Driving the Nullarbor with my sister and a Ute



Meet my sister Khris…and the ute.

Neither of us had crossed the Nullarbor. It is one of those things we wanted to do, we had to do. So, we left our families at home, with stocked fridges and pantries, and borrowed a ute.

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Melbourne to Perth is 3400 km’s. We had no idea what to expect. It didn’t matter. Armed with two dozen bottles of water, we set off on an adventure, free from the trappings of domesticity. Simple Things Traveller was my aim. What would we find on this well documented tourist trail.

First stop was Ararat for fuel. Both for the ute and us. The Ararat Roadhouse has the best coffee and home made cakes I have experienced in any roadhouse. The quality of the food is excellent and very fresh. I recommend the orange cake. Mmmmm. Yumm.

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Determined to hit Adelaide before dark, our half way pit stop between Melbourne and Adelaide, was lunch in Nhill. We had some bread in the ute, so I bought two cups of tea and two slices of cheese for $1, from a bemused petrol station attendant. We walked in circles around the car park while we ate. The hours of driving were starting to be felt in our old muscles.

‘Fiesta Nights in Nhill’ Still wondering what that was all about. Colourful sign.

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We arrived in Adelaide in time for dinner. The Sage Hotel was one of the few hotels that offered free parking. Customer service was friendly and efficient and although they have a restaurant in-house, we walked to the Astor Hotel in Pulteney Street. Only a few minutes away. They serve a great steak sandwich with chips for a reasonable $15. A nice glass of wine, and back to our hotel. We hit the comfortable beds and slept through until morning, when the excitement of approaching the great Nullarbor got us up and moving.

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Iron Knob looms from the salt bush as we approach Port Augusta. Although it is a mine, the view from a distance was quite beautiful. The colours of the Iron Ore contrast harmoniously with the surrounding colours.

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Kimba gives us the giant Galah. I am rather partial to the great Aussie giant icons.

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Ceduna was our second night on the road. Commonly used as a stop for travellers about to embark on the great Nullarbor drive, we were surprised at how deserted the town was. Dinner was at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel. The dining room was very busy. Sunday night is the roast dinner special, and it was in full swing. We opted for a schnitzel with chips – and a glass of wine. Yes, it tasted just like it looked…but the wine helped it down.

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Ceduna has a brilliant pier, or jetty. I am not entirely sure what the difference is. I took a long but very windy walk. I can’t resist a pier…jetty.

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We stayed at the Ceduna East West motel. Unrenovated rooms were cheap at $85, I couldn’t really see too much difference between the renovated and Unrenovated. For a one night stop over, they were fine. Beware the $10 breakfast offer! The motel was practically empty so there was no chef working, which mean’s no breakfast available. Luckily we were able to buy something from the local supermarket, where a glorious rainbow made our empty belly morning a little more bearable. Where is everyone?

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Then it was time to hit the road.

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It is quite beautiful. The colours are wonderful.

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Funny how a simple sign can be so exciting. We did a reasonable amount of squealing when we saw this.

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And then there was a lot more of this.

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Head of Bight – Whale watching. We were there at the right time! We saw at least eight mothers with babies. It was incredible. The viewing platforms were great. We spent ages watching whales spraying water from their blow holes and rolling about. Babies played and slapped their tales as mums cruised at a distance. Oh, and the toilets at the visitors centre are very clean.

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The view of The Bite is magnificent. The incredible colours were gob smackingly beautiful.

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We bypassed Yalata on our way to whale watching, under whispered advice from locals at Ceduna that a couple of ladies on their own should not stop there. We still don’t know why, but drove past the road house with trepidation. By all appearances, it was deserted. But the mystery remains. Instead, we stopped for coffee at the Nullarbor Roadhouse. Not terribly inspiring. But they have their own whale.

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Another look at the view a little further on. It was stunning. Take the time to pull into one of the viewing areas. We were glad we did.

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Then there was more of this.

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Although we didn’t see any of these, we did see lots of feral cats, squished and alive. Surprising numbers of them dashed across the road dodging cars and trucks.

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Border town – SA to WA We made it. Be warned if you think you can sneak anything across the border. The check was very thorough. They looked in our Esky and glove box and the centre console. Did you know honey is not allowed across the border?

