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Baxter Cliffs

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July 266 minute read

The Baxter Cliffs are a stunning section of the Great Australian Bight. This is a remote part of Australia, accessible by narrow and rocky tracks.

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With the WA border closed, I’d never seen the Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor so empty. I was travelling solo on this trip and this only amplified the quiet. It was kind of eerie until I departed the blacktop and headed into the comforting bush.

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The single track south of Caiguna is great fun to drive. It’s technically easy, but it’s twisty and tight and smooth dirt quickly switches to razor-sharp limestone boulders; you have to stay focussed.

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While most people picture the Nullarbor as entirely arid, the coastal strip is heavily wooded. It is stunning country here.

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It wasn’t until I took a break that it dawned on me. It was mid-winter, I was almost at the Southern Ocean, and it was blue skies and 27 degrees celsius!

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Close to the coast, the track hits the old East-West Telegraph Line. While the wire now lays on the ground, it’s timber supports eroded by time, it still marks the way for this track.

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Veering south, I travelled down the no through track to the Baxter Memorial and accessible section of the Baxter Cliffs where I hoped to camp.

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The Baxter Cliffs got their name from explorer John Baxter. In 1841, John Eyre led the first expedition to cross the Nullarbor Plain with Baxter as his overseer. On the night of 29 April 1841, when the exploration party was low on supplies and in desperate need of water, Baxter was murdered by two members of the group. Baxter had woken from sleep and attempted to foil the deserters when he was shot in the chest.

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They took the guns and supplies, leaving only Eyre and another member, Wylie, to complete the journey. The expedition was past the point of no return, and Eyre and Wylie were fortunate to survive the journey to Albany.

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With modern vehicles and safety equipment, this area still remains a wild place. It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of Baxter and Eyre, or the teams that followed in their footsteps and built the East-West Telegraph Line that was completed in 1877. They were tough back then!

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A short way from Baxter’s memorial and you hit the Southern Ocean and the Baxter Cliffs. There are no safety rails; it’s a place where nobody cares about you, but you.

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Places like this are why I like to travel. When the wind drops and the sun rays drape majestically across the landscape, it’s breathtaking.

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Whether you drive in from the Eyre highway and explore a small section of this coastline, like here along the Baxter Cliffs, or at the Bilbunya Dunes, or if you traverse the length of Great Australian Bight, you are guaranteed an adventurous trip through one of the jewels of Australia.

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Mike Collister has spent his life outdoors. He has represented Australia as a slalom kayaker, guided whitewater expeditions in Nepal, and taught outdoor education and wilderness medicine. He’s paddled the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River in the wet season and across the Bass Strait and is an avid photographer, overlander and camper.