The nature reserve is a long coastal strip of land embracing both the high cliffs of the Great Australian Bight and the beaches, dunes and sandplains at Eyre and Israelite Bay. Near Cocklebiddy on the Eyre Highway, the reserve extends inland to include Cocklebiddy Cave, the longest underwater cave on the Nullarbor.
What’s in a name
The reserve is named after Dutch explorer Peter Nuyts who sailed this coast in 1627. More than two centuries later, explorer Edward John Eyre traversed the area by horseback and foot during his arduous journey from Adelaide to Albany in 1841. Wylie Scarp on the western side of the reserve (named after Eyre’s Aboriginal guide) marks the start of the Baxter Cliffs (after Eyre’s companion William Baxter), which extend eastwards for almost 200km.
Cliffs, coves and plains
The scarp and cliffs are the edge of an ancient uplifted seabed. Layers in the cliffs are marine sediments laid down over millions of years when ancient, shallow seas flooded the Eucla Basin. Other significant features in the reserve for visitors to explore include Point Culver, Toolinna Cove, Twilight Cove and Eyre Bird Observatory.
Access to the western end of the reserve takes you through Cape Arid National Park1 to Point Malcolm and Israelite Bay. Heath-covered coastal plains that stretch from Israelite Bay inland to Wylie Scarp are interspersed with salt lakes, clay pans and dramatic granite outcrops. Elsewhere in the reserve eucalypt woodlands give way to the bluebush plains that are characteristic of the Nullarbor.
This is a very remote park. Visitors need to be very well prepared, self-contained and fully self-sufficient. Take camping gear, ample fuel, water and non-perishable food, first aid kit, tool kit, spare tyres and parts, recovery gear and two-way communication. Travel plans should be left with trusted contacts (i.e. family or friends).
Access to the reserve is four-wheel drive (experienced four-wheel drivers only) and for some locations requires beach driving. Track conditions vary from rough rock pavement to deep sand, overgrown in places and may be impassable when wet. If considering beach travel check tide charts and ensure tide level is below 0.6m, otherwise the beach will be impassable. Be aware that these beaches are notoriously treacherous for vehicles in wet conditions and it is easy to become bogged when the seaweed has built up and the sand is wet and soft.