Crossing The Nullarbor & Idyllic Esperance

Posted by Elise Cook on


So long South Oz… 

With a good playlist and two seasons of the Serial podcast downloaded, we started the 1256 kilometre drive across The Nullarbor. If you aren’t familiar with the name of this long, barren, Australian stretch of road… it’s a long, barren stretch of road across an outback plain that’s four times the size of Belgium, between South Australia and Western Australia. No reception, no… anything. Just the road, wide horizons, and hours of singalongs. In our element really. 

The edge of The Nullarbor - Elise Cook

The edge of The Nullarbor - the Bunda Cliffs

All went fairly well…

We spent the first night camping by the petrol station in Borderville. Wouldn’t recommend it.

Not very scenic and very noisy with all the trucks, but we had a heap of fresh produce we didn’t want to waste (because we stocked up for the drive and didn’t think about the border), so we decided to try and eat all of it for dinner and breakfast. We force fed each other every carrot, potato, banana, zucchini, mushroom and strawberry we had, only to have the border inspector smile and wave us right on through.

“Mate, are you sure you don’t want to have a quick look?”

“Nah, nah… you’re all good, safe drive!”

Darn it.

The following night we pulled over just off the road and camped. It was pretty incredible, and we felt totally safe.

Day 2. 10am:

Pulling out of the petrol station in some non existent town right in the middle of the Nullarbor, our accelerator pedal wouldn’t go down. Totally jammed. As soon as we started looking at it I knew we were in a pickle. So I started praying that someone would stop who knew something about cars.

Things weren’t looking good. However, we discovered that if we stood in a particular spot and held the phone up high, we had one bar of reception! So we called our roadside assistance, as we knew we were covered for a tow anywhere in Australia. They proceeded to inform us that yes, we are covered for a tow anywhere… up to 250 kms, which is quite a long way, but our nearest town was 580 kms away. This meant the tow was likely to costs us somewhere between 1 - 2 thousand dollars. Not good news. We went back to praying.

3 hours later we had come to the conclusion that we couldn’t fix it, but we had to somehow get closer to the end so we could get a tow. All we had was a spanner, a hammer, and a very small screw driver. When we asked the man at the petrol station if he had any tools he responded with a blank, “Nup.”

Darn it. Should have packed tools.

A few tucks and some motorbikes had stopped, but no one could help. I was so sure my prayers would be answered and someone was coming, so I actually felt a little disappointed. We were getting ready to call it, Dom had tried everything he could, when an elderly lady walked over and asked me if I needed any help. I looked at her, and said, “I’m not sure you’ll be able to help, it’s car trouble, but thank you.”

“Wait here,” she said, “my husband is in the car, he’s a retired mechanic, I’ll go get him.”

“I knew it! What took him so long!” - (Happy dance)...

Now I can’t publish the rest of the story, I wish I could because it was very funny, but if you ever get chatting with us, we’ll tell you how we made it another 800 km across the Nullarbor.

Day 2, morning coffee watching the sunrise. This was a few hours before we broke down. 

During this 800km drive, we bumped into some friendly grey nomads, Pat and Barb, who we’d met briefly back in Port Lincoln. Once they realised we had car troubles, they made it their mission to keep an eye on us. We’d be driving along, and see their car and caravan pulled over to the side of the road, for the 10th time, and they would swiftly pull out behind us, follow us for a stretch, then overtake us with toot and a wave, and an hour later we’d see them waiting on the side of the road again. What wonderful people.

Scout ended up being worked on in Esperance, and while that happened we checked in to Esperance Chalet Village. Fiona and Shilla, plus their four kids, who own and live at the village made us feel instantly welcomed and at home. We loved getting to know them, spent our final night sitting around their dining table, and found their story so inspiring. They had left their big, fast paced city life in Sydney behind for a sea change and a chance to throw in their phones, slow life down a little, a live somewhere where their kids can ride their bikes and swim in the sea. When they bought the village the chalets, built in the 80s, were stuck in a time warp and very run down. What they have done with the place is fantastic! Beautifully renovated and styled, with a relaxed seaside feel. We loved it so much we accidentally stayed far longer than planned. It was a great base for exploring Esperance, and also the perfect place to stop and spend a few restful days getting work done. That sentence sounds like a paradox, but our few days catching up on work involved sitting on the day bed with cups of coffee and the sunlight beaming through the floor to ceiling glass, with a view out to the creek and the sound of waves in the distance. Bliss.

