Drive the Coast – South Australia border to Twilight Cove

WA/SA Border to Hearder Hill Track

The track adjacent to Eucla Telegraph Station ruins leads to the beach. An easy drive. The plan was to find our way to the SA/WA Border along the beach.

This is Eucla Beach (WA Beach 1) that extends from the WA/SA Border and trends west-south-west for 41.5 kilometres. We started on the beach below the 100 metre high Wilson Bluff and followed it for its full length to Low Point.

The run east along the beach was easy for the first 1.6 kilometres, at which point we had to find an alternative track off the beach. After eight kilometres through the bottom of the Delisser Dunes we were able to return to the beach and make our way to the WA/SA Border – 1240 kilometres from Perth (direct line).

The drive west was along the beach back to point where we had earlier headed into the dunes.  From a different perspective we were able to find a way through without leaving the beach.

Two kilometres further west is the remains of the Eucla Jetty. Another photo opportunity.

For the entire journey along the beaches Zeljko was ‘lead’ in his FJ Cruiser, scouting for a way. As is usually the case with the first vehicle, he got bogged more than most as he tested suitable routes. Goes with the job!

The beach was wide, open and firm. The tide was out.

After an easy 24 kilometre run along the beach west of the jetty the good run finished. The way forward was blocked by rocks. We returned about 2.7 kilometres and found a way off the beach. The track paralleled the beach, just back from the foredunes. We came across a couple of squatters’ huts.

About four kilometres along the track we found a way around the rocks and returned to the beach. Beach 1 transitioned to WA Beach 2 five kilometres after we exited the dunes onto the beach although the feature to mark this, Low Point, is indiscernible.

The good run west continued for 27 kilometres from WA Beach 2 to WA Beach 3. Six kilometres along WA Beach 3 we turned off to our selected campsite on what showed on our maps as Hearder Hill track.

Four hundred metres off the beach we found a flat, open area out of the wind that was an excellent campsite. Hearder Hill itself was nowhere to be seen.

And so ended a successful day – all plans achieved.

Hearder Hill to above the Eyre Bird Observatory

We made our way from the campsite back to the beach (WA Beach 3), hoping to drive along it to Noonaeara Station homestead ruins, 49 kilometres to the west-south-west.

In less than five kilometres of travel on the sand the way was blocked by rocks.

We backtracked a hundred metres and tried for some time to find an inland way around the obstacle.

After a considerable time searching for a way that would take us around the rocks and back to the beach it was clear that we would not be successful.  There was no option but to return to the Hearder Hill track and try to find another way to Noonaera ruins.

We stopped at our campsite of last night and aired up a bit. This was perhaps a bit early as we encountered a couple of long stretches of soft and loose sand not long after airing up. The loose sand extended for about a kilometre, causing several boggings but they were easily resolved.

Five kilometres north we came across a well-formed track that we were confident would lead us to Noonaera ruins. Left turn.

At intervals along the track there are a number of well-constructed starling traps. These birds are a threat to Western Australia agriculture, particularly horticulture. Starlings are not endemic to WA and, to date, they have been kept under control. The traps placed along the Roe Plains and other parts of the Nullarbor Plain are just one part of the official prevention strategy. The starling is a declared pest in WA.

This a very remote area and operation/maintenance of these traps would be difficult and expensive. Staff at Eyre Bird Observatory monitor traps closer to their location but not these traps.

The track crosses an extensive depression that clearly many years ago was a salt lake and, given sufficient rainfall, may still hold water. It was on this vegetated depression we sighted an Australian Bustard.

Fourteen kilometres along the track we noticed a large building about a kilometre to the south. This structure is associated with a seasonal crayfishing camp. It is a further two kilometres to WA Beach 4 where crayfishermen would leave their dinghies – with their larger boats moored offshore.

There are numerous starling traps along this track.

The track we had been following for 50 kilometres took us to the Noonaera ruins.

Thick, overgrown vegetation prevented access to Noonaera Beach (WA Beach 6). Time spent with an axe or chainsaw (such time we didn’t have) would resolve the issue.

There was no possibility of continuing westward on the beach through to Kanidal Beach at Eyre Bird Observatory. Our only option was to ‘cut and run’ to EBO via an alternative route.

After a good look around the ruins we exited towards Eyre Highway. Gary led the way across the Roe Plains towards the very visible Hampton Tableland and found an ideal spot to air up at the entrance to Mundrabilla Station. It was hot – about 40 degrees Celsius.

After 80 kilometres heading west on the bitumen, we drove up the Madura Pass and turned right opposite to the entry to the Roadhouse to ascend the old Madura Pass. The track along the top of the Hampton Tableland provides great views over the Roe Plains.

We returned to the Eyre Highway, descended the  modern day Madura Pass and turned south onto the track that leads to the Madura Cave and then Madura Beach.

After visiting the easily accessible Madura Cave we headed towards Burnabbie with some trepidation among the convoy that we may not be taking the correct track. The dog fence track was good and dead straight for 14 kilometres providing an ideal connection to the Burnabbie track.

The light was fading fast and the selected overnight stop, Lineman Camp, was deemed unsuitable. It was crap – sloping, uneven and no cleared areas.

We pushed on towards Burnabbie. Only metres before this pioneer homestead a large tree blocked the track. The chainsaws were put to work.

With the downed tree cleared we had access to Burnabbie but the lack of light and thick dust (no breeze) meant that we crossed that location off our list of places to camp.

After a few minutes of radio chatter we sorted out our geographical embarrassment and headed to the parking area above EBO (on top of the Hampton Scarp) that we believed would make a suitable camp.

It was tight but there was enough room for everyone.

Above Eyre Bird Observatory to Twilight Cove

A radio call to EBO assured us that thry were ‘open’ and we could proceed down the Scarp and along the track 10 kilometres to the Observatory.

Eyre Bird Observatory

The old telegraph station at Eyre is used as an observatory by Birds Australia and is staffed year round. The building also houses a small but interesting telegraphic museum. The observatory is about one kilometre off the beach in Australia’s largest single sand dune system (note spurious claims by various 4WD websites that Bilbunya Dunes, Yeagarup Dunes or even Stockton Bight is the largest).

Kanidal Beach

After a pleasant and informative tour of EBO we headed for Twilight Cove via Kanidal Beach (WA Beach 13).

Kanidal Beach was a challenge. Many soft spots and lots of seaweed.  We eventually reached the inland track that would take us to Twilight Cove (WA Beach 16).

Twilight Cove

Twilight Cove is one of only two safely accessible places on the south coast between Israelite Bay and Fowlers Bay – a distance of over 900 kilometres.

When the telegraph line was built in 1875-77 nearly all equipment was transported by sea and then carted to the line of route. Lack of access along the length of the Baxter Cliffs made the job of getting poles and equipment to the line of route difficult. Twilight Cove, along with Toolinna Cove to the west, was the only spot along the cliffs to offload this materiel.

It was determined that the track to Cocklebiddy would be too ‘slow’ so we headed back to EBO to take that better track out to the Eyre Highway.

The return was not without difficulties. Seaweed (as usual) was the problem.

Getting off the beach was not easy.

That part of Drive the Coast was finished.

We headed out to the Eyre Highway to push westward as far as we could while there was good light for driving.

The story continues.

Check out Gary’s great video of the full trip.

 

 

© Kim Epton 2023
 1764 words, 34 photographs, 3 images.

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