Top Trail: Golden Quest Discovery Trail, Goldfields
The trail runs through Western Australia’s Goldfields from Coolgardie through to Laverton. This true adventure drive explores the 1890’s goldrush region to witness classic pubs, remnants of vibrant communities, deserted and reinvigorated mining spots, hotels that were once the centre of thriving populations and interesting natural landscapes.
About the Trail
The Golden Quest Discovery Drive Trail runs 965 kilometres through Western Australia’s Goldfields from Coolgardie through to Laverton. The trail takes you to to 25 interpreted sites highlighting the 1890’s goldrush region, classic pubs, outback ghost towns and changing natural Landscapes including nature reserves and campsites.
Be surprised by Niagara Dam, a man made lake built for water supply and now a pleasant spot for a picnic or overnight camp. Tour the old prosperous town of Kookynie, which has a pub well worth the stop as well as the old camps in the town of Gwalia, near Leonora, where the 31st US President, Herbert Hoover, lived and worked. Gwalia, now a ghost town, has a fascinating museum and historical house.
Visit Lake Ballard, a vast salt lake where 51 sculptured metal ’people’ stand scattered over the landscape. Be amazed by the Explorers Hall of Fame in Laverton which retraces the journey's of the early pioneers such as Lord John Forrest, Tommy Windich and Leichhardt.
A definite advantage if considering the self drive adventure is the comprehensive Golden Quest Discovery Trail Guidebook and two audio CD's, which has detailed maps, dramatised stories, and informative and entertaining accounts on life in the Goldfields. The Guide is available for purchase at Visitor Centres and online through the Golden Quest Trail website.
Need to Know
Experience gold rush history where it all began in the charming outback town of Boulder. This marks the spot where the first gold was struck in the 1800s and the site of one of the world's largest open cut mines - the awe-inspiring Super Pit. Just five kilometres south of Kalgoorlie, Boulder is accessible by air, road, rail or guided tour from Perth. Flights and TransWA trains depart daily, or hit the Great Eastern Highway for the seven-hour road trip from city to outback, stopping to ride one of Australia's biggest waves at Wave Rock. Established during the 1880s, when thousands of starry-eyed prospectors made the journey east of Perth, Boulder was originally named after the Great Boulder Mine. The first mine on what's known as the Golden Mile was developed where Irishman Paddy Hannan struck gold and sparked the great gold rush of the 19th century. Wander along Burt Street and admire architectural reminders of Boulder's gold rush heritage, such as the Town Hall housing the Goatcher Curtain, the Miners Monument, Goldfields War Museum and the Loopline Railway Station. Head for Boulder Station and you can tour the surrounds of the Golden Mile in the old train that once carried hundreds of miners to work. Today, the historic Golden Mile is part of the Super Pit. At 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, it's one of the world's largest open cut mines, producing 900,000 ounces of gold each year. Visit the Super Pit to learn more about the history of the Golden Mile, or pull on a hardhat and join a guided tour to discover how this modern super-sized mine operates. Alternatively, take in the spectacle for free at the Super Pit Lookout, off the Goldfields Highway. Access to the lookout is restricted during blasting times - contact the Kalgoorlie Goldfields Visitor Centre for details. To make Boulder your base for an outback adventure, take your pick from the range of hotel, guest house and holiday park accommodation in the town.
Coolgardie hit the world map in 1892 as the birthplace of the gold rush that fuelled the largest mass migration of people in Australia's history. Proudly retaining its pioneering heritage charms, it's one of the nation's best preserved gold mining towns and also marks the start of an epic historical adventure, the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. Hitting the Great Eastern Highway from Perth, it takes six to seven hours to reach Coolgardie. Or if you're heading from Kalgoorlie, it's just a leisurely 40 minute drive away. Here, 965 kilometres of gold rush history stretch to the north along the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, which takes you through 25 historically significant sites and eerie ghost towns to Laverton in the far north. Take a stroll down Coolgardie's wide main street and see grand glimpses of its glory days as the third largest town in Western Australia. It may surprise you to learn the town was once home to over 16,000 residents, with two stock exchanges, three breweries, seven newspapers and 26 hotels. Many of these heritage buildings remain today, including the Mining Warden's Court that houses the Goldfields and Coolgardie Museum - a great introduction to the Goldfield's colourful early social history. The Old Courtroom presents Australia's largest bottle collection and, nearby, the Pharmacy Museum invites you to peruse one of Australia's most extensive collections of 18th and 19th century medicines, pharmaceutical advertisements and antique tools of the chemist trade. Beyond the town, the fresh water wetlands of Rowles Lagoon invite you to spend a day nearer to nature, offering great swimming, boating, canoeing, bush walking, bird watching, picnic spots and the opportunity to camp under a star-filled outback night sky. If rock climbing is your thing, head out to Cave Hill Nature Reserve. Or, if you're an experienced four wheel driver, you can get your kicks on the Holland Track that stretches some 600 kilometres across remote farming, pastoral, mining and native bush landscapes to Broomehill. To rest your head before heading out on your Goldfields adventure, choose from Coolgardie's hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts and caravan park accommodation.
The must-see Goldfields ghost town of Gwalia brings the gold rush to life. Explore historic buildings and fascinating displays in the Gwalia Museum and Historic Precinct and imagine life for pioneering prospectors in the late 1800s. At around 10 hours from Perth by car, perhaps the best way to reach Gwalia is on a Goldfields road trip, taking the three hour drive north of Kalgoorlie on the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. Make sure you allow plenty of time to stop at the interpretive sites along the way. While Gwalia is still home to a small number of permanent residents, the town survives as a fascinating window into Goldfields history. The centrepiece is the Gwalia Museum and Historic Precinct that sits alongside the historic Sons of Gwalia gold mine. Lovingly restored remnants of the town's heyday, from establishment in 1897 to the closure of the Sons of Gwalia mine in 1963, make for an awe-inspiring journey into the region's past. Take a walk through the precinct of miners' cottages, huts and shops. Visit Western Australia's first State Hotel, the Gwalia Historical Museum or historic Hoover House - the former residence of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. While exploring the Hoover House Museum, say hello to 'Ken' the small locomotive that was used on the extensive narrow gauge woodlines, established to collect 30,000 tonnes of mulga timber each year to fuel the mine. For sweeping views of the whole settlement, take a picnic to the top of Mount Leonora and imagine yourself in explorer John Forrest's shoes when he first set eyes on the area in 1869. You can complete your journey back in time with a stay at Hoover House, which has been beautifully restored and operates as a bed and breakfast. Alternatively, drive four kilometres north to Leonora where you'll find a range of accommodation, including hotels, a motel and caravan park.
The biggest city in the Australian outback, Kalgoorlie is a vibrant mix of gold rush history, grand colonial buildings and immense mining operations, surrounded by some of the most dazzling spring wildflowers and eerie gold-rush ghost towns. You can get there by air, road, rail or guided tour from Perth. Flights and TransWA trains depart daily. Or, hit the Great Eastern Highway for the 600 kilometre (seven-hour) road trip from city to outback, stopping to ride one of Australia's biggest waves at Wave Rock. 'Kal', as the locals call it, was born during the 1880s gold rush, when thousands of starry-eyed prospectors made the journey east of Perth to seek their fortunes. Today, their legacy lives on in magnificent architecture and one of the world's largest open cut mines - the Super Pit. At 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, the pit produces 900,000 ounces of gold each year and makes a mind-blowing experience for those who join the guided tour. There are riches in Kalgoorlie's centre too, particularly on Hannan Street (named after Irishman Paddy Hannan who struck gold in 1893) where you'll find a buzz of lively bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants. For a real slice of gold rush life and Goldfields culture, check out the Kalgoorlie-Boulder WA Museum, the Royal Flying Doctor's Visitor Centre and the art galleries featuring the works of Aboriginal and Goldfields artists. Venturing north to the vast salt pan of Lake Ballard, you'll find yourself in the largest outdoor art gallery on Earth - the Inside Australia exhibit by world-renowned artist Antony Gormley. Continue further to Leonora and the ghost town of Gwalia, and you'll stumble upon the home of America's 31st President, Herbert Hoover. Golfers should swing by the multi-million dollar international golf course that's rapidly becoming one of the world's top desert courses. It marks the beginning of the Nullarbor Links - the longest golf course on Earth. Accommodation-wise there are many options, from camping and caravan parks to hotels and motels. You'll even find free 24-hour overnight caravan parking near the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Shire Office.
