The small town of Penong is located on the Eyre Highway just 74km west of Ceduna. It’s a great place to stop on your trip across the Nullarbor Plain, with some of the region’s best attractions in and around the town. From exploring Penong’s windmills to surfing at Cactus Beach, there are plenty of things to do in Penong.
If you’re planning a trip along the Eyre Highway, here’s everything that you need to know about the town of Penong, including all the facilities and amenities on offer for travellers.
Penong is a very small inland town on the Eyre Highway. It’s situated on the western edge of South Australia’s grain-growing belt and on the eastern edge of the vast Nullarbor Plain. It is a small community, with the total population of the area including Penong, Bookabie, and Scotdesco being around 300.
The town is perfectly located along the Eyre Highway and is a popular place to stop for travellers. If you have time to explore the area, Penong is home to some of the Far West Coast’s major attractions. From the famous windmills to the pink coloured lake and a world-class surf beach, Penong is a great place to spend some time on your trip.
Travelling to Penong
Most people travel to Penong by road with the Eyre Highway running right through town. It’s located 74km west of Ceduna and 79km east of Nundroo, making it a convenient place to stop on the long drive across the Nullarbor. A trip to Penong is often a part of a much longer road trip encompassing the Nullarbor Plain from South Australia to Western Australia on the Eyre Highway. It’s one of the greatest journeys in Australia and is often considered a bucket list trip for many Australians.
History of Penong
The name Penong is believed to derive from an Aboriginal word, meaning either rockhole or tea tree. The area was inhabited by the Wirangu people for thousands of years, with their traditional land stretching from the Head of Bight across the Nullarbor to Penong and all the way to Streaky Bay.
The area around the town was settled by pastoralists in the late 19th century and the town was officially declared in 1892. Penong is at the westernmost boundary in South Australia where rainfall is considered sufficient enough to support an agriculture sector. This means that water is a particularly fragile element for the community with various windmills around town supplying properties with water and energy from the Anjutable Basin.
For many years, the roads in town were rough tracks until construction on the long Eyre Highway began in 1941. The major highway was eventually completed and sealed in 1976 and is the only major road connecting South and Western Australia. It’s since become a popular route taken by trucks and travellers alike.
Nearby attractions and things to do in Penong
Whether you’re simply passing through or have a few days to relax in Penong, there are plenty of things to see and do in and around town. Whether you’re interested in history or keen to hit the surf, here’s a look at some of the best attractions near Penong.
Penong Windmill Museum
This museum has become a major attraction on the Far West Coast. The Penong Windmill Museum is dedicated to the agricultural history of the area and in particular to the windmills that have played an important part in supplying energy to the farming properties.
The open-air museum has a unique collection of around 20 restored windmills collected from around the country, including Australia’s biggest which is named “Bruce”. It’s an interesting place to visit and is located right in town.
Just on the western outskirts of Penong town, you can find the Woolshed Museum operated by the local community. The local museum and craft shop has memorabilia from the town and displays a variety of art. It requests a gold coin donation for entry which goes into supporting this local museum and community effort.
One of Australia’s most famous, world-class surf beaches, Cactus Beach is well known in the surfing community. Located on the eastern side of the Great Australian Bight at Point Sinclair, the beach has been declared a National Surfing Reserve because of its role in the national surfing identity. The bay provides three breaks, Cactus (left), Castles (left) and Caves (right). The breaks at this beach can be particularly wild and are best reserved for experienced surfers. The area around Point Sinclair is also quite notorious for Great White Shark sightings, so it’s best to be aware before venturing out into the water.
To reach the remote beach, you can take a left turn just after the Penong Hotel and follow a dirt but decent 2WD road for around 20 minutes until you reach the beach and camping area. There is also a jetty at Point Sinclair which is popular for fishing and swimming, with a safe swimming enclosure present during summer. It’s also a popular place to have a picnic with toilets and BBQ areas provided.
Famous within the surfing community, Paul Gravelle is somewhat of a legend. He has been hand-shaping surfboards for 50 years and is known for his custom styles that are built to last. His factory is based in Penong where he handcrafts unique boards custom made for his customers. Depending on how the surf is breaking, the hours of his factory and shop varies, but otherwise, you can contact him via email if you’re interested in seeing his work.
On the same road to Point Sinclair and Cactus Beach, you’ll find this stunning salt lake. It’s the former site of a salt mine on the largest gypsum deposit in Australia. The incredibly high salt levels in the water combined with algae and pink bacteria makes the colour of the lake turn a bright fluorescent pink colour. The contrast with the blue lake next to it makes it one of the most incredible sights you’ll see on the coast. The lake has become a bit of an Instagram-famous attraction and people come from all over just to snap a photo of the unique colours.
Nullarbor Links Golf Course
For golfing enthusiasts, the Nullarbor Links is considered the longest golf course in the world. The 18-hole par 72 course spans 1365km across the Nullarbor with one hole in each roadhouse along the Eyre Highway. It’s a unique way to see the Nullarbor and the Far West Coast and begins in Ceduna continuing all the way to Kalgoorlie. Hole 3 is in Penong at the Penong Golf Course so you can have a hit for the day or attempt to finish the whole course over a number of days.
Scotdesco Aboriginal Community
Located just 30km west of Penong off the Eyre Highway, lies the 25, 000-acre property of the Scotdesco Aboriginal Community. The community is open to the public and offers accommodation, conference facilities, cultural experiences and a photo op of the Big Wombat.
The Scott family grew up in Eucla and around Fowlers Bay until settling in Bookabie in the 1930s. In 1992, the family were successful in getting funds to purchase the farm west of Penong and their descendants still reside and manage the farm and community. The Big Wombat on the farm was built by local artists and has become a popular tourist stop.
If you’re travelling along the Eyre Highway, you’ll find plenty of facilities and supplies in Penong. The town has a laundromat, skatepark, golf course and you’ll also find public toilet facilities in Penong if you need just a quick rest stop. Find more on our Ceduna Map page.