A unique and unforgettable experience and one of the world’s most iconic road trips. Besides being frequented by truck drivers, the Nullarbor has become a sought-after destination for adventurers and travellers who want to experience the rugged beauty of Australia’s outback and cross the border between Western Australia and South Australia. The vast, open plains, rugged coastlines and stunning sunsets are unlike anything else in the world.
With careful planning and preparation you can make the most of the drive, appreciating the natural beauty of this remote and fascinating region and creating memories that will last a lifetime. To help you, we’ve put together this guide on everything you need to know about driving across the Nullarbor to really make the most of the journey.
Where Does the Nullarbor Start and Finish?
The Nullarbor starts in the town of Norseman in Western Australia and finishes in the town of Ceduna in South Australia or vice versa depending on which state you’re travelling from.
How Long is the Nullarbor?
The journey across the Nullarbor from Norseman to Ceduna is approximately 1200km long.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Across the Nullarbor?
The drive across the Nullarbor takes approximately 12.5 hours. The actual time it will take you to drive across the Nullarbor depends on a variety of factors such as the road conditions, the speed you are driving and how often you stop along the way. For most travellers it takes around 2-3 days to drive across the Nullarbor.
It’s important to keep in mind that the drive across the Nullarbor is long and tiring so it’s a good idea to break the journey up into sections and have frequent breaks so you can take your time and enjoy it.
How Many Days do you Need for the Nullarbor?
You need at least 2 days to drive across the Nullarbor. This would involve spending one night on the Nullarbor and just over 6 hours of driving each day.
Extending the drive out over additional days could make the drive less tiring and more enjoyable. With additional days you can reduce the amount of driving needed each day, you can take more rests and you can spend more time exploring and enjoying the rugged scenery.
Just make sure to know your own limits and listen to your body. If you’re tired pull over and take a rest, your safety is the most important consideration. We completed the drive across the Nullarbor in two days and were totally fine doing so, we kept checking in with each other, had frequent rest stops and stayed fully hydrated.
What is the Best Time to Cross the Nullarbor?
The best time to cross the Nullarbor depends on your personal preference and what you want to experience during the drive. As a whole, the best time to cross the Nullarbor is usually during the colder months (March-November). Summer (December-February) can bring intense heat that can make the drive significantly less enjoyable, it’s also when fire danger risk is typically at it’s highest.
If you’re interested in seeing wildlife the best time to cross the Nullarbor is July to September which is when the number of Southern Right Whales visiting the area peaks. There’s nothing more incredible than seeing these magnificent creatures in the wild. These cooler months are also when many species are more active and are easier to spot.
Can you Cross the Nullarbor in Summer?
Yes, you can cross the Nullarbor in Summer but the drive can be less enjoyable if you’re travelling during very hot days. Just make sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid days of extreme heat. With a good air con and plenty of water you should be fine.
We crossed the Nullarbor during summer in February and we were fine. The weather was cooler and the heat was less intense during our drive.
Where is Australia’s Longest Straight Road?
Australia’s longest straight road, the 90 Mile Straight, runs from the town of Balladonia in Western Australia to the town of Caiguna in Western Australia. Covering a distance of 146.6km.
Can you Camp Along the Nullarbor?
Yes, there are loads of free campsites along the Nullarbor that you are welcome to camp at. Majority of these campsites are suitable for motorhomes, caravans, campervans and tent setups. The campsites are typically rest stops just off the main highway so majority of these don’t have any facilities but there are some that do. For example, on our drive we took a rest and stretched our legs at the ‘Woorlba 24 Hour Free Camping and Rest Area’, this site had a dump point, toilets, picnic benches and it’s own little gnome display called ‘BallaGnomeia’.
Free campsites on the Western Australian side of the Nullarbor are mostly just a large, open sections of dirt track surrounded by shrubs. Half of the South Australian side of the Nullarbor is similar with dirt track rest stops that are surrounded by bush, the other half however (closest to the border) is where the famous Bunda Cliff camping spots are. If you search for the Nullarbor you’ll likely see hundreds of images of the Bunda Cliff camping spots, these are dirt track campsites that sit close to the Nullarbor cliffs, giving you incredible views of the Southern Ocean. If you’re driving across the Nullarbor we’d definitely recommend spending at least one night camping on one of the Bunda Cliff campsites as this was a highlight during our trip.
