Nuytsland Nature Reserve
is a very long and narrow reserve of 625,000 ha following the coast in a NE/SW orientation with a sea frontage of over 500km. Significant features within the reserve for visitors exploring this area include Eyre
Bird Observatory, Israelite Bay Telegraph Station (ruins), Toolinna Cove
, Point Culver, and Twilight Cove. Topographic/scenic high points include long remote beaches, Baxter Cliffs, Wylie Scarp, mallee woodlands, and the magnificent Bilbunya dunes. The route takes in sections of the long abandoned Telegraph Track (c. 1874 - 1927), and it is worth reading up on the history to fully appreciate not only its use, but how it was built.
Much of the trip includes long distance beach driving, rough pavements, extensive scrubby stretches and some deep sand plus some easy dune driving making this trip suitable for experienced 4WDers only. Telegraph Track sections are generally slow going over firm sand with extensive limestone outcropping. The limestone significantly slows progress as does encroaching scrub – expect scratches. Evidence of the Telegraph is seen by the occasional remnants of poles and insulators and for long stretches, a single steel wire snakes along the route.
Part of the area is greatly affected by wet weather and during winter can be an extremely boggy between Israelite Bay and Wattle Camp. Practically all of the trek is within 100km of civilization via the Eyre
Hwy but travellers will be in very remote areas in the sense that they may be the only vehicle on the track. Do not expect to meet fellow travellers. Overall, the track is generally in good condition, including the section of the track between Wattle Camp and Culver Campsite (to be used if the beach conditions are inadvisable) which has recently been cleared following temporary closures due to fires.
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Nuytsland NR has a frontage to the sea of about 500 km - the longest of any Australian conservation reserve. The Reserve lies primarily in the Southwest Interzone region of the Eramean botanical province and is characterised by mixed mallee woodlands
and kwongan thickets fringed by coastal heaths.
Driving & Camping Notes
Israelite Bay to Wattle Camp
At Israelite Bay
you'll find a significant telegraph station ruin and this is an attractive camping spot
with good access to beach fishing
and to Point Malcolm
. The 55 km section from here to Wattle Camp, trending NE, is reasonable going over sand and through dry lake systems (which might be a problem after rains). This is a scenic and diverse area with a third being vegetated dunes, a third being salt lakes and the remainder woodlands
. Camp spots abound around the lake systems (although a bit exposed) and Wattle Camp holds a lovely large grove of mallees which looked great for an overnighter.
Wattle Camp to Culver Campsite
The 53km section can be done via the inland telegraph route or as a long beach run. Note special warnings in the Preparation section. You must head these warnings as there is a real danger of becoming trapped against the sand beach cliffs halfway along. However, this section is too easy when the conditions are good and has the advantage of going past the magnificent Bilbunya Dunes
, up to 100 metres high. Just don’t be tempted to go too quick as in hooning as there are frequent shallow ‘hidden’ sand gullies lying across the beach. Entry/exit at Wattle Camp is marked by two poles straddling the track. The beach entry/exit by Culver campsite is marked by a pole with an arrow on it. The track through the dunes is easy and leads past the campsite. Culver campsite is very neat and appealing with many spots in and under the coastal heath and mallee.
After leaving the beach, you'll ascend the steep Wylie Scarp. Previously this was a major challenge due to severe gullying but there is now a beltway comprising recycled conveyor rubber which has made the climb very easy to negotiate. The top of the scarp marks the coastal boundary of the mallee woodlands
. The view at the top is sensational and makes a great spot
for a break. Note that it is possible to continue on the beach beyond the access point for about 7 km to the base of the cliffs but advice received from DEC is that the going becomes increasingly soft.
Culver Campsite to Toolinna Cove
The Track proceeds through extensive mallee woodlands
over mainly limestone pavements resulting in slow going. At about 7km from the Scarp there is a signed track north to the Eyre
highway (if heading to Balladonia
). Take the right fork and continue on the Telegraph Track through dense vegetation. There are no ideal or designated campsites, however an overnighter is possible in any of the clear patches.
At the Toolinna end the track T junctions. Take the right for 1 km to the Baxter Cliffs lookout
for spectacular views; continue to the left for about 9km to the Cove itself which was for those years the only point in the cliffs where supplies for the telegraph line could be safely landed.
Toolinna Cove to Baxter
From Toolinna the track passes through continuing similar woodlands
although increasingly scratchy but with less limestone outcropping. It is easy to do damage to mirrors and the like. There are two places
as indicated by waypoints in this route file that are excellent for overnight camps, although numerous other alternatives exist. At about 54km the track junctions with the track north to the Eyre
Hwy at Caiguna
. Continuing eastwards on stony ground to right for 13 km is the Baxter Memorial (easy to miss) and a further 3km leads to the Baxter Cliffs, again with outstanding views.
