Maralinga via Colona

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesColona
DifficultyDifficulty 2.5/5
Suitable For2WD Motorhome/Van Motorbike 
Distance26.64 km
Minimum Days1
Average Speed51.95 km/hr
Travel Time30 mins
Page Updated: 7 Jun 2024


This Trek provides details of the recommended route to drive to Maralinga Village camp ground, which is the starting point for Maralinga tours. No access is permissible without a booking which includes your permit to travel this route. The area has a chained gate and hundreds of kilometres of secure perimeter fencing.

Maralinga was once the most highly secretive location for the testing of British Nuclear weapons and devices on the Australian mainland, Maralinga now offers the opportunity to witness first-hand an area of modern day nuclear history that for decades has made this isolated location restricted to Government Officials and Scientists. With the final clean-up and the official handing back of this land to its Traditional Owners in 2009, Maralinga remains a restricted site but is accessible by booking a guided tour.

The Tour will begin from the Maralinga Village so this Trek provides you with the details for the drive to the Maralinga Village which you can do in your own vehicle and for where you can stay in the campground or in donga/units. NOTE: You need to arrive at the village the day BEFORE your booked tour date. For more info about the tour, see the Maralinga Tours website.

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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 Register.

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.

TrekID: 229


MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.


Please refer to Road Reports published by the local shire and/or main roads for the area you intend to visit. Road/Track conditions can change significantly after weather events. Travellers must be responsible for their own research on current conditions and track suitability.
As with all major outback trips, careful detail must be given to your pre trip preparation. Your vehicle must be in first class mechanical condition, with special emphases on tyres and suspension. The only time that you will have Telstra Phone coverage, will be when you are close to the main Trans Continental Railway Line, at either Ooldea or Watson.


Entry to the Maralinga Atomic Test site is restricted and the area has a chained gate and hundreds of kilometres of secure perimeter fencing.

Tourist Permits are available for a limited number of visitors at any one time - from late March to mid-October. The one day tour includes permit for Maralinga entry, a full day tour of the Forward Area – where the atom bombs were exploded and 2 nights camping at the Village campground.

The two day tour includes permit for Maralinga entry, two days touring of the Forward Area – where the atom bombs were exploded and 3 nights camping at the Village campground.

Fuel Usage

4cyl 4 litres4cyl 4 litres4cyl 5 litres
6cyl 4 litres6cyl 5 litres6cyl 5 litres
8cyl 4 litres8cyl 4 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Tours are only available for visitors between late March to mid-October. Tours run on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, with an option to book a 1 day tour, or a 2 day (overnight) tour.

Closest Climatic Station

Distance from Trek Mid Point 107.21km SW
Mean Max. °C27.927.826.524.821.418.818.219.622.424.326.026.7
Mean Min. °C15.716.
Mean Rain mm11.113.221.822.429.730.227.324.517.818.216.815.3
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended


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Yalata Turn Off to Maralinga Warning Sign
Driving: 1.06 km
Heading: 34°
Avg Speed: 48.88 km/hr
EST Time: 01:18
Maralinga Warning Sign to Blow hole
Driving: 0.94 km
Avg Speed: 43.1 km/hr
EST Time: 01:18
Blow hole to Oak Valley Turn Off
Driving: 11.27 km
Heading: 357°
Avg Speed: 55.59 km/hr
EST Time: 12:09
Oak Valley Turn Off to Maralinga Security Gates
Driving: 6.49 km
Heading: 14°
Avg Speed: 60.17 km/hr
EST Time: 06:28
Maralinga Security Gates to Maralinga
Driving: 6.88 km
Heading: 324°
Avg Speed: 52 km/hr
EST Time: 07:56
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

What to See


Where to Stay

No Places To Stay available for this trek

Services & Supplies

The nearest major centre for all services and supplies is around 5 hours’ drive south east of Maralinga at Ceduna, on the West Coast of South Australia, which offers all major services from Medical, Mechanical as well as all types of food services. If you are coming in from Western Australia, all of your supplies would be nearly exhausted, as your last major service centre from the west is at Kalgoorlie.


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