Australia’s origins and the story of how it became its own continent date back millions of years ago when it separated from Antarctica. The unique geological and dramatic landscapes that we have today are a result of this planetary evolution. The Bunda Cliffs are a spectacular example of this. Bunda Cliffs is an aboriginal name that is used in South Australia. It is mostly barren and arid flatland with little or no trees. Part of the reason the landscape is so unique is because it is made up of one continuous sheet of limestone; the largest in the world covering an area of 240,000 square kilometres. When you visit the Bunda Cliffs, it can only be described as feeling like you are standing on the edge of the world.
Photo Credit: AmusingPlanet.com
Photo Credit: AmusingPlanet.com
The cliffs are the end of the Nullarbor Plain in Nullarbor National Park, which is situated on the Western Australia-South Australia border along the Great Australian Bight coastline. The national park and regional reserve encompasses 2,873,000 hectares and protects the geological, cultural, and nature in the area including sinkholes, blowholes, caves, and underground caverns in the Nullarbor Plain and up to the cliffs and the coastline. You can get to the cliffs or Nullarbor National Park from South Australia by hiring a car in Ceduna and then take the Eyre Highway, which connects South Australia and Western Australia through the Nullarbor Plain. There are several viewing points between Eucla to west and Nullarbor roadhouse to the east, but to appreciate the true awesomeness of the drop of the sheer cliffs which is between 60 and 120 kilometres high, it is best to take an aerial tour as well.
Geology of Bunda Cliffs
Photo Credit: HeadofBight.com.au
The limestone cliffs were formed about 60 million years ago during the forming of the continent. The striking layers of limestone represent the geological history of the rock. The bottom layers of the cliffs are made of Wilson Limestone, which is 300 metres thick, but only the upper portion of that is visible. On top of the white Wilson Bluff Limestone are whitish, grey, or brown layers of limestone. Some of the layers are crystalline rock, and some layers have marine fossils included in them along with fossilised worms and molluscs. Other layers are completely marine sediment, which indicates their origin. The top layer of the cliffs is weathered sand, showing the effects of wind for the last 100,000 years.
Things to do at Bunda Cliffs and Nullarbor National Park
- Whale Watching. One of the most popular things to do at the Bunda Cliffs is whale watching. The Southern Right Whales migrate through this area between May and October. They also give birth to their young in the waters off of the coast and can be seen tending to the calves. In addition to safe viewing areas, there are also flights that allow you to see the whales, the coastline, and the cliffs from the air.
Southern Right Whale and Calf Photo Credit: HeadofBight.com.au
Head of Bight Photo Credit: Nullarbornet,com.au
Head of Bight Aerial Photo Credit: HeadofBight.com.au
- Off-Road Driving. This terrain is rugged and definitely a great adventure for four-wheel driving, camping, and learning about the aboriginal and European history of the area. There are different attractions that you can drive to in the Nullarbor National Park and along the way from Ceduna. There are several cultural heritage sites within the park. The Koonalda Homestead is one of the many places you can visit along the Eyre Highway. It is an old abandoned homestead. The Nullarbor Roadhouse is popular resting spot for travellers of the area and includes a restaurant, restroom facilities, a motel, and a fuelling station.
- Murrawijinie Caves. Although most of the Nullarbor Plain is flat, the exception is the caves and sinkholes in the otherwise flat limestone. The Murrawijinie Caves are pretty amazing because they are not only underground caves, but also some are underwater. You have the unique option to explore the caves hiking on foot or underwater by SCUBA diving. Some of the pictures from inside the caves posted on Flickr are downright spectacular. In addition to the beautiful geography in the caves, there are hawks and swallows nesting inside the caves and other cave dwelling animals to watch out for.
- Nullarbor Wildlife. Herds of wild camels can be seen trekking across the plains. Dingos have also been known to frequent the area. Other animals in the area include birds, lizards, reptiles, and diverse other species like the southern hairy-nosed wombat.
Photo Credit: Nullarbornet,com.au
- The Eyre Peninsula. The area in the southeast of Bunga Cliffs and the Nullarbor Plains is the Eyre Peninsula. It can be made part of a bigger holiday road trip or a separate trip in and of itself. The peninsula has several protected parks both on land and sea. These include Point Labatt Conservation Park, home to the largest mainland breeding colony of Australian sea lions. You can watch the sea lions swim and play in the ocean and beaches. Majestic seabirds like the osprey, white-bellied sea-eagle, and the peregrine falcon also call this park home. Whyalla Conservation Park is home to over 80 species of birds that are native to this area of saltbrush and bluebush landscape.
Australian Sea Lions Photo Credit: Environmnet.sa.gov.au
- Things to Do Along the Road Trip from Ceduna to the Nullarbor Plains. If you are already driving, might as well make a road trip holiday and plan out some interesting places to stop along the way.
- Penong: 73kms from Ceduna. This city is known for its windmills that use the local water supply to provide energy. Penong was established when the railway was built.
- Cactus Beach: 21 kms south of Penong. This beach is actually one of Australia’s most famous beaches for surfing. Camping permits are available and even if you do not partake in surfing the waves, it is a great place to watch 3 perfect surfing breaks: Castles, Cactus, and Caves.
- Fowlers Bay: 58 kms from Penong, this isolated town is right on the coast. Excellent beach fishing on one side and sand dunes on the other side.
- Nundroo: This is 32 km from Fowlers Bay en route to the Nullarbor Plains and is a good spot for a break in the drive. There are hotels, motels, and service stations there. Plus you can see wildflowers or go fishing.
- Yalata Beach: 51 kms west of Nundroo, this is a camping and fishing area now, but has great cultural importance for the indigenous people. It is an Indigenous Protected Area and features some of the best natural dune camping and best remote surf fishing in South Australia.