Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, WA

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.cof

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an old township
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well-maintained automatic ? toilets
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The gardens, said to be ‘the lungs of the town’ in 1916, providing outdoor recreation
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gazebos and trees for shade
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delightful playground
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historic buildings

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.cofKalgoorlie 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.

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centenary buildings

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.

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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, cofwhich 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.

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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.

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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.

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Those massive trucks are at the bottom of the pit
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the viewing platform is very safe

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!

Safe travels.

Litchfield National Park

An easy hour by car, south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, lies Litchfield National Park. Named after an early explorer, the region has been cared for by the Mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Waray Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

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The region was used for grazing and the mining of tin, copper and uranium. There are many falls to explore and some areas that have been developed to encourage tourists and visitors, with carparks, picnic areas, boardwalks and campgrounds. There are still natural trails and 4WD tracks for the adventure-seeking.

Berry Springs has 3 ‘pools’ that join if you want to ride downstream on a noodle. Not too deep and quite safe. The water is very clear near the edge – you can see fish. Wangi Falls is a surprise. You swim out to one of the waterfalls and get pounded by the downpour. The floor of the lagoon (?) begins as sandy and is dark in the centre, with twigs and debris. You would have to be able to tread water or swim maybe 60m unless you stay by the edge, and many do.

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Beautifully maintained, Wangi has unpowered sites but we chose not to stay here, as there was limited shade in the camping area. We stayed at Litchfield Tourist Park instead, on a grassed site amid beautiful flowers and unusual birdsong that defied description.

Rangers check daily to keep an eye on crocodiles and remove them from public swimming holes, but I would ask at the ranger station, too. I have read that you shouldn’t sit on bare ground in Litchfield, as scrub typhus is a possibility. So spread that towel on the ground and dry off in the heat!

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Take a hat, bathers/swimmers, water, first aid kit and shoes, but don’t miss it!

 

Gawler

Approximately 50km north of Adelaide, in South Australia, lies the town of Gawler. Established in 1836, it was the only other town planned by Col. William Light (the other being Adelaide, the capital city of SA). Unlike the square plan of the capital, however, the city of Gawler has a triangular centre.

 

Arriving by train, my brother and I decided to do one of the walks available from the visitor centre, and ended up doing a mix of the Cultural Walk and the Church Hill Walk. The whole thing took us 2 hours, including a half hour lunch by the river and  a dash to the train for our return journey. There are many places to eat, but I can recommend Cafe on Jacob, with its homemade fare and warm atmosphere.

If one of Adelaide’s titles is ‘City of Churches’, then Gawler is a mini city. Church Hill has four churches, positioned almost squarely, and the history was very interesting, representing not only differences in faith but often language and trade.  Gawler was surrounded by mining, farming and industry. The lovely buildings and cottages nearby don’t all face the centres of worship, but it is impossible to walk the area and miss any. The old convent is near the Catholic Church and would make a great scene for a movie.

There is some very nice architecture, quaint buildings and, generally, a pleasant ambiance. The history on plaques or in the walking guides required a bit of reading time, but was well worth it.

The main street has altered over the years, with some of the charm of a big country town lost with progress. There remains many delightful buildings and it is still a point through which travellers make their way to the famous Barossa or Clare Valleys. Very decent hotels, cafes, bakeries and parks add to the value of a visit here. There are supermarkets, a cinema, outdoor pool and caravan park, all within easy reach of the train station so if you have to dash to get home it isn’t far. The one hour (approx) train journey from Adelaide will take you through suburbs, farmland and industry, as well as past schools, the football oval and the heritage Gawler train station. You actually get off at Gawler Central which is the last stop on the line.

Visit the Information Centre for maps, or go online to download them earlier. The original owners, the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people, are located along the Adelaide plains and lived in the Gawler area for at least 40 000 years.

The river has flooded, with water lapping over the bridges in 1992, which is a lot of water, but generally it is a dry area.

Head off from here to Whispering Wall or one of the major wine regions. A very pleasant day trip.

Take water, hat and camera.

Safe travels.

Dampier, Karratha and surrounds.

Why would you visit a mining area? Why not?

On the coast of the Pilbara region, Western Australia, lies the port of Dampier. It provides a small swimming spot for nearby residents and a large port for tankers moving salt, petrochemical, iron ore and natural gas. Rio Tinto is a big customer and Red Dog made the town famous.

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Despite being small, it plays a big part in the export game and for workers who have come to the mines it is another spot to cool off in the hot climate.  The beach is a pleasant stretch of sand and water with adequate shade. The movie Red Dog brought the local tale of a cattle dog who befriends miners to the cinemas, and the statue has perhaps received more visitors, since.

 

Heading for Karratha, you should take the turn off to look at the Woodside northwest shelf development project. Some great maths is available in the cross section of piping on display and you can look over at the extremely long train loading up with ore; it must be at least a kilometer long.