For an authentic Australian outback experience, visit Kookynie - a living gold rush ghost town on the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, with a quintessential goldfields pub and a host of gold rush relics to explore. Located nine and a half hours east of Perth by car, the small town of Kookynie is one hour north east of Menzies, or a two-hour drive from Coolgardie. In its gold rush heyday, following the discovery of gold in 1895, the booming hub of Kookynie had 1,500 residents, six hotels, a public baths and brewery. Today, it's practically a ghost town with just 13 permanent residents, but there are a number of buildings that bear testament to Kookynie's heritage, including the Grand Hotel, where you can enjoy a cold beer, a hearty meal and drink in the outback ambience. View the hotel's collection of historic photographs, antique bottles and memorabilia. Stroll to the old shops and the Cosmopolitan Hotel ruins, and imagine the life of a pioneering prospector during the gold rush with a visit to the Old Miner's Cottage - the last timber and iron building in Kookynie from the turn of the 20th century. Nearby Niagara Dam was built in 1898 to provide plentiful fresh water for the railway linking Kalgoorlie with Menzies. This oasis in the wilderness is now a top spot for a picnic, refreshing swim or a night in a swag under the stars. Whether you're following the 965 kilometre Golden Quest Discovery Trail - a self-drive tour that takes in 25 sites of historic and Indigenous significance - or creating your own Goldfields adventure, be sure to include a trip to sculptor Antony Gormley's Inside Australia exhibition. Inside Australia, on the flat salt lake of Lake Ballard, is the country's largest world-class open air sculpture exhibit. Covering an area of 10 square kilometres, the art installation showcases 51 statues representing residents from the nearby town of Menzies. If you'd like to make Kookynie your base, book a stay at the historic hotel or caravan park.
Laverton is one of the luckiest gold rush towns in the Goldfields. Its late 19th century architecture was spared from ruin when fortune stuck twice and nickel became the town's new gold. Today, you'll find Laverton's greatest riches lie in its well-preserved history and captivating heritage trails. This golden oldie is a one and a half hour drive east of Leonora. You can reach it in just under five hours from Kalgoorlie, or 12 hours from Perth. Alternatively, you can make it a journey of discovery by following the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, stopping at 25 interpretive sites as you travel through Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Coolgardie. Nickel is no longer mined here, but you're invited to dig deep into Laverton's past with a visit to the original police station, sergeant's house and jail. Here, you'll find yourself in a world far removed from the one we know today - where convicts endured cramped conditions and extreme desert temperatures. Be sure to drop by The Great Beyond Explorers' Hall of Fame - a multi-million dollar visual exhibit that brings to life the characters and stories of the region's early European history in the most engaging way. Venture two and a half hours to the east and you'll see more relics of the gold rush era in the eerie ghost town of Gwalia. For experienced four wheel drivers, Laverton marks the start of some of Australia's most challenging long-distance trails. From here, the Outback Way extends 2,750 kilometres across central Australia to Winton in Queensland, while the Anne Beadell Highway takes you on a five day drive to Coober Pedy in South Australia. Extensive work on The Outback Way now means two wheel drive vehicles can access the route to Uluru, but a four wheel drive is recommended. Permits are required for these remote roads, so make The Great Beyond Visitor Centre your first stop to grab your permit and some valuable travel advice. Refresh your driving eyes and immerse yourself in outback life with a night or two at Laverton's hotel, motel or caravan park.
Leonora is a mine of outback history and heritage, from the old world grandeur of its legendary State Hotel to the simple charm of iron and hessian miners' cottages in the eerie gold rush ghost town of neighbouring Gwalia. The best way to reach Leonora is to take the three hour drive north of Kalgoorlie, following the Golden Quest Discovery Trail and allowing a little extra time to stop at some of the interpretive sites along the way. Since its early settler days, dating back to when John Forrest set up camp here in 1869, canvas tents, iron cottages and wooden shacks made way for much grander brick hotels and establishments as gold, nickel and silver mining brought fortune, growth and prosperity. That said, even today the wide main street is lit by kerosene lamps, with many characterful buildings of the early 1900s serving their original purpose, including both of the town's hotels, the post office, police station, courthouse and fire station. More of the region's rich gold rush heritage is revealed with a short drive to the ghost town of Gwalia. Lovingly restored remnants of its heyday, from establishment in 1897 to the closure of the Sons of Gwalia mine in 1963, make for an awe-inspiring journey into the region's past. Take a walk through the precinct of 20 original miners' cottages. Visit the Gwalia Historical Museum. Or spend a night in historic Hoover House - the former residence of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, who migrated to Western Australia to work as a mining engineer prior to pursuing his political career. More accommodation options are available within Leonora itself, including the town's original hotels, a motel and caravan park, providing a welcome break for tourists en-route to Alice Springs and North West Australia. Make time for a little extra rest and relaxation with a visit to the favourite local picnic spot at Malcom Dam or the Leonora lookout at the top of Smoodgers Hill.