For those who require power hookup or would prefer to stay at a caravan park or roadhouse there are lots along the way.
If you are planning on camping along the Nullarbor make sure to prepare accordingly ensuring you have appropriate gear to camp and be off grid. Also just a reminder that the Nullarbor can get very cold at night so make sure you have warm gear no matter what season you’re driving. We drove across the Nullarbor during summer and still found the night extremely cold.
We’d recommend downloading the WikiCamps app to find campsites and facilities (such as toilets) that are suitable for you during your trip. WikiCamps is what we’re using for our entire lap of Australia and we’ve found it incredibly useful and couldn’t manage without it. It was key to our entire trip, let alone finding great spots along the Nullarbor. The app has offline mode so you can still access the app without internet connection or phone signal. For example, below is an example of the app, showing us the free campsites available on that section of the Nullarbor.
Is Sleeping in my Car on the Nullarbor Ok?
Yes, sleeping in your car while crossing the Nullarbor is ok. Pull into one of the rest stops when you need to rest and make sure you have the right supplies to keep you comfortable and warm throughout the night.
Is There Accommodation Along the Nullarbor?
Yes, there is accommodation available along the Nullarbor if you don’t want to camp but need somewhere to stay the night. These accommodation spots are primarily roadhouses and motels. Below is a list of some of the accommodation spots available along the Nullarbor:
- Fraser Range Station
- Balladonia Hotel Motel
- Cocklebiddy Hotel Motel Service Station
- Madura Pass Oasis Motel
- Mundrabilla Roadhouse
- Eucla Motel
- Border Village Roadhouse
- Nullarbor Roadhouse
- Coorabie Farm
- Fowlers Bay Beach House
Is the Nullarbor Dog Friendly?
Yes, you can drive across the Nullarbor with your dog. You can have your dog at majority of the free campsites along the Nullarbor and there are some dog friendly accommodation spots. Just make sure to keep your dog controlled (and/or on a leash) at all times and make sure to pack enough water and supplies for your dog to be comfortable on the trip.
Keep in mind that 1080 baits may be in use as you’re driving across the Nullarbor, hence the importance of keeping your dog controlled and/or on a leash. We saw on WikiCamps that 1080 baits were in use at a lot of the campsites along the Nullarbor.
How Many Roadhouses are on the Nullarbor?
There are around 10 roadhouses situated at different spots along the Nullarbor between Norseman in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia. Each roadhouse has different facilities and products available to travellers but majority offer fuel, toilets, basic supplies and food and drinks.
Are There any Shops Along the Nullarbor?
Yes, there are a few shops located along the Nullarbor at roadhouses and petrol stations. These aren’t full blown department stores or grocery shops but are small shops that offer basic supplies such as snacks, drinks, souvenirs and car supplies. Some of these also sell hot food such as the Nullarbor Roadhouse which sells full dinners such as burgers and schnitzels.
Some items at the roadhouses and petrol stations are pretty expensive so we’d recommend packing enough food, water and supplies to cross the Nullarbor without needing to rely on them. Then you can still support those businesses and spoil yourself with fun stuff like souvenirs or delicious hot meals.
Are There Petrol Stations Along the Nullarbor?
Yes, there are multiple petrol stations along the Nullarbor (around 10+). These petrol stations are spaced a fair distance apart so we’d recommend familiarising yourself with their locations before starting the drive across the Nullarbor. The longest stretch between petrol stations however is 191km between Balladonia and Norseman.
Prior to driving across the Nullarbor we heard the advice of making sure you start the drive across the Nullarbor on a full tank and fill up at every petrol station you pass to ensure you don’t run out. Then if for some reason one of the petrol stations is closed or doesn’t have fuel (which is unlikely) you’ll still be fine. This is the advice we took (besides skipping a few petrol stations near the end) and we definitely recommend it as we made it across the Nullarbor just fine without having to worry or carry any extra.
Is Fuel Expensive on the Nullarbor?
Yes, fuel can get expensive on the Nullarbor due to the remote location and high running costs of the petrol stations. Fuel prices do vary between the petrol stations/roadhouses depending on their location and the time of year.
To give you an idea on fuel prices we have listed our fuel spend while driving across the Nullarbor below. Keep in mind that we started with a full tank and we drive a LWB Mercedes Sprinter van which uses diesel.
