MELBS TO PERTH
ACROSS THE NULLA
Roadtripping is the best way to see a country, especially one as vast as Australia. Australia can be as rugged and isolated as it gets. Many people warn you – “take lots of water…extra food…there won’t be many servo’s (petrol/gas stations) so take a jerry can” and there’s always the classic “why don’t you just fly?” With only a few major roadways to get to few major destinations, 200 kilometers can stretch between one town and the next, and that distance of nothingness is really something to experience. Timescales change. It’ll easily take you three hours to get to the next place. I’m sure not many people in the world can imagine that kind of isolation and distance of open land. It’s beautiful that places like that still exist. Large open skies, starry nights, crystal oceans.
I bought a small cheap car for $400 and didn’t look back on the idea of a road trip. Australia is a place you don’t get to wander off to too frequently if you’re from America. I like to go to places less traveled, so the east coast wasn’t on my mind. I wanted to travel from where I was living on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria to Perth. I wanted to take the good ole’ Nulla (the Nullabor). My little Nissan Pulsar hatchback would journey over 5000 kms. No dramas aye! Well now, looking back, with a little bit more money I would have definitely traveled with something a little bit bigger and reliable. The car made it! With few problems, my travel partner and I survived to tell the tale! It was a beautiful rugged journey on many washboard roads. We learned quite a lot about ourselves, the country, and the road – and what we would do for next time…because there is always a next time with Australia because it’s so bloody beautiful.
We wanted to share what we learned across 5000 kms on the bottom oz for anyone thinking to do the same.
SMALL CAR VS 4 WHEEL DRIVE
Have a 4×4 for South Australia. There are many corrugated/washboard roads which means that in a small car you’ll have to drive less than 20 km/hr for an hour to your wikicamp bumbfuck nowhere free campsite – which can be dangerous if the car were to break down. No one could drive down that way for a while and you’ll have no phone reception (get Telstra phone plan for an extra buck since it has the greatest coverage…we didn’t and we managed). A 4×4 will fly past you on those corrugated roads, blasting dust all over you. With a 4×4 you’ll be able to go to all the sweet places a small car will not allow you to go to. This is completely necessary for South Australia in the national parks. You’ll miss out on so much without one.
The nulla might seem long but distances we covered in South Australia could be just as long with worse roads and not a lot of people on them. At least on the nulla, we saw heaps of cars as it’s the only way between the two states (SA and WA).
Use wikicamps but if you don’t have a 4×4 be aware that some of the free camps are in bumbfuck nowhere (so beautiful! Right next to the ocean, in deserts) but mostly they can take an hour to get to on a washboard road.
- Cooker – we used a $20 cooker from Bunnings which is nice for maybe a night, but any breath of wind is going to blow the flame out. It can also cook one thing at a time, so perhaps a dual cooker is a better option – which can be found for $80 (definitely worth it!). The gas bottles failed 1 out of 4 times, which was a waste of money.
- Canned food – when you cross borders you cannot bring fresh veg
- large 10 L water container with tap
- extra car parts, coolant & oil (if you have an older car)
- head torch
- bucket – for wet stuff, like wetsuits and bathers and towels
WILL A TENT BE A GOOD IDEA?
Having a tent is also probably not the best way to go. I’d recommend having a bed in the car or a tent on top of the vehicle because lots of the campgrounds in the national parks are hard ground (so pegs can’t go in the ground) so they’re most suitable for RVs.We had to use rocks to weigh the tent down when we couldn’t peg it – which was often – and also used spare rope to tie it up. It often blows a gale on the bottom of Australia. Having a rain cover blowing in the wind is one of the worst nights sleep. On those warm 40C days we could sleep with the cover off but mostly that wasn’t an option due to intense dew through the night. I would opt out of a tent for the next road trip for sure.
THE GOOD OLE’ NULLA & THE BIGHT
On the Nulla – camp at the rest stops, refuel frequently. Oil up often. Make sure you have oil, coolant, sparies (belts, tire).. just go to the designated photo stops on the bight. You might realize you’re close to the edge and wanna wander but there’s a lot of paved roads for photo stops.
It’s up to you how long you want to do it. We’ve met people that do it in a day or even eight days; we did it in two stints. Choose your starting point and how far you want to make it. It’s definitely a whole lot of no stops so it’s just a – ‘let’s get over this quick’ kind of thing. So the first day we nearly drove 7 hours, and the second close to 10.
If you want to see the head of the bight – you have to get there before 4. It closes. Thank god we got there before but we only had 10 minutes to see it as it takes 20 minutes to drive to the head from the road, and 20 back.
The Nullarbor is the longest road of nothingness… but it is beautiful. Not arid at all. It is lush scrubland. It’s big… and driving it teaches you that it is big and all is relative. Time crawls and goes fast. Driving through different time zones and borders and watching the sun rise and fall.
RACV? IS IT A MUST?
Don’t count on RACV for road side assistance as the closest serviceman might be 200kms away. People driving by will be of the most assistance which is why it’s important to have sparies. If you think you’re having car trouble stop at a mechanic and don’t wait for the next one as you might not see another for 200kms.
5000 KMS – WHAT TO SEE AND PLAN FOR
Let me begin with the fact that we did over 5000kms in three weeks. That’s hectic. For any of ya’ll that can’t picture the distance from Melbs to Perth and you know America, it’s basically Tennessee to Cali. That’s a big freaking distance to do in three weeks, and to enjoy it and not just be on the road all day erryday.
Along the Great Ocean Road we were stopping every hour or so, going on walks and finding magical waterfalls and grottos. Amazing places everywhere that just make you want to stop for a while. Well, we quickly realized we didn’t really have that option to lollygag. Some days we had to be in the car for 8 hours! Just to get to the next desto (destination).
I’m the kind of person that wants to enjoy, chill, give a place the respect it deserves. Everywhere on the coastline of Australia is that kind of beautiful so we learned to pick the handful of places you definitely want to go and allow time. Allow two days or even a full day at those top places for you.
For us, those top places were:
- Cape Bridgewater
- Rapid Bay
- Port Noarlunga
- Greenly Beach
- Baird Bay
- Streaky Bay
- Cape Le Grande National Park (Esperance)
- Albany – Two Peoples Bay was spectacular
- Denmark – visit Boston Brewing Co.
- Margaret River
- Freo (Fremantle)
PLACES WORTH NOTING
- The Great Ocean Road of course
- If you stop through Mount Gambier and want to see a cool sinkhole – check out Caroline’s sinkhole. It is the real authentic natural experience, wheras the the more popular sinkhole was too touristic.
- Cape Otways – koalas
- Redwood Forest
- Choose Coffin Bay National Park over Lincoln National Park — sick sand dunes
There is a lot of towns that are barely a town – no hairdresser or even a bakery – so think about where the big towns are and shop there wisely. Prices will be much cheaper as well.
On the road trip you’ll be graced with all the iconic Australian animals. Koalas, Roos, emus, wombats, echidna. And of course because of these things be sure not to drive at night. The marine life will definitely say hello as well – dolphins, seals, if you’re at the right time of year- whales.
Please do not feed any of these animals. Keep them wild. If you feed them, they will become pests and they will have to be put down. We have seen people feed roos and even big sting rays just so they can take a photo with the wildlife. We’ve almost had a roo attack us over our brekkie which is not fun. They can feed themselves.
This film came out after we finished our road trip and it shows some of the places we drove through in SA. It highlights some of the conservation going on in Australia, specifically on the Bight, to keep these places in its natural and rugged state. Let us all rally together to preserve our world. “We don’t have long to make some serious change…”
Have a watch at: