summer and wet and dangerous in winter or after rain.  If you are thinking of stopping by the side of the road, off the main bitumen surface after rain then think again.  You will sink into the red earth very quick and may become bogged.

If you wish to camp overnight make sure to select an area provided by the main roads at a designated camp site.  Do not just pull up in the bush during the wet season or you may have to stay until the ground dries out again.  This is red clay and you can very easily become bogged; it has caught many people over the years even those that should know better.

For those wishing to go East from the West or West from the East, then I say go for it.  Yes it is a long drive, although you will be surprised by the friendly campsites and campfires where you can sit around and share your experiences and chat over a glass of wine or a tinny.

Make sure that you do your homework and prepare for this trip.  You will need to take blankets and plenty of water as you cannot expect them to share their precious water if you do not carry your own.  Above all have a great trip.

Eagle on Nullabor Plains

Whale watching at Head of the Bite in South Australia

Between June and November it is well worth driving the extra 12k's to see the whales at the Head of the bite.

We went there off peak, and did not see any whales and it cost us $5 each to have a look at the viewing area.

This recent trip we decided to go and have another look as we were told there were 90 whales in the area some with their babies. It cost us as pensioners $12 each but to me it was worth it.

The whales were entertaining their audience. I think they liked to show off because they were starting to play while watching them.

Whales showing off at the head of the bite at South Australia
Whales showing off at the head of the bite at South Australia | Source
A markerAustralia -
nullabor plains Australia
[get directions]

Highway that connects Western Australia with South Australia

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 6 years ago from South Wales

Great hub, Eileen. Always an ambition of mine to travel around Oz. Work and family got in the way. Cheers.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

Scarytaff, you know the old saying all work and no play .... so you have to enjoy life too. Thanks for stopping by


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

Eileen - I envy you at this time of the year - not quite winter where you are and not quite summer here (but 95 degrees, F., [around 36 degrees, C.,] already).

Gus :-)))


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

Gustheredneck, Oh I envy you the hot weather as you say we are heading into winter and it is getting cold. We were just talking about getting in the van in the next couple of weeks and taking off a few hundred k's further north to warmer weather. It should be heavenly. thanks for stopping by


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

Eileen, I've only been to Perth twice and both times I flew. One day I'd like to take the train, but I'm not good at long drives so I'll leave the road crossing to others!

I lived in Africa for a few years so I know what dirt roads are like - that was in the eighties and the locals all said how the modern cars just couldn't stand up to them. VW Beetles were very sought after because they were one of the few cars that could take the punishment.


TheMMAZone profile image

TheMMAZone 6 years ago from Kansas

Great job Eileen, I always love reading your hubs! This makes me itch for traveling again. Some of the best time of life are found in being on the move!


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

Marissa, We used to live in Norseman (this end of the nullabor) for ten years. And we managed the caravan pk and the garage and while at the garage we used to watch the VDubs come through some made it and some didnt. Yes they were pretty good in cool climates but did not like the australian heat.

We were always either rebuilding motors or installing new ones. But they sure were versatile and you still see a few on the roads. You should do the trip, a bit of and eye opener. Although you are a long way from real help if in trouble. The flying doctor has sections of the road mad wider for their planes, which is a bit of compensation if things real bad.

Africa would have been very different, I bet, thanks for stopping by.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

The MMAZone, Thanks, yes you should its great and you can also pick your weather if its bad just move on.

Its amazing how many families take there kids of traveling and do their schooling on the road we met so many of them.

The kids learn so much more from nature and learn about the way others live too. thanks for stopping by


blue parrot profile image

blue parrot 6 years ago from Madrid, Spain

And if you do become bogged, is there a highway police to come and help you? I think you should write more about Australia as nothing is known about it (well, I know nothing, but the passive is the better option in this case).

Do you know Morgenstern's poem about the Kangaroo and the Sparrow?

But in Europe kangaroos are always pictured as sweet little animals, and only very recently have I seen photos of the real animal.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

They make beautiful pets if the mother has been killed many people rear them, BUT having said that they can use their feet with deadly skill too when caught or challenged.

We had a case of a man teaching one to box I think from memory the man should have been the one put in a box and the lid shut. That is cruel. But thats what some humans are like. Worst luck.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

My goodness! You and hubby were very adventurous and very determined to get a job! Definitely an experience that will always be remembered and one that is awesome to share with friends, family and your children. I would love to know how your children responded to your telling them of this adventure!! I think I would have frozen in my tracks after seeing so many kangaroos. Glad you and hubby were cautious and that you made it. Voted-up/rated!


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia Author

Support med, Actually it was a great challenge, we love to do something new, it was our belated honeymoon actually.

As my husband was crayfishing when we got married. We left it until the end of the season.

And as for kangaroos, they are all around Australia and no real problems unless traveling during the night or early mornings. It was really great, and the kids have done the trip several times with us since although the road was sealed then. thanks again

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working