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Nullarbor, SA

Eastern starting point for inspection of the sheer cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.

The best place to experience the full, raw beauty of the Great Australian Bight is between the roadhouse/motel at Nullarbor and the tiny settlement of Border Village on the South Australia-Western Australia border. The Old Eyre Highway used to pass between the two places at a distance from the sheer cliffs and there were only six off roads to the cliffs. Today, the Eyre Highway is much closer and there are four main lookouts where it is possible to pull off the road and gaze out at the Great Southern Ocean as it beats relentlessly on the cliffs.
A word of warning. None of the cliff lookout points are for the faint-hearted or for people who can't stand heights. At this point the cliffs rise sheer for about 100 metres from the sea which pounds on the rocks below. Fortunately each has a safe viewing platform or site which is removed from the edge of the cliffs.


Nullarbor is located on the Eyre Highway 762 km west of Port Augusta and 1070 km north-west from Adelaide.


Origin of Name

In 1867 the South Australian government surveyor Edmund Alexander Delisser, while surveying the border between South Australia and Western Australia, gave the area the name Nullarbor from the Latin words 'nullus arbor' meaning 'no trees'.


Things to See and Do

1. Understanding the Nullarbor
There is an extended quotation from Harold Normandale's book To And About Eyre Peninsula which explains the size and geology of the area. "In 1867, surveyor, E.A. Delisser, journeyed out into the treeless plain which he gave the name NULLARBOR from the Latin "NULLUS" and "ARBOR" meaning "no trees". The Aboriginal name for the Nullarbor Plain was "Oondiri" meaning "the waterless", for the average rainfall of the area is about 8 inches (203 mm) per annum. The Nullarbor Plain extends approximately 450 miles (724 km) from east to west and from the coast it extends 200 miles (322 km) to the Great Victoria Desert in the north - covering an area of 77,000 square miles (19,942,908 ha) - almost as large as the State of Victoria. The plain was created about 25 million years ago when it emerged from the sea; prior to that it had been the sea bed. The denizens of the deep had deposited their lime secreting skeletons and shells on the sea floor. These deposits with sediments of sand eventually created the limestone which covers the entire plain to the depth of 50 to 200 feet (15-60 metres), then covered by 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) of soil. The Nullarbor region is one of the largest arid or semi-arid KARST landforms in the world. KARST topography is the result of the solvent action of water on bedrock. This dissolving of rock forms many different KARST features - the Nullarbor caves being a good example."

2. What is the Nullarbor Plain
The term, Nullarbor Plain, has become seriously imprecise. It is commonly used to describe, with suitable vagueness, all the flatlands lying to the north of the Great Australian Bight. When it comes to the Indian Pacific railway crossing "the Nullarbor" it seems to cover just about the entire trip from Pimba in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The Nullarbor actually defines a large area which is about 750 km from east to west and which runs between the Great Australian Bight and the edges of the Great Victoria Desert. It is not an accurate description - if Nullarbor means "no trees" that is simply not true. There are trees on the plain. Driving on the Eyre Highway there really is one area, between Yalata and the Nullarbor roadhouse in South Australia, which is truly treeless. There is nothing other than dry stunted grasses and low lying hardy desert bushes. The effect of this strange landscape is both monotonous and mesmerising. It is in the area around Nullarbor that the much-photographed "Beware of camels, wombats and kangaroos" signs begin to appear on the Eyre Highway.

3. The Nullarbor Lookouts
At some of the lookouts the cliffs jut out so that there are truly magnificent views along the coast both to the east and the west. Typically the cliffs are 70-100 m above the Great Southern Ocean. The Great Australian Bight is recognised as the largest indentation in the Australian coastline and the cliffs are reputed to be the longest cliff face in the world. It is common to see seals on the rocks below and to hear their distinctive barking muffled by the faint sound of the waves breaking on the rocks. Equally it is common to see whales in season. There are flights over the cliffs from the Nullarbor Roadhouse. Beyond the sheer cliff face, the cliffs drop to a narrow coastal plain with sand dunes and scrub.

4. Head of Bight
Located 20 km east of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, this is widely regarded as one of the very best places to see the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight and to watch for Southern Right Whales between the months of June and October. The whales come to this area to give birth. At this point the Bunda Cliffs are around 65 metres above sea level. They extend for over 100 km to the west. There is excellent and detailed information at http://headofbight.com.au.

