Melbourne – The Nullabor – Perth

7 Oct

Lets drive from Melbourne to Perth. Sounds fun, right? Sounds like something different, right? What an adventure, right? Going “outside the square”! Mmm.  Well you certainly realise how mighty big this country is that we live in. And the number of grey nomads who have decided to escape the grandkids and go on a trek around oz in their campers.

6 days we took to drive from Melbourne to Perth but you could easily do it in 4. Here’s a run-down of our journey…

Day 1: Melbourne – Barossa Valley, SA.

Sporting roaring hangovers after a ridiculously boozey final night at the R O B with Ronno, Briggsy, Courts & Foxface, we crawled to Cafe 12 for breakfast. Being only about 50m from the South Yarra blonde abode, we werent quite sure how we were going to manage the 9 hour drive that lay ahead of us to the Barossa Valley. Leaving “early” at 10am (only 2 hours after our intended departure time), we pretty much drove non stop with only the obligatory loo break here and there. We arrived at our first accommodation spot, Lyndoch Hill. Now kiddies, my first piece of advice… Dont stay at Lyndoch Hill Retreat in the Barossa Valley. To my marketing girls, you must get the name of the fella who created their website. A serious touch of genius there. An excellent splash of marketing ‘spin’ (read: ridiculous exaggeration).

“With large rooms, views into the beautiful garden, a few steps away from an inviting and large free form pool, and with the stunning restaurant on site, the accommodation is a perfect little escape.”

It should say:

“With large, old, renovated motel rooms, views into the beautiful yellow dirt and bushes that surround the rose garden, a few steps away from a slightly off-green and closed-until-further-notice pool, and with a restaurant sporting state-of-the-art office tables for you to dine at, this accommodation is the perfect black hole for you to escape to.”

Oh and whatever you do, dont stay in room 16, there’s definitely a large, fresh red wine stain on the bedroom floor.

Day 2: Barossa Valley

After spending 9 hours on our bums at the wheel driving of the vee-dub, when we awoke to a bright deliciously sunny day and a sign saying “Bikes For Hire”, it seemed like the perfect idea. – bicycle winery tour. Our key learning: the Barossa has LOTS of hills! Our 25km cycle through storybook hills felt more like 100km but i’d still recommend doing it. The roads are quiet and safe, and with over 70 cellar doors in the area, you can easily cover 4 or 5 wineries in a short distance. We visited:

  • Gomersal – where Shiraz is pronounced ‘Shirah’…

  • St Hallett – loved their Riesling and Sparkling Shiraz – both much drier than what we’re generally used to.
  • Lou Miranda – Garth was definitely our best wine connoisseur so far, but we wanted to enjoy a wine in the sunshine and their outdoor section was being renovated so we movedon quickly.
  • Kellermeister – nice wines but worth a visit just for the pretty views and big open area to dig your toes into the grass and enjoy your cheese and wine.  Watch out for strange blokes in bushes.

We had dinner at the Lord Lyndoch. Good pub grub. Recommend it.

Day 3: Barossa Valley – Coffin Bay, SA.

Another beautiful sunny day. But not too much to see between Barossa and Cowell, SA. Port Augusta and Whyalla are big port towns – industrial and ugly. Dont bother.

We only stopped briefly in Cowell and while we didnt stop to enjoy any ourselves, its a town known for its farming of Pacific Oysters, and there were lots of places advertising cheap dozens as we drove through.

It was at this point I discovered 6th gear in the vee-dub. Now another piece of advice, don’t speed when you’re less than a couple of hours from main towns. The coppas travel through these areas. In fact, don’t speed in SA full stop. It’s expensive. The only coppa in all of SA snapped me just outside of Tumby Bay on his handheld doing 123kms – with that being just a cheeky 13kms over, I had started to smile and put on my best ‘oh sorry officer, how silly of me’ charade to try to weasel out of it, but then he said, “oh and that was before you overtook that ute back there”. Hmm. Also, didn’t look so good when I went whip out my license and my plastic bag of teabags shot out looking suspiciously not like tea. Minimum fine in SA is a cringe-worthy $312. Let that be a lesson to you.

Port Lincoln is a big town and we stopped in at the pub for a drink before coasting on through to Coffin Bay – home of the oysters. And lots of country folk. Our apartment here was big, clean and only 50m from the beach – which would have been GREAT if it hadn’t been raining the entire time.