- First Top-Up (Balladonia BP): $61.92 ($2.44/L)
- Second Top-Up (Cocklebiddy BP): $95.09 ($2.70/L)
- Third Top-Up (Mundrabilla Roadhouse): $65.56 ($2.68/L)
- Fourth Top-Up (Nullarbor Roadhouse): $34.55 ($2.94/L)
- Last Top-Up (Ceduna BP): $138.01 ($2.10/L)
What Happens if You Break Down on the Nullarbor?
Don’t freak out if you break down on the Nullarbor. In contrast to people’s expectations of the Nullarbor it can actually be quite a busy road, with lots of travellers and truck drivers driving it every day. Petrol stations are also relatively close together with the longest stretch between petrol stations being 191km.
If you have signal you can contact the nearest roadhouse or your roadside assistance provider. If you don’t have signal, get out of your vehicle and safely grab the attention of passing vehicles.
Are There Toilets Along the Nullarbor?
Yes, there are lots of toilets along the Nullarbor. Toilet facilities are often available at majority of the petrol stations and roadhouses along the Nullarbor and a few campsites have toilet facilities also. Keep in mind that the state of the campsite toilets can be pretty hit and miss, they’re often drop toilets that may be dirty and sometimes don’t have toilet paper.
We’d recommend packing toilet paper just in case. For the ladies we’d also recommend getting a female urination device in case you need to go ‘in the bush’ or don’t want to get too close to a gross toilet! If you’re interested, check out Lydia’s recommendation on the best female urination device.
If you can’t wait to make it to a proper toilet and go ‘in the bush’ make sure to clean up after yourself and leave no trace.
Is There a Speed Limit on the Nullarbor?
Yes there is a speed limit on the Nullarbor. The speed limit on Eyre Highway (the main road on the Nullarbor) is primarily 110km/h. It drops down to 90km/h for some sections of the road that pass through small towns.
Is the Nullarbor Road Sealed?
Yes, Eyre Highway, the road that crosses the Nullarbor and connects South Australia and Western Australia is a sealed road, making it suitable for all vehicles to drive on.
Previously an unsealed road, sealing the highway began in Norseman in 1960. Sealing the Western Australian section of the Eyre Highway was completed in 1969 and sealing of the South Australian section of the highway was finished in 1976.
Do You Need a 4WD for the Nullarbor?
No you don’t need a 4WD for the Nullarbor. The Eyre Highway, the road that crosses the Nullarbor, is a sealed road, making it suitable for all vehicles to drive on.
Is it Safe to Drive Across the Nullarbor?
Yes, driving across the Nullarbor is safe. However, the drive is long and the Nullarbor is a remote and sparsely populated region so you need to make sure you’re prepared and do/have the following:
- A reliable vehicle – Make sure your vehicle is in good condition so you can rely on it during the long drive. Check your tyres and all other critical components to ensure they are in good working order. Also check your oil and coolant levels.
- Supplies – Pack essential supplies such as lots of food, water and a first aid kit.
- Check conditions – Check the road conditions and weather conditions prior to driving so you’re aware of any potential hazards.
- Take frequent breaks – Driving across the Nullarbor can be exhausting, so it’s important to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. If you’re tired make sure to pull over and rest.
- Drive carefully – Besides following road rules and driving at a safe speed, make sure to stay alert for wildlife. Crossing wildlife such as kangaroos, emus and wombats are a hazard for drivers, especially during dusk, dawn and during the night when these animals are more active. We would recommend not driving at dusk, dawn and during the night all together.
- Inform someone – let someone else know your plans to cross the Nullarbor and how long you expect to be.
Is there Phone Signal Along the Nullarbor?
There is limited phone signal along the Nullarbor. Large areas of the Nullarbor don’t have signal and those areas that do have signal have very patchy coverage.
Rather than being frustrated by this, embrace it and enjoy this period of being disconnected. Just let family and friends know that you’re going to be without signal and you’ll be in touch when you have signal again. If you need, some of the roadhouses/motels along the Nullarbor offer internet access for a fee.
Below I’ve included an image of Telsta’s coverage over the Nullarbor. Areas highlighted green have 4G coverage and areas highlighted turquoise have 3G coverage.
What Should I Pack When Driving Across the Nullarbor?