5. Bunda Cliffs and the Three Lookouts
The first opportunity to see the famous cliffs of the Nullarbor, if you are travelling from the east, is at the Head of Bight (http://headofbight.com.au/things-to-do/bunda-cliffs) where, lying to the west, are the 100 km of sheer cliffs which run from Head of Bight all the way to Border Village. It is claimed by geologists that the cliffs were formed when Australia separated from Antarctica approximately 65 million years ago and are made up of fossiliferous limestone called Wilson Limestone. This huge limestone slab is reputedly the largest piece of limestone anywhere in the world. This limestone is made up of a white chalky material up to 300m thick and was once part of an ancient seabed. Some of the layers are made up of marine sediment and others incorporate marine fossils including worms and molluscs. The sheer cliffs vary from 60m to 120m above sea level and are capped by a hardened layer of windblown sand laid down between 1.6  million and 100,000 year ago.
There are three main lookouts between the Nullarbor Roadhouse and Border Village. The first lookout (see the photo of the golfer driving a ball into the Great Southern Ocean) offers two excellent vantage points. It is located a short distance from the Eyre Highway 50 km west of the Nullarbor Roadhouse. The second lookout is another 37 km to the west and the third is 96 km to the west.
Each lookout has its own unique appeal. The first lookout is on the edge of the Bunda Cliffs and gazes south across the Great Southern Ocean. The second lookout has the best westerly view of the Bunda Cliffs and the third lookout (which is 59 km further west from Lookout 2) offers a view of white sand dunes which descend through rough and rugged coastal lands to the beaches which lie beyond the Bunda Cliffs.

6. The Nullarbor Roadhouse
The Nullarbor Roadhouse is so proud of its environmental credentials that it puts out a sheet of information which notes: "Our water is sourced from a bore dug 70 m deep under the Nullarbor limestone plains. The water is extremely salty, therefore we have a desalination plant which produces 11,000 litres of fresh water each day ... We generate our own power from three diesel generators located 500 m behind the roadhouse. These generators cost over $200,000 each a year to keep maintained."


Other Attractions in the Area

The Longest Golf Course in the World
Nullarbor Links Golf Course
A very typical Aussie outback joke the Nullarbor Links Golf Course is the world’s longest golf course with the first hole in Ceduna and the 18th hole 1365 km away at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Check out the details at http://www.nullarborlinks.com. It is real and can be a lot of fun for committed golfers.
Hole 5: Dingo's Den Par 5 and is 538 metres.
We stayed the night at Nullarbor. Starting at Ceduna this makes for a reasonable day’s golf. You can comfortably play five holes (two in Ceduna) in a day and have time to relax. The hole is located at the back of the Nullarbor Roadhouse and as this area is absolutely flat and treeless (a true Null Arbor) the hole is more like an airport landing strip than a conventional golf hole. Long and open and flat.
Robbie’s Guide to the Nullarbor Links
Nullarbor – Dingo’s Den
“Another long Par 5, flat terrain for 540m. The dog-leg starts at 200 metres from the tee and still leaves two decent shots to the two-tiered astro turf (with sand) green. If you miss the very wide fairway you may need luck to find your ball.”
The notes on the hole record: "In 1947 Coral and Elwyn Beattie moved from Penong to Nullarbor Station as station hands and life was very tough. They built an extension onto the existing timber and iron building, using stone and cement, old dingo traps and pieces of scrap iron to reinforce and strengthen it. In 1954 they were appointed managers of the Nullarbor Station. Shortly after they decided to set up a shop and sell petrol, food and water. The petrol came in 44-gallon drums, transported from Fowlers Bay. The petrol was hand pumped into a gallon measure then poured into vehicles. They also sold tinned food, cigarettes, biscuits, lollies and crystal cordial drinks. The Beatties left Nullarbor in 1960 after starting the ongoing business of Nullarbor Roadhouse, which of course continues today." The tee is named after Coral and Scobie Beattie.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Nullarbor was home to the Mirning Aboriginal people who called it "Ooondiri" meaning "waterless". They did not occupy much of the land as it was both waterless and useless.

* In 1841 Edward John Eyre passed through the area on his ill-fated journey to King George's Sound in Western Australia.

* In 1865 a party of potential landholders moved through the area sinking wells and hoping to find reliable water. Money was spent sinking wells but no reliable water was found.

* In 1867 the South Australian government surveyor E. A. Delisser, while surveying the border between South Australia and Western Australia, gave the area the name Nullarbor from the Latin words 'nullus arbor' meaning 'no trees'.

* In 1896 Arthur Richardson became the first person to cycle across the Nullarbor.

* A railway line was built across the Nullarbor Plain in 1917.

* The first road, albeit dirt, was completed in 1941.

* The railway line was rebuilt in 1969 and officially opened in 1970.

* By 1976 the road across the Nullarbor had been sealed.

* The area was used for British atomic and nuclear tests in the 1950s.

* In 2011 the area from Nullarbor to the Western Australian border was given Wilderness Protection Status.


Visitor Information

Nullarbor Roadhouse, Eyre Highway, tel: (08) 8625 6271, http://www.nullarborroadhouse.com.au.



Nullarbor Roadhouse, Eyre Highway, tel: (08) 8625 6271, http://www.nullarborroadhouse.com.au.



Nullarbor Roadhouse, Eyre Highway, tel: (08) 8625 6271, http://www.nullarborroadhouse.com.au.


Useful Websites

There is a remarkable and very useful website - http://www.nullarbornet.com.au/towns/nullarbor.html - which covers all the towns across the Nullarbor. It offers prices and advice.

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