If you’re completing a Big Lap around Australia with your dog, or simply driving from Perth to the East Coast, you’re likely to drive along the Nullarbor. This 1200km stretch of highway connecting Norseman in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia is one of only two sealed roads connecting Western Australia to the rest of the country.
Most commonly completed in two long boring days of driving, what’s it like driving across the Nullarbor with a dog? Find out about keeping your dog safe and dog-friendly accommodation options along the way, plus what to do to break up the trip with dog-friendly sightseeing ideas.
Keeping Your Dog Safe on the Nullarbor
Be aware that 1080 baits may be in use when you are driving across the Nullarbor with your dog. Generally baited areas should be signposted, but don’t rely on this, partially as birds can move the baits. Keep your dog on a short leash and ideally use a muzzle, especially if they tend to eat things from the ground.
Close to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, I also saw signs warning of the presence of dingos, that can be a danger to regular dogs, especially smaller dogs. Don’t leave your dog outside at night while you are camping or staying in a roadhouse. Wedge-tailed eagles can also be a threat to small dogs.
Additionally, in summer, the temperatures reached on the Nullarbor can be quite high. I drove across in June, with mild temperatures and overcast skies, including a little rain. But in summer you should be aware of the potential for very hot weather. Keep this in mind when stopping, and never leave your dog in a locked car, even for a moment.
For more information on keeping your dog safe while travelling in Australia, refer to my full guide.
And Safety Tips for Humans
Petrol and diesel is available roughly every 100-200km along the Nullarbor at roadhouses. It’s best to not get too low, in case one of the roadhouses is out of action (as was the case with filling up with petrol at Mundrabilla when we passed through).
Petrol and diesel prices vary – I recommend looking up the prices in advance. The cheapest fills are at Ceduna and Norseman, at either end. Don’t also forget to regularly stop and stretch your legs from the rather monotonous drive.
There is only limited mobile phone reception along the Nullarbor, for roughly 20km each side of roadhouses, and even then it’s usually only Telstra. Cheaper Aldi and Woolworths plans that resell the Telstra network don’t have mobile reception in between Ceduna and Norseman.
Food and water supplies are limited along the route, it’s recommended to stock up in advance. If you do happen to breakdown, stay with your vehicle. There’s regular traffic along the road, as long as you haven’t detoured onto nearby 4WD tracks.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation Along the Nullarbor
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If you’re looking for motel-style accommodation, a number of the roadhouses along the Nullarbor have some pet-friendly rooms. The roadhouses are located about every 100km, although there are sometimes empty stretches of up to 200km.
Currently, the following roadhouses list pet-friendly rooms (or I have come across recent reports of people staying in pet-friendly rooms), from east to west:
- Nullarbor Road House (Selected rooms only, pet fee of $20 applies)
- Border Village Roadhouse (Standard Motel Rooms or Standard Family Motel Rooms, pet fee of $20 applies)
- Eucla Motel (Designated Pet-Friendly Standard Rooms on the ground floor, bring your own pet bed)
- Mundrabilla Roadhouse (Selected rooms only, a higher rate applies)
- Cocklebiddy Hotel Motel Service Station
Make sure you call up each roadhouse to double check availability, including any extra rules, then make a booking. The motel rooms along the Nullarbor are generally quite basic, nothing fancy on offer! As the number of pet-friendly rooms are limited, it’s always best to book in advance.
Most of the roadhouses also offer campgrounds for caravans and tents. As far as I’m aware, all are pet-friendly. Usually both powered and unpowered sites are on offer, but most roadhouses don’t have water facilities, so fill up your water tank before driving across.
Probably the nicest campground is in Eucla, 12km from the border on the Western Australian side. Due to restrictions entering WA after recently visiting regional Victoria (before Covid border restrictions ended), we instead spent the night in Border Village, which isn’t that nice but is at least cheap. Hot showers cost an extra $2 per person.
Another alternative at the eastern end of the drive is the pet-friendly Penong Caravan Park. They have five ensuite cabins available, of which at least some are pet-friendly. Call up to enquire for full details.
There’s also plenty of free camping along the Eyre Highway. If you have the WikiCamps app, you’ll see that there’s many pins for rough campsites. Only a few of the proper rest areas have toilets, with no facilities at other sites. Many of the locations can be quite windswept.
Dog-Friendly Stops Along the Nullarbor
While there isn’t that much to see along the length of the Nullarbor drive given it’s 1200km length, with flat plains dotted with low scrub being the most common scenery, there are still some interesting places to stop at along the way, most of which are dog-friendly. Break up the journey of two days or more with these dog-friendly stops, starting from the eastern end.