The Nullarbor has long stretches of road with no petrol stations, restaurants, or shops, so it’s important to stock up on supplies before you leave. Make sure to pack the following when driving across the Nullarbor:
- Food – Pack meals and snacks for while you’re on the road. Some of the roadhouses on the Nullarbor do sell snacks and food, including full meals like burgers, schnitzels and more. Some specific items can be unavailable or expensive however so if you need particular items during the drive make sure to pack these prior and don’t rely on the roadhouses to stock them.
- Water – Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated during the long stretches of driving.
- First aid kit – Always have a first aid kit on hand just in case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Sun protection – Pack sun protection such as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. The sun can be intense in the outback, so it’s important to protect yourself.
- Comfortable clothes – Wear (and pack) loose-fitting clothes that you are comfortable in and that are suitable for the weather.
- Warm clothes and blankets – The temperature can drop significantly at night so make sure to pack warm clothes and blankets in case you get cold.
- Toilet paper – Pack toilet paper just in case as some toilet spots may have run out.
- Car supplies – As mentioned before, it’s important to check your car before starting the drive. Bring any other car supplies that you think your car might need such as a spare tyre, extra oil, a jump starter and distilled water. What you should bring will depend on your car and what condition it is in.
- Camping gear – If you’re going to camp along the Nullarbor make sure to bring appropriate camping gear.
Are There Drinking Water Top Ups Along the Nullarbor?
No, there are no designated drinking water top up areas for your caravan, campervan or motorhome so we’d recommend topping up before you start the drive. You can buy bottled water and other beverages at the roadhouses however.
At the time of writing this (April 2023) both Ceduna and Norseman have drinking water top ups for a small fee. Ceduna has a potable water station in town that charges a $1 coin for up to 150L of water. Norseman has a potable water station in town that takes tokens purchased from the Visitor Information Centre, these cost $2 for 60L of water.
What Should I Do When Driving Across the Nullarbor?
There are many things to see and do when driving across the Nullarbor, besides blasting your favourite music or listening to a podcast. We’ve listed some of these things below:
- Take on the world’s longest golf course, the Nullarbor Links.
- Go whale watching anywhere along the Bunda Cliffs or at the Head of Bight Lookout – if you’re visiting during the right season.
- Drive by Lake Macdonnell to see what colour it is.
- Check out the Penong Windmill Museum which is home to the biggest windmill in Australia.
- Revisit history with the Replica Old Garage at Nullarbor Roadhouse then enjoy the artwork and grab a bite to eat at the new roadhouse.
- Explore the ruins of the Old Telegraph Station in Eucla.
- Enjoy the beach and beautiful scenery at the old Eucla Jetty.
- Feel the cool breeze from the Caiguna Blowhole.
- Spend the night stargazing and experience the undisrupted and magical beauty of the outback night sky.
- Step back in time at the Balladonia Heritage Museum with Skylab, Aboriginal heritage and European settlement displays.
- Snap a picture at the ’90 Mile Straight’ sign so you can brag about crossing Australia’s longest straight road.
- Appreciate the beauty and history of the Murrawijinie Caves.
What is the Weather Like on the Nullarbor?
The Nullarbor is an arid region with little rain and dry weather. Typically summer months are very dry, hot and sunny with little rainfall. Temperatures in summer months are usually between 15-40°C. Winter months are much milder with daytime temperatures between 5-20°C.
Is it Cold at Night on the Nullarbor?
Yes, temperatures can drop significantly and get pretty cold at night on the Nullarbor. Make sure to pack warm blankets and clothes so you can stay warm if temperatures do drop.
What Border Checks are on the Nullarbor?
There are two border checks along the Nullarbor; one for visitors heading into Western Australia and one for visitors heading into South Australia. These border checks are at two completely different locations. Australia has strict biosecurity laws to protect against the spread of pests and diseases which is what these border checks cover. You will have your vehicle inspected and will need to declare and/or dispose of any restricted produce, plants, animal products and more.
The border check for visitors travelling from Western Australia into South Australia is on the Eyre Highway just before the town of Ceduna. The border check process was very smooth for us and took a maximum of 5 minutes. Upon driving to the quarantine station we let the worker know what produce we had and they let us know what we could keep and what they had to confiscate. The worker didn’t do a full inspection of our vehicle and just popped his head in to look at our fridge.
