Adelaide to Perth – what I’d do differently

3 Things I’d do differently on the drive from Adelaide to Perth if I did it again

Just a few weeks ago, I did the drive from Adelaide to Perth, crossing the Nullarbor.  The long and short of it was that I had 3 days to make the trip, so that I could make it home in time for my daughters 4th Birthday.

 Approximately 2700km to travel in 3 days seemed pretty achievable, although it meant long days behind the wheel and that I’d miss a lot of great things to see.  That is why I’ve put this list together, to help anyone thinking of doing this drive get the most out of it.  For those of you that have already driven it, it would be great if you could comment and share the great things you’ve seen along the way to help enlighten those that might be thinking of doing the trip themselves.

Take the Scenic route to Ceduna

I took the main highway from Port Augusta to Ceduna, and there were some cool things to see, but for the most part there wasn’t too much that was really exciting. 

The Silos at Kimba

I really enjoyed some of the little towns I stopped in, (the silos at Kimba was a highlight), but I think that going the coastal route via Whyalla, Port Lincoln, and then Elliston and Streaky bay would have been more spectacular.

Whyalla Ocean lookout
Port Lincoln in South Australia
Cliffs in Elliston
Sunset, Streaky Bay
Shelly Beach, Ceduna

Take a drive along Googs track

The Hema Map Patrol on Googs Track

This is a 4WD track I’ll definitely be back to drive.  It runs from Ceduna, to Glendambo, where it joins the Stuart Highway.  It is approx. 370km and 300 sand dunes, so the recommendation is to allow 3 days or so to drive it and be able to take in the walks and camping available along the way.

It is pretty remote though, so you really need to be prepared for the trip with enough fuel, and supplies.  And we’d recommend a satellite phone too.

The challenge here is how to continue the journey.  Perhaps if not pushed for time you could first drive the coastal route to Ceduna, take Googs track north and circle back around to Port Augusta, and then take the inland road back to Ceduna?

Check out some of the tracks around the Bight itself

The Raptor and Tvan at one of the official lookouts for the Bight
Impressive views!

I’ll be honest here, while I did get off the blacktop on several occasions on this trip, I didn’t have the time to meander and explore.  If I had my time again, I’d explore some of the tracks that head off the highway down towards the bight to see where they go, and to see if I could get down to see the stunning clifftops that make the bight.

Having said that, you’ve got to be careful here – I did notice a number of the tracks have been closed by putting rocks or bollards up to stop use of them.  I wouldn’t go down one of these tracks in case you get into trouble, because there are plenty of other ones to access.

Take the Old Eyre Highway instead of the modern Highway through the Nullarbor

While the Nullarbor plain gets countless mentions in songs and is a drive on most peoples to-do lists, the hard truth of the drive is that on the bitumen it is one of the least scenic and most boring I’ve ever done.  There is very little to look at, and it is pretty flat, without any changes in scenery that make other desert drives more interesting.

For that reason, if I had my time again, I’d take the Old Eyre highway from the Nullarbor Roadhouse.  It is a dirt road accessible from out the back of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, has some interesting side trips, and from what I’ve heard is far more exciting to drive.

Take the coastal way through Esperance

Aerial panoramic view of Twilight Bay and Twilight beach at Esperance in Western Australia

Due to time pressure, I headed North from Norseman past the turnoff to Kalgoorlie and then turned West towards Perth.  This drive was quite beautiful with the red sand, beautiful gum trees and forever changing scenery and undulations, but it won’t compare to the coastal drive around Esperance to Albany and then up to Perth.

These are just a few things I picked up – a lot of you who have spent more time in these places than me will have some brilliant ideas on what to see and how to do it.  Please take the time to share your experiences on the drive and the things you think others should see.


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Comments 23

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  1. If open, you should have gone from Norseman to Hyden on that scenic dirt road (Disappointment Rock, Lake Johnstone, McDermid Rock, The Breakaways, Forrestania Plots, Wave Rock), diverted down though Kulin for the Tin Horse Hwy then on to Perth.

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  2. Point Sinclair/Cactus Beach just a short side trip off the Eyre Highway from Penong in SA. One of Australia’s best surfing spots. Whether you surf or not it’s a great place to prop for a few days.
    Fowlers Bay is another great side trip.

