Perth to Sydney via Nullarbor/Highway 1

Submitted: Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 17:02
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Hello all!

In a couple of weeks I will be flying from the US (where I live) to Sydney and on to Perth. I will then pick up an RV in Perth and have three weeks to drive back to Sydney. The general plan is to approximately follow Highway 1 from Perth, down around the southern part of WA, across the Nullarbor, and on to about Port Augusta or Adelaide. From there I will probably cut across Victoria and NSW rather than following the coast all the way around through Melbourne. This is my first trip to Australia.

I may be a bit out of place in this forum, but: it's just a 2WD van, and I'm going to (mostly) stick to paved/sealed roads. I know that I don't know enough about driving a 4WD to just head out across the desert and hope things work out. I am already impressed enough about the warnings in various print and online sources to pack enough water, food, supplies, etc for the trip across the Nullarbor. I realize that Australia is huge; in the US I've driven 1800 km in two days in a car solo, and 2100 km in two days in a big Ford pickup hauling a race car on a trailer (several people driving in shifts). So I don't expect to have breakfast in Adelaide and drive to Sydney for dinner or anything like that. :)

So... a few questions.

Is it worth trying to take a jerry can of diesel along? I don't know if there will be a good place to strap it on the outside of the van or in an external storage compartment. Theoretically I will be near filling stations somewhat regularly, but it might be a nice backup. The rental place estimates 13 l/100 km for the vehicle, so I probably need at least a 10 l can to do any good. (The vehicle tank is 75 l.)

I understand there are some turn-offs south from Highway 1 in SA that take you right to the edge of the cliffs at the ocean. But I also have read that some of these have been closed or restricted, and that some of them are only really passable with a 4WD. Is there a good place to get current information on which ones are open?

My itinerary, by day, is approximately this. Any opinions on the reasonableness or otherwise of it?

1-2 Perth
3 Augusta
4 Denmark
5 Esperance
6 Balladonia
7 Cocklebiddy
8 Nullarbor
9 Smoky Bay
10 Port Augusta

After this my schedule gets less definite. The first option is something like

11 Mildura
12-14 Melbourne
15 Wagga Wagga
16-17 Bathurst
18-20 Sydney

and the second option is something like

11 Broken Hill
12 Cobar
13-? Bathurst
?-20 Sydney

(I may be visiting someone I know in Bathurst, which is why it figures in both options.)

I am sure I will have more questions in the future but these are the big ones I can think of now.

Thanks for your help!

Matt R.
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Reply By: Roughasguts - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 17:28

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 17:28
Personally I would do the smoky bay run but go all the way down to Pt Lincoln then up to Whyalla, then Pt Augusta, a much more scenic trip.

Once again from Adelaide I would go through the Coorong, Robe, and Mt gambier, then great ocean road then up through Ballarat, Wagga Etc on to Bathurst Maybe then Batemans bay before going to Sydney.

Only because I think you will see plenty of desert over the Nullarbor and after 500 odd miles it's a bit of a yawn (flat and featurless really) so 3-4 days off desert should do you I think. I know a lot of people won't agree with me but after living on the edge of the Nullarbour for a whille I got tired of it.

AnswerID: 443684

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 18:05

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 18:05

Sounds like a really good trip, and I'm sure you'll be made very welcome here.

A few general points - You'll be in Australia at the hottest time of the year, and should expect temperatures of up to 40 degrees on the long run across. You are no doubt aware that there has been major flooding in western Victoria, though this shouldn't affect you much unless there's further heavy rain. There isn't much opportunity for a 2WD to leave the Eyre Highway and fuel is available at sensible intervals along that highway - in any remote area (such as this) it's prudent to never pass up an opportunity to fill the tank. I would carry a Gerry can or two, but filled with water, not fuel. Suggest for the long hot run, make yourself aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, deliberately drink more water than you think you need, and avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffien (coke, coffee..) Not trying to frighten you, but you should expect it to be hot beyond your experience and not underestimate you fluid needs.

