The Long and Lonely Eyre Highway: Australia’s Longest Straight Road

Nov 27, 2014 6 comments

Imagine a drive, a thousand miles long with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless plain with repetitive landscape, and hundreds of kilometers between towns and service stations. That’s Eyre Highway, the road that connects Western Australia to Southern Australia via the Nullarbor Plain, a flat and treeless, giant bed of limestone 200,000 square kilometres in area. With no hills or lakes to obstruct, the highway was laid down as a straight road that runs for 1,675 km from Port Augusta in the east to Norseman in the west, and includes what is said to be the longest straight stretch of road in the world Australia: 145.6 kilometres, between the small roadhouse communities of Balladonia and Caiguna (the longest straight road in the world is Highway 10 in Saudi Arabia, which is 162 miles long).


A set of road signs just west of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, South Australia, warning of camels, wombats and kangaroos crossing the Eyre Highway for the next 96 km in a westerly direction. Photo credit

Eyre Highway can be best described as a long and lonely road. While in the East you still find some towns like Kimba, Wudinna and Ceduna, the western three quarters is almost devoid of life. This section lies almost entirely on the Nullarbor Plain. The typical view is that of a straight highway and practically unchanging flat saltbush-covered terrain, although some parts are located on ridges. Spread throughout the length of the highway at approximately 200 km to 300 km apart are roadhouses providing basic services such as fuel, food, refreshments, accommodation and repairs, but not all are open 24 hours. Because of its remoteness, some sections of the Highway serve as emergency airstrips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. These airstrips are signposted and have runway "piano keys" painted on the road, and turnaround bays for small aircraft.

Between Balladonia and Caiguna, the road stretches for 145.6 kilometers without a bend. This section of the highway, commonly known as the "90 Mile Straight", is regarded as the longest straight stretch of road in Australia and one of the longest in the world.


The first European to cross the Plain was English explorer Edward John Eyre in June 1841. He endured much hardship, apparently describing the plain as “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams”, and survived the year-long expedition by eating lizards and wringing moisture from roots. Eyre’s successful crossing inspired many to follow his footsteps, including Arthur Charles Jeston Richardson, who became the first cyclist to cross the Nullarbor Plain in 31 days in 1896 and Henri Gilbert, the first person to walk across Australia, crossed the Nullarbor Plain on foot, with no support team or stock. Crossing the Nullarbor, for many Australians, has become the quintessential experience of the "Australian Outback"

Construction of Eyre Highway started in July 1941, exactly a hundred years after Edward John Eyre’s tremendous feat, and was completed six months later. Since 1976, the Eyre Highway is a fully sealed road and in many places runs alongside the original gravel track which was pushed through this vast outback region back in the 1940s. Along the way are various scenic sights such as the spectacular Bunda Cliffs, which drop vertically for 100 metres or more off the plain into the Southern Ocean waters of the Great Australian Bight. You will also encounter the Dingo fence, claimed to be the longest fence in the world, that runs beside the Eyre Highway for a short distance. Other places of interest along the way include Newman and Afghan Rocks near Balladonia, the Eyre Bird Observatory, the famous Cocklebiddy Cave, the view from Madora Pass, whale watching at the head of the bight, several sink holes and blowhole, to mention just a few.


This is how Eyre Highway looks, for most of the distance. Photo credit


Many consider crossing the Nullarbor Plain a long and boring trek that should be travelled as quickly as possible. Photo credit


Eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain. Photo credit


The 90 Mile Straight. Photo credit


This part of the highway is also used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service as an emergency runway. Photo credit


A section of the Eyre Highway as viewed from an airplane. Photo credit


Mundrabilla Roadhouse, a typical Nullarbor roadhouse. Photo credit


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An occasional bend on encounters along the way. Photo credit


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The spectacular Bunda Cliff (more pictures here). Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia / Mike on Bike /

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