There are two parts of the Nullarbor crossing that are now distinct and separate routes to the current Eyre Highway: on the Western Australian side is a mapped Old Coach Road that is further north towards the Trans Australia Railway line. On the South Australian side the older highway route runs from Border Village to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, well away from the coast and running through the centre of the Nullarbor National Park.
Construction on the Eyre Highway first started in July 1941 and was completed six months later. First known as the Forrest Highway (named after John Forrest) Originally, the roads that followed closely to the route were very rough in condition, and during the road around Australia road trials in the 1950s, movie newsreels would show cars on very sandy tracks. The current route of the highway has not been deviated from significantly during various upgrades to the highway.
The differences between the condition of the road on either side of Eucla were notable as late as the mid-1980s. The last section was finally sealed on the South Australian section only in 1976.
Mundrabilla Roadhouse, a typical Nullarbor roadhouse
Royal Flying Doctor Service emergency airstrip
The Western Australian section of the Eyre Highway lies entirely on the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor gets its name from Latin for 'no trees'. The typical view is that of a straight highway and practically unchanging flat saltbush-covered terrain, although some parts are located on ridges. The population on this stretch was estimated at 86 as at the 2006 census and, apart from Eucla, no towns exist along the route. Roadhouses providing basic services such as petrol, food and bottled water are approximately 200 km (124 mi) to 300 km (186 mi) apart, 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.
This section of the highway includes what is regarded as the longest straight stretch of road in Australia and one of the longest in the world, between Balladonia and Caiguna; the road stretches for 146.6 kilometres (91.1 mi) without turning.
Cocklebiddy — South of Cocklebiddy is the Eyre Bird Observatory, located in a restored telegraph station. Many caves are also located in this area and are popular among cave divers and fossil hunters.
Madura — Once a homestead where horses were bred for use in the British Cavalry and for polo. This is now a peaceful roadhouse and hotel located on the pass through Hampton Tablelands. A lookout over the pass is located nearby.
Eucla — Located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the WA/SA border, this roadhouse is situated close to the Great Australian Bight. A historic telegraph station, half-buried in sand dunes, can also be viewed nearby.
The Great Australian Bight is a short detour away at several places along the highway
Driving north along the Eyre Highway between Iron Knob and Port Augusta.
The South Australian section of the Eyre Highway crosses the eastern section of the Nullarbor Plain before arriving in the town of Ceduna. It then skirts the northern boundary of the Eyre Peninsula before reaching the city of Port Augusta. An alternative route between Ceduna and Port Augusta, formerly signed Alternate Route 1 and now signed B100, follows Flinders Highway and Lincoln Highway down the western and eastern sides of the peninsula respectively.
Main Roads, Western Australia (2006) Distance book: distances to towns and localities in Western Australia East Perth, W.A. Main Roads ISBN 0-7309-7668-8
Western Australia. Dept. of Tourism. (1978) Eyre highway traveller survey, 1978 : a study of travellers prior and subsequent to sealing of the highway Perth: Western Australian Dept. of Tourism. ISBN 0-7244-7800-0 (Roads. Use. Australia. Eyre Highway. Reports, surveys (ANB/PRECIS SIN 0061603)