Crossing the Nullarbor by car is a fantastic experience that everyone should try at least once. It may be a long, mostly straight drive but it's out on the open road eating up the kilometers between roadhouses that the sheer vastness of Australia really sinks in.
Our trip started in Perth early one November, with the simple aim of getting to taste the fine oysters of Ceduna in South Australia in one piece. We didn't set a specific time scale for the journey but expected to be out of Western Australia on day 2, we were wrong.
Packing our station wagon with the usual camping gear we hit the road about 10am, filling up our car and camping gas cylinder en-route. Realistically we should have set out earlier, but we wanted to avoid the Perth rush-hour if we could help it. Getting out the back of Perth is quite a slow process, the urban sprawl spreads for miles up into the hills behind Western Australia’s capital, slow roads and painfully cautious traffic lights blight a speedy departure at every turn. Eventually the houses turn to lush forest as the road winds its way towards Mundaring, Northam and beyond into the centre of the farming industry of the state and passing into the vast Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia.
Once out of the town the traffic drops off to virtually nothing, making quick travel easy and the roads enjoyable. Flocks of parakeets and galahs are to be seen, and the road links up and follows roughly the route of the great Indian-Pacific railway, crossing the line at several different points on the way to Kalgoorlie.
We weren’t too pushed for time on the first day, so we bedded down in the ancient Mining town of Coolgardie. Coolgardie was once the height of the Mining boom at the turn of the 20th century. Once supporting up to 30000 people, where now it is home to little more than 2000. Although there is plenty of mining around the area, it's nothing like that seen all those years ago. Coolgardie’s one time opulence is plain to see, the main street is massively wide, and the town hall one of the finest and grandest you will see. Thankfully this great monument has been restored to excellent condition and stands grandly in the centre of the town. We camped at a small and welcoming campsite just off the main road. Plenty of shade to be had and friendly locals helped make it a peaceful stay.
Thus far we've been heading pretty much directly west, but at Coolgardie the road turns south as you head down towards the coast for around 300kms to the town of Norseman. The journey becomes a dry barren one, with salt lakes glistening off into the horizon.
After a good few hours you reach Norseman, a cross roads and mining/tourist town for those heading up from Esperance in the South, Kalgoorlie in the North and for those looking to head directly east at the start of the Eyre Highway. This is where the Nullarbor road begins and there is no getting off for another 1200kms.