The Far West Coast of South Australia stretches from the western side of the Eyre Peninsula across the Nullarbor Plain to the border with Western Australia. This expansive coastline is known for its incredibly remote and rugged landscapes, small rural towns and pristine ocean waters brimming with wildlife.
Ceduna is the major town on the edge of the Far West Coast and is the gateway for exploring this incredibly remote yet spectacular coastal region of South Australia. This article will cover everything that you need to know about the Far West Coast.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is the Far West Coast?
- 2 How to get to the Far West Coast
- 3 When is the best time of year to visit the Far West Coast?
- 4 How to explore the Far West Coast?
- 5 What is the Far West Coast known for?
- 6 Life on the Far West Coast
- 7 History of the Far West Coast
- 8 Things to see and do on the Far West Coast
- 9 Ceduna
What is the Far West Coast?
The Far West Coast is the rugged stretch of coastline of the Great Australian Bight that begins in Ceduna on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula and runs to the Western Australia border. It incorporates the arid Nullarbor Plain and its dramatic meeting with the Southern Ocean and the Great Australian Bight.
The coastline is characterised by pristine sea waters and sandy beaches, stunning sea cliffs, isolated bushland, and small rural towns. The ocean along the coast is a haven for incredible sea life, including Southern Right Whales, bottlenose dolphins and Australian sea lions.
The coastal towns in the area include Ceduna, Thevenard, Denial Bay, Smoky Bay and Fowlers Bay, with other small inland towns such as Penong and Yalata. Ceduna is by far the largest settlement in the region and the gateway for exploring the coast.
How to get to the Far West Coast
The Far West Coast is easily accessible via the Eyre Highway, which runs right through the region. This major road connects the area to Port Augusta and Adelaide further east, as well as, across the Western Australia border.
The highway is the only main sealed road that runs through the Far West Coast and Nullarbor Plain, often skirting right along the dramatic coastline itself. A road trip along this highway is considered one of the top must-do experiences in Australia.
Ceduna is the main town and gateway to the Far West Coast area. Getting to Ceduna is usually done coming from the east or the west along the Eyre Highway. Travel distances and times are:
• Adelaide to Ceduna 777km or 8 hours’ drive
• Eucla to Ceduna 493km or 5 hours’ drive
If you prefer to travel by air, the Far West Coast is also accessible by plane. There are regional airports in the major towns of Whyalla, Port Lincoln and Ceduna, which have daily connections to Adelaide. A flight from Adelaide to Ceduna takes around 60-90 minutes.
When is the best time of year to visit the Far West Coast?
There is no single best time of year to visit the Far West Coast. The weather is favourable almost year-round but there are different benefits for travelling in different seasons depending on what you want to experience. Summers are hot but are great to spend time at the stunning beaches along the coast. On the other hand, winters are much cooler, but you get the benefit of travelling at the only time that the Southern Right Whales can be found in the waters off the coast.
The most ideal weather can be experienced in Autumn and Spring, which have much more temperate days. It also means that you can enjoy the beaches without the summer holiday crowd. However, no matter the time of year you decide to visit the Far West Coast, you’re bound to enjoy yourself.
How to explore the Far West Coast?
The Far West Coast can be explored a number of different ways depending on how you like to travel. Generally, the coast is best explored by car with a road trip across the Nullarbor Plain and along the Eyre Highway being one of the best experiences in South Australia.
It’s also popular for travellers to base themselves in one of the main towns on the coast and explore some of the attractions from there. The main towns include Ceduna, Penong, Fowlers Bay, Denial Bay and Smoky Bay. From any of these towns, you can take day trips to the Eyre Peninsula, a range of surfing and fishing spots, as well as, the Bunda Cliffs.
However, exploring the Far West Coast isn’t all about the land-based attractions, with plenty of things to do in the water too. From fishing charters to whale watching tours in winter, there are plenty of tour operators who can organise water-based adventures on your trip to the Far West Coast.
If you enjoy exploring on foot, then you can also find a number of walking tracks around Ceduna, Denial Bay and Smoky Bay. A stroll or cycle along the Encounter Trail to Pinky Point in Thevenard or the Shelly Beach Dune Walk Trail is a great way to take in the coastal scenery at a much slower pace.
