For too long, the holiday options of Perth dwellers have been geographically limited. Really, only two points of the compass get a good workout. You either go “down south”, following the coast into increasingly shark-infested waters, or up north to Bali. Maybe if you have young children or have just finished your Year 12 exams, going west to Rotto might still be an option for you. As long as you don’t cross paths with the other of these two groups, you should have a great time. Tell the peacocks that UWA’s offer still stands.
What the charming attractions of the hills to the east of Perth make so easy to forget is the fact that there is a large expanse of land behind them. Culture isn’t the only thing separating Perth from Melbourne – there’s also around 2,700 km and a pleasant (but forgettable) state. This June, I made the trip across the Nullarbor Plain with my dad, in what sounds like the premise for a heart-warming buddy road movie. I had always wanted to do it (for non-screenplay related purposes, I swear), and Dad is always up for a Nullarbor trip. He’s driven it over 25 times over his life, including once when he drove from WA to Victoria non-stop in 30 hours. It was 1978 and he kept himself awake by popping no-doz and listening to JJ Cale and Buddy Holly on the stereo of his Toyota Celica.
For normal people, driving across the bottom of Australia usually entails a few rest stops along the way. For most, that means a visit to Eucla, the last town on the Eyre Highway before the South Australian border 11 km away. Although technically in WA, Eucla is slightly closer to Adelaide than it is to Perth, but it has other things going for it. Chief among them is the giant whale that adorns the car park of the Eucla Motor Hotel and service station (backed by a giant Emu Export billboard for optimum straya-ness). You might think it would be made of fibreglass or some other lightweight covering, but you’d be wrong. It’s solid concrete and, despite the fact that it could probably survive a nuclear explosion, you are still strongly advised to “Please Keep Off The Whale”. I’m not quite sure what purpose a four-tonne replica cetacean serves if you can’t climb on its back and pretend to be Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider, but I was a guest in their town and so restrained myself.
If giant novelty statues aren’t your thing (although, if that is the case, I don’t know what you’re doing driving around Australia), there are several other attractions in Eucla (population 368) to keep you occupied. For example, there’s the humorous signpost showing distances to places like Kalgoorlie and Brisbane. You may have known that it’s 2,522 km to Sydney, but did you know that it’s 1,271 km to “Andy’s”? Or 1,437 km to “Dave’s”? Who are these men? Where do they live? These are the questions I didn’t ask, and that keep me up at night.
Next to room 30 of the motel, history buffs can find the museum. Eucla actually has quite a long history, with a telegraph station active from 1877 until 1927. This means there are black and white photos of moustachioed telegraphists, alongside some animal skulls and a framed letter from an early-settler wife describing her husband’s sudden death, which is quite possibly the most depressing thing I have ever read. It rather took the shine off dinner, which was at a table overlooking the Eucla Motor Hotel Gardens. I was led to believe by the various home makeover shows of my youth that no garden was complete without a ‘water feature’, and the bubbling fountains in the rockery at Eucla did not disappoint. Indeed, they managed to improve on perfection by dotting their many gurgling fountains with a selection of decorative ceramic statues of untrammelled whimsy. Gnomes, fairies, ducks, mushrooms – the gang was all there.
If this article has had its desired effect and you are right now, at this moment, planning to visit the last town in Western Australia sometime in the near future, here are some handy hints to remember. First of all, Eucla runs on Central Western Time, which is 45 minutes ahead of Perth. So don’t be that dickhead who ruins the finale of The Bachelorette for everyone back home by tweeting about it from your comfortable, whale-adjacent room. Second, Eucla is not the place to be stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables for the drive ahead over the border. South Australia does not want your disease-ridden grapes, so please stop trying. Last, and most importantly, ask who Andy and Dave are and then please let me know. If you find out they don’t exist, then keep it to yourself. Enjoy your stay in Eucla. You are now leaving Western Australia.
Words by Georgia Oman