The Ultimate Pre Guide to Crossing the Nullarbor

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The past week was one of the most exciting part of our Aussie adventure having driven from Adelaide to Perth via The Nullarbor. Prior to making the trip, we were actually pretty worried about a lot of stuff like a lack of fuel, breaking down mid-way, where to stay, and a lot of other stuff. If you are thinking of making a similar trip to Perth via The Nullarbor, think no more and go for it! We have compiled some tips in this post for you to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Plan, Plan and Plan!

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Prior to our trip, we’ve had many people telling us to be very careful on the trip because of how remote the area is in terms of access to help and necessities. Having done the trip ourselves we’d say that a lot of the worries are pretty unfounded if you make sure to plan before embarking on this trip. Truth is, there are tons of people who make this trip (for some grey nomads even multiple times) and Aussies are a real friendly and helpful bunch who won’t hesitate to lend a helping hand if you need one. While I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind, if you make sure to plan and do the right research, this trip will definitely be one of the most memorable experiences for you.

Some things to research on would be:

  • Your vehicle’s fuel tank size and fuel consumption
    • Basically calculate how far you can go on a full tank before having to refuel.
  • Available fuel stops and prices
    • Be aware that it is gonna be much more expensive because of the remoteness but there are still price fluctuations and certain stops will have cheaper fuel. For example, Eucla is known to have cheaper fuel than at Border Village a mere 15 minutes apart.
  • Possible rest stops and places to stay
    • Plans may change day to day depending on the weather or if you happen to lose track of time (or possibly just utterly confused by the changes in time zones) and it is important to know the possible places where you could spend the night. A huge reminder to everyone – DO NOT drive at dawn/dusk/night because of all the wild animals that come active in the dark. Apart from harming and killing the Aussie wildlife, it could also result in serious damage to your car and the people inside. For those travelling with your own camping gear or self-contained vehicle, download WikiCamps to find out where the caravan parks/ free campsites are located along your route. Alternatively, there’s quite a number of roadhouses that provide motel style accommodation as well.
  • Places of interest you want to check out en-route
    • Yes, there are things to see on this vast beautiful desert aside from road trains, caravans and sand. In fact, some of the most breathtaking whale watching can be found at the Head of Bight just before the Nullarbor Roadhouse during June to October.

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2. Check your car before going on the trip

Probably my biggest nightmare of the trip would be our car breaking down in the middle of nowhere with no one and no phone connection but thankfully, that didn’t happen. Our car is still relatively new and well-maintained so we just did our own basic checks on the engine oil, coolants etc. We also did check the air in our tyres at the gas station and thankfully we did as one of our front tyres was down to 14 PSI when we checked it. If your car is really old or tends to fail on you, get it checked at a mechanic just to be sure. If you are intending to carry anything on top of your car, make sure everything is tightly secured with ratchet straps to avoid any loose items flying off into the wind while driving.

3. Stock up on food and drinking water

All I can say is, EVERYTHING on the Nullarbor is expensive. While you will be able to find some roadhouses serving up hot food and other basic food necessities along the way, it will be much more expensive and often not very worth it. Bring along some food like canned tuna/chicken, bread, cereal, snacks and other basic food items that will sustain you the couple of days along the Nullarbor. You can bring along some fresh fruits and vegetables for the first couple of days but remember to finish consuming them before passing the border. Also, water is scarce on the Nullarbor (duh, it’s a desert) and many roadhouses/caravan parks will charge for showers (around $2 for 10 mins) and powered sites will not include water as well. We carried with us 12 litres of drinking water and an additional 10 litres of water for washing and cleaning. Remember that the people running these roadhouses live permanently ON the Nullarbor meaning they are constantly living with water shortage so please be considerate towards them and use the water prudently.

4. Cash is King – or maybe not we used EFTPOS the entire way

Not to worry, all if not most of the roadhouses do have EFTPOS terminals and cashless works fine normally. However, it’s always safer to bring along some cash just in case the terminals are down and you really need the fuel or a place to stay for the night. We brought about $400 cash with us but didn’t have to use it in the end. Still, better safe than sorry!

5. Be aware of the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone at the SA/WA border

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Get a photo with the Kangaroo holding Marmite before reaching the border!

BIG ONE. So if you are new to Australia, you need to know that different states have their own quarantine restrictions and travelling between different states subject you to quarantine restrictions and even hefty fines if you fail to declare or try to sneak fresh fruits/vegetables in. When we travelled between Victoria and South Australia there were no manned quarantine stations, only honesty bins and random checks. However, it is much stricter travelling from South Australia to Western Australia. Similarly, no fresh fruits/vegetables, no honey or bee products and no residual soil are the main things to take note of. At Border Village there will be a 24/7 manned quarantine station where you will have to stop and open your vehicle for inspection. These quarantine restrictions are in place to protect the agriculture in WA from fruit flies and other pests/diseases that could destroy crop and agriculture. Do not try to sneak in any prohibited items as hefty penalties apply and you don’t really wanna be the asshole responsible for bringing down the entire livelihood of farmers do you?

We did bring fresh fruits and vegetables with us for the first half of the trip but finished them before we crossed the border. Past the border we ate canned food for a couple of days but you should be able to buy fresh items at Norseman, once you are past the Nullarbor. Also, we did get quite a bit of mud on our car when we worked at a vineyard previously so we took our car for a good wash when we were at Port Augusta. You can easily bring your vehicle for a quick wash at Augusta Car Wash, an automated, DIY car wash. They provide high pressured jet hoses that are AMAZING at getting off any dried mud/soil caked to your car.

6. Adjust your clocks as you drive through timezones

As you cross the SA/WA border you will be extremely confused by the change in time. Do not fret, you won’t be the first but here’s a heads up on the time differences. South Australia is 1.5 hours ahead of Western Australia (at least most parts). However, there is also an unofficial “Australian Central Western Standard Time” (ACWST) which is set halfway between the official SA and WA timezones. For a small part of WA between Border Village and Caiguna, you will need to set your time either forward of backwards by 45 minutes. We did go to bed strangely early the night we spent at Border Village and started our day really early the next day as well as we entered WA but it was all good as we gained extra daylight time along the way. However, if you are travelling the other direction towards South Australia, remember not to mix up sunset timings as you do not want to be driving in the dark.

7. Download a lot of songs and podcasts

Remember you are gonna be driving a lot on this trip and connection across the Nullarbor is really patchy. Even with a Telstra connection (the best you can get) we had no service a lot of the way but thankfully we remembered to pre-download loads of songs and podcasts on Spotify to keep us entertained throughout the drive. Don’t say we didn’t remind you!

 

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