About South-West Australia: The Goldfields
This section covers the long drive down the Great Eastern Highway to the goldfields. In the early 1890s these were the scene of the world’s greatest gold rush since San Francisco’s in 1849.
Gold was discovered at Coolgardie in 1892. Nowadays, this is almost a ghost town, but many of the old buildings are still standing. A little imagination, and you can still get a feel of what it was like when 15,000 rough and ready prospectors roistered and brawled their way through the bars.
A year later gold was accidentally discovered 40 km north-east at Kalgoorlie by three Irish prospectors. The ‘luck of the Irish’ rewarded this trio with a slice of the richest square mile in the world, which soon became known as the ‘Golden Mile’. By the turn of the 19thC, Kalgoorlie had eight breweries and 93 pubs. Around this time the future US president Herbert Hoover arrived here as a young mining engineer. Staggered by the wild scenes he witnessed, he described the place as just ‘three yards inside civilization’. This was indeed the Australian Wild West. Kalgoorlie-Boulder, is still a thriving mining centre retaining its hard-bitten outback traditions.
From Perth to Kalgoorlie it’s about 600 km, and there’s not much to see on the way. If you’re planning to travel all the way east, you can combine this section with Esperance and the Eyre Peninsula. Another alternative is to drive down to Esperance on that same Local Exploration, and then head back west by way of Albany and South of Perth. Either way, you’ll need at least a week to explore the best places to visit.
You can take the train from Perth to Kalgoorlie twice daily with TransWA (www.transwa.wa.gov.au), who also operate a bus which covers this route, or try TransGoldfields (www.kalgoorlietourism.com/TransGoldfields). Or you can fly from the Kalgoorlie-Boulder airport. Quantas and Virgin Australia fly from Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne – though not particularly regularly. The drive from Perth to Kalgoorlie is long and arduous, traversing vast swathes of agricultural land. However, there are also numerous areas of outstanding beauty, as well as national parks to enjoy.