Esperance itself was a total blow away. I actually hadn’t heard of it until the week we were moving out of our house. My uncle was over helping us pack and said to me, "At the end of the Nullarbor, turn left. You'll drive straight into Esperance and you won’t want to leave". He was right!

On our first day we drove along the coastal road and couldn’t believe our eyes. An incredibly stunning coastline. There’s something in the air in this little seaside town, and everyone we met was so friendly. Fiona invited us along to the Saturday morning market, where we stocked up on local veggies and were lucky enough to score a sourdough loaf from Bread Local - homemade breads and pastries only sold, and always sold out, on Saturday mornings. Because Dom can’t eat bread we never really have it, so it was a bit of a highlight for me! Haha.

For a good cuppa, we also recommend stopping at Down Town Espresso Bar - great coffee and really cool space. And such a treat after living on instant coffee for weeks.


With Scout’s accelerator cable fixed, we drove to Cape Le Grand National Park and spent a few nights camping. I can’t tell you how much we loved it there. We had perfect weather, and spent our days beaching it. We loved the very quiet and secluded Hellfire Bay and Thistle Cove, and spent a few nights camping at Lucky Bay.


Now I’d heard that sometimes there are kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay, and I was so hoping we’d get to see one. I don’t know if they saw the kombi and got excited, but we could barely get out of the van, they were so eager to say hello.

They hung out with us for an hour or so, before hopping off and then coming back again. The friendliest kangaroos I’ve ever met. Happy to just lay down right next to us while we sat in the shade, and once I started rubbing their backs they all wanted a turn.


It was pretty quiet while we were camping at Lucky Bay.

We did meet a couple of grey nomads. One couple had done two laps of Australia in the 70s in their Kombi. Now in their 70s, they had a new model camper, but were still travelling in a van rather than towing a caravan “like the rest of them”, they said. “The other women all ask me how we manage in such a small space, and say they couldn’t do it,” she told me, referring to all the other grey nomads on the road, “but we wouldn’t do it any other way. You can go places and camp anywhere - illegally now mind you - that you just can’t do with a caravan. Life’s an adventure in a van. Enjoy it.”

We also met another couple, in their 70s, who were travelling in a van. The gentleman ran past us, topless, a few times whilst he was running laps of the beach. Very, very fit old man. Also very tanned.

He told us that they’d sold their house, got rid of everything, and were driving around Australia, and next were planning to live on a yacht for a while in Croatia. When he ran past us for the fourth time, while we were sitting on the roof of the van, enjoying a bottle of wine whilst the sunset, he held his hands high in their air and yelled, “Living the life!”.

I think he was referring to all of us… this definitely feels like living.

A lot of people are just ‘doing’ life. Living life requires you to do things, even for just a little bit, just a moment, of every day, that makes your soul sing.

Back to say hello the next morning. :)


After Lucky Bay we drove over The Duke of Orleans and camped by the beach. The untouched beauty of this place is something to behold. So, sunset and sunrise, we just sat together and took it in. Grateful to share this experience, and to be able to experience and explore this beautiful land.

Can you spot Scout?


I hope that after reading this, some of you might be inspired to visit this pocket of Australia, it’s pretty special and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it.


If you can’t plan a getaway right now, just step out and enjoy tonight’s sunset.


Say hello by leaving a comment below :)

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  • Gorgeous story and pics. Was wondering where to go for a holiday. Maybe do some cave diving too. Friendly kangaroos are so beautiful. Much better than croc infested Nth to me. Thank you! Best of luck!

    Darren on

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