The border check for visitors travelling from South Australia into Western Australia is on the Eyre Highway at the border crossing between the two states. We don’t have experience at this border check but have heard the process is similar to that of the South Australian quarantine station, the inspection is just a little more thorough.
Where Did the Name Nullarbor Come From?
The name Nullarbor comes from the Latin words ‘nullus’ and ‘arbor’ meaning ‘no trees’. Surveyor Edmund Alexander Delisser was credited for this name, as his journal is believed to contain the first written use of the name Nullarbor when he was surveying the Nullarbor in 1865. Edmund was a private surveyor who had a contract with the South Australian government to survey the Great Australian Bight area.
What is the Aboriginal Name for the Nullarbor?
The Aboriginal name for the Nullarbor Plain came from the local Mirning people who referred to the Nullarbor as ‘Oondiri’ which means ‘the waterless’. Perhaps due to the lack of a permanent water source on the Nullarbor. The Mirning people would only venture inland following heavy rain.
Why are There No Trees on the Nullarbor?
The Nullarbor mostly consists of shrubs instead of trees due to a few different conditions that make it extremely difficult for trees to survive. We’ve listed each of these below.
Firstly, the harsh arid weather conditions on the Nullarbor mean there is little rainfall making it difficult for trees to grow and survive.
Additionally, the soil on the Nullarbor is shallow with a limestone bedrock close to the surface for majority of the plain which limits the ability for trees to establish roots. The soil is also quite poor in nutrients and is rich in calcium, raising the pH to a level that most trees can’t stand.
The Nullarbor consists mostly of low and hardy shrubs such as Saltbush and Bluebush. They both do well on the Nullarbor as they are tough plants that are resistant to drought and can grow in hot and dry conditions.
What Animals Live in the Nullarbor?
There’s a huge variety of animals who call the Nullarbor home, including;
- Birds of prey such as osprey, eagles and falcons.
- Reptiles such as lizards and snakes.
- A huge variety of birds such as emus, owls, kookaburras and more. There are some bird species that are unique to South Australia such as the Plains-Wanderer and Nullarbor Quail-Thrush.
- Marsupials such as wombats and kangaroos.
- Mammals such as camels, dingoes and whales.
- Insects such as beetles, flies, spiders and scorpions.
When Can you See Whales on the Nullarbor?
The best time to see whales on the Nullarbor is during the cooler months from May to October, peaking in July-August. These months are when the Southern Right Whales visit the region for their annual breeding migration, they migrate to the area for socialising, mating and calving.
There’s no better place to see these magnificent creatures in the wild. The high cliffs of the Nullarbor are not only a spectacular sight themselves, they’re also the perfect vantage point for having fantastic views of the visiting whales.
Where Can I See Whales on the Nullarbor?
You can see whales on the Nullarbor anywhere along the Bunda Cliffs in South Australia or at the Head of the Bight Lookout.
The Head of Bight Visitor Centre does charge an entry fee for it’s lookout. At the time of writing this (April 2023) fees during whale season (1 June to 30 October) are $16 per adult, $7 per child (5-15 years old) and family entry (for 2 adults and 2 children) is $40.
What is the Nullarbor Nymph?
The Nullarbor Nymph is a ‘legendary creature’, a beautiful, blonde, naked woman who supposedly lived amongst kangaroos on the Nullarbor. Between 1971 and 1972 there were multiple supposed sightings of the Nullarbor Nymph that were picked up by the media. Within days of the first sighting magazine and camera crews arrived from across the world to try and capture their own footage of the Nullarbor Nymph.
The Nullarbor Nymph was eventually revealed as a publicity stunt that was setup to help increase traffic to Eucla. ‘Geoff Pearce’ a PR man who couldn’t pay for his motel bill when passing through town promised the motel owner a publicity stunt that would help drive traffic to Eucla. He then teamed up with local kangaroos shooters to set it up. Geneice Brooker (the partner of one of the kangaroo shooters) was photographed as the nymph, she also ran across the road during the night near a passing bus of tourists so they would all report the sighting.
Enjoy Your Journey Driving Across the Nullarbor
That’s the end of our full guide on driving across the Nullarbor. We hope you found it useful! Enjoy the journey, drive safe and have an amazing time.
Watch Our Experience Driving Across the Nullarbor
If you’d like to you can watch our experience driving across the Nullarbor in our YouTube video below.