One of the most spectacular land-based whale watching experiences in Australia has to be at the Head of the Great Australian Bight. It’s a long drive (a little over 1,000 kilometres west of Adelaide), but this epic journey to the Nullarbor Plain and the edge of the country is a bucket list trip for good reason.
Despite Nullarbor meaning ‘no trees’, you’ll be surprised by just how much growth there is to see, with trees and scrub covering the landscape for a lot of the drive.
Ceduna is the last major town on the Eyre Highway before heading west, but you can still buy fuel and food at Penong before you get to the Head of the Bight.
When you’re crossing the Nullarbor, make sure to stop for the obligatory photo at the sign declaring the start of the Nullarbor Plain. There are a number of other stopping points along the way, with multiple viewing areas overlooking the spectacular Bunda Cliffs, which in some places are 120 metres high!
Head of Bight Visitor Centre
The turnoff to the Head of Bight Visitors Centre is easy to spot and there’s ample room for cars and caravans to park. If you’re travelling with a dog that’s ok, but they must stay in your vehicle.
The entry fee, which you’ll need to purchase inside the centre, gives you access to the visitor centre and whale viewing platforms where, during season (May to October), you can see the majestic creatures along the coastline beneath the Bunda Cliffs. Back in the visitor centre, grab some snacks, drinks and souvenirs, and learn more about the area and the species of whales that visit each year.
Whales and cliffs
The limestone Bunda Cliffs are breathtaking. The sheer size of them makes you feel minuscule; it’s a real edge of the earth feeling. Take a wander to the viewing platforms to stand as close to the edge as you’d want, soaking in an epic overhead perspective of the whales.
The whales usually arrive from May onwards each year to give birth and raise their newborns. At the peak of the season in June and July, there can be as many as 80 whales visible off this stretch of coast! When we visited on a day in August, there were about 24 whales, including a pure white calf.
The whales often stay close to the sheltered area of the cliffs with their calves and are close enough to watch their interesting behaviours and hear their blows as they cruise past.
Fun fact: Researchers using photographs of the whale’s unique markings have been able to identify individual whales and have discovered that the same ones often return each year.
Where to camp
If you are fully self-contained and want to camp off-grid, there are a number of free camping sites on the Bunda Cliffs. Alternatively, there is a camping space to stay outside of the entrance gates to the Head of Bight Visitor Centre.
For a little more comfort, the Nullarbor Roadhouse is 25 kilometres west and has powered and unpowered sites, starting from $20 per night. Here, you’ll find ablutions, a shop, restaurant, bar and fuel.
Before you go
Winter on the southern edge of Australia isn’t the warmest, so make sure you wear plenty of layers to protect yourself from the wind at the Head of the Bight.
You’ll also want to bring a camera and a zoom lens if you have one. You’ll be amazed at how close the whales can get and the Bunda Cliffs are always a spectacular sight.