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 Down Under!

Cactus Beach

Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair are remote off the beaten track destinations. Both locations are situated 21 kilometres south of Penong. These areas are accessed by taking the turnoff on the western side of Penong. This road is well signposted.

Solitary sunset surfer at Cactus Beach,  on the far west coast of South Australia
Solitary Sunset Surfer

Amongst Australian surfers "Cactus", "Caves" and "Castles" are regarded as some of the best left and right hand breaks in the country.

Cactus Beach
Cactus Beach

Wedged in between nearby Blue Lake and the coast visitors will find vast sets of white windswept sand dunes. This area has been designated as a Coastal Protection Reserve, with all vegetation and wildlife considered protected species - and this includes snakes!

Blue Lake is on the road to Cactus Beach. On calm sunny days pictures such as this are easy to take. You will however have to endure many mosquitoe bites!
Blue Lake near Cactus Beach

Situated to the southeast of Cactus Beach is Point Sinclair. Protected from strong westerly winds, Point Sinclair is where the locals go for a spot of recreation.

A White Faced Heron at Point Sinclair.
A Well camouflaged White Faced Heron at Point Sinclair

Within the area travelers will find undercover picnic facilities, toilets and a jetty suitable for fishing. For those of you towing boats it is also possible to launch a boat from the beach. Adjacent to the jetty is a swimming enclosure and Nullarbor Net urges that you use it. Both Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair are known to be visited by Great White Pointer Sharks. For those of you who enjoy exploring off the beaten track, remote areas such as Cactus Beach and Point Sinclair might well prove to be interesting diversions. Certainly the area is a must see for Australian Surfers.

An eerie play of light at Cactus Beach
An Eerie Play of Light

Facilities at Point Sinclair are fairly basic to say the least - and for Nullarbor Net this is part of the appeal. Camping within the area is restricted to designated camp sites and dogs are permitted on a leash when in the camp ground. Limited supplies of bore water are available for showers but visitors will need to bring their own drinking water. Do not use bore water to top up your vehicle's radiator! Within the camp ground are a number of on-site caravans however visitors should be aware that there are no powered sites at Point Sinclair. Nullarbor Travellers will find accommodation prices to be at the budget end of the scale. During summer month temperatures can and do rise to above 40 degrees celsius. For further information on Point Sinclair Camping Ground please contact (08) 8625 1036.

Point Sinclair is a popular picnic and  recreation spot with the locals. If you're going to swim definitely make use of the swimming enclosure!
Point Sinclair

An article by a friend

The Nullarbor Net crew thank Ron Taylor for his kind permission to reprint this article of his early experiences at Cactus Beach. Ron is a keen surfer, and his Castaway surf site is an award winning web site and a testament to his commitment to surfing. We hope you enjoy his article and check out his web site which has some great photographs and art work. You can link to his site via our links at the bottom of the page or our cool links page

