At just under 1100km, the road trip from Adelaide to Nullarbor Roadhouse is a decent stretch. You could do it all in one big long drive, but why not slow down and stop along the way? Here are some suggestions for the things to see and do during that long road trip.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- Why Drive from Adelaide to the Nullarbor Roadhouse
- Adelaide to Nullarbor Map
- How Many Days to Get from Adelaide to Nullarbor Roadhouse
- Places to Stop between Adelaide and Nullarbor Roadhouse
Why Drive from Adelaide to the Nullarbor Roadhouse
This is a great question – and one that just a few years ago I would have not known how to answer. After doing the trip twice in the last two years, I can now say it’s a worthy road trip all on its own.
It’s one of the best roadhouses on the Nullarbor, and home to hole four of the Nullarbor Links (the world’s longest golf course).
Having said that, there are two other main reasons why you might want to drive to the Nullarbor Roadhouse from Adelaide.
- You are crossing the Nullarbor and this is just part of the drive you are doing. The Nullarbor Roadhouse is situated towards the Eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain, and this is the main (only) highway that goes across it into Western Australia.
- You are going to Head of the Bight. When it comes to whale watching Nullarbor Roadhouse is the closest accommodation to Head of the Bight where in winter you will see dozens of whales playing in the sheltered waters below the cliffs. They come here each year to give birth and prepare the calves for the return trip to the Antarctic waters. Whale watching was the reason for my road trips to this area.
Adelaide to Nullarbor Map
The drive from Adelaide to the Nullarbor Roadhouse is entirely on the main National Highway A1 that laps Australia.
Most of the trip is on a simple two-way highway with long stretches between towns – or even smaller settlements of roadhouses. You will need to plan ahead to ensure you have enough fuel to cover the distances between bigger towns.
While fuel is often available in the smaller places, opening hours can be restricted and prices much higher, so they are best left for emergencies only.
For much of the way you will not have mobile phone coverage outside of the towns – and even some of the smaller settlements will not have it at all.
For the best coverage in this area, Telstra is the company to go with. Optus will give you coverage in most places, but there will be a few exceptions – such as at Nullarbor Roadhouse itself.
How Many Days to Get from Adelaide to Nullarbor Roadhouse
While the whole Adelaide to Nullarbor drive can be done in 11½ hours, this is without stopping and for many reasons it is not really doable unless you have multiple drivers.
Instead I recommend breaking the trip up into with two or three days.
Two-Day Road Trip
To do the trip in two days, plan to spend the night at Kimba. You would have a shorter first day (5 hours) and longer second day (6½ hours).
This would give you time to stop at some of the attractions that are right on the highway, but not leave much time for detours.
Three-Day Road Trip
This is what I would really recommend (as a minimum) if you want shorter driving days and to have time to stop and see a few of the attractions along the way.
Spend the first night at Port Augusta and the second night at Ceduna. This will give you shorter drive times on days one and three.
Adelaide to Port Augusta is 3½ hours, Port Augusta to Ceduna 5 hours, and Ceduna to Nullarbor Roadhouse 3 hours.
Five-Day Road Trip
A five day trip is for those who are travelling slowly and want to see as much as possible along the way, including taking some short detours.
One of those detours should be to the beachside town of Streaky Bay, which is missed on the shorter road trips. In this case, spend the nights at Port Augusta, Kimba, Wudinna and Streaky Bay.
Places to Stop between Adelaide and Nullarbor Roadhouse
These are the towns, attractions and landmarks you might like to stop at as you are travelling to the Nullarbor.
You may not be ablate fit them all in, and some may not appeal to you, but you can pick and. choose which ones as best for your itinerary.
In the 1990s, local resident Stephen Jones started to use recycled materials to create sculptures protesting the proposed rubbish dump that was going to be built in the area.
The protest was unsuccessful, but the sculptures remain. They have been nominated for heritage status as some of the sculptures are quite political, and as such are a great snapshot of that point in time.
Located about 60km north of Adelaide, you will see a blowfly, a spaceship and a giant cockroach amongst other things.
Note: the sculptures are no longer on the roadside. They have been removed for refurbishment, and are going to be placed somewhere else. I will update when I have details.
As you reach the small town of Lochiel, look to your right and you will see a salt lake. Lake Bumbunga is one of Australia’s pink lakes. At certain times of the year, the algae in the lake turn it a pale pink colour.
Take a walk right in town to the lake’s edge to see a new version of the Lochiel Monster, or drive a little further to check out the original (above), a local sculpture that has amused generations of people as they have passed by the lake.
