Going east - at Port Augusta it splits into the Princes Highway taking you to Adelaide and the East Coast cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and the Stuart Highway going all the way to Alice Springs and Darwin.
Going west - at Norseman you have the choice of taking the direct route to Perth via the Coolgardie - Esperance Highway and the Great Eastern Highway, or you can visit Esperance and the scenic Southwest region by following the South Coast Highway.
The main thing to understand, it is only part of the whole journey between Adelaide and Perth. The starting points - Port Augusta and Norseman are already some distances from their respective capital cities. Vast desert spaces are not the norm for the whole journey.
For much of its length, the Eyre Highway can be described as a long and lonely road. While in the East in South Australia you still find some small towns like Kimba, Wudinna and Ceduna with some fencing suggesting farmland the Western Australian side of the trip has little or no visible agriculture adjacent to the highway. What you will find are roadhouses, sometimes a mixture of a hotel, a caravan park and garage. Border Village, right at the border between South and Western Australia, and Eucla seem different but most of the stopping places are just plain dusty, with little to offer and of low interest. The mean distance between them is about 100 km, with the longest stretch being 190 km. (between Balladonia Roadhouse and Norseman). The stretch of road between Caiguna Roadhouse and Balladonia Roadhouse is known as the 90-mile straight. It's the longest stretch of straight road in Australia, 146.6 km of asphalt without a single curve! Towns east of Caiguna do not follow official Western Australian time. Instead, they use what is unofficially known as Central Western Standard Time, which is halfway between Western and Central time--UTC+8:45.
The trip can be done in a conventional vehicle, and services are spaced such that you should not need to carry extra fuel. Not all service stations are open 24-hours, so if you are not travelling in daylight hours then you will need to plan accordingly. Some of the side trips require a four-wheel drive, and you should let someone reliable know when you depart from the main road. Telstra has their NextG mobile coverage for significant parts of the highway. Optus offers service only within the major towns like Ceduna. Service on other carriers effectively does not exist. To get the best service, you will need an 850MHz capable phone and Telstra SIM. If you plan to venture off the main road at any point, even Telstra's Next G service may not cover you, and your only option might be to get an expensive satellite phone.
You could conceivably fly to Port Augusta, and out of Norseman, but for most attempting this drive they are starting from either New South Wales, Victoria or Adelaide, and are heading for Perth (or vice-versa).
Methods other than driving
Bicyclists, runners, and walkers have been seen on the Highway over the years. It is not a good idea unless you are travelling with either a support crew or have clear plans for where to camp out between the service stations.
If you choose to go these ways, keep well away from the road when large trucks pass by; especially when the highway goes close to the Great Australian Bight, the fog when it rolls in has proved fatal in the past for the unwary.
Walking, running or cycling the route is best in the cooler months. Eucla weather radar and records are available at the Bureau of Meteorology weather site, but note that the weather in the Eucla can be quite different from that of Perth or Adelaide.
The highway skirts the southern end of the famous Nullarbor Plain, roughly between the Nullarbor Roadhouse in the east and Balladonia Roadhouse in the west.
- Nullarbor Plain (Latin for "no trees"). This is an ancient sea bed, now a barren plain that is is mostly bare limestone with little vegetation. It covers about 200,000 square km (77,000 sq mi). The highway crosses its southern side.
Between those two roadhouses you can make a number of side trips, penetrating north and into the Nullarbor itself. Just south of the highway, between Nullarbor Roadhouse and Border Village are a number of lookouts. Here you can see how the flat Nullarbor Plain abruptly ends and the waters of the Great Australian Bight begin. The 70m high cliffs, beaten by wind and water, are quite an impressive sight.
|Eyre Highway distance table|
|East to West||Place||West to East|
|26||26||Lincoln Highway turnoff||42||1642|
|462||89||Flinders Highway turnoff||3||1206|
|947||186||Border Village (roadhouse)||13||721|
Nullarbor Roadhouse to Cook
You can make a short but interesting side trip by taking the track from Nullarbor Roadhouse to Cook, a settlement on the Trans Australian Railway. The track starts just behind the roadhouse airstrip and runs in a north-northwesterly direction. You don't need a 4x4 because the track surface is quite solid and there are no obstacles to negotiate. On the other hand, you do need a reliable topographic map and a compass since there are almost no reference points along the way. A good way to get a feel of the Nullarbor is to stop about halfway between the roadhouse and Cook, climb on top of your vehicle and look around. The surrounding landscape is as flat as a pancake and seems to consist of only two dimensions.
Cook's sole reason of existence is to serve the Trans Australian Railway line - most of its inhabitants work for the railway operators. Apart from the railway station, this bland little settlement boasts a shop and even a hospital. Judging by the signs at the station, living on the Nullarbor must be quite healthy. One gives you the advice: "If you're crook, come to Cook." A second one is more blunt: "Our hospital needs your help. Get sick!" You'll also learn that you're actually looking at the longest stretch of straight railway in the world. Due to the incredible flatness and the extent of the plain this piece of track has no curves for 479 km!
A gravel road brings you back to the Eyre Highway, to a point about 42km west of Nullarbor Roadhouse. The total distance of this side trip is somewhat over 200km.
Eyre Bird Observatory
South of Cocklebiddy is the Eyre Bird Observatory, located in a restored telegraph station. Many caves are also located in this area and are popular among cave divers and fossil hunters.
- Eyre Bird Observatory. Eyre Bird Observatory
Various caves along the highway
Old Road Route
The current route goes close to the Great Australian Bight. A section of the earlier route is accessible to the north, preferably by 4x4. Western Australians travelling before the new route was constructed often would refer to the old water tanks adjacent to the old track: 'Ivy Tanks' was a marker of the journey. Also numerous 'cattle grids' occurred along the older sections of highway.
- Nullarbor Links. A golf course spanning the Nullabor, much of it on natural terrain. Billed as the world's longest golf course, the first hole is 1600km from the last. Some holes are 200km apart. Play all 18 holes while you cross the Nullabor plain.
- Madura – Once a homestead where horses were bred for use in the British Cavalry and for polo. This is now a peaceful roadhouse and hotel located on the pass through Hampton Tablelands. A lookout over the pass is located nearby.
- Eucla – Located 12 km west of the WA/SA border, this roadhouse is situated close to the Great Australian Bight. A historic telegraph station, half-buried in sand dunes, can also be viewed nearby.
- Ceduna – Westernmost big town in South Australia, located near the Great Australian Bight. Offers fishing and whale watching between May and September.
- Poochera – A small town, the entrance of which is distinguished by spectacular native pines. Poochera is the home of the dinosaur ant, the most primitive surviving ant species.
- Wudinna – Gateway to the Gawler Ranges and home to the Australian Farmer.
- Kimba – a grain-growing and pioneer town, and home to the "Big Galah", an 8 m (26 ft) monument.
The mentioned seaside cliffs are dangerous: do not venture too close either on foot or by vehicle, and do not ignore warning signs.
Do not travel off the main highway any distance unless you have expert knowledge in offroading this route.
- From Norseman (Western Australia) - to proceed to Perth - you can choose to go north via Coolgardie and Great Eastern Highway; or you can go south and go via the southern coast via Albany and Bunbury - a much longer route.
- Route 1/Route A1 continues as Augusta Highway/Princes Highway to Port Wakefield, and then Route A1 continues as Port Wakefield Road/Princes Highway/Virginia Bypass.
- From Port Augusta (South Australia) - to Adelaide or head further east can travel to Melbourne or even end up in Sydney.