A Near Tragedy

Cactus is a fairly rugged spot in and out of the water, it's the surf spot of plenty; plenty of good surf, plenty of heat, plenty of flies and plenty of big whites, and the last trip I did there in the sixties almost ended up a diaster.
Cactus is situated near a small town named Penong on the Nullarbor Plain just at the start of the Great Australian Bight. If you are not up with your Latin, Nullarbor means "no trees" and it can be a very intimidating. It is in fact a desert and can get really warm there, especially during the summer months.
Cactus itself was actually called Point Sinclair and was given its current name by the first guys who drove up there, looking for surf. Well, when they first saw it, the surf was pretty poor and someone said, "this place is cactus!" meaning no good and boy, how wrong they were, as Cactus is now regarded as one of the best breaks in Oz!
Anyway getting back to my story… It was Christmas time, 1967 and summer, the surf was pretty good all week and getting bigger every day. One morning we woke up to find it closing out right across the bay. Someone mentioned that a few kilometres back along the coast there was a spot called Point Bell and it should be working perfectly, so we decided to go and have a look. This meant doing a lot of driving through some pretty rough terrain and most of it private property.
We were driving through one piece of property along a track, which had probably been made by the owner while working at clearing the Mallee scrub. All of a sudden there was one loud bang closely followed by another and upon inspection we found that we had 2 blowouts after driving over a Mallee Root. Anybody travelling through this sort of country always carries a couple of spare tyres.
We had a couple of spares but had used them earlier in the week, so we were in quite a bit of trouble and it looked like being a very warm day. Three of the guys decided to walk down to Point Bell to see if anyone was down there. One of them was silly enough to walk down there in just a pair of board shorts and no shoes, it took him 8 hours to crawl back, and when he got back he was a pretty sick bloke.
I guess if there is any blame to be laid I have to be honest and say my good friend Johnny Matson would have to wear it, as he should have known better than to drive at the speed he was doing seeing we had no spare tyres.
Two of the guys who walked down to the point came back after a few hours and told us the bad news; no one was there. By this time it was starting to get pretty warm and we didn't have much water left, only an esky one quarter full of dirty ice water with a couple of cans of canned fruit.
Now, I'm no hero, but I didn't feel like hanging around there waiting for the heat to decide our future, so I decided to walk back the way we had come, remembering we had passed a building of some sort a number of kilometres back. John, who must have been feeling that he was to blame for our predicament (nothing was said about this) decided to come with me.
Well, I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around myself and John used a large beach towel, plus the esky with the remaining water, which by this time was almost empty. The heat was really oppressive and getting hotter all the time. It seemed like we had only walked a few hundred metres or so when we were looking for some shade, but, as I mentioned before there were no trees, only small Mallee scrub.
Now this delightful little walk we were taking was during the warmest part of the day, and the stops we were making were getting more frequent and the starts were getting harder to make. A number of times I really had to rip into John to get him moving again, as a person can perish in this sort of country in just a few hours. If the heat didn't get you, the flies would, and they were like Wedge Tailed Eagles.
The soil around here is a dark red and very dusty, and that, combined with the heat, takes its toll as the soles of the boots I was wearing were starting to peel, while John was only wearing Japanese joggers (thongs) and he was really starting to look crook.
The biggest worry for me was that all the country was starting to look the same, I mean we could have been walking in circles and wouldn't know it as there seemed to be tracks all over the place. Eventually we came to a small rise and away in the distance through the heat haze I thought I could see the reflection of the sun on what might be a roof.
We staggered on for another two hours. Over every slight hill or bend in the track we looked for any sign of a building, and there was none, only more tracks going in all directions and more flies. By this time we were both getting pretty stuffed and all the water was gone. It was then that we turned a corner to see a water tank sitting on the side of a small hill. We both rushed up there only to find that it was pretty old and pretty empty, and that did nothing to boost our morale.
Anyway to make a short story long, we rounded the next corner to find a house, and that really did boost our morale. As we walked up to the front door, we could hear this loud buzzing noise only, to discover that if we thought the flies were bad out in the open, ALL their mates were here under the Veranda in the shade.
I knocked on the door (rather stupid when you think of it) as there seemed to be no one at home, so we decided to go around the back to see if we could find some sort of a tap or anything to do with water. To our surprise we discovered there was someone at home, a young woman and her mother were sitting in the back part of the house.
It was no surprise to them to see two people who were in a lot of trouble, and before we knew it, they were pouring lovely cold water down our throats. After we had just about drank their fridge dry we told them that we had left another three guys somewhere back down the track.
The mother then very quickly got on the two-way radio to her son, who was, believe it or not, out harvesting a crop of wheat, explaining to him about our situation , asking him to come home. This young bloke was quite a character himself, there he was out harvesting his crop in this heat and now, the next minute he was driving his Jeep (which ran on four cylinders and diesel) to help out five guys in strife, in the scrub. We went with him of course, and as we got closer to where our vehicle was, we came across the car and the other three guys moving very slowly in our direction.
The other guys had not been just sitting around either, they had managed to somehow stuff the two tyres with grass, enough so that they could get the vehicle mobile. Now this young bloke, sizing up the situation, jumped out of the Jeep, ripped off the two punctured tyres, patched and pumped them up by hand within what seemed like minutes. You know, he and his folks would not accept any reward for helping us out, so we decided to leave some cash in his back shed where he'd find it after we were gone.
A few years later I was travelling through Ceduna, a large town over that way and we ran into him at a service station, you know , he was pretty upset that we left the cash.
The breed of people that live in this part of the country are pretty tough and almost reflect their environment, but once you get to know them, they are the friendliest and most eager to help people I've ever met.