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  3. Another good trip if coming from the East is to turn left at Balladonia road house onto Balladonia Rd towards Esperance, at the 70km mark bear left towards Mt Ragged onto Gora Rd, check out Balbinya Ruins then have a look at Israelite Bay. From there either take Fisheries Rd to Esperance or continue to Pt Malcolm then take the 4×4 track till you come out at Merivale Rd then on to Esperance, very isolated and beautiful and some good 4wd driving.
    Or another way is to go into Eyer Bird Observatory and follow the coast to Pt Malcolm.
    Both routes are not suited to towing a caravan though the T Van would do the job.

  4. must have driven different Nullabor to me as I found it changes so much from farmland,spinnafex ,scrub,& even dry forest about every 150k.I found the different colours fassinating .you must have had white line fever,or going to fast to look around,& if you manage to leave the road it is even more fassinating. The best oysters i’ve ever eaten were also bought at Smokey bay for $10 doz.unshucked but actually got 16 [the worst ever were at Albany.]also stopped on farm stays,brilliant,
    Although I know it all depends on the travellers viewpoint & personal experience .
    Please do not take this as a personal attack just ask you to open eyes.

    1. I agree with Robert. I have driven across the Nullarbor many times, and never has it been boring.
      As far as the drive across the top of Eyre Peninsula versus the coast road, you can’t compare them. Both are spectacular and much to see. I have lived in the centre of EP (Wudinna) for 60 years, and there is still much more to see within a days drive.

  5. Head of the bite Whale Watching centre, “W” shaped boardwalk suitable for wheelcahir access and views over Bunda cliffs; discussing fruit and veges with WA Quarantine; putting $2.40 litre diesel in the tanks [must be semi gold plated]; $20 burgers at Nullabor roadhouse; tin camel cutouts at Norseman. township; any of the Nullabor links golf courses; Penong township windmills; Superpit Kalgoorlie; caves along the Nullabor; spotting Di.goes, Camels, Emus, Roos, Wedgies and Wombats; 90 mile straight sign; and free bush camping anywhere over 1800 klms. God I loved the Nullabor.

  6. If you do Googs head over to Kingoonya and go back south via lake Gardiner and onto Yardie to Gawler Nation Park. A great drive and terrific park. You can come out at Wudinna where you can turn left or right and explore the wonderful Eire Peninsula.

  7. The inland road hyden- norseman road “track” is more intresting, more places to stop & alot more things to see & cuts 300kms approx off the norseman kalgoorlie perth road.

  8. Have to agree with Robert, if you cant see the subtlety across the Nullabour then you are in the wrong game. Not everything exciting is flash and man made.

  9. Came back across the Nullabor with the T-Van a six weeks ago and went to Cook from Koonalda Homestead – both are worth a visit.

    Camped overnight at Cook and when we left we took the track across to the Nullarbor Roadhouse – the start is marked by a black pole at approx. GPS co-ordinates of 3° 03′ 31.2″ S, 130° 29′ 16.9″E.

    My partner indicated she felt that this track was more remote than any we had been on in the previous 20,000km (including the Canning) – and that it felt like the true Nullarbor (not a tree in site).

  10. I can recommend the Western Woodlands road from Norseman to Hyden – done it many times on my 11 trips across the Nullabor – It’s about 250km dirt and 50km blacktop and takes about 4 hours nonstop.
    It cuts off about 80 – 110 ks of the trip to Perth via Coolgardi , and is less traffic – then from Hyden, bitumen all the way to Perth.

  11. HI Aiden,
    Phil had an excellent sugestion, also a detour to Maralinga for a tour of the bomb sites with guide Robin is great. Another detour is to leave the tar and do a couple of hundred ks on the old road. Then check out the longest golf coarse in the world, but if you really want to see the nullarbor you should do it along the rail line from the Stuart Highway to Kalgoorlie, a real history lesson.Do not forget the SA coastline – just great.

  12. A few years back we spent a couple of nights camped on the cliff tops south of “the Roadhouse”.
    Sitting on the edge of the cliff having a few drinks with feet hanging was a highlight of the trip.
    What took it to the extreme was the flypast at cliff height by a RAAF Orion surveillance aircraft.
    So close we could see the facial features of the pilot.

  13. Great article and some great comments. A must visit is Cape LeGrande National park which is about 100 k,s east of Esperance. Lucky Bay has very limited camping but the scenery is spectacular.
    Also, head north of Kalgoorlie into the mining areas, you will find it very interesting, a great camp site is north of Kalgoorlie at Lake Niagara. Mt Magnet, Sandstone, all great places.

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