I think if I was doing this trip in 3 weeks I'd aim to spend a week in the southwest corner, taking in Perth and the coast and hinterland around to about Albany. Then devote most of a week to travel across to the eastern states. The final week to get to Sydney could take you around coastal Victoria, or a more direct route - Mildura - Hay - Bathurst - Sydney. I think I'd avoid your more northerly option through Broken Hill - too hot at that time of year.

You might find some of our blogs helpful too. Have a look at the last few links here. Other members blogs too will be helpful.


J and V
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Reply By: vk1dx - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:11

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:11
I would say the same as John and Val.

But I have an exercise for you. Not long ago I was chatting almost daily with some amateurs in the States. One night they said that some couples were going to come and "see Australia". They then said they would have two to three weeks. I asked them to get two maps. One of Australia and one of mainland USA. Put them over each other and judge if the distance covered in the States would give them time to see some sights along the same distance as in Australia. They waited and took a longer trip.

Try it out. Would you be happy with that in the States.

Welcome mate

AnswerID: 443704

Reply By: Member - Leigh (Vic) - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:16

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:16
There is a new book out next month called Camps Australia 6 that I'd recommend if you are interested in some bush type stop-overs. Perhaps a jerry can with 20 litres of fuel would make you feel comfortable but you should have no trouble generally in managing fuel supplies across the nullabour...just have a good idea from your map how far it is to the next stop. Have plenty of water to drink as well and watch out for being over exposed to direct sunlight. The cliffs across the Nullabour are easily accessed, just keep off the very edges as they are severly undercut at the top and it's a long way down to the water!! Head of the Bite is worth a look if it's open at that time of year? Whilst at Esperence make sure you allow a day or two to see the two National Parks (Cape Arid and Cape Le Grand) These are both spectatular and you can camp there as well. Also consider a drive (or camp over) into Cactus Beach, on the way over the Nullabor, which has some fantastic surfing and is a bit different. Be fully self sufficient though. The Old telegraph station at Eucla is also a POI you may be interested in seeing and will not be far out of your way. The Nullabor has many treasures but best suited to 4wd. May of the little tracks you will see heading north from the Nullabour go for many hundreds of kilometers into the desert but are not recommended for your vehicle. It's best not to drive at night due to Kangaroos. They also have no road sense and will not obey the keep left I suspect may be an initial challenge for you as well!!! Enjoy the trip, it will be one you will remember for ever!
AnswerID: 443705

Reply By: Member - case h (INT) - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:39

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 19:39
Hallo MattR.
Firstly have a great time! I am a kiwi spending quite a bit of time in the land of Oz. Grandkids, You know how it goes.
I have done the drive from East to West twice now in the last couple of years.
Even two months was too fast for me.
A few notes. Esperance has been voted best beaches in the world and a one night stopover is not going to satisfy your needs. Cape Le Grande and further East beaches are a must. Cocklebiddy has 6 people, a dog, 23 budgies and 2.523.622 roo's. Apart from refueling I would suggest keep going. Dropping down to Port Lincoln is certainly a very nice drive but you will be pressed for time. Similar to the suggestion of doing the Great Ocean road. In any case the suggestion of buying the Camp 6 book is a really good one. it is my bible for free camping.
Have safe and happy travels. Cheers, Case
AnswerID: 443709

Follow Up By: Dasher Des - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 13:23

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 13:23
Case you didn't mention the 23,000,000 flies per square mile out there LOL
Maybe a fly net might help too
FollowupID: 715975

Reply By: blue one - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 21:01

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 21:01
Why bother

Kinda like doin the Louvre in joggers

Pick one place you want to be and structure the trip around it.
AnswerID: 443720

Follow Up By: equinox - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 20:15

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 20:15
You're not the adventurous type 'eh blue one

Looking for adventure.
In whatever comes our way.
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Follow Up By: blue one - Thursday, Feb 03, 2011 at 18:48

Thursday, Feb 03, 2011 at 18:48
Nah just hate rushing a trip
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Reply By: splits - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 21:55

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 21:55
'day Matt.

It should be a fantastic trip. It is a long way in a short time but if you only have three weeks then three weeks it is so go for it.

