Coolgardie, gateway to the gold mining region, was a stretching stop on the way to Kalgoorlie, that proved to be very interesting. Seeped in history and with charming heritage buildings, Coolgardie lays claim to the first gold sighting in WA,1893, and has excellent facilities for a family stopping there for any length of time.
There was a discovery trail suggested outside the visitor centre, covering the Eastern Goldfields and promising history, geography, culture and exercise. Had we more time, we may have explored further, but headed for Kalgoorlie as our main destination.Kalgoorlie is etched into Australia’s early mining and railway history and we thought it was worth seeing, at least once. We are glad we did, as the buildings are impressive, the museum informative and the sight-seeing within easy reach.
Parking at the visitor information centre (look for the yellow ‘i’ signpost), we received excellent advice about what could be seen in a day. The major sightseeing spots were within a 3km radius.
We started in the very building we were in and explored the City Hall, with its displays of World War I and II, sporting and local heroes and beautifully maintained dress circle.
We walked the main street, Hannan Street, named after one of three men who found the first nugget, and admired the architecture while we looked for ECOmaniac where the owner recycles things into crafty objects. Very interesting wares. The old market place was a bright construction, well-restored.
There are mining monuments all around Australia, but the one to St Barbara in the main street of Kalgoorlie sent shivers down my spine – it connected me with the present and the past. My family tree goes back to a place in Poland where they mine coal. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners and she is revered in that region of Poland. It reminded me of the great distances travelled by people, to harsh environments, when a new country or mineral was discovered. This circlet tells the dramatic story of Barbara, betrayed by her own father and is just down the street from the Paddy Hannan statue.
We jumped in the car to Hannan’s North Tourist Mine, which was very informative and you’ll find modern-day mining trucks
as well as old machinery, recreated buildings, a miner’s tent with a recording of Paddy’s find, and even a gold panning area where you can keep what stones or gold you find. You find yourself realising that people will endure a great deal in the hope of making it rich, quick.
The Chinese arch and garden of remembrance were a nice touch, to pay tribute to the many miners who came from China during the goldrushes.
There are souvenirs and a cafe, as well as outdoor BBQs and tables and chairs in the shade.
A short drive from here is The Mt Charlotte reservoir and lookout. The site informs you of the woodland area and the 360 degree trail has information and photographs about the opening, at the turn of the twentieth century, of the water supply which was the only one for 200km. It is the head of the Golden Pipeline, designed to get fresh water to miners and stop the deaths caused by lack of water.
One claim to fame of Kalgoorlie is the Superpit – once the largest open cut gold mine in Australia (now beaten by another in WA) which has a stunning viewing platform. The mine produces a massive 28 tonnes of gold a year.
Burt Street, one of the original features of Boulder, established first, was damaged by an earthquake in 2005. A stone’s throw from the Superpit, it has recently been restored to its original state, from the late 1800s. Charming and with a symmetry that blended with the colour scheme, it was very quiet and the locals said that it was hard to keep up business when school holidays were started, and summer coincided. It’s a hot and dusty place and many people stay home or in the main street of Kalgoorlie to do their Christmas shopping. We had a very good free- trade coffee in Newton’s Espresso Bar.
So, were we in Boulder or Kalgoorlie? Both – the towns merged at the start of the 19th century to sustain growth and share the only water supply for over 200km.
Kalgoorlie-Boulder explored sufficiently, we made for a petrol station, filled up with diesel and made it to Norseman before sunset.
There is a railway line that connects Adelaide to Perth, via Kalgoorlie, the Indian Pacific. Most drivers crossing The Nullarbor do not go through Kalgoorlie, as there is a quicker way to Esperance and Perth.
Always, always take water and a hat. Go west young ones, and see the world!