State of Western Australia Off The Beaten Path Tips by TheWanderingCamel Top 5 Page for this destination
State of Western Australia Off The Beaten Path: 71 reviews and 130 photos
Siberia and Ora Banda are just two of the many ghost towns that can be found scattered around the Eastern Goldfields region that centres on Kalgoorlie, 600km east of Perth.
All were founded in the heady days of the Western Australian goldrush of the 1890s. Some, like Siberia, gazetted as a township in 1898, have no buildings at all to show that once there was a sizable town here, with two hotels, a hospital and its own doctor. The first gold was found here in October 1893 and soon several mines were operating. Land for a townsite to be named to be named either Waverley or Siberia was set aside. The locals chose Siberia, taking the name from Siberