The WA Now and ThenTtravel Blog


Wheat fields, Gold fields and Wild flowers - Part 2

Karalee was such a good campsite that we decided to stay two nights. It did turn out to be pretty popular with other campers as well with about 10 caravans using the site at one stage.


Eventually it was time to move on and not far along the highway we found a 24 hour rest stop at Boorabbin. This large rest area is closer to the highway than Karalee and was obviously not as popular despite having toilets, a dump point and seats and tables. Perhaps it was the proximity to the main road that made it less popular.


About 50km east from Karalee was another rock and dam campsite at Boondi Rock. This is a very similar area to Karalee but the road in turned out to be quite a bit more rough.


Another 16 km brought us to a third rock and dam site at Woolgangie but this was the least attractive of the three sites we had seen.


Our main stop for the day was Coolgardie where we pulled in to the Tourist Village for 3 nights.


Coolgardie today is the poor cousin of nearby Kalgoorlie that seems to have grabbed much of the attention and nearly all the money.


Coolgardie should not be dismissed, however and it makes a good base to explore the area from. There are a number of interesting heritage buildings here as well as some natural attractions within 40-50 kilometres.


RSL Building Coolgardie


As we had decided to stay at Coolgardie instead of Kalgoorlie, we spent most of our first full day exploring the larger town. It is only about half an hour's drive to Kalgoorlie and it takes most of the day to even scratch the surface of things to see and do. You could probably spend a week on Kalgoorlie and still not manage to visit every attraction the place has to offer.


As we had seen Hannan's North Tourist mine on a previous visit we didn't go this time but we did drop in to the local Mining Museum. Entry is by donation and it is worth a visit if only to catch the lift to the top of the head frame and get a great view of the town.


Most of the rest of the day was spent walking round Kalgoorlie and Boulder and photographing the many extraordinary buildings.


Hotel in Boulder


We did manage to fit in a bit of shopping to stock up on a few items and Kalgoorlie is the ideal place for that as it has all the main shopping chains that you will find in Perth.


Just before heading further south to check out Kambalda, we went up to the Super-Pit lookout to see how much bigger the hole had become since we last saw it.


The 50 kilometre side trip to see Kambalda was more to get photos than anything to do with sight-seeing.


Kambalda is what is sometimes referred to as a 'working town' which in reality means that it is a town for the workers in the local mines and it has very little to offer the casual tourist.


Kambalda is in fact split into two parts, Kambalda and Kambalda West. Neither are particularly attractive and for some reason it tended to remind me of the Kwinana suburb of Medina transported into the middle of the bush.


While we were based in Coolgardie we also took a trip out to Victoria Rock. This is a campsite about 50km south on a good unsealed road.


Victoria Rock


Sadly after experiencing Karalee and Boondi Rocks,Victoria Rock was a bit of a let down.


Something a bit closer to base was the Coolgardie Museum. This is a really first class collection. It is located in the old Warden's Court building which in itself is pretty impressive but the items inside are really worth having a look at. Entry to the main museum also includes entry to the Pharmacy Museum but don't go on Sunday or you will miss out on the Pharmacy Museam as it does not open.


The bottle collection alone makes the $4 entry fee worth while but there is much more to see than that.


Coolgardie Museum


We checked the Coolgardie map just to see if there was anything else we had missed in town and saw a note pointing to a road heading north that said Bonnie Vale Railway Station and Westralia Mine site. It was only 14km from town so we decided to drive up and have a look.


We wasted our time and fuel. The railway station was modern and completely uninteresting and somehow we managed to miss the sign to Bonnie Vale.


The next stop was to be at Rowles Lagoon which is about 73km north of Coolgardie.


Stopped to have a look at Kunanalling ruins on the way to Rowles Lagoon. This would have been a wonderful building in its day but today it sits fenced off and crumbling away.




Rowles Lagoon turned out to be ok but the camping area is set away from the lake and you only get to see the water from the day use area which is disappointing. It is also a National Parks site so you cannot take pets with you.


The road was in good shape all the way and it was only about an hours drive from Coolgardie.


We decided to stay the night and hopefully get a good rest. Sleeping in Coolgardie wasn't easy as there are about a hundred barking dogs to the acre in that town and we were travelling in what amounts to be a tent on wheels, in the form of a Jayco Swan.


Rowles Lagoon was a nice peaceful spot and we thought finally we would get a good nights sleep. The mozzies were out in squadrons around dusk but after that they seemed to be a bit less active.