Snowtown has an unfortunate claim to fame, especially since its name became the title of the movie depicting the horrible discovery made in the town.
Snowtown was the centrepiece of the “Bodies in the Barrels” murders in the 1990s.
None of the murders were actually committed there, and it wasn’t home to the protagonists either, it just happened to be the location of a bank with a vault that was perfect to store the bodies in.
It’s still a little too soon for the town to start using the macabre events as a drawcard, but it is still worth driving in off the highway.
You will find “The Big Blade”, a full size windmill blade forming the centrepiece of a display explaining the renewable energy industry. The giant windmills can be seen dotting the hills surrounding the town.
Take a look at the water tower too. It has been painted to showcase some of the local volunteers whose time has been invaluable to the community.
While you are here, grab a snack and drink at the local shop to help support this town that has been doing it tough.
Oh, and I know you won’t be able to help yourself, but see if you can spot the bank too. It is unmarked though.
By now you should be tired of sitting in the car and really need to get out and stretch your legs, and Port Germein has the perfect way to do it.
Take a detour off the highway and head right into town, stopping once you reach the beach and the jetty. Now take a walk on the jetty – all 1.5km of it.
Currently the longest jetty in South Australia, and at one time it was the longest in the whole of the southern hemisphere, it was built to combat the large tides that occur along this eastern side of the Spencer Gulf.
Where the jetty meets the land there are some historical displays and information boards to tell you about the history of the jetty and the industries of the area that made it necessary.
Port Augusta is the largest town you will pass through on your trip. This will also be the last opportunity to visit larger shops, so could be a good time to stock up on supplies for your trip.
It’s also a good opportunity to fill up the car again as fuel prices increase the further west you will go.
While in town, I recommend making a visit to the Wadlata Outback Centre. Here you will learn about the Indigenous and European history of the area, including the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound to help with the days to come.
I also suggest taking a walk around the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens to see some of the unique flora that grows in the dry centre of the country.
If you are staying in Port Augusta for the night, there are a few options.
If you have the time, before you get to Kimba turn off the highway and drive in to the Lake Gilles Conservation Park to take a look at the lake its name comes from – particularly if there has been a lot of recent rain.
This huge salt lake will be teeming with bird life if it is full of water, or a gleaming white bed of salt if if is not.
It’s also worth taking a look at the Edward John Eyre sculptures before you leave town.
Kimba is where I recommend spending the night if you are planning a two day trip, and that is especially true if you are travelling with a caravan, camper or tent.
It has one of the best free camping options in South Australia, right in town at the town oval. There are toilets, coin-operated showers and a great camp kitchen. It’s pet friendly too.
If you are not bringing your bed with your, there are still some good places to stay in Kimba. Try the Kimba Gateway Hotel, or the Kimba Motel Roadhouse & Caravan Park (which serves up some great Indian food in the restaurant)
Wudinna is another of the slightly larger towns where you will be able to find some supplies and fuel. It is the gateway to the nearby Gawler Ranges National Park.
You would need a good few hours to visit, so a detour to see some of the attractions would only be possible if you are planning a longer drive over to the Nullarbor Roadhouse.
If you only have a short time to spend here, perhaps stop in to Mount Wudinna, which, after Uluru, is the second largest rock in Australia. It’s mostly underground though, so it’s not an onerous climb to the top.
It’s a good place for some views over the surrounding farmland and particularly pretty when the canola is in bloom (around August/September).
Take a quick look at the Big Farmer too, built to recognise the men who farm the land and the women who stand behind them, the front shows the farmer and the rear, his wife.
If you choose to stay overnight in Wudinna, there are just a handful of options. You can stay at the Wudinna Hotel or the Wudinna Gawler Ranges Motel and Caravan Park. There is also a holiday home – the Wudinna Farm View.
Stopping in Minnipa itself is probably unnecessary, but still turn off the highway and follow the signs to Pildappa Rock, South Australia’s version of Wave Rock in Western Australia.
Poochera is a good place to pull in off the highway if you need a quick stop to stretch your legs. There’s not a lot to see here, but you can tick another one of those “Big Things” off the list.
Of all things, it’s an ant. Poochera’s claim to fame is the nearby discovery of an ancient species of ant – the aptly named Dinosaur Ant has been around for 70 million years.
Adjacent to the giant ant is a small park with some historical items and information too.
Another reason to stop in Poochera is to help a little with your tourist dollar. There is only one business left in town, and that’s the local pub, that also doubles as a small store and post office. Pop in and pick up a snack or a drink to help them out.
