Telling someone that you’re planning to drive from one side of Australia to the other, across the Nullarbor, will get you one of two responses: ‘Are you crazy’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’. Most ask if you’re crazy. The perception of driving across the Nullarbor is that it must be one of the most boring road trips you could consider, and theoretically they might be correct in thinking that. In fact the drive crosses a lot of empty space, but thats what makes it so charming. The Nullarbor means ‘No Tree’ and you literally won’t see a tree for long periods of time, but you also won’t see bus loads of tourist, cities, factories and any other chaos that surround us in our lives. Its the true meaning of an escape!
Let’s start with the Western Australia leg. It actually takes two days of driving to reach the border of Western Australia (WA) and South Australia. WA is HUGE, so I decided to stop at Esperance on the first night. Going this way takes you off the main road, adding two hours to the trip but what’s two hours when the entire trip takes 36?
My plan was to camp where I could and in Esperance there is a beach called Lucky Bay, where you can camp just a few metres off the most beautiful beach in Australia. But…not only the most beautiful beach, but one that’s just like the tourism commercials with kangaroos on it! For photographers it’s a great spot with white sand, massive granite peaks and a Roo for the point of interest.
I do recommend arriving at the camping grounds early in the day, as it does tend to fill up by about 9am at peak times. I, myself turned up at 4pm to a full camp ground, requiring me to plead with some French hitchhikers to allow me to pitch my swag on their site. The couple were lovely, they did ask if they could accompany me on my trip to Melbourne and unfortunately I had to say no, 34 hours of small talk is way too much for me.
Anyway, drop in to Esperance because it’s simply amazing. Cape Le Grand National Park is packed with photographic opportunities. Climb Frenchman Peak, there is a really cool cave at the top and you will get an amazing sunrise image from there.
Thistle Cove is just down from Lucky Bay and while there on Australia Day morning, I didn’t see another human for hours. Perfect white sand, crystal clear water, you’ll be pinching yourself and wonder if it’s a dream.
Next stop was Eucla, I chose this location for its proximity to the ocean and the great landscape photo potential and specifically the old jetty that sits on the beach near to the camp grounds.
The drive between Esperance and Eucla was one of my favourite sections of the trip. Approaching 90 Mile Straight is where you begin to get the sense of being in the middle of nowhere. About three-quarters of the way to Eucla you will reach Madura. The road suddenly begins to decline steeply and you’re hit with this insane view of the plains and ocean ahead of you. My biggest regret was not turning back up the road to take a photo as the sun was about to set, but I was on a mission to make it too Eucla Jetty and time was running out.
Eucla really surprised me. There was little more than a motel and service station perched up on the ridge of the Bight, looking out over the ocean. But this is what makes it so surreal.
Day Three started by crossing in to South Australia and passing through Boarder Town and into the Nullarbor National Park. Over the next 300km Eyre Highway follows the ridge of the Great Australian Bight. Along the highway there are three lookouts for tourists to observe the Bight. Lookout number one on the east end is the best, in my opinion, and where most photographs are taken of the cliffs. If I had an extra day I would most definitely be camping out on the edge of the Bight.
Once past the Nullarbor the landscape really starts to change, the view becomes a welcoming green colour. Trees, grass and rolling hills is what you’ll see most of the way towards Adelaide. I decided at the last minutes to spend my last night in the Barossa rather than Adelaide as I wasn’t ready to face a big city just yet. I arrived in the Barossa at around lunch time and did the first thing anyone should do in the Barossa, find some pressed, fermented grapes, also referred to as red wine!
Given the vast area of the Barossa and the fact I was only there for one night I needed some local advice on where to catch a beautiful sunset image. The lovely ladies at Bethany’s Winery (after the purchase of their signature and expensive Shiraz) were kind enough to give me some rare and closely guarded directions to a location mostly reserved for locals. Fifteen minutes out of town, through a few gates and cross country through a sheep paddock I found the spot….OMG. I had no doubt it was the best view in the Barossa. My pictures don’t do it justice, so I need to go back there soon.
Day five and the home stretch! Let me tell you, by this stage I was beginning to wish it was all over! Get me to the the airport! Driving eight hours a day for five days straight will do that to you! I didn’t stop the whole way to Melbourne, passing the Grampians I did wishing I had one more night up my sleeve, so I’ve made a mental note to return for a few days.
Would I do it again? Hell yeah. The trip deserves at least 7 days to take it all in, there are some amazing locations to photograph but to get them at the right time of day you need time.