Rowles Lagoon


Nice peaceful evening and so off we go to sleep. Suddenly ? mmmooooo MMMooooo MMMOOOO MOOO MOO MOO!!! Some depraved cow, obviously with mad cow disease starts to bellow at the top of its lungs for most of the night. The damn thing had thousands of acres to roam but no, it has to come over near our van somewhere and moo its lungs out all night!


We were up especially early on on the road to Ora Banda by 8am.


Ora Banda


Ora Banda tavern doesn't open until 12 noon and we still had a long way to go so after taking a few pics we headed off toward Broad Arrow, another tavern, this one making a feature out of its graffiti covered walls and still not open. Again some pics and off toward Menzies.


Menzies doesn't have a great deal to offer so again it was snap, snap, snap and off we went.




We turned east toward Kookynie and had a look at the campsite at Niagara Dam along the way. It was a good spot so we decided to check out Kookynie and then come back to camp.


Kookynie was the highlight of the day with a bunch of old derelict buildings. There are still a few residents here so the tag 'ghost town', that the tourist blurb likes to hang on the town, isn't quite right.




No phone coverage in any of the areas we have passed through since leaving Coolgardie but Niagara turned out to have good reception.


Niagara was a good choice to spend the night and we had a nice peaceful nights sleep. The dam wall seems to be leaking a bit so I hope the local structural engineers are keeping a good eye on it.


Niagara Dam


Drove north to Leonora and had a quick look around town and did a bit of grocery shopping. Just 2km from Leonora is Gwalia. This was one of the major reasons we did this trip and it turned out to be every bit as good as I had expected and even more.


Leonora old theatre


The old miners cottages are a fascinating glimpse into a long dead past. Many have all sorts of goods are artefacts scattered around and look as if the occupants left only last week.


The old State Hotel was a bit of a sad case though. Apparently the mine owns it and the inside has been stripped and it is full of junk. A very disrespectful way to treat such a majestic building. It would make a great addition to the town if it was done up in period style and opened to the public.


Gwalia State Hotel


Up on the hill was the museum that included Hoover House. This is a wonderful place and it is possible to stay at Hoover House for $150 a night with a continental breakfast thrown in. Entry to the museum is free if you stay so that makes it even better value.


Entry to the museum was $10 a person and it was worth going in just to see Hoover House but there is a lot more besides this to look at.


Outside the museum is a free RV stopping site but the RV has to be self contained and there is a limit of 3 nights.


Hoover House


We went on to a campsite at Malcolm Dam where most campers herd together like sheep on the dam wall road. We chose a spot on our own under a couple of almost shady trees.


Malcolm Dam


Long drive today. First out to Laverton which to be honest was a bit of a let-down. Laverton is another one of those 'working towns' and is there primarily for the workers. It has a bit of an uncared for atmosphere.


We drove back to Leonora along the old Laverton road (unsealed) to Hawks Nest. We had no idea what this was but went to look anyway.


Earlier on our trip we saw some signs showing diary entries from a New Zealander called John Aspinall. At Hawks Head we found his grave. It was rather a sad moment. John had come to W.A. from New Zealand, travelled all the way out to the gold fields and got almost as far as Laverton only to be killed by a lightning strike at the tender age of 23.


John Aspinall's Grave


To see his grave in this lonely desolate spot really brought home how tough life was back in the late 1800s and how much the early miners and fossickers had to endure. We had unwittingly followed in John's footsteps and quite by chance had found his last resting place.


From Hawks Head we passed through an Aboriginal community and the road deteriorated to become rough and pot holed with regular corrugations. We pushed on to Mt. Morgans which is a working mine.


The main attraction here is the old municipal chambers that look as though they are still in use. There is also evidence of an old railway station but little else remains of the old settlement.


Mt. Morgans


From here we got back on to the main road and went to see if there was anything left of Malcolm town - there wasn't, not a shred of evidence remained to show where the main administrative town of this area had once stood.


Then it was back into Leonora, just long enough to fill up and then to Station Creek for lunch. The creek was dry and the area was full of rubbish so we didn't hang around long. It would make a possible overnight stop but the litter pointed to the wrong sort of visitors to this site and we decided not to stay.


The next place to look at was Wilson's Patch. The had been an Aboriginal community with some innovative housing but it was abandoned and unfortunately has now been completely cleared. There are still some good pictures of it on the internet.


