The Eyre Highway is one of Australia’s greatest road trips. The 1675km highway is the main sealed road that links Western Australia and South Australia by crowning the Eyre Peninsula then crossing the Nullarbor Plain.
The highway runs right through the town of Ceduna in South Australia on the eastern side of the Nullarbor. The town is considered the gateway to the long and Nullarbor road and is a popular place for a pitstop to relax, explore and fill up on supplies.
With nearly a quarter of a million vehicles passing through Ceduna each year, many of them are travelling along the Eyre Highway across to Western Australia. Here’s everything that you need to know about the longest and flattest road in the country.
What is the Nullarbor and the Eyre Highway?
The Nullarbor is a semi-arid plain that stretches across the vast southern end of Australia. It’s a unique landscape of limestone bedrock that is one of the few things on the planet that is identifiable from space. It is considered a remote part of the country and it is vast, but not without supplies for travellers in recent years.
The Eyre Highway is the only sealed road that runs through the Nullarbor and connects South Australia and Western Australia. It is part of the National Highway route between Perth and Adelaide.
The highway begins north of Adelaide in a town called Port Augusta. From there it skirts along the coast of the Great Australian Bight and then heads back inland until it reaches Norseman, eight hours east of Perth, in Western Australia. It is the longest straight road in Australia, with one section running for nearly 150km without a single bend.
Driving along the Eyre Highway has become a bucket list-worthy adventure for many Australians and international tourists. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people set out to cross the Nullarbor via the Eyre Highway on a self-drive, ride, or walk adventure.
Despite the assumption that this highway is nothing more than a lonely stretch of road through the outback, there’s plenty of things to see along the way. Some things require a slight detour off the highway and considering the remoteness of this part of the country, there is an amount of preparation involved if you plan on crossing the entire 1675km, yet nothing like it used to be with even the most remote sections providing roadhouses for travellers, during the day at least.
History of the Eyre Highway
The road is named after the explorer John Eyre who was the first European to cross the Nullarbor Plain in 1841 with his Aboriginal companion, Wylie. It was not until 1941 that construction began on building the proposed highway that would allow east-west traffic across the Nullarbor. The track remained the same until the 1960s when worth began to seal the entire highway. It took many years and wasn’t completely finished until 1976.
Since then, the increased traffic from trucks and travellers has meant ongoing maintenance and minor improvements are made almost yearly on the highway.
Preparing for a trip along the Eyre Highway
The length of the Eyre Highway is approximately 1675km. If driven directly it takes around two days to drive the entire way. It can be tackled by a conventional vehicle with a relatively well-maintained sealed road the entire way. However, if you plan on doing side trips and off-road adventures along the way, in some cases you may need a 4WD.
The remoteness of the Nullarbor means that there is a significant amount of planning involved in a crossing, with limited supplies available along the way. There are well-spaced service stations and roadhouses so that you shouldn’t need to carry extra fuel, however, it’s generally recommended to carry spare fuel as most service stations on the Eyre Highway are not open 24 hours. Having said that though, it’s also a good idea to stop travelling before dust and camp for the night, this is to avoid having an accident because there is a lot of wildlife crossing the roads at night.
Best time of year to travel along the Eyre Highway
Although you can drive across the Nullarbor on the Eyre Highway at any time, the weather in this part of South And Western Australia can be extreme. In summer, temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees in the outback during the day and drop dramatically overnight.
Spring and Autumn are popular times to drive across the highway, as the temperatures are more stable and bearable for most people. However, one of the most popular times to make a crossing of the Nullarbor is in winter. Winter offers much cooler temperatures but nothing too cold during the day. Winter also means you have a chance of spotting the Southern Right Whales off the coast along the way, as these are the months when the migratory mammals make their way to Australia’s coast.
The speed limit for most of the highway is 110km per hour. This reduces when driving through built-up areas.
You should be aware of long road trains and freight trucks along the Eyre Highway. They can be quite intimidating if you’ve never driven on such outback roads before.
There is limited mobile coverage along the Eyre Highway. You will find plenty of service in major towns like Ceduna, but very little along the lonely stretches of the Nullarbor. You should inform family or friends of your travel plans while crossing the Nullarbor for extra safety while you’re out of range.
At the risk of repeating myself; you should avoid driving at night along the Eyre Highway. The risk of hitting wildlife is higher at night and, with only simple roadhouses along the way, it can be a dangerous place to have an accident. Most people spend the night in one of the roadhouses along the way which make for convenient and comfortable rest stops.
You should also carry some essential safety and repair equipment with you in the car. Items like a car jack, spare tyre, oil and coolant, jumper leads, and tow rope can be good additions to have with you in case of something happening along the way.
Roadhouses are the small mixed-use service stations that are spaced out along the highway. They are the only settlements on the Western Australia side of the Eyre Highway and provide the only supplies and fuel along the way.
They are spaced at between 65 and 180 kilometres apart so that you can reach each one without having to carry extra fuel. They are usually a combination of a petrol station, hotel, caravan park, bar and restaurant. They’re not exactly the cheapest to stay and eat at, but the remote location means that things have to be brought in from quite a distance away. You can pre-book accommodation at the roadhouses online if you want to ensure you get a room.