What is the Far West Coast known for?
When most people think of the Far West Coast, they immediately think of the Nullarbor Plain and the incredibly spectacular sea cliffs that characterise the landscape. This unique countryside also comes with exceptional wildlife, some of which are endangered and protected species, such as the Southern Right Whale which come to the warm waters in winter.
However, outside of tourism, the coastal area is also known for its salt mines, agriculture, fishing and aquaculture. This makes up a huge part of the region’s economy, which is a significant contributor to South Australia’s production output. In particular, the coast is known for its seafood, with some of the country’s highest quality fish such as tuna, salmon, snapper, King George whiting, squid, oysters and tommy ruff. It’s no surprise then that many travellers come to the region for fishing.
Life on the Far West Coast
Most locals who call the Far West Coast home relish their lifestyle and love where they live. Popular local sports include fishing, surfing, AFL, netball, cricket and tennis and Ceduna also has their own dragon boat racing team – the Black Sea Dragons.
People are very community-minded on the Far West Coast. The ideal holiday for most locals is to simply head to the remote beaches along the coast to camp with their families rather than head further afield or travel elsewhere. Locals are passionate about exploring their own region, which is completely understandable with such a unique place to call home.
However, the small outback and coastal communities in this part of South Australia are slowly shrinking. Towns and businesses in the area are in decline, with most places having no operating businesses outside of the bare essentials and services for tourists.
History of the Far West Coast
The area around the Far West Coast was inhabited by Aboriginal people for around 40, 000 years. Some of the towns in the area such as Yalata still have significant Aboriginal communities who have remained for generations.
The coastline was first seen by Europeans in 1672 when the Dutch navigator, Francois Thijssen, sailed nearby. However, it wasn’t until 1802 when Matthews Flinders chartered the entire shoreline of the Great Australian Bight. The Nullarbor Plain and inland area was then explored a few decades later by Edward John Eyre who was the first white man to cross the arid plain with his Aboriginal companion, Wylie.
The town of Ceduna was officially established in 1901 with optimistic hopes for agricultural farms in the area. It also became the site of a major satellite telecommunications facility which was built in 1969. At its peak, almost half of Australia’s international telecommunication traffic passed through Ceduna’s station.
Construction of the Eyre Highway, which is the coast’s major link to Adelaide, began in 1941. The rough track was the only east to west connection across the Nullarbor and was eventually sealed and completed in 1976. It’s since become a major route for trucks and travellers alike, with the road trip along the highway being considered one of the must-do drives in Australia.
Things to see and do on the Far West Coast
For visitors to the Far West Coast, there are plenty of things to see and do. The unique landscape and wildlife are the main highlights, but you can find something to explore for everyone.
The Nullarbor Plain
The Nullarbor is a flat, semi-arid limestone bedrock that stretches for 200, 000 square kilometres across the South and Western Australian coastline. The Far West Coast encompasses the coastline where the Nullarbor meets the Great Australian Bight in South Australia. It’s one of the most unique landscapes to see in the whole country with the treeless plain being most commonly explored by driving along the Eyre Highway.
The Bunda Cliffs are the longest uninterrupted sea cliffs in the world and are found right here on the Far West Coast. Where the Nullarbor Plain dramatically meets the Southern Ocean, the limestone cliffs reach up to 100 metres high and run for nearly 100km along the Great Australian Bight. It’s an incredible sight that you need to see to believe and there are a few viewpoints off the Eyre Highway from where you can stop to enjoy it.
Head of Bight
The Head of Bight is the northernmost extent of the Great Australian Bight. This northern tip of the bay sits in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain and is quite a remote place to reach. The detour off the Eyre Highway is worth it, however, with the viewing platform at the Head being one of the most spectacular coastal views you can see in South Australia.
From the viewing platform, you can see the Bunda Cliffs stretching into the distance. If you visit from May until October, there’s also a good chance that you’ll spot whales swimming off the coast. It’s known as one of the best land-based whale watching spots in the country.