1. Feast on Oysters in Ceduna
On the outskirts of Ceduna as you head northwest, at the start of the drive across the Nullarbor, is the Ceduna Oyster Barn. While you’re in Ceduna stocking up on food, water and petrol, don’t also miss the chance to feast on the local oysters.
At the Oyster Barn, sit at the outdoor tables with your pup or grab some takeaway. As well as locally farmed oysters, there’s also fish ‘n’ chips and sushi on the menu. Just take note that it’s closed on Saturdays, plus Monday and Sunday evenings.
2. View the Largest Windmill in Australia
Penong has long been called the windmill capital of Australia, but as these landmarks have slowly been replaced by solar water pumps, the Windmill Museum was set up in 2016. This small outdoor park is free to visit (although donations welcome) and is naturally dog-friendly. As well as the huge Comet windmill there’s a variety of other historic windmills.
3. Classic Photo Stops
While driving across the Nullarbor, there’s some classic photo opportunities, and don’t miss the chance to include your pup in the photo. The three main photos to get are:
Camel, Kangaroo and Wombat sign: When driving west, just after the old Yalata Roadhouse site. There’s also a few other locations on the South Australian half of the drive.
Nullarbor Plain sign: When driving west, just before the turn off to the Head of Bight Visitors Centre. The sign heading the opposite direction is just before the Nullarbor Roadhouse.
90 Mile Straight sign: When driving west, just after the Caiguna Roadhouse. The sign heading the opposite direction is about 20km after the Balladonia Roadhouse.
To get a head’s up on the location of each sign, I recommend using the WikiCamps app and finding the Point of Interest markers for each.
4. Go Whale Watching
Okay, this attraction isn’t actually dog-friendly, but it’s still easy to do with a dog. Just before the Nullarbor Roadhouse is the turn-off to the Head of Bight Visitors Centre, with it’s whale watching platforms high up on the cliffs.
While dogs are not allowed inside the centre and along the walkway, they’re okay with dogs on a leash in the carpark. If you have a caravan and the weather is mild, perhaps leave your dog in the van, or else take turns to visit.
If you’re passing between June and October, you’re virtually guaranteed to see some whales. The adult entry fee is $18 during whale watching season, $9 during the off-peak season.
There’s also some informal whale watching locations further west along the cliffs, but they require a 4WD to access, and it’s good to support local businesses.
5. See the Bunda Cliffs
Between the Head of Bight Visitors Centre and the South Australian border is a beautiful stretch of cliffs known as the Bunda Cliffs. Along the 200km stretch are three signposted lookout points, plus many more informal ones.
The best lookout to stop at during the morning is the 2nd (middle) lookout, while the 1st (eastern) lookout is best in the afternoon hours. There’s a short walk from the carpark at each lookout, accessed by a short unsealed road.
The confusing aspect though is that this section of the Nullarbor is contained within the Nullarbor National Park and Wilderness Protection Area, with pets technically not allowed. As this national park stretches for 200km until Border Village, with many stopping places and informal campsites along the way, the prohibition on dogs tends to be ignored, but this might be enforced in the future, at least at the lookouts.
6. Visit the Old Telegraph Station Ruins
The small town of Eucla was originally established for the Eucla Telegraph Station, which opened in 1877. During the early 1900s, the telegraph station was the busiest in Australia outside of the state capitals, and the town’s population swelled to over 100.
However, with the advent of newer technologies, the telegraph station was closed and its ruins now lie 4km south of the modern town. Access is by an unsealed road, that should be fine for 2WD vehicles. These days its remains are partially buried by sand dunes and sadly covered in graffiti.
7. Stop at Madura Pass Lookout
The Nullarbor drive is mainly but not entirely flat, with one of the most significant changes in elevation occurring at Madura Pass, near Madura Hotel. At the top of the pass, pull off to the lookout (on your right if driving west), and take in the views across the Roe Plains below, towards the Southern Ocean.
8. Feel the Caiguna Blowhole
The entire Nullarbor is situated on a limestone plateau and is dotted with caves and blowholes, many that are not publicly accessible or accessible without a 4WD. By far the easiest blowhole to visit is the Caiguna Blowhole, situated 5km west of the Caiguna Roadhouse. Stop for a moment and feel the air moving out of this opening to the caves below. Dogs are fine to join you.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.