Eyre Highway itinerary
You can cross the entire highway in two days if you have to. However, it’s best enjoyed at a much slower pace if you can.
For those interested in seeing some of the incredible sights along the way, you can easily stretch your Eyre Highway itinerary out to at least a week. This way you can stop and enjoy the scenery, as well as, some of the towns like Ceduna along the way.
Major towns on the Eyre Highway
The biggest towns on the Eyre Highway are on the South Australia side. It’s there that you’ll be able to get essential supplies and have a choice of accommodation options. On the West Australia side of the highway, the towns are much smaller until you get to Kalgoorlie or Esperance, which are just off the end of the Eyre Highway.
The major towns along the Eyre Highway are as follows:
This is the largest town on the Eyre Highway and it’s in South Australia. It also marks the start or end of the highway depending on which way you’re travelling. Port Augusta is approximately four hours from Adelaide and the perfect place to grab supplies and have a break if you’re travelling west to Ceduna and the Nullarbor Plain. There are a number of major takeaway food outlets and supermarkets for supplies.
Ceduna is the second largest town on the Eyre Highway in South Australia. It’s an important pitstop for travellers as it sits on the eastern fringe of the Nullarbor Plain and is the last major town before the crossing of the semi-arid plain. Ceduna to Port Augusta is another four hours drive and Port Augusta is a popular overnight stop with plenty of accommodation styles and options.
Eucla is a small town on the West Australia side of the Eyre Highway. It is considered the largest settlement built on the Nullarbor Plain but it’s still just a small town with a population of just over 50 people. The old jetty provides some unique photo opportunities as does The Old Telegraph Station.
On the Western Australia side, settlements are far smaller, and the only large town is Norseman, which marks the end of the Eyre Highway. Here you’ll find supermarkets and accommodation to restock and refresh after a long drive across the Nullarbor.
Things to see along the Eyre Highway
There are plenty of things to do along the Eyre Highway. From the incredible wildlife to the dramatic coastal scenery and iconic roadhouses, you can easily enjoy this vast part of Australia’s southern coastline over a number of days. Here are some of the best things to see and do along the way:
Despite being a very arid plain, the Nullarbor is home to an abundance of wildlife. You’ll likely come across kangaroos, emus, wombats and wild camels. Along the coast, you can also spot Southern Right Whales during the winter months when they come to the Australian coast to mate.
Halfway between Norseman and Balladonia on the Eyre Highway is this beautiful range of eucalyptus forest and granite hills. The Fraser Range Station was settled in 1872 and the first in the Nullarbor Plain area. They also offer accommodation at the Station for something a little different.
This is the first major roadhouse stop going eastwards from Norseman in Western Australia. The Balladonia Cultural Heritage Museum is worth a visit to see the fragments of the US Skylab space station that fell to earth here in 1979, as well as, exhibits on Aboriginal history and European exploration.
90 Mile Straight
This is Australia’s longest, straightest road at 147km which goes from Caiguna to near Balladonia. A photo with the road sign is a must!
Eyre Bird Observatory
This was Australia’s first bird observatory established in 1977. It’s a 34-kilometre detour along a 4WD-only road off the Eyre Highway. It’s a remote research station amongst woodlands and sand dunes that is popular with serious bird watchers.
The Nullarbor is home to the largest arid area of limestone in the world. There are hundreds of caves that dot the Plain. Cocklebiddy Cave is the most well-known and is considered one of the longest caves in the world with a single passage of 6km.
This is a popular roadhouse and overnight stop along the Eyre Highway. It marks the halfway point along the long drive between Adelaide and Perth.
Eucla National Park
This vast park is situated on the southeast corner of Western Australia. You can explore the stunning sand dunes, white sand beaches and an old telegraph station. The views of the coast here are incredibly beautiful.
This roadhouse marks the border between South Australia and Western Australia. They have a swimming pool, homecooked meals and comfortable beds for weary drivers.
The Bunda Cliffs are coastal cliffs that stretch for 200 kilometres and are a staggering 90 metres high. They are considered the longest line of uninterrupted sea cliffs in the world. There are five lookouts along the dramatic edge where you can stop and take photos of this beautiful natural feature of the Nullarbor National Park.
Whale watching at the Head of Bight
The Head of Bight is a short 20km detour off the Eyre Highway. There is a whale watching platform here which is considered one of the best land-based whale watching spots in Australia. Southern Right whales can be seen here between May and October.
Nullarbor Links Golf
Considered the longest golf course in the world, the 18-hole par 72 Nullarbor Links golf course spans 1365 km with one hole in each roadhouse along the Eyre Highway from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna. It’s a completely unique way to experience the Eyre Highway, and what the course lacks in green it makes up for in bragging right, with players able to state for the rest of their lives that they have played the world’s longest golf course.
A hidden gem of a coastal fishing town, Fowlers Bay is a nice stop off the Eyre Highway only an hour and a half away from Ceduna. It’s popular with fishing enthusiasts and is a pretty place to rest up after a long drive.
Gawler Ranges National Park
Running along the Eyre Highway to the north, is the impressive Gawler Ranges National Park. It’s worth taking a short detour here to explore the rocky wilderness that is sacred to Aboriginal tribes. It’s a stunning outback landscape that can be explored in 4WD or on foot.