Words by: Maria Odufuye
My travel buddy and I arrived in Melbourne on the 20th of March and were extremely confused when we were confronted with iconic London landmarks such as ‘the London eye’ (Star observation wheel) and ‘the shard’ (Eureka sky deck). My confusion continued when a cold shiver was sent down my spine and I was forced to put on my only pair of jeans and my deeply packed jumper. We’d flown to the other side of the world only to endure a British summer but actually much colder. So we used our good friend Google to find where in Australia had the weather that we expected. After quite simply googling “Where is hot in Australia in March”. We were lucky enough to find a FREE car relocation deal from Melbourne to Perth, leaving a few days later.
TIP ONE: Check out car relocation deals, it’s much more cost effective than hiring a car + many of them are 4WD so you can go off road.
We had 10 days to get the car to Perth and only one license holder.
TIP TWO: You are more than capable of doing this drive with one driver, however I got super tired and hell cranky, so a second driver would be handy.
Things you need: Apart from all boring logical stuff…
- Car charger: Life saver. Old school maps are cool, but if you want to go off road, likelihood is you’ll get a little lost. You’ll need this for all sorts, charging sat nav, mobile, iPod, get one.
- Telstra sim card: From my experience, Telstra was a great network to be with, I almost always had service. It’s always good to have one working phone.
- IPod + speaker or Aux lead: Without music I would’ve gone crazy. There is no radio service. I spy is a great game, but when you’re on The Nullarbor you can spy nothing. ‘Sweet home Alabama’ is required.
- Jerry can: As soon as you’re out of Adelaide petrol prices just get ridiculous… we once paid $1.77. Do what we didn’t do and take a jerry can or two
- Snacks: Because snacks are awesome. Peanut M&M’S are always good.
- Baby wipes: We didn’t shower for 5 days, slept in the car and ate lots of peanuts… you can imagine the kind of musty smell that sank into our skin. Baby wipes kind of made it bearable.
- Diary and camera that records: We wrote in diaries every day and a daily video diary. I have a terrible memory so this was really helpful when I’d call my mum and tell her about all the crazy shit we’d been up to. We haven’t watched them back yet but when we do I think it’s going to bring back a whole heap of good memories.
We didn’t do too much planning when it came to this trip but a recommendation from people on the road was great.
TIP THREE: If you are British and haven’t driven in Australia before, be aware that the indicator is on the OPPOSITE side. I made this mistake and it’s safe to say not only were the city drivers not happy with me hogging the road, but nor were they pleased with me not indicating and instead putting the wipers on.
The Great Ocean Road
We took it pretty slow the first day and stopped off in Torquay for a few hours where we visited a long lost friend of mine.
“You need more than one driver” she said
“You won’t make it with one” she said
“You’re crazy” she said
After the lecture she handed over a long list of must see along the way and wished us good luck. We spent the first night in a small coastal town, Lorne. It’s such a small town it took us only 20 minutes to see it all… we picked up a hot chocolate at a really cute café which I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. It’s pretty much the only one there so you’ll know it when you see it. Apparently people in Lorne aren’t fans of marshmallows, so you can help yourself to as many FREE marshmallows as you want. I personally only managed 8. We slept on the luxurious seats of our 4WD and woke up just before sunrise, I ran across the road to the only place open that early and sweet talked my way into getting two free cups of hot water.
TIP FOUR: Always wake up before sunrise, not only because it’s illegal to sleep in your car/ car parks BUT because sunrise is awesome. Watching the sunrise with a hot drink is a great feeling. You might not be alone, as we did spot a naked man braving the cold waves for an early morning swim.
The Great Ocean Road of course had lots of tourist attractions such as Bells beach, a shipwreck (which in fact wasn’t a shipwreck… I was looking forward to seeing washed up ships and feathers from a pirate’s old parrot. It is in fact the SITE where the shipwreck happened, so don’t be as disappointed as I was).
And of course the famous twelve apostles. The twelve apostles was one of my favourites, you could just look at the landscape for ages and chill out. Continuing along the Great Ocean Road we saw a group of rowdy tourists snapping away, we figured out they’d spotted a Koala that we couldn’t see because there was such a crowd. So instead of waiting for the storm to clear, go for a little stroll and spot your own Koala, we’ve never seen them before so it was a fun break from driving.
Next stop was Adelaide, this was such a long drive, it took 10 hours, and I was saved by water, donuts and music. For a city Adelaide didn’t have too much going on, we spent just a day here which was enough.
If you stop there you have to go to the market, there are lots of freebies to try and the smell that oozes down the corridors is amazing. It has a really great atmosphere and everyone wants to fill you in on the origin of their stock. If you go around the Easter period don’t make the same mistake that we did… we spent an hour on an Easter egg hunt that we were misled into thinking we’d win $1000.
It was $1000 worth of market vouchers, a market that we’d most likely never visit again. Definitely go to the botanic gardens, I personally preferred it to the botanic gardens in Perth, Kings Park. It’s lovely and colourful, I even recommended it for someone’s wedding.
