Across the Nullarbor
Crossing the Nullarbor by road is an epic three-day journey across a landscape like no other. Nullarbor might mean “no trees” in Latin, and yes, it’s long and flat, but you’ll be surprised by how much there is to see and do along the way, and by how much vegetation there is, including mulga trees and vast expanses of grey-blue saltbush stretching over the horizon. Peer over the edge of the Great Australian Bight – the longest line of sea cliffs in the world – and wander around the rather spooky ruins of the old telegraph station at Eucla that is being slowly covered by shifting sand dunes. See bits of the American Sky Lab space station that crashed landed near Balladonia Roadhouse in 1979 and play a round or two on the longest golf course in the world on the 1365-kilometre-long, 18-hole, par 72 Nullarbor Links. Spend some time exploring the ghost towns of the goldfields around Kalgoorlie and artist Anthony Gormley’s 51 spectral sculptures of people on the shimmering salt pan at Lake Ballard, near the tiny half-deserted town of Menzies. www.nullarborlinks.com, www.australiasgoldenoutback.com
Grand Central Road
If you’re keen for an outback adventure, and don’t mind camping and a few corrugations, take the road less travelled to WA, the Grand Central Road from the Red Centre. Part of the Outback Way, a 2720-kilometre-long red dirt highway that stretches from Winton in Queensland through Alice Springs, Uluru and the central deserts to Laverton in the WA goldfields, it’s the ultimate way to get from the far north-east of the country to the far south-west. Highlights of the WA half – aside from the mesmerising desert landscape, herds of wild camels and carpets of delicate wildflowers (in spring) – include the Giles Weather Station at Warakurna, with its small museum to Len Beadell, who built most of the country’s legendary outback tracks including the notorious Gunbarrel Highway in the 1950s; Indigenous art centres such as the Tjulyuru Gallery in Warburton; and the famous “Chooky Burger” from the Tjukayirla Roadhouse (pronounced Chook-a-yer-la) between Warburton and Laverton. www.outbackway.org.au
The Great South-west Edge
A road trip around Australia’s south-western corner should come with a warning: you can’t help but be seduced by the beaches, forests and wines of this part of the world and you will spend longer than you planned to in this spectacular place – or at least you’ll wish you could. From the goldfields around Kalgoorlie spear south to the coast at Esperance where turquoise seas wash up against some of the brightest, whitest, finest sands in the country. Keep the sea on your left as you continue west to where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet at Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westerly tip of Australia. Watch whales at Point Ann and see more wildflowers than you can count in Fitzgerald River National Park, visit the new National Anzac Centre in Albany, drive through forests of karri and rise above it all on the treetop walk in the Valley of the Giants near Walpole. Watch the surf roll in near Margaret River and enjoy some of the country’s finest wine at hundreds of cellar doors. www.australiassouthwest.com
Beach-hop your way up the Indian Ocean Coast between Perth and Geraldton, stopping to marvel at the surreal limestone spires in the sand at the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes – which is also a great spot to binge on rock lobster – and any number of sensationally scenic beaches along the way. This part of the coast is a wildflower hot spot between August and October. Visit the museums and monuments of Geraldton, spend a few days in Kalbarri hiking (or kayaking) through the red rock river gorges and along clifftop trails in the national park, feed the wild dolphins of Monkey Mia, snorkel over the coral of Ningaloo Reef and swim with whale sharks in Exmouth (between April and early July). www.australiascoralcoast.com
There are two way to explore the north-west corner of WA between Broome and Kununurra – on the bitumen or via the 4WD-only Gibb River Road. The sealed option, Highway 1, will take you to such iconic places as Purnululu – aka the Bungle Bungles – and Geike Gorge, where you can cruise the river with Indigenous rangers; art centres; historic outback communities; and Lake Argyle, the world’s largest man-made body of water. Or bump your way along the Gibb where you can camp beside boab-lined waterholes and swim beneath waterfalls, see ancient rock art galleries, and take a two-day detour up to the magnificent Mitchell Plateau with its famous multi-tiered falls. Cattle stations such as Home Valley and El Questro offer accommodation for all budgets along the way. Every road’s an adventure in the Kimberley.