For those that are coming in from the west or for people that are after a far more remote drive and the chance that you will be the only vehicle travelling this remote area, the drive will be at a far longer and slower pace and without a GPS or moving Map, it would be advised to take the main road in from Colona, further to the east.
From the Nullarbor Roadhouse, proceed out on the Old Eyre Highway
, which will run almost parallel to the main highway for some distance, before starting to head in a northeast direction. At the required waypoint to leave the Old Eyre Highway
, the track will now be a two wheel track all the way to Watson and there are no signposts anywhere along this track. Up until Disappointment Cave, the track is quite enjoyable to drive, but care must be taken not to leave the track, as there are many large wombat warrens on the edge of the track that will stop immediately and do great damage to any vehicle that falls into these very large holes.
From Disappointment Cave, the drive will be at a slower pace and care must now be focused on the many large limestone rocks that will be part of the road track. When you have the main Telstra tower in sight at Watson, which will still be more than 5 kilometres away, you will now have Telstra Next G Phone coverage all the way to Watson Railway Siding. When arriving at Watson, you will be required to ring ahead to Robin so he can be at the Security gates when you arrive. Once you are over the main Trans Continental Railway Line, you will now have the luxury of a bitumen road all the way to Maralinga Village and beyond.
Upon reaching Watson, you will be required to phone Robin, so that he can be at the security gates on your arrival at Maralinga. If for some reason Robin is delayed and not at the gates, he can be contact now either by UHF Radio
on Channel 40 or via Satellite Phone
How to Use this Trek Note
Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places
on each POI page.
If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
- Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
- You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
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- If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.
Nullarbor Regional Reserve, located in the far west of the State, covers an area of 2,873,000 hectares and extends from the Eyre
Highway north to the Transcontinental Railway line and west into Western Australia
and was proclaimed in 1989 and is one of South Australia
’s largest protected areas. The reserve is a key component of the biological corridor connecting extensive intact areas from the Western Australia
border to central Eyre
Peninsula. The area is of great significance to the traditional owners of the land and continues to be an important connection of their living culture today.
Both the Nullarbor Regional Reserve and National Park protect many Aboriginal cultural sites associated with the world’s largest semi-arid cave landscape. There are 24 sites listed under the Aboriginal Heritage
Act 1988 within the reserve, including sites still used for cultural purposes by initiated members of local Aboriginal communities.
The harsh environment, isolation and lack of available water resulted in very brief attempts to settle land in the reserve and throughout the broader Nullarbor Plain. Consequently, the reserve contains few relics of pastoral life and to date no features have been entered in the State Heritage
Once you head further north and cross the Trans Continental Railway Line, the landscape take on another appearance, as the Bluebush gives way to red sand dunes that are covered in Mallee and you now enter the southern section of Australia
’s largest dune desert, the Great Victoria
Desert, which was named by explorer Ernest Giles in 1875 after Queen Victoria
after he had undertaken a 17 day, 500 kilometre journey without finding any fresh water sources, and stumbled across a small Claypan that was full of fresh water, and ultimately saved the life of him and his party.
The first and original inhabitants of this area were various Aboriginal groups that formed part of the ‘Western Desert Culture Bloc’, with all groups sharing a common language with minor dialect variations and similar social and religious structures. Life revolved around small family groups living as hunter gatherers and at times of drought, would retreat to sites where a reliable source of water would be guaranteed, sometimes many hundreds of kilometres from their traditional hunting areas. One such site that was a very important meeting and trading place was Ooldea Soak or as it was known to the local Aboriginals, Yuuldul or Juldigabi.
Ooldea Soak was focal hub for hundreds of kilometres, and during times of ceremonial activities, it has been recorded that as many as up to 500 people would gather and would settle disputes, arrange marriage, trade and initiate young boys into manhood. Such ceremonies took place at Ooldea up until the early 1940’s. The first Europeans to see Ooldea Soak were 2 well sinkers, Venning and Howie who were led to the Soak by a group of Aboriginals that they had met while working in the Fowlers Bay area in 1868. The next white person to visit the soak was the local Fowlers Bay Policeman, Thomas Richards who was told about the soak by Venning and Howie when they returned to Fowlers Bay.
With the settlement of the New Colony of South Australia
, there was the ever quest for cropping and grazing land, which in turn led to may visits to all areas of the state. There were a number of well-known explorers
that visited the far western part of the new Colony of South Australia
, but only a few that ever visited the depths of the Nullarbor Plain and the area that we now know as Maralinga.
Ernest Giles made 2 visits to the area in 1873 and 1875 in an attempt to find a way across the deserts to Western Australia
, while in 1879 William Tietkens was asked by a British Businessman, Mr Louis Leisler to sink some wells north of Ooldea in the hope of finding good water and opening up the land for pastoral development. The project was a disaster and the project called off, with Tietkens returning to New South Wales
in 1882. One of these wells can be visited as part of the Range Tour.
Over the coming years, the area was again visited by a number of explorers
, but one person that put fame to the area and Ooldea was not a man, but an Irish woman by the name of Daisy Bates. Between 1919 and 1934 she lived in a tent around 2 kilometres north from the Ooldea Railway siding and she was a self-appointed with the aim to provide the Aboriginal people with food, clothing, simple medicines, to discourage contact of the Aboriginal women with the railway workers and to generally look after the wellbeing of the Aboriginal people in the area.
Even with all the European contact, there were still many small Aboriginal family units that continued to live a nomadic lifestyle which would all come to a very sudden and abrupt end in the mid 1950’s and an event that would for ever change the landscape and the lifestyle they were accustomed to. It all started in 1947 after the end of World War 11 and the push for Britain to be a major nuclear power when Eastern Europe became gripped in the events
that were known as the Cold War.
England needed large uninhabited tracks of land well away from the preying eyes of Russia and where else but Australia
could for fill all of these requirements. With the development of the Woomera Rocket Range, Emu was to become the first location for the first 2 Nuclear Bombs to be exploded on the Australian Mainland. As ideal as this location was, its sheer remoteness made the logistics of transporting material into Emu or as it was first know, Project X200 made Britain search for a location that would still be remote, but being able to have equipment brought into that new place far easier and quicker and from a reliable Transport source.
Such a location was observed from aerial reconnaissance photographs and only a short distance north of the Transcendental Railway Line. The new location for Project X300 was found and recommended and on the 17th October 1953, the site was inspected from the air by Sir William Penney, Britain’s chief nuclear scientist and the site was given the green light. By late 1954 a new township had spring up and the town was given the name of Maralinga, a world taken from the local Aboriginal people that roughly translated to “Thunder”. This new town was not going to be a short term affair, with plans set in place for the long term testing of nuclear bombs and devices for a planned life of 30 years.
By 1956 the first Nuclear Bomb was detonated as part of the Buffalo Series of testing, but by 1958 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was well under way with over 5000 people attending the first public meeting in February 1958 and the CND became the biggest peace and anti-nuclear movement in the United Kingdom. Had these historic events
not taken place, the total number of 7 nuclear tests that took place at Maralinga could have ended up in the hundreds.
For a full run down on these events
, please refer to the history of this area in the Trek Notes
for the “Maralinga Range Tour”, which is an absolute must if you are making the effort of visiting Maralinga.
Ceduna Police 08 - 8626 2020
Emergencies – (Police, Ambulance, Fire) 000
Ceduna Visitor Information Centre 1800 639 413
DENR Ceduna Office 08 - 8625 3144
Maralinga Tjarutja Permits Office 08 - 8625 2946
Maralinga Village 08 - 8670 4089
Nullarbor Roadhouse 08 - 8625 6271