Cactus desolation

The first time I surfed Cactus I took the ring off my finger and had it in my mouth for the whole time I surfed that first session. The reason for doing this was I thought the glint of gold flashing under the water might attract a big fish. The fear of the Big White is very common at Cactus and I don't think I've ever heard from anyone who's surfed there who hasn't had some respect for what lurks beneath those waters. About the only time one forgets that fear is when one is out there and locked into a Cactus Tube. It's not just the sharks you've got to worry about at cactus it's mainly the flies and some of the locals. One in particular "Moose" who happens to be a mate of mine. Believe me you wouldn't want him for an enemy. Even Mark Warren in his atlas of Australia surfing gave some friendly advice no to get in his way. Another dangerous creature to be aware of in this area is the March Fly which lands on any part of your body, completely undetected and then takes huge hunks out of your flesh. The March Fly is not a LITTLE fly; in fact he's quite big (some people believe he's crossbred with the Wedge-Tailed Eagle). The thing is he lands on you without you knowing it and starts a feeding frenzy and there is no buzzing like a normal fly. So you have a choice you can escape his feeding frenzy by going in the water and taking your chances with Whitey! And apart from what you heard or read, Cactus was first discovered and ridden by a guy by the name of Dennis (Snake) Ferret who was working in the area as a Wool Classer at the time.


And now the famous Mouse Plague...

The area around Cactus is almost a desert, nothing grows over a few feet high and looking at the place you wouldn't expect it to be over abundant with wildlife, wrong! On one of our trips turn promoted a lot of vegetation growth and as a result of this growth a few of the local creatures decided to increase their population. And as we were driving past some of the wheat growing properties we noticed some of the large wheat storage bins and silos seemed to be moving with a rippling effect. On closer inspection we discovered that the cause of this unusual effect was millions of mice. At night while we were sleeping these little cuties would be crawling everywhere and all over us there where also these cute little Geckos that were enjoying their own little plague. Now you’re probably thinking "oh yeah! Is that all! Only mice and geckos, surely a few little critters like that would be no problem" Wrong again! Other animals feed on mice and geckos, some of those include snakes and in this area we have one of the world’s deadliest snakes going around, the King Brown The whole bloody area was alive with the damn things and we had to be careful where we walked and sleeping became a bit of a nightmare (excuse the pun). I’d like to point out that anything like civilisation is miles and miles away from here. There’s no Motels, electricity, Phones, fresh water or help if one gets into any serious strife. One morning I went hunting with a mate of mine Ian "Bongo" Bradley for some rabbits with our Rifles. We climbed to the top of a sand dune and as we looked across a small valley we could see two of our acquaintances that were doing the same thing. They were walking with a few metres between each other and Bongo spotted a snake in the middle of them and raised his rifle and fired a shot at it. These two mates of ours thought that we were shooting at them and to my horror returned fire and for the next two hours we were dodging bullets. I guess we were lucky that they were bad shots, even so it took our minds off the snake population for a couple of hours.


Cactus was also known as Rosella Point (A brand name for canned food here), because of all the empty cans left lying around the joint before the guys that frequented the place heard about the word "ecology".


We acknowledge and thank Ron Taylor for the use of the articles on this page

For more Surf stories go to our cool links page

Banded Stilts
Banded Stilts