It reminds me of the four trips I did between Sydney and Perth back in 1972/73. Each one took three days ( there was 500 ks of unsealed road then) with one of them solo.

On one of them we met two Japanese with a new Subaru sedan at Cocklebiddy. They had a map of Australia painted on the back and were driving right around the whole country in two weeks! I just happened to have two Japanese speaking American tourists in the car with me, as you do, so we were able to speak to them.

I did not need extra fuel back then so you definitely won't need it now.

If you decide to drive straight up from Melbourne to Wagga Wagga, then there a few much more scenic detours that you can take if you have the time.

First spend a few minutes at the little town of Glenrowan on the main highway just before Wangaratta and check out the history of our most famous bushranger (outlaw) Ned Kelly. Not too many people make suits of armour out of heavy plough sheers then have a lengthy shoot out with police..

Turn right onto the Murray Valley Highway near the state border at Wodonga. If you want to see Albury then first drive on for about five minutes then go back to Wodonga. Follow the highway up into the Snowy Mountains to Jindabyne. If you want to go to the top of Mt Kosciuszko, our highest mountain, then the turn off is at Jindabyne. You then return to Jindabyne and drive on to Berridale then north to Adaminaby on the Snowy Mountains Highway to Tumut and on to Wagga Wagga.

When you drive from Bathurst to Sydney, stay on the Great Western Highway at Lithgow and go on to Katoomba. The alternative Bells Line of Road from Lithgow down out of the mountains to Sydney is very nice but nowhere near as scenic as the Katoomba route.

At Katoomba, take the two to three ks detour to Echo Point and the Three Sisters. The view from Echo Point would have to be the most spectacular in the whole of the world heritage listed Blue Mountains and is a must see for any tourist driving through that area.
AnswerID: 443728

Reply By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 22:30

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 22:30
Gidday Matt, the map below will show you how HOT it will be crossing the Nullarbor. 45 centigrade comes in at 113 Fahrenheit!!! It will still be as bad in February.Get up early to beat the heat then drive with air con from noon for 4 or 5 hours to get some miles under your belt. Even Bathurst hit 100 F last week. About the only weather your itinerary won't get is a tropical cyclone.............W

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Reply By: Member - Duncan W (WA) - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 22:55

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 22:55
Hi Matt, good trip itinerary. We did what you're planning some years back in a 2wd station wagon and didn't need to worry about jerry cans of fuel. There's adequate supply.Check with the vehicle rental company for the expected fuel consumption for the vehicle you're about to hire.
Enjoy the trip, it's a hell of a big country with a lot of miles between some destinations. take your time, drink plenty of water, apply the sun screen, and don't forget the insect repellent, the flies will love you.
Make sure you give back more than you take

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Reply By: steved58 - Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 23:10

Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 23:10
Your itinery seems fine a bit short on time
But it will be way!!!! too hot to enjoy
Especially traveling as fast as you will need to cover the distance
Stand in front of your oven with the fan force on and you will get an idea of the conditions along the Nullabor at that time of the year
I have crossed it nine times it is a fantastic trip it can be cooler I crossed in mid January last year and either side of my run was very hot I had a nice cool run so you can get lucky
Don't drive at night Kangaroos
The road always has plenty of traffic so safety is ok with some common sense
Do not repeat do not leave your vehicle if stuck wait for someone to come along many have died from this mistake one recently
Have a great trip you will be back for another once you've seen it you will be hooked
AnswerID: 443737

Follow Up By: Member - Bill B1 (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 24, 2011 at 12:24

Thursday, Feb 24, 2011 at 12:24
Hi Steved58,
A bit off the topic, but I am at Walpole on the way to crossing the Nullabor around the end of April.
As a frequent (relatively) Nullabor crosser, can you tell me what the winds are likely to be then?
I know you can't predict the weather but I thought certain times of the year the expected winds blew either one way or the other. Making it easier on the fuel consumption!