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A bend in the road. We were so excited. I almost had forgotten how to turn the wheel.

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Cocklebiddy was our third night on the road and what a brilliant place. I loved the drum kit turned into flower pots.

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The rooms are basic but clean and beds comfortable. The restaurant filled quickly as the sun set. Huge plates of home cooked food were served and demolished around the spacious dining room. There were several large share tables, good for a chat with other travellers. Wine was served from little bottles rather than poured by the glass. Really cute. The Simple Things are memorable. We had curry, way too much for our stomachs but so tasty we demolished the lot while watching plates piled high with lamb chops, chips and salad pass by. Next time I am definitely ordering the lamb chops.

Not far from Cocklebiddy is The Caiguna Blowhole. It is one of the many interesting features that can be found during the drive from Melbourne to Perth across the Nullarbor.

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Belladonna Roadhouse was big and modern. Not very far from here is where Skylab crashed to earth in 1979. We stopped for a break and coffee, but it was disappointing. They had a push button machine with terrible coffee and a very sulky girl behind the counter. However, if you are travelling with children, they have a covered playground that can be watched from inside. While we were there, a sad Kelpie was tied to the top of the slide. Not sure why.

And then, some more of this…can’t help but be impressed.

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Some of the interesting sights along the road were the decorated trees. The CD tree was a ripper. This photo does it no justice. The discs spun and danced in the light breeze, reflecting colours of the rainbow. It was truly beautiful.

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Norseman marks the end of the drive across the Nullarbor plain. It is a reasonably sized town, neat and well kept, but deserted. Not a soul in sight. We walked the length of the main street, a group of teenagers emerged from a building and created a moment of noise and movement and then disappeared, leaving us in a silent town again. Many of the shop fronts were shuttered and closed. The public toilets are clean and adjacent to a small park with covered tables. The supermarket was dark and dingy, we struggled to find something fresh to purchase for lunch. A roll and some cheese sufficed and we headed out of town, feeling a little like we had stumbled on another world, it had a slightly eerie feeling. Dreams of a bakery and fresh coffee dashed.

From Norseman we leave the great Nullarbor plain and turn towards Kalgoorlie. A place I had always wanted to visit. Stories of the most brothels in one town, and pubs in abundance filled my imagination. The drive is pretty, but rubbish begins to line the edges of the road. Something I am glad to say was not obvious along the Eyre Highway. Something else we didn’t see along the Eyre highway were emu’s, but they were plentiful on the way to Kalgoorlie. We did much squealing with excitement when we saw them.

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We arrived at Kalgoorlie about four o’clock, and very tired, but it was too early for dinner, so we took a walk into town. The huge main street was full of all the shops you would find in any city, at prices far above any charged in the city. The red dust from the mine covered everything, even leaves on bushes. I felt uneasy, the atmosphere was itinerate, tinted and edgy. Our hotel, The Kalgoorlie Overland, was overpriced. A sign on the wall in the kitchenette advised to run the hot water for a while. Two showers later it was still cold. Staff were courteous, but the bathroom and kitchen were poor. I would look elsewhere for accommodation.

Our journey was almost over. The next morning, still fuming over the cold showers, we were on our way to Perth and the Rendezvous Hotel Scarborough. I was well ready for a bit of luxury.

Scarborough Beach is beautiful, but I was surprised that it is unsafe for swimming.

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The view from our room was good, even though from the side of the building.

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At night the lights of the pavilion complimented the setting sun.

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First night in Perth, we were extremely tired and glad of the comfort of the two queen beds. The soft white linens felt soooo good. We decided on room service, feet up, and a movie with a bottle of wine. The club sandwich was delicious. The chips crisp and tasty.

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We stayed in Perth for three nights, walking and catching up with family before boarding a plane back to Melbourne and our respective partners and children. It was a great road trip. We laughed till we cried, we sang till we were hoarse and we reminisced about our wonderful and crazy mum that we lost the month before. I recommend the drive, it is easier than I thought it would be. The road is excellent and very smooth. There are plenty of places to stop for fuel, food and drinks and against popular belief, the sparse scenery is beautiful, and there are interesting sights along the way. Great trip.

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