Goldfields Region

May 1st, 2001 Features, Scoop Traveller

Things to do

Explore the rich mining and gold rush history of the area. Kalgoorlie has some great museums and exhibits like the North Historic Mining Reserve, School of Mines Rock and Minerals Museum and the Museum of the Goldfields.

Have a look at Mt Charlotte Reservoir that holds all the town’s water, pumped from Mundaring.

Hop on the Loopline Railway out to the Super Pit and see a scheduled blast in the mine from the lookout.

Take a tour out into the bush for a real aboriginal bush survival education or get a charter plane tour to take you over the town, mines or vast surrounding areas. Go back in time and take a tour searching for gold, or visit the eerie gold rush ghost towns of the area. Tours leave from Perth or Kalgoorlie.

For the gardening nut, spring brings sweeping plains of beautiful wildflowers.

Pack up the car or four wheel drive and explore the area yourself, but be careful and stock up on water and fuel. Plan carefully and stay to the roads. Not for everyone, as the drives (and landscape) are seemingly endless.

Take a safari tours around the outback and goldfields from Perth, where you can camp out under the stars and live like an 1890s prospector.

Keep your eyes open for abandoned mine towers, pieces of equipment and ruins. But wary of unsealed and unmarked mines — they dot the landscape and are a deadly trap for the foolhardy.

Explore the dramatic and beautiful cliff-edged coast of Australia, where you might see whales passing by or seals sunning themselves on the rocks at the water from the lookouts along the coast. They offer some of the best views in Australia.

For the experienced adrenaline-junkie, go caving or cave diving in the massive cave system along the cliffs. Plan your trip well and organise the relevant permits and requirements. Only trust a professional operator.

Look into the early history at the Eucla Telegraph Station, an old ruin half buried under the dunes near Eucla. Look over the expansive plain at from several lookouts overlooking Norseman.

About the region

Some early attempts at grazing stock or farming crops in the coastal goldfields area were made, but the lack of fresh water severely limited the enterprise until the mid 20th century. It was because of an Irish immigrant who stumbled upon gullies lined with gold that the towns and industry in the area exist today.

Gold was the boom industry worldwide at the time — the excitement and growth in WA’s outback paralleled that of the scene in the newly-created California. Money from the financial centres of Europe streamed into WA — towns full of services, rail links and O’Connor’s famed water pipe from Mundaring seemed to spring up out of the sand overnight to fill the are with workers and diggers.

Some towns experienced phenomenal growth rates — way above those of the biggest cities in the twenty-first century world today. Some far northern goldfields towns have populations less than a twentieth that they are today.

But in some areas in the central goldfields, the land still gives up its treasure and cities like Kalgoorlie still have some of the strongest economies in Australia.

Despite the harsh geography of the desert, every spring vast fields of beautiful arid plant wildflowers bloom across the area, an event locals celebrate with festivals and exhibits.

The abandoned mines and towns were also the ancient home of the aboriginals, but the 1920s and 1930 saw the establishment of missionaries and townships that encouraged the nomadic tribes to adopt European ways and settle down. Nowadays none of the nomadic ways exist and the area is home to several aboriginal communities and settlements.

The drive east by settlers and prospectors reached as far as it could before coming up against a haunting treeless plain on top of rocky cliffs so enormous it barred further development. When John Eyre finally crossed the Nullarbor on the verge of starvation and dehydration, a telegraph was established across the plain and the tiny township of Eucla became the relay station through which all communications between east and west passed.

Main page

When overseas visitors come to Australia, the goldfields region is the sort of land they come to experience. Sure, they want to swim at Bondi beach and climb Ayers Rock, but the dry, rocky desert scattered with shrubs and wildflowers is the kind of land that people the world over equate with Australia, and until you’ve seen it, you haven’t seen the real WA.

Whatever history you’re hoping to see, be it natural, aboriginal or mining, you could spend weeks exploring it throughout the goldfields. Even if you’re here to experience it as it is now, there are few sights like the endless desert and open cut mines from the window of a charter flight or tour.

One of the biggest tourist regions in WA, it encompasses little population (Kalgoorlie-Boulder has the biggest at just over 30,000) and very little settlement or human penetration into the landscape because of its pure size and isolation.

It was one of the most difficult areas of Australia to populate even in the midst of the gold rush. From Norseman almost all the way to Adelaide, the sheer cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain totally bar sea access, so all transport is by road or rail. There are also no permanent serviceable rivers in this part of the country, and the low rainfall isn’t enough to sustain large communities, so residents have to rely on water pumped from Perth or heavily salinated bore water from the limestone underneath.


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