Across the road from the mining display is a track that leads to an Aboriginal rock art site in Deep Gorge. At the time we travelled, in October 2014, there were no signs or recognition or requests not to photograph. I have heard that the site is now a tourist spot and that the gorge has the largest collection of petroglyphs (rock art) in the world – some 300 000 of them!  I have also learned that the Burrup Peninsula, which holds Deep Gorge, has it in  Murujuga National Park. The path is slippery and rocky, but not too steep or difficult. The Yaburarra Aboriginal people ask that you do not tread on the art, but around it. I must say that the style and forms are only a very little like the art I have seen in Kakadu, and really look as if it is a record of travel and trade. Otherwise, it is almost Kiwi-like.

You don’t get progress without a cost, and there are many monuments in the area, to miners who lost their lives.

Big profits, big hauls and big machinery. Ben Hur to the power of ten. The story of the transportation of the transport is incredible.

We loved Karratha, as a central spot to explore the region. It has beautiful flora and nearby bays, such as Hearsons Cove or Honeymoon Cove Beach near Point Samson, via Wickham. There are rocks and views a-plenty, although a great deal of the rocks are red with iron. Karratha is a large town with big shopping centres, schools and all that you need. We stayed at the Karratha Caravan Park and with relatives, but there is no shortage of accommodation.

Nearby Roeburn has a sad but interesting history and a visit to the old gaol is a must. There is a large Aboriginal population in the town but the history reveals shocking mistreatment at the hands of white people. The information in the gaol and the artifacts are enthralling and a plant shop adjoins, with specimens that can withstand the climate.

A very interesting region.

Safe travels. Take water and a hat.

 

Tasmania’s St Marys, Cornwall and saucy Evandale

We had read so much and heard other travellers speak of St Marys and the quirky shops there, that it became one of our last destinations.

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While being very pretty, and sustaining brightly-coloured flowers, the opening hours of most of the shops did not include Sunday morning. So we had a quick stroll, took some snaps and made our way to Evandale.

There is a tourist paper that Tasmania makes readily available, Travelways, and this alerted us to an area called Cornwall, an old coal mining district still in operation and a family sauce-making business in Evandale. Cornwall was like so many mining areas in Australia – victims of the change in politics and environmental action. The history of the miners and the monument was very interesting and alluded to plenty of stories and local heroes.

The Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company was an absolute treat. Easy to access and find, just off the main road, we were able to try about 13 sauces, I think. We bought home jam, sauce and pickles and were shocked at the low cost. I think the plum and pepperberry relish was the favourite and disappeared very quickly. We will be ordering online, for sure.

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So, if you get time, stop by these two towns (but check opening hours) and be delighted.

Safe travels.

From Strahan to Hobart

Leaving Strahan with Hobart in the GPS, we made it to Queenstown in good time, stopping for any exceptional views along the way.

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Queenstown is like many towns in Australia that began as booming mining ventures and died a slow and unattractive death as the mine failed. There are quaint and ornate buildings in the town and impressive monuments to soldiers and to miners. Large hills form a protective backdrop to the town and the train station and Empire Hotel are beautifully maintained.

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Just out of town we stopped at the mine, where the green pool at the base of the deep stratified pit made the copper deposits obvious. Apparently, Abel Tasman noted that his ships’ compass needle shot north while passing this island and knew that Iron would be found in large quantities when someone found a way to approach safely.

En route to the capital we visited Nelson Falls, which was an easy and picturesque 20 minute return walk to the tiered falls. The vegetation along the way was sub-tropical ferns and trees, very green and dotted with moss.

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A roadside stop took us to a narrow and sometimes steep track to the Franklin River and one-person suspension bridge. I think that for both of us it was a milestone to see the river that had been at the heart of so much controversy in the ’80s. We were a little surprised to see the number of cars parked there, suggesting that at least 20 people had undertaken the Overland Trail – lasting 5-6 days. Good examples of fungus and bright flowers were caught.

Another stop at Derwent Bridge was special. There is a well-appointed visitor centre there, and we made use of the tables to have lunch with a great view.

 

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Reading that Tarraleah had a distillery, we made our way into that town but only found the Hydroelectric station. It is pretty impressive, with information that it is merely one of a series of such stations along the river. Commanding views.

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The little town of Ouse (ooze) was our signpost to turn off to Mount Field National Park and Russell Falls. The tourist literature said it was the most impressive of Tasmania’s waterfalls, with tiers over which it cascades. The drive was beautiful and, once there, the walk was easy and the falls pretty good, considering the locals said they hadn’t had much rain and it was the start of Autumn.

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Although our GPS took us to a wall that must have featured on the heritage list, rather than our expected accommodation, a quick phone call to Motel 429 brought us to the desired establishment in Sandy Bay. A good location, opposite Wrest Point Casino and calm water, beneath the brooding shoulder of Mt Wellington. There were supermarkets, restaurants and food vans on the weekend, all within an easy walk. If that wasn’t enough, we got a stunning sunset.

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We were set to explore Hobart.

Safe travels.

Strahan

The drive from Cradle Mountain to Strahan (pronounced Strawn) is wooded, winding and speckled with native animal road kill that we couldn’t identify beyond the wombats. Despite the latter, it is an easy and attractive route.

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It took very little time to get there and we stopped briefly at a lookout where we were reminded that we were headed for the coast by the ocean stretched along our horizon. At this lookout we met a couple from America, currently living in Melbourne, who said that they thought Tasmania was better than New Zealand. I ran this idea past my NZ friend who was in Tassie at the same time, and she reluctantly agreed!

Another stop occurred at Zeehan, which was a substantial town by Tassie standards and worth a visit. Once a thriving mining town, they have extracted gold, silver, copper and precious gems from the nearby mountains. The gem store, second hand store and cafe are interesting and/or helpful, with owners happy to have a chat. We didn’t stop at the museum but saw examples of trains and other large artifacts on display outside. The buildings are very old and the main street picturesque.

The entrance to Strahan is a little exciting, as each turn of the esplanade takes you to something more and yet never too much – places to return to when you have scouted the lay of the land.

I still think of the main street as one of the most attractive in all of Australia. Very photo-worthy. There is something about the curve of the old houses merging into shops, facing the dock. Ships perch on the water, providing reflections or silhouettes. Colour, placement, proportion. Strahan has it all.

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We stayed at Strahan Village, with satisfying views of the town and a room 200% better on the inside than out.

Prioritising the available sightseeing, we drove back out to Ocean Beach with its thundering surf and then to Macquarie Heads where we walked to Ocean Beach and saw Hells Gates and the old lighthouse. A number of families were here, camping, fishing and riding trail bikes. As always, in the distance was the outline of far away mountains.

Although it is an easy walk from town, as we were already in the car we drove to Hogarth Falls, accessed via People’s Park, from where we undertook the very easy walk to the falls. Part of the way would be suitable for wheelchairs, but certainly not later. There are signs saying that in the evening you can see platypus. We didn’t see any, but the scenery is fabulous. The return trip is about 40 minutes if you stop and wait your turn for selfies at the falls.

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There is a gallery near the Park and it houses a restaurant with superb views and menu. The gallery had examples of drawing, art, jewellery, glass and stones. There were some local crafts as well.

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Dashing up the hill to the lookout, we made some quick attempts at sunset shots with black cockatoos then back into town. Dinner could be provided by a few very pleasant establishments, with outlooks that made the decision hard. We settled on Hamer’s Bar and Grill and had excellent meals. There is a supermarket just out of the town, up a short, steep hill, so you can buy what you need and it is priced well.

The next day, we set off early on the Gordon River Cruise. The sea was calm and glassy so our ‘up close and personal’ with Hells Gates was mildly swaying, unlike the horror tales of shipwreck and disaster that led to the name. There is a commentary at some points of the cruise and this was very interesting, from engineering feats to stories of loss and heroism.

As Tasmania was one of the first States to be settled, and predominantly by convicts, it has a rich and lively history, covering the island.

The water of the Gordon, as you watch the churning at the back of the boat, reminded me of cola, but has been referred to as the colour of tea. It is drinkable, but has this colour as a result of tannins that have leached into it from the grasses at the water’s edge.

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There was a hush as we entered the Gordon River, referred to as the lower Gordon, a heritage site and the centre of a great deal of controversy in the ’80s, due to the proposal to dam the Franklin, one of its tributaries. There is a variety of flora, from dense huan forests to cold rain forest and the constant call of eagles and other birds. It is silent, magestic and so untouched. Although, there were logging parties in its early history. We made a short stop at a landing and had a quick tour of huan trees, that at 80 years of age have a circumference of about 30cm and are mature at 200 years old. A bit careless to chop them down at all, really.

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Boarding the catamaran once more we had a substantial cold lunch as we watched a video about the logging history of the area.

We visited Sarah Island, a penal settlement for ‘determined’ convicts established from 1822 – 1833, and had a guided tour from rangers. It was exceptional and had not the rest of the trip been very pleasant this, alone, would have warranted the fare. Fascinating and frightening tales of what occurred there, while the view is enchanting! It is very hard to imagine being a convict and arriving at a place that was considered one of the harshest penal settlements, from which few returned, when today it seems idyllic. Ruins remain and stories are unforgettable – but I won’t spoil it.

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Returning by mid-afternoon, we visited the wood shop, where you can see wood turning exhibitions and huan pine articles are for sale. Alongside is the visitor centre and the Round Earth Company, where the longest running play, The Ship that Never Was, about the escape on The Frederick, is performed daily.

The play is suitable for the whole family, very interactive, amusing and informative – worth the ticket.

A quiet dinner followed and a glass of red, overlooking the handful of lights in town.

Travel safely. Carry water. Keep those hiking boots on.