The twin Kalgoorlie and Boulder town halls are fascinating places to visit. The free tour of Boulder Town Hall runs on Tuesdays at 1pm, and the Kalgoorlie tour is Wednesday at 1.30pm. The local guide is exceptionally knowledgeable, full of great stories – the whole family will be enthralled. The Boulder Town Hall is home to the only remaining painted stage curtain created by Philip Goatcher in the world. On 1000 guineas a year, he was the highest paid scene painter of the Victorian era.
Visit a gold mine
You can’t go to the Goldfields without seeing the impressive KCGM Super Pit, the biggest open-pit gold mine in Australia. From the lookout, you can see tiny holes in the walls of the 1.5km wide pit – mineshafts created by the brave miners as far back as 1894. Time your visit with a blast, and you’ll get a real sense of the scale. To find out how things used to be done, check out Hannans North Tourist Mine, and the WA Museum Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
Dig for gold
Try your hand at finding gold: you can search on unoccupied crown land, land with a pastoral lease or a mining tenement, even farmland (providing you seek permission from the landowner and possess your very own Miner’s Right). Prospecting and fossicking is understandably forbidden in national parks and nature reserves, on Aboriginal land and heritage sites, and in towns or cemeteries.
Visit a Ghost Town
The makeshift mining settlement of Gwalia thrived from the 1890s until the final whistle blew in 1963, and the 1200-strong population disappeared. The shantytown has since been restored, and includes a museum. Hoover House B&B was the home of general manager Herbert Hoover in 1902, before he became US President.
Visit the largest art gallery on earth
Lake Ballard is a 10sqkm salt lake 51km from Menzies and 180km from Kalgoorlie. While it may be in the middle of nowhere, in 2002, world-famous sculptor and Turner Prize-winner Antony Gormley chose it as the site to evoke his vision of Inside Australia, creating 51 metal sculptures using local and Aboriginal people as models, and spreading them across the sodium crust of the lake where they would stand out with brilliant clarity. The temporary installation took four days to set up, in temperatures that rose to 46 ̊C. The remote gallery of elegant figures became such an attraction, they are now a permanent display. Camp next to the lake and see the silhouettes at sunrise.
Have a beer
In Kalgoorlie’s heyday, beer was cheaper than water, and there was a pub on almost every corner – 93 hotels and eight breweries in total. The remaining 25 iconic outback pubs each have style and history. Soak up the ambience and chat with the local characters – the unassuming dusty miner standing next to you could be a mining magnate. Many multi-million-dollar deals have taken place here over a beer and a handshake. On opposite corners of Hannan and Maritana streets, the Palace Hotel has US President Herbert Hoover’s sideboard mirror, the Exchange Hotel is famous for its skimpy barmaids, and the beautiful York Hotel has unique Moorish architecture. In Boulder’s Metropole Hotel, ask to look at the mineshaft, a legacy of the old days. The Recreation Hotel offers wood-fi red pizza and plenty of Boulder hospitality. Further afield are the Ora Banda, Broad Arrow and Grand hotels in Kookynie, and the Menzies and Denver City hotels in the early gold rush town of Coolgardie.
Find adventure in Laverton
Named after Dr Charles Laver, the prospector who rode his bike there from Coolgardie in 1900, Laverton was once WA’s wildest gold boomtown. Today, the pastoral region boasts Australia’s largest nickel mine at Murrin Murrin, the second largest gold mine at Sunrise Dam, and the starting point for 4WD trips, such as the Outback Way, Hanns Track and the Golden Quest Discovery Trail.
- Explore the restored ghost town of Gwalia.
- Have a beer with prospectors in the Grand Hotel, Kookynie.
- Watch the sunset over the outdoor gallery at Lake Ballard.
- Head to the Super Pit gold mine lookout and feel the blast from the mining.
- Follow the historic pipeline from Mundaring Dam to Mt Charlotte in Kalgoorlie, and learn the tragic story of its creator, C.Y. O’Connor.
- See historic gold rush architecture in Coolgardie.
- Visit Laverton’s Great Beyond Explorers Hall of Fame.
- See a wide variety of bird species plus the threatened bilby, chuditch, malleefowl and dunnart.
- Driving the Golden Quest Discovery Trail is a great way of seeing the region, including Lake Ballard, Kookynie, and Gwalia.
- Buy authentic Aboriginal art at Laverton Outback Gallery.