Oysters and dinner at Coffin Bay’s Hotel Motel Bar & Restaurant (how very original) was surprisingly really tasty. The night ended with MC letting me win the last game of pool so as to save a 10 year old heckler from getting a pool cue jammed up his nose.

Day 4: Coffin Bay – Streaky Bay, SA.

Cruisey day coasting up the Eyre’s Peninsula’s west coast. We managed to get some great views at Locks Well beach…

…before grabbing a ‘capiccino’ at the Elliston bakery.

Then the rain came in. Long, hard, and relentlessly. And there is not really much to see in these parts without a 4WD.

There’s Colton Bakery – a unique wood fired bakery on the side of the highway with an honesty pay system.

And towards Streaky Bay from Port Kenny are some rocks, known as Murphy’s Haystacks because, wait for it, they were initially thought to be hay stacks when viewed from afar (ah you South Australians are so clever!). The stacks’ shaped lip has come to be that way due to the strong winds blowing from only one direction.

Streaky Bay is a sweet little town. Except perhaps dont dine at Mocean. It was recommended by locals, but the oysters were disappointing and we both had rumbles in the jungles that night. Most disappointing was that the whole reason why we had gone there was to do an oyster farm tour. But. When we went to book via the Information Kiosk, we were told the bloke doesn’t run them anymore and hadn’t done them for months apparently. Epic disappointment.

My tip: visit Streaky Bay in the summertime. It’ll be roaring with life and they’ll be much more to see.

Day 5: Streaky Bay to Eucla, WA (just inside the WA-SA Border).

Not much to report on this part of the journey. The only stop we made was at the Head of the Bight, where your guaranteed a view (read: glimpse) of whales. It’s $12 per adult to enter – expensive considering you often can only glimpse the whale and the spectacular views are free in many neighbouring coast side towns. It is largely a tourist trap to be left for the tour busloads.

Until we arrived in Eucla, what we didn’t realise is that this town and a small number of surrounding towns (population combined is likely circa 3 people) operate on a different timezone – halfway between Perth’s and Adelaide’s.

As is often the case in such isolated areas, the locals tend to make their own fun. We witnessed the novelty event of the annual Border Dash (held Oct/Nov), a race from Eucla to the SA/WA border (13km).

Food and accommodation at the Eucla Motel is basic but pretty good.

Day 6: Eucla, WA to Esperance, WA.

The unfortunate thing about the Nullabor is that there is really not much to see, and if you have been through there once, you’ve pretty much seen it all. I drove the entire 90 mile straight – that’s 146.6km of Australian tax-payer-funded-road that never curves or bends. I was wearing my favourite tracky dacks and had on a favourite Oasis CD and I STILL wanted to jump off a cliff by the time my first curve approached me.

Not to worry, my boredom was soon replaced by a strong wave of panic when I realised I hadn’t been paying attention to the fuel level and we were running seriously low and hadn’t seen another car in a long time. Coasted into a petrol station with just 10km left on the dash.  Sheeeet.

When I went to check-in at reception of the Esperance Hotel Motel (not quite like the Holiday Inn I had invisaged), I accidentally walked through the door to the bar by mistake. Fairly sure the blokes thought I was the night’s skimpy to arrive. Which was only partially overshadowed by the scene that greeted us in the parking lot for our room. 2 dogs gnawing on a couple of rotting lamb chops, tied under a car sitting on 3 wheels, while a group of big blokes with big beards and some fine looking biker vests sat on milk crates having a cheeky early arvo EB. MC took one look at this and quipped, “Yep. We’re definitely back in WA.”

Definitely do the Great Ocean Drive if you head through Esperance. Its 38km of beautiful stunning local coastline and it loops back around into Esperance.

Recommend eating the infamous ‘Pig’s Nipples’ at The Loose Goose.

But unless you enjoy playing Russian roulette, give the Esperance Hotel Motel a miss.

Day 7: Esperance – The View.

We awoke at 4am to a loud bang and the surety that the vee-dub and our fave belongings had been set on fire, so soon got up and got going. It was good to be back at the view and stirring up our fave (and much skinnier!) local Doubleview resident, Mr Teale.

x kel

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