Bill B

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Follow Up By: steved58 - Friday, Feb 25, 2011 at 01:44

Friday, Feb 25, 2011 at 01:44
Winds should be North/North East at that time of the year would probably be a relatively easy trip

However I always seem to find higher fuel usage on the Nullabor especially around the Bunda cliffs

Should be a nice trip will probably be green after all the rain this year

Have a nice crossing wish it was me I love that part of Oz
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Follow Up By: Member - Bill B1 (NSW) - Friday, Feb 25, 2011 at 12:26

Friday, Feb 25, 2011 at 12:26
Thanks for your advice. Looking forward to the trip too.

Bill B

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Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 07:59

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 07:59
The Eyre Highway is by no means a remote outback highway. It is an excellent rroad, albeit a long one. It is probably better than the highway through Broken Hill and the Hay plains road. We went across in Feb one year and it was much, much hotter in NSW and SA than the Eyre. With air-conditioned vehicles these days it is quite OK. It is not much worse, if at all, than any other major road in Australia. My first trip across was in 1965 and since then I have made numerous other crossings, the last in Oct last year.
AnswerID: 443758

Reply By: landseka - Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 10:29

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 10:29
Hi Matt, as others have said, you are covering huge distances with not enough time to really enjoy the trip.

Take heaps of photos, at least then you will be able to relax when you get home and appreciate what you didn't have time to see.

One thing I would suggest, unless you have a REALLY good reason to visit Augusta in WA leave it off the itinerary as it is at the end of a dead end road and entails considerable backtracking to be on your way again. A better way would be ...Perth, Bunbury, Manjimup, Walpole then Denmark to Albany.

Enjoy the trip.

Cheers Neil
AnswerID: 443784

Follow Up By: disco driver - Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 11:54

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011 at 11:54
I'll agree with Neil's idea of avoiding Augusta even though it is worth a visit if you have time to spare.

Going Perth-Augusta-Denmark is around 1050km compared with around 660km going Perth-Bunbury-Manjimup-Walpole-Denmark.

From there it's usually Denmark-Albany-Esperence-Norseman-Eyre Hway and on-

Hope this helps your planning

Disco in Denmark
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Follow Up By: Member - case h (INT) - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 13:39

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 13:39
I love Denmark but have never disco'ed there. Good pies though! If you drop down as far as Bunbury, why not include Busselton with it's jetty and Margs (Margaret River) from there you can drop inland to Pemberton, Walpole and than onto Denmark. We have been to Australia a good thirty times and spent a fair bit of time in the South West of WA. Just love that part of the world and would not want Matt to miss out on that part of Oz and miss the while tailed black cockatoo, which he is bound to see.
Whichever route you take Matt, I are bound to enjoy it. Forget about the negative remarks about having to do it running. Better to have done it running than not to have done it at all!
Cheers and enjoy, Case, Tauranga, New Zealand.
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Reply By: MattR - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 00:42

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 00:42
Well... I asked for opinions and I got 'em! :)

First, thanks for the many ideas on routings and things to see.

I think it is looking more likely that I will go inland in far southwest WA (that is, Bunbury, Manjimup, Walpole rather than Bunbury, Margaret River, Augusta, Pemberton, Walpole). Closer to Port Augusta and Adelaide I'm still kind of fuzzy.

The reason why I was thinking of a stop in Cocklebiddy was to visit the Eyre bird observatory near there. (I know you can't get all the way there in a 2WD.)

I _have_ looked at my plan before and thought "Hmm, I sure am staying in a different place every night." Partly this is because I was trying to limit the drives to 300 - 400 km or so, the idea being that I would then have time to stop and explore things a bit on the way. The leading alternative is probably to stay in one place for more nights and then make one or two longer drives (600+ km) to get to the next place to stay several nights. Still not sure exactly what I'll do yet. (But I better figure it out soon...)

I also realize that I am doing the equivalent of a drive from Los Angeles, California to Orlando, Florida in three weeks. Because of the vacation policy and general schedule at work, three weeks is what I have.

For water, the van will have a tank which I will fill before setting out, but I also plan to carry an additional amount in separate jug(s). (All of the advice-for-tourists stuff says to use at least two separate containers in case one springs a leak, which sounds like a really good idea.) I have also been told (and plan to) to stay with the vehicle if it breaks; it's easier to find than a single person walking.