There was virtually nothing left to show where the community once lived. A lesson to show us this it wasn't just the old mining towns that could vanish without a trace.


We had a quick look at Leinster although there wasn't much that grabbed our attention. The local caravan park was cheap at $20 a night but there were too many people in it for our liking so we just kept on going. Leinster is yet another of those 'working towns'.


I had hoped to stop for the night at Agnew as there is a hotel there. A nice cold beer would really have gone down well after a long hot day in the car but it was not to be. The hotel was closed so we pressed on again, this time towards Sandstone and in doing so we made the decision not to make the 300km plus round trip to Wiluna as originally planned. Wiluna was just too far away and the road west to Meekatharra was still unsealed so we opted to head west towards Mt. Magnet. This was the first stage of our journey home.


Agnew hotel


We found no good rest area to stop at, so at just after 4pm and 60km east of Sandstone, we found a road that led to a small site just out of sight of the road. It wasn't pretty but it would do for an overnight stop.


It seemed like we have been driving for days on end, mostly because we had! We had travelled only a few kilometres further west in the morning when we found the Peter Denny Lookout with a good rest area. Sadly we hadn't known about this spot the night before as it would have made a much nicer overnight campsite.


Peter Denny Lookout


First job for the day was a quick look round Sandstone which seems like quite a nice little town. It is always good to see towns that make an effort to appear more attractive. It seems to indicate that the people who live there are proud of their town and that is always a good thing.


Not far out of town is probably the most famous attraction in this area; London Bridge. This natural formation has been in tourist info for as long as there has been tourist info. On the way to London Bridge is a cave where apparently a brewery once operated.


London Bridge


The next destination was Mt. Magnet, not because we particularly wanted to go there but because it is on the way to Cue.


Between Sandstone and Mt. Magnet there is only one half-way decent rest area and that makes only two passable overnight rest stops between Mt. Magnet and Leinster. There really should be more than that.


Cue was the most northern point for our trip (since we had abandoned the idea of visiting Wiluna) and in the past it has been a bit of a jinx for us as far as getting decent photographs is concerned. We have been there twice before and have not managed to get any really good shots either because we had the wrong sort of camera or because the shots were lost when a computer crashed later on and the pics had not been backed up.




This was our third time to the town and turned out to be third time lucky.


There are plenty of interesting buildings in Cue to photograph but the main reason for coming to this area is the old hotel ruin at Big Bell.


The hotel has been abandoned for about 50 years but a good proportion of it still remains. There is little left of the rest of the town except one of the old churches but the hotel is worth going to see just on its own.


Apparently it was built to the same plan as the Como Hotel in Perth.


We camped near the hotel for two nights and took a lot of photographs.


Big Bell


As we had been driving every day since we left Karalee Rocks we thought it was time to have another rest day.


Staying at Big Bell was heaven on Earth. So quiet and peaceful. Sadly we couldn't justify staying any longer and a big bank of cloud had appeared and the last thing we wanted was to get 'rained in'.


We drove back to Cue and turned south towards Mt. Magnet. A stop for fuel, some limited supplies and to take some pictures and then we were off to Yalgoo.


Although I have come relatively close to Yalgoo before, I have never quite made it to the town. It was nice enough but the main reason I wanted to go was to get some pictures of the chapel that M. John Hawes designed.


Chapel designed by M. John Hawes


We had lunch near the old railway station that now serves as the main building for the local race track. One tip if you visit Yalgoo, take your own toilet paper. None of the public toilets had any. There is water available at the petrol station but the tap has a very slow flow rate and there is no way to attach a hose to make the task easier. The petrol station is one of the un-nammed types where you have to use your credit card to get fuel.


Having photographed Yalgoo, the exploration part of our trip came to an end as all the other areas we would be going through we have seen before but as we were now entering wildflower country at the peak of the season we weren't about to complain.


We drove to Pindar and took yet more photographs and then turned south and went past Tardun just to see if anyone was about. It was locked up so we guess the new owners have not installed a caretaker.




We ended the day at Canna. Not the caravan facility as it was full of vans, but at the Old Camp where we could drive up a track and get away from other campers.


The wild flowers here are very good this year and we were hoping to finally get to photograph a wreath leschenalultia!


Wheat fields,Gold fields and Wild flowers Part 3


Updated: September 2014

Go to the next blog installment Go to the next blog installment

















Ora Banda


Broad Arrow














Mount Magnet









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