The Nullarbor Plain was given its name from the Latin nullus arbour, meaning “no trees”, in 1867. The area stretches for 2725km between South Australia and Western Australia. It emerged from the ocean some 25 million years ago, with deposits of sand which created the limestone covering the entire plain to a depth of 15 to 60 metres and then covered by up to one metre of sand.
The Eyre Highway, named after John Eyre who crossed it in 1841, heads along the southern section of the Nullarbor. The first car to make the crossing was in 1912.
Ceduna, 781km north-west of Adelaide, is a pleasant and thriving community, the only major township on the eastern side of the Great Australian Bight. Located on Murat Bay, its jetty was built in 1903 and is ideal for fishing. Four thousand people live there and are supported by wheat growing, gypsum and salt mining and commercial fishing.
The tiny settlement of Nullarbor, which is not much more than a roadhouse and caravan park, has good access to the spectacular cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.
To travel between the two places, Jules joined a Trans Continental Bushaus Adventure, which departed from Melbourne. Katie Pervan and Rolf Schonfeld run tours across the continent in their bus named Harriet, Queen of the Nullarbor.
Harriet is a hostel on wheels. It has comfortable seating at the front, a lounge section in the middle and kitchen and sleeping area at the rear. There is even a rooftop sundeck. It is the pride and joy of its owners and has been converted for practical and comfortable travel. There’s a good choice of music on board, games to play, plenty of snacks and fruit and continuous coffee. Katie prepares all meals and delicious they are. Nothing like the whiff of freshly baked bread and coffee brewing as you travel across one of the world’s most unpopulated places.
Seventy three kilometres west of Ceduna is the tiny township of Penong. The small grain-growing settlement is characterised by dozens of windmills taking advantage of winds to pump the local water supply from the large Anjutabie basin.
To the south lies Lake MacDonnell, Point Sinclair and Cactus Beach. The lake has massive salt and gypsum deposits. Each year 100,000 tonnes of salt are harvested from brine pools and sent to the eastern states. With 87 square kilometres of gypsum, it is the largest deposit in the southern hemisphere.
Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair are remote, off-the-beaten-track destinations. Surfers are rewarded with some of the best breaks in the country. Cactus is wedged between Blue Lake and the coast and has vast white windswept dunes. Point Sinclair is protected from westerly winds and is where locals go for recreation. All vegetation and wildlife are protected, including snakes!
Travellers will find undercover picnic facilities, toilets and a jetty for fishing. Boats can be launched from the beach and adjacent to the jetty is a swimming enclosure. Both Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair are known to be visited by great white pointers.
Nundroo was settled in the 1860s by pioneering sheep graziers. By the 1880s, vast sheep runs were broken up as pastoral land leases expired. The area then opened up to more intensive farming, including wheat. Grazing and grain growing continue and for the Nullarbor traveller, Nundroo is a welcome rest stop.
Yalata Roadhouse is the newest and most unusual of all the Eyre Highway roadhouses. It is owned and operated by the local Aboriginal community and provides food, fuel, repairs and Aboriginal artefacts and souvenirs. Most of the community was forced to move from the Maralinga area when it was chosen as an atomic testing site.
The Head of Bight is impossible to beat as a vantage point for viewing southern right whales. Between June and October, up to 100 of them frequent the area to breed and give birth. The main viewing platform allows the whales to be observed at close quarters. They slap, breach, roll belly up and blowhole. Mothers and calves frequently loll and cruise beneath the 65-metre-high Bunda cliffs, which are a wonderful sight themselves. They stretch in an unbroken line for 200 kilometres to the Western Australian border. What a great place to camp for the night, listening to the sounds of silence and enjoying fat Ceduna oysters with South Australian white wine!