It's true I haven't been outside continuously in 45 C before. I *have* worked on a rural property cutting grass and clearing brush (by hand) in Texas in the summer before, when it was about 35 to 38 C and 80% humidity. Our "boss" made us stop and drink water often, and recommended that we all do a simple medical test on ourselves: go pee, if it isn't clear, drink more water!

The van also has a toilet and shower, so I have a certain ability to camp where there isn't a regular campsite. The rental company recommends staying at a powered site at least every other night so as to charge up the house battery in the van, but the main consequence of that one being dead seems to be that the fridge won't work. While I don't want to lose any perishable food in the fridge, I also plan to have some stuff that doesn't have to be cold, so I won't starve if there is no fridge.

One small modification that I plan to do with the van: I am printing up a sheet of paper with "Keep Left" in various sizes. When I get the van I will stick notes on the inside top edge of the windshield, down by the speedometer, maybe on the center of the steering wheel. I suspect it will take me about a week to consistently open the door on the same side of the van with the steering wheel though. :)


Matt R.
AnswerID: 443877

Follow Up By: Dasher Des - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 14:04

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 14:04
Matt, The Eyre Bird Obsevatory will only allow you to stay in their accomodation and will require booking ahead of your arrival.
If you wish to carry additional water (good idea) you can purchase a 10litre cardboard cask of water at most supermarkets. They are strong enough to carry in the back of the vehicle without breaking.
have a good and safe trip. You will find it quite safe to stop on the side of the road at the roadside rest areas. I often overnight camp at them when travelling. They can be a bit noisey due to all the Semi's passing all night long.
FollowupID: 715981

Follow Up By: urbanus - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 19:25

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 19:25
A simpler way to remember to keep left is the driver is always nearer the middle of the road. Having done the cross-country trek more than a dozen times I concur many of the above comments about the monotony of the inland route and suggest some alternative routes.

With three weeks you will have plenty of time to visit sou-west WA (Margaret River, Pemberton, Denmark, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie), then head east across the Nullabor. I suggest detour via B100 along the coast via Streaky Bay and Port Lincoln to Port Augusta and then onto the Barossa Valley and Adelaide. Continue east through the Adelaide Hills but skip the drive along the Coorong unless you like looking at mile after mile of tea tree and sand. Rather turn south at Keith going to Naracoorte and Mt Gambier. Follow the Great Ocean Road to Geelong and then north through Ballarat, Daylesford, Castlemaine to Bendigo to Echuca where you head east on the Murray Valley Highway to Albury where you head north to Wagga. I suspect you would have time to detour from Cobram through Rutherglen, Glenrowan, Milawa, Beechworth, Yackandandah to Albury which would be more scenic and of historical interest. From Wagga you can go via Cowra, Bathurst and Lithgow to Katoomba and onto Sydney.

There will be places you cannot bring fresh fruit and veg into along the way for disease and pest controls so only buy what you will eat in a couple of days. You're not intending to go off the beaten track so you will never be that far from civilisation and help if required. Plenty of people do this drive without being as well equipped as you. Just pay attention at distance to next available fuel as you will be able to purchase fuel and supplies along the way. One tip; purchase some insect wire mesh to place over the front of the grill and a squeegee to clean your windscreen in case you have to drive through a locust swarm. Another tip; you will not always have radio to break the monotony so bring some CDs if your RV does not have a USB or ipod connection.

Bon voyage.
FollowupID: 716016

Reply By: get outmore - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 12:44

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 12:44
alot of stuff has been covered except the fuel qustion

no you wont need a jerry of fuel

I feel naked wthout a spare

we all make miscalculations and you wont be enjoying yourself like you shoud if you end up nursing along watching the fuel gaue and hoping or end up nt being able to take an interesting detour because fuel is tight
AnswerID: 443917

Reply By: steved58 - Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 22:32

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011 at 22:32
Everthing said please write back after your trip or during and let us know how you go the turn offs on the bunda cliffs you will always find some to stop at even though some are closed It should be a hell of a good 3 weeks have fun
AnswerID: 443973

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