Category: The Nullarbor

Railway Ghost Towns

Tarcoola, South Australia

Googs Track terminated at the Transcontinental Railway Line at Malbooma, from here we took the track following the railway line east towards Stuart Highway. The track passed through the towns Tarcoola and Kingoonya, that used to service the railway line. These towns have declined with only a couple of residents remaining. It was a strange experience to drive through these deserted towns full of empty buildings in disrepair. Scenes from the 1972 movie Deliverance and the 1980 Jack Nicholson movie The Shining came to mind.

The railway track intersects at the Stuart Hwy at a roadhouse / caravan park called Glendambo. We stayed there two nights where we enjoyed both nights at the Glendambo Pub and made friends with an awesome pair of sisters from Melbourne. The pub was built in 1982 to replicate a shearing shed. It’s a timber and stone building with a heap of character and we enjoyed chatting with Freddy the barman.

We were only planning on staying one night but we loved the bar and Joe needed to service the car. Luckily we booked in the extra night as it took Joe five hours just to remove the oil filter. Weilding a hammer, screw driver and crowbar, it was removed after much fustration and practically destroying the old oil filter.

If you’re interested in the history of places here is a little more information on the almost deserted town of Tarcoola

Tarcoola is an old goldmining ghost town. After the goldrush it was a busy railway service town. Since the Central Australia Railway was relocated in 1980, it became a town for trainline maintenance workers and their families with its own school, hospital, church, hotel, police station and community hall. In 1998 most rail maintenance services were moved to Port Augusta and Tarcoola was almost deserted. 

Our sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and final stop along the Nullarbor, South Australia

nullarbor border crossing quarantine honey

Yesterday we crossed the border into South Australia. We stopped at Ecula for a shower and a bite to eat before we left WA. While we were there we checked out the old Ecula Telegraph Station ruins that are almost covered by sand dunes and the local museum.

Keeping with our theme of trying to stop at every roadhouse along the Nullarbor we briefly visited Nullarbor, Nundroo and Penong. Inbetween Nullabor and Nundroo we dropped in to  ‘The Head of the Bight’ along The Great Australian Bight. It was a busy with $5 entry per person to access the bight with long timber walkways. It was worth the entry fee because the views were amazing. From June – October whales come and give birth there shame our timing wasn’t quite right.

Our last stop was Ceduna where we spent the night. Today we are going to explore Ceduna before setting off north on the Googs Track to Coober Pedy. The Googs Track is a little used inland desert track that’s sure to test our patience.

We thought we weren’t allowed to take honey across the border and Joe didn’t like the thought of wasting precious food resources so he tried to consume as much of the honey as he could before throwing it out. Turns out it was all for nothing because we could’ve taken the honey into South Australia anyway, it is only restricted in certain areas!

Our second, third, fourth and fifth stop along the Nullarbor – Caguina, Cocklebiddy, Madura, & Mundrabilla, Western Australia

mundrabilla roadhouse maintenance service vehicle (3)
You could easily drive from Balladonia to the border of South Australia without stopping as it is only 500km but Joe and I are very excited to be experiencing the Nullarbor and want to stop at every lookout and roadhouse. We stopped at every single one to make a purchase on our way to the 24 hour rest stop 35km past Mundrabilla where we camped for the night before taking off for Eucla and the border into South Australia this morning.
The Caguina Roadhouse had a golfing green that is part of the Nullarbor Link Golf Course – the biggest gold course in the world. We had a look at the Caguina Blow Hole that is alongside Eyre Hwy. Next, we stopped for lunch at the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse and Joe ordered a steak sandwich to include in his steak sandwich review page. We had a chat with a truck driver who helped us test our CB radio. The next stop was Madura which had a lookout with a great view of the Madura Pass along the Nullarbor. We popped some diesel in the hilux at the Madura Roadhouse. Finally, the last official stop for the day before driving to our camp for the night was Mundrabilla Roadhouse. Here we caught up with our CB radio truck driver friend and shared a beer at the pub.  We had a chat with the Mundrabilla Roadhouse maintenance man who gets around in a fabulous ‘Back to the Future meets Waterworld’ type van that he and our CB radio truck driver friend built from a van that had rolled, old scrap metal and various parts from wrecked cars scattered along the Nullarbor. What a vehicle!

Our first stop along the Nullarbor – Balladonia, Western Australia

Balladonia museum skylab newspaper articles

Excited to finally reach civilization and sealed road we arrived at Balladonia which is the first stop along the Nullarbor after Norseman. Balladonia is famous for the 1974 Skylab Crash and even has a Museum inside the Balladonia Roadhouse. The museum is full of information about the crash and wreckage from the skylab on display (John, I took most of these pictures mainly for your viewing pleasure). We had dinner at the Balladonia Roadhouse Pub and camped the night at the attached caravan park which had a basic camp kitchen and toilet facilities. We would’ve liked to have done some clothes washing after 10 days of bush camping but there was no laundry.

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