Nullarbor Link Golf Course
On the Far West Coast, you can also find the longest golf course in the world. The Nullarbor Link spans 1365km and is an 18-hole par 72 course that begins in Ceduna and has one hole for each roadhouse along the Eyre Highway. For a completely unique experience of the region, a few days completing the course is perfect for golfing enthusiasts.
Surfing is a popular sport on the Far West Coast. The most well-known spot is Cactus Beach at Point Sinclair. This world-class surf beach has two left-hand breaks and a right-hand break, which together makes it one of the most sought-after surfing destinations in the country.
Locals also like to surf at Fowlers Bay and further east at Venus Bay too. These spots are much better for less experienced surfers, who might find the breaks at Cactus Beach a bit too advanced.
It’s no surprise that fishing is one of the top activities in the region. The waters off the Far West Coast are considered one of the premier fisheries in the country with Mulloway, King George Whiting, Tommy Ruff, Garfish, amongst other species, in abundance.
There’s a number of different ways to fish off the coast, such as boating, jetty fishing and rock and beach fishing. Ceduna, Denial Bay, Fowlers Bay and Smoky Bay are particularly popular places for fishing, but you can just about throw a line in anywhere.
This fishing town on the Far West Coast is a quiet place to relax. It’s a smaller town than nearby Ceduna and is popular with fishing enthusiasts and anyone who wants a quiet retreat on the coast. There are also some great surf beaches nearby and whale watching spots along the coast.
Visit a working aquaculture farm
The Far West Coast is known for its many aquaculture establishments. Smoky Bay and Streaky Bay are both popular places where working farms can be visited on a tour, such as SA Premium Oysters in Smoky Bay. This is an incredible experience to learn about the oyster farming industry and taste some of the freshest oysters you’ll ever have.
The Great Australian Bight has become an important haven for the Southern Right Whales who come to the warm waters every winter to mate. This makes the Far West Coast a great place to go whale watching with both land-based viewpoints and boat tours available. Ceduna, Fowlers Bay and Baird Bay are the most popular towns for whale watching tours to depart.
Swimming with dolphins
Baird Bay is also a popular place to spot bottlenose dolphins and Australian sea lions. It’s possible to go snorkelling or swimming with these graceful mammals with an experienced tour operator from September until May each year.
This salt lake is at the former site of a salt mine on the largest gypsum deposit in Australia. It’s just inland from Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair. The incredibly high salt level of the water combined with algae and pink bacteria makes the colour of the lake turn a bright fluorescent pink colour. The contrast with the blue lake next to it makes it one of the most incredible sights you’ll see on the coast. The lake has become a bit of an Insta-famous sight in the area and people come from all over South Australia just to snap a photo of the unique colours.
Penong Windmill Museum
The windmill museum at Penong has become one of the top tourist attractions on the Far West Coast. The outdoor display shows 20 restored windmills and explains the evolution of outback agriculture in the area.
For something a little more inland, the now-world famous Goog’s Track is a 4×4 track that travels from Ceduna north to Kingoonya. The difficult track is 360km long and traverses over 300 sand dunes. It’s one of the real adventures of the region and is best kept for serious and well-prepared four-wheel drivers.
Arts and Cultural Centre in Ceduna
If you’re interested in discovering more about the traditional custodians of the Far West Coast region, then a stop at the Arts and Cultural Centre in Ceduna is highly recommended. It’s a great place to admire local Aboriginal art and purchase a souvenir from your trip.
Ceduna is the largest town on the eastern side of the Great Australian Bight and the Far West Coast of South Australia. The coastal settlement is the main pitstop and base for travellers who come to explore the Nullarbor Plain and the Eyre Peninsula. The town sees nearly a quarter of a million vehicles passing through on the Eyre Highway each year.
Ceduna is often referred to as the Oyster Capital of Australia with fantastic seafood and a booming foodie scene. There are plenty of things to do in town, as well as within a short drive away. Many of the best sights and activities on the Far West Coast can easily be explored within a short distance from Ceduna, making it an ideal base.
Ceduna also has all the essential amenities and accommodation options for every trip. It’s by far the liveliest place on the Far West Coast and the perfect spot to rest, restock and explore.
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