‘The Robin Hood’ is a local pub which is home to local ciders and exceptional local talent. I’m really into localities, especially not being from here. I like to experience local culture rather than going to fancy bars that you can find anywhere. It was really nice to hang out here after such a long day driving, the singers where great and the cider was refreshing.
TIP FIVE: At the end of the day have a drink, no need to get wasted, but just one drink. Find a local pub or even go to the bottle shop and sit by the sea.
When you are travelling through time zones and its 6AM like 3 times you get exhausted and cranky, a drink at the end of the day made me feel so much better.
On this trip you have to visit the small towns, I think as someone from a big city, London, the small towns were really interesting. We mainly stopped in Snowtown because of its awesome name, but we luckily found a campsite with a SHOWER. There were about 20 houses and not one person on the streets, we were hoping for a hot meal but everywhere seemed to have closed by 4pm. There isn’t much to see here, but I think it’s an experience going to somewhere that the likelihood is that everyone in the town knows each other. We went to the local/ only pub and there were only two others in there, I kind of liked being stared at for being an outsider, it was creepy but funny that they can spot visitors a mile off.
TIP SIX: When there’s a shower, use it… if you are doing it cheap like we did and not staying in hostels, it’s not fun to wash in the cold sea.
The part that we’d been waiting for had finally arrived; time to tackle to Australian desert.
“People are lost and never found on the Nullarbor”
“The Nullarbor is so boring” They said.
I was admittedly quite nervous about this part of the drive, especially with all the comments. However we stayed at a free camping site ‘Pelidda Rock’, it had a great view and a nice tranquil atmosphere about it. We spent the night with a few ciders and s’mores before retiring to our boudoir.
I expected The Nullarbor to be like the deserts you see on TV, cactus plants, snakes, orange sand. Funnily enough it was green with lots of bob tailed lizards and funny looking birds that fly in front of your car.
Yes, the drive did get tiresome and the road was never ending, you’d look in every direction and there’d be nothing for miles but it was definitely not boring.
TIP SEVEN: If you don’t want to be bored on The Nullarbor make sure you go with someone you get on really well with because it is really really long. We entertained ourselves with games, music and stopping every now and then to record our own music videos. There is no one else around so you can be as crazy as you like.
On the odd occasion when you do come into human contact, it’s with a passer-by, after a few hours we kind of got the idea that you wave to everyone that goes by. So don’t forget to say hey.
TIP EIGHT: Stock up! Stock up on, fuel, food (snacks), water and most importantly sanity.
Honestly there is nothing to see on The Nullarbor, this part of the trip is really just for fun and to do crazy shit without anyone seeing you. We were lucky enough to catch up with a guy who was running across Australia, James Brooman, so we kind of got to ‘see’ something cool.
Keep your eyes peeled for signs to ‘Cactus Beach’ because it’s beautiful, you drive down a road where the lakes are a crystal pink and the sun shining on them creates this magical flash! Then you get to the beach and there is pretty much no one else there, it’s layered with rocks perfect for chilling out. We took this as an opportunity to have a grape eating competition, because what else can you do on a long ass road trip.
WARNING: If you participate in this game, please drink lots of water to avoid over active bowel movement. There aren’t many/ if any public toilets in the desert.
By far this was the best part of the road trip, no tourists or constantly having to take snaps of shipwrecks and light houses, embrace The Nullarbor it’s a hell good experience!
Eucla and Border Village
I loved border village, simply because it shows your achievement. Be sure to pick up you certificate from the road house just before crossing the border; it’s worth the $2.
So, when approaching the border we were confronted by some old locals who suggested we pack away and hide any fruit we have as you can’t take it across the border. I’d recently just brought some plums and was not about to give them babies up. When we got to the border he came out and kind of leisurely checked out the inside of the car… then the question came.
“Do you have any fruits or vegetables to declare?”
“No, nothing” said my travel buddy.
I don’t know what it was but I just panicked and confessed to the 8 hidden plums in the car!
TIP NINE: They don’t give a shit.
The End Is Near…
Following Eucla, there isn’t much to see but a few wineries along the way which I of course recommend you stop at.
Donnybrook, just 200KM from Perth, it may have just been because at the time we were just two damsels in distress as I jammed the car into a post and were stuck for 3 hours. Or it could be that the people in Donnybrook are genuinely just really lovely. Everyone was so helpful, from the local mechanics to the lady in the groceries shop, I’d recommend visiting just because who doesn’t like happy people.
We ran out of time so took a different route to the one we wanted. If you have all the time in the world I’d strongly suggest going via Margaret River, go to the wineries and chocolatier, eat fish and chips from ‘Squid Lips’ and go and see live bands at the pub!
Most people haven’t done this trip and I cannot for the life of me figure out why!
LAST TIP: Embrace the journey, you’re likely to only do it once.
Happy road trip.