Note that this trek did not use the Baxter to Twilight Cove
section of Telegraph Track. Recent advice from DEC is that the track is trafficable but in spite of recent limited pruning is very scratchy and that vehicles larger than a Troopie probably wouldn’t be able to push through. The western end of this section is very hard to find apparently. However, advice from another traveller puts it at 32* 27’ 34” S 125* 31’ 50.5” E adjacent to some old rusted watertanks. By proceeding past the tanks a track can be found but, as it was not explored , proceed with caution.
Baxter to Twilight Cove
The trek retraces back to the Toolinna section/Caiguna track junction
then north to Caiguna
; 22km away, then onto Cocklebiddy via the Eyre
highway. The last 10km is open and easy and is much more akin to Nullarbor Plains topography. You are then on the Eyre
Hwy between Caiguna
and Cocklebiddy. At Cocklebiddy seek directions to the Twilight Cove
track as it is easy to miss in the maze
of tracks behind the roadhouse.
From Cocklebiddy to Twilight Cove
the track is similar to that for the last 8km of the Caiguna
track but then becomes progressively rockier through woodland. At 23km the track is very rough but then becomes mainly deep sand quite open through woodlands
. Tyre pressures need to be reduced to between 20-25psi.
When arriving at the Twilight Scarp it is advisable to descend down onto the Roe Plain in low range due to severe water erosion gullying but it can be done safely. At about 30km near a beach shack (Carlisle’s Hut) the track forks to campsites on left and to beach access and to the cliffs on the right, or to a further fork right through soft acacia to some scenic claypans behind the beach dunes.
Twilight Cove to Eyre
Continue through the campsites area to arrive at another beach access. Just behind the beach dunes is an unmarked track paralleling the beach eastwards. Proceed on this track as it gradually trends away from the coast through sand dune
country. At a few points the track is obscure. After about 15km the track trends back to the coast down to Kanidal Beach coming out at a place known as the ‘nine mile’.
The run from here to the Eyre
(about 14 km) exit is easy, provide tides are below 0.6 metres and low to moderate swell conditions prevail. If the tide is too high there is a challenging, slow but rough going track just inland behind the foredunes; the entry onto this track is about 500 metre east of where you originally descended the dunes.
On the beach, travel behind the weedbanks for a few hundred metres until reaching open beach. The odd looking posts on the beach dunes are for bird count measurements and are staged approx. 1km apart but distances can’t be accurately re-standardised for historical count reasons.
Note that from Twilight the Bird Observatory should be contactable on UHF 12. The custodians, always great people and volunteers, would appreciate a call advising your prospective arrival.
The exit from the beach is unmissable as there is a substantial commercial fishing boat wreck adjacent. Proceed through a low relief dunefield past the sign to Eyre
and the Eyre
, Baxter, Wylie memorial, to come rapidly to the Observatory and trek end. Eyre Bird Observatory
is located at Eyre
and is housed in a beautifully restored telegraph station. EBO is a delightful spot
well worth a day. Bookings can be made for accommodation and meals or for day visit tours at a nominal fee. No supplies are available but interested visitors are welcome to help with their local research and activities.
(Final note - The track from EBO to the Eyre
Hwy is through identical country to the Cocklebiddy to Twilight leg but the track condition is much much better. The sand is regularly graded and the jump-up over the scarp has been engineered to road standard. At the radio tower at the halfway point the track becomes formed road. Proceed to the Hwy km east of Cocklebiddy).
The eastern south coast of Western Australia
including the area covered by this trek is steeped in two iconic historical events
Firstly the epic 1841 westwards journey of Edward John Eyre
accompanied by John Baxter and Aboriginals Wylie, Yarrie and Joey. Baxter did not survive this journey having been shot near the cliffs now called after his name on 29 April.
The earliest attributions for the killing was for it to have been done by either Yarrie or Joey (who both promptly decamped) but later conjecture has arisen as to whether they were scapegoated and that Eyre
himself fired the shot. Following Baxter’s death Eyre
and Wylie continued their arduous and desperate trek in country with extremely little water or sustenance, finally reaching safety via re-provisioning from a French whaling ship and then arriving in Albany in July.
Secondly, the overland telegraph line with its wonderful repeater stations including the substantial ruin at Israelite Bay, originally built in wood in 1876 but replaced by a much more substantial stone structure in 1896, and the restored station at Eyre
which was built in 1897.
The telegraph line itself was erected over about three years between 1874-77 and was in use until de-commissioning in 1927 following the advent of the Nullarbor rail crossing and associated telegraph lines. Remnants of the original line can be seen throughout the track. For 50 years it was a vital piece of national infrastructure
without which the rapid development of Western Australia
in the 1890s following gold discoveries would have been much slowed.
At the Israelite Bay end of the trek limited economic activity also took place via attempts at pastoralism and fishing. At zenith the Bay and surrounding areas held a population
of about 150 persons