The old gold mining town of Menzies is your entry to the largest outdoor gallery on Earth and one of the art world's most extraordinary exhibits, 'Inside Australia'. Created by internationally renowned artist Antony Gormley, the collection of 51 sculptures are dotted over 10 square kilometres of Lake Ballard's stark white salt bed. Driving north of Kalgoorlie, you'll reach Menzies within one and a half hours. Lake Ballard and the Antony Gormley sculptures lie 55 kilometres to the north-west and day tours from Kalgoorlie regularly visit the art installation. The Gormley sculptures, created in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts Festival, represent some of the local residents of Menzies. It's hard to imagine the town was once home to more than 10,000 people during the gold rush sparked by Lesley Robert Menzies, who struck significant reserves in 1894. Within a decade, the town's population had grown and shrunk back to just a few hundred, although you'll still find the odd gold prospector and fossicker in search of their fortune. If you fancy joining them, you'll need to apply for a permit. Grand gold rush architecture still stands as a reminder of Menzies' glory days, including the Menzies Town Hall that's famous for standing 'clockless' for 100 years. Local legend says the original clock lies at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, after the ship that brought it from England sank off Rottnest Island. Facing an uncertain future, the town decided not to order another one and so it stood bare until New Year's Eve 2000, when a clock was finally put in place to mark the new millennium. For more fascinating insights and tourist information, head for the Menzies Visitor Centre, located in the 'Former' Lady Shenton Hotel. Grab some lunch at the local hotel, and if you're making Menzies your base for a few days, book yourself in at the caravan park.
Great Beyond Explorer’s Hall of Fame and Visitor Centre
Kalgoorlie Town Hall Corner of Hannan and Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie Western Australia 6430, Australia
Phone: (08) 9031 1361 | www.kalgoorlietourism.com
The Great Beyond Explorer’s Hall of Fame and Visitor Centre can provide all the information you need to experience the real outback! At the Great Beyond Explorer’s Hall of Fame and Visitor Centre you will be transported to a time of exploration and endeavour and hear the stories of past and present champions of the bush. Enjoy the high quality displays in air-conditioned comfort, and browse the Visitor Centre and gift shop while you wait for a freshly brewed cappuccino from the Horizons Cafe.
Kalgoorlie Boulder Visitor Centre
Kalgoorlie Town Hall Corner of Hannan and Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie Western Australia 6430, Australia
Phone: (08) 9021 1966 | www.kalgoorlietourism.com
Located in the heart of Australia's Golden Outback, in a the 100 year old Town Hall, is the Kalgoorlie Boulder Visitor Centre. As an accredited and award winning Visitor Centre they offer a one-stop shop of information, provided by local experts. The friendly and knowledgeable team can help with any Goldfields questions and provide tips and advice on what to see and do. Stock up on maps or book your tours, travel and accommodation with the team. Visitors can also purchase the Kalgoorlie Boulder Audio Tour headsets at the Visitor Centre. The Kalgoorlie Boulder Visitor Centre is open 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 2pm Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays. They are closed Christmas Day.
The Great Beyond Visitor Centre
5 Augusta Street, Laverton Western Australia 6440, Australia
Phone: (08) 9031 1361 | www.laverton.wa.gov.au
Home of the Explorers' Hall of Fame. Complementing the rich visual history of the Northern Goldfields, the Great Beyond Explorers' Hall of Fame utilises cutting edge technology to bring to life the characters and stories of the past. Step back in time with several notable Explorers, who led challenging expeditions through Central Australia during the mid to late 19th Century, as they recount their stories of hardship and bravery. Discover what it was like for women and pioneers living and working on the Goldfields during the pioneer days and learn about the valuable industries that sustain the inland. The Great Beyond Visitor Centre houses a gift shop and the Horizon's Cafe. The visitor centre can also issue entry permits to Aboriginal Lands in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, issue National Parks passes in Western Australia, and book tickets for the Goldfields Express and Goldrush Tours. They stock an extensive range of maps, guidebooks, souvenirs and gifts. The Great Beyond Visitor Centre is open 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 1.00pm Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.