Most people that come to the Far West Coast of South Australia do it during a trip between Adelaide and Perth, or less commonly, as part of a visit to see the most well known attraction – whale watching at Head of the Bight. That’s not the only thing to do in the area though. Here are some more things to do on the Far West Coast of South Australia as you are crossing the Nullarbor.
Where is the Far West Coast of South Australia
The Far West Coast begins to the west of Ceduna and continues all the way to the Western Australia border, almost 500km away. This is one of the most isolated, sparsely populated stretches in all of Australia. There is a map showing the area here.
There is really only one way to get to the Far West Coast, and that is to drive.
If you want to cut a big portion of the trip, it is possible to fly into Ceduna and hire a car from there for the rest of the drive. The schedule is limited due to covid right now, but check times and prices at the Rex website here.
For car hire I use and recommend RentalCars.com for all over the world. The site compares rental prices from many different care hire companies all with the one search and I’ve had good experiences with them every time. You can check prices and availability for car hire anywhere on their website here.
Things to do on the Far West Coast of South Australia
See the Whales at Head of the Bight
It’s worth the drive all the way to Head of the Bight just to see the whales. From June to September each year, hundreds of Southern Right Whales come north from Antarctica to mate and calf in the relatively protected waters of the Great Australian Bight. The cliffs at Head of the Bight create the perfect platform for watching the whales play in the waters below. During my visit we could see at least twenty mother/baby pairs at any one time. The highlight was seeing one of the white whale calves that were born this year (I have heard there were three in total) and seeing a whale breaching over and over as it was playing in the deeper water. It truely was a bucket list experience.
Whale Watching Cruise at Fowlers Bay
If standing on the cliffs at Head of the Bight does not appeal to you, you can also see the whales by taking a boat tour from the beachside town of Fowlers Bay. Mostly you will see southern right whales, but occasionally there are humpback whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions around too. The two hour tours depart daily from July to September.
Play some Golf on the Nullarbor Links
The Far West Coast is home to part of the world’s longest golf course. The Nullarbor Links course starts in Ceduna, and ends in Kalgoorlie 1365km away. There is one hole in each town (or Roadhouse) along the way. The idea is to play each hole as you drive across the Nullarbor, tallying up your score at the end. Even if you are not going all the way into Western Australia, it’s still fun to play a few holes along the way and experience golf the outback way.
Visit the Windmill Museum at Penong
As you approach the town of Penong you will begin to notice windmills. There are dozens of them dotted over the nearby landscape. The windmills were a necessity to supply the small town with water from deep underground so each farm has at least one. Nowadays solar panels are used to power the pumps, but still the windmills are an integral part of Penong
When the locals were looking for a way to attract some interest in the town and to try to get passing motorists to stop, they came up with the idea of a windmill museum. This open air museum contains more than twenty restored, working windmills, including one of the biggest ever used in Australia.
Follow the signs from the highway to take a look, entry is free, but of course donations are welcome. They go towards finding and restoring even more windmills from across Australia to add to the collection.
Boost your Instagram at Lake MacDonnell
To get to Lake MacDonnell, turn off towards the ocean at Penong and make your way towards Cactus Beach. About 15km down the road you will find a salt lake, divided in two by a road – and this is the reason this lake as become so well known. Lake MacDonnell used to be used as a salt mine, and now the area is home to the largest gypsum mine in Australia. A combination of the mining activity has made one half of the lake saltier, and therefore a much better food source for the algae that lives in the salt lakes all over Australia, turning them pink when the conditions are just right.
So as you drive towards Cactus Beach, over the road that passes through the sale lake, if conditions are just right, you will see a pink lake on one side of you, and a blue lake to the other! While during my visit the lake wasn’t at it’s pinkest, there was definitely a pink hue to one side.
If you want to see how pink it gets, take a look at the photo here – the people involved say the pink is not edited, it really was like that!
Surf at Cactus Beach
Once past Lake MacDonnell, continue on towards the ocean for approximately another 5km. You will pass by some of the most beautiful sand dunes I’ve ever seen, some of them look just like layers of meringue! First you will see the settlement of Point Sinclair – a bunch of caravans and little huts the surfers like to use. Eventually you will come to the surfing mecca that is Cactus Beach.
I am no surfing expert, but the waves rolling in looked pretty perfect to me. It was almost mesmerising standing on the cliffs above watching them. I think you would have to be an experienced surfer to ride these waves, but I guess only those truely dedicated to the sport would trek all the way here just to surf. If you choose to have a go, take care as there is little to no phone coverage here and helps quite a distance away.
Pass Through the Dingo Fence
As you drive along the Eyre Highway between Yalata and Fowlers Bay, you will pass right through one of the most iconic Australian landmarks – and you may not even realise it. All that marks it on the highway is a cattle grid. The Dingo Fence (or just Dog Fence as I knew it growing up) is one of the longest fences in the world covering 5614km from the Great Australian Bight to the town of Jimbour in southern Queensland. The fence was built in the 1880’s with the idea that it would keep dingoes to the north of the fence so that farmers could grow sheep to the south without having the constant issue of dingoes attacking the flocks. The fence has mostly done its job and allowed the Australian sheep industry to flourish. It is still maintained today.
Stand on the Bunda Cliffs
The Bunda Cliffs are incredible high cliffs along the Great Australian Bight where the continent falls into the sea. At around 100km from end to end, they are the longest uninterrupted cliffs in the world. The cliffs range from 60-120m tall and start right where the whale watching boardwalks are at Head of the Bight. If you look to the left you will see sand hills and beaches, and to the right are towering cliffs.
While the Head of the Bight is a good places to catch a glimpse of the Bunda Cliffs, there are also a couple of other lookouts that provide views further towards the Western Australia border. Check them all out if you are travelling all the way across the Nullarbor.
Catch a Big One While Beach Fishing
I couldn’t write this post without adding in a small mention about fishing. There are plenty of places on the Far West Coast that offer amazing fishing opportunities. Cactus Beach, Port Sinclair and Tuckamore Beach are some of the more common areas to catch good size salmon and mulloway.
There is great fishing at Yalata too, Dog Fence Beach is a favourite, but as this is part of the Yalata Indigenous Protected Area, a permit is required. At the moment, all access to the Yalata area is prohibited due to Covid-19 so no permits are being approved for any fishing or camping. Check this website to keep up to date and to find out when the Yalata beaches open again.
If you prefer to go out in a boat and do some fishing, charters are available in Fowlers Bay.
Where to Stay on the Far West Coast
Accommodation options are rather limited while on the Far West Coast. We stayed at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which has a variety of accommodation options from hotel rooms to camping sites. Many people choose to stay in Fowlers Bay. Take a look at the Fowlers Bay Holiday Flats or try the Fowlers Bay Caravan Park.
On the way to or from the Far West Coast, you will pass through another part of South Australia called simply the West Coast. Confused yet? The West Coast is actually the west coast of Eyre Peninsula, as distinct from the Far West Coast of South Australia! To find out all of the best things to do while passing through the West Coast, see my post on it here.
Want even more? – I have created a Facebook Group to answer any questions you may have about travel in South Australia. We can help with any queries you have, make further suggestions and provide the latest information. Click here to join now.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.