Wirrulla is another of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it towns on the highway, but its one I have to always include on these road trips as it is my home town.
While I call in to see family, you might like to take a look at Australia’s only inland jetty, built right outside the pub.
There is a small general store here that would love your custom, and it is one of those tiny places that has fuel available if required.
Ceduna is the last town along the way where you will find a supermarket and any more that a small general store for supplies, so if you need anything, now is the time to get it. It is also time to fill up your tank with fuel again
There are not a lot of Ceduna tourist attractions, but you may life to call into the Ceduna Arts & Cultural Centre to see some of the artwork of the local Wirangu people.
There is also a small National Trust Museum that includes a display on the atomic testing that happened in the nearby Maralinga region by the British in the 1950s. You can also see yet another big thing – the oyster!
Otherwise, enjoy a seaside walk, including along the town jetty, best at sunset to watch the sun sinking into the sea.
Ceduna is also the starting point for the Nullarbor Links golf course.
If you are travelling the Nullarbor all the way across to WA, including a round on this course could be a fun addition to the trip. It’s no St Andrews though, here the rough is really, well, rough!
About 75km past Ceduna you will come to the small town of Penong, best known as “the town of windmills”.
There were already a lot of windmills around this area, but a few years ago the decided to make it official and created the Windmill Museum, right in town.
You can see one of the biggest windmills ever made in Australia, and lots of other strange and interesting windmills too.
The small shop here in Penong claims to be the last shop for 1000km (it is true, you will only find roadhouses after this) and does a pretty decent coffee if you are needing one as you pass through town.
As you are leaving Penong, if you have time, turn off the highway towards Cactus Beach. You can take a look at a surfing mecca, but on the way you will see Lake MacDonnell, one of the best known pink lakes in South Australia.
It is also one of the most unique in the country because the road goes through the middle of the lake, and often only one side turns pink. So you have pink on the right and blue on the left.
There are some incredible white sand hills in this area too. From the road they look like meringue has been spread across the horizon.
As you drive along the Eyre Highway between Yalata and Fowlers Bay, you will pass right through one of the most iconic Australian landmarks – and you may not even realise it. All that marks it on the highway is a cattle grid.
The Dingo Fence (or just Dog Fence as I knew it growing up) is the longest fence in the world covering 5614km from the Great Australian Bight to the town of Jimbour in southern Queensland.
The fence was built in the 1880’s with the idea that it would keep dingoes to the north of the fence so that farmers could grow sheep to the south without having the constant issue of dingoes attacking the flocks.
The fence has mostly done its job and allowed the Australian sheep industry to flourish. It is still maintained today.
If you have even more time, you can take another detour off the highway into Fowlers Bay. If you are road tripping to see the whales, you can do a post cruise out of Fowlers Bay with EP Cruises to see them up close.
Head of the Bight
This is possibly the whole reason you have made this drive.
From June to September each year, hundreds of Southern Right Whales come north from Antarctica to mate and calf in the relatively protected waters of the Great Australian Bight.
The cliffs at Head of the Bight create the perfect platform for watching the whales play in the waters below. Take a stroll out along the boardwalk and marvel at these mesmerising animals.
While you are out there, take notice of the towering Nullarbor cliffs to the right – this is the start to the formation known as the Bunda Cliffs.
These cliffs range from 60 to 120 metres tall and are the longest uninterrupted cliffs in the world, stretching for another 100km to the west.
Finally you come to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, either the last stop on your road trip before turning around and heading back, or continuing on across the Nullarbor Plains.
You are likely just here for the night since it is one of the best overnight stops on the Nullarbor. There really is just the Roadhouse here, with some motel rooms and plenty of space for caravans, campers and tents.
There’s not a tree to be seen – unsurprising since this is the “Treeless Plain”.
Since you are here, continue on another 10km to see the Murrawijinie Caves (sometimes called the Nullarbor Caves) where you can see some Aboriginal hand paintings.
The road out to the caves could be impassable in bad weather, so check the conditions before heading out.
You will likely see wild dingos hanging around the roadhouse – the pertinent word here is “wild”. Keep well away from them and do not feed them.
Be aware of your personal items too – we saw a dingo happily trotting off into the distance with a new-looking hiking boot in her mouth. Someone would not have been happy when they discovered that!
It’s not surprising then that the Nullarbor Links hole here is named the Dingo’s Den.
You can book a room at the Nullarbor Roadhouse here.
Continuing on? Read this post about Crossing the Nullarbor
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