Home' Traveller : Scoop Traveller WA 019 Contents 66 Scoop Traveller December-June 2011
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While the Australiasian Safari competitors travelled 3600km to get
from Perth to Esperance, the on-road route through the Wheatbelt and
Goldfields won’t take you nearly that long. We would recommend taking
your time and enjoying the many colourful and historic sites along the way.
The first leg of the journey is to Southern Cross, around 370km east of
Perth. Its name is derived from the stars that guided its founders, Tom
Risely and Mick Toomey, to the locality in 1888.
The gold-mining history of the town is obvious in its wide main street
and preserved heritage buildings. In 1894, it became the last stop on
the train line to Kalgoorlie and miners had to alight there and walk more
than 200km to reach their destination.
Local attractions include the Yilgarn History Museum, housed in the
office and courtroom of the State’s first registrar, where Arthur Bayley
registered his claim for the fields at Coolgardie, and where Paddy Hannan
received miner’s rights for what would later become Kalgoorlie. The Old
Southern Cross Cemetery is also worth a visit. Used between 1891 and
1898, it’s a reminder of the miners and pioneers who established the town.
There are natural wonders too. From Wimmera Hill Lookout you can
view Southern Cross and the surrounding land, while at Frog Rock, 30km
south-west of town, there’s a miniature wave-like rock formation, dam
and picnic area. Baladjie Rock offers fascinating rock formations, caves and
unique flora and fauna, and is a great picnic spot, 56km north of the town.
Mount Palmer lies 46km east, a once bustling town and goldmine run from
1934-1944. See the remains of what was termed the ‘most pretentious pub
in Western Australia’ and the abandoned mining operations.
From Southern Cross, travel further inland through Coolgardie and
Kalgoorlie and north to Leonora, about 831km north-east of Perth.
Leonora’s history dates back to 1869 when John Forrest, in search of the
lost Leichhardt Expedition, camped near a hill and named it Mount Leonora.
25 years on, prospectors moved in, and by 1896 gold was discovered, leading
to the establishment of the twin towns of Leonora and Gwalia.
Leonora became the largest centre in the north-eastern Goldfields.
Mining has continued through to the present day with gold, and now
nickel, being produced in large quantities. Leonora is also a great starting
point to see Lake Ballard and the historic ghost town of Gwalia.
Lake Ballard is the site chosen by British sculptor Antony Gormley to
display his 51 world-famous Inside Australia sculptures. These haunting
figures need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated, and the outlook
changes dramatically depending on the season and time of day.
The work of local Indigenous artists, including the Tjuntjuntjara and
Ilkurlka people are also on display in Menzies Visitor Centre, an hour south
of Leonora. The Menzies Roadhouse is also worth a visit, not just for the
all-important fuel stop, but also for the array of licence plates and heritage
signs that adorn the building.
Gwalia is a fascinating ghost town. Established in 1896 as the Sons of
Gwalia mine, the first mine manager was Herbert Hoover, later the 31st
President of the United States of America. Mostly intact, the buildings –
including Hoover’s home – are just three kilometres from Leonora.
Leonora also has a good collection of gold-rush era buildings, and its
surrounds offer some natural settings worth a visit, including Smoodgers
Hill, the Leonora Loop self-drive trails and Malcolm Dam.
Next stop on the tour is Coolgardie, one of Western Australia’s
better-known gold-mining towns. With one of the widest main streets
“In 1894, it became the last stop on
the train line to Kalgoorlie and miners
had to alight there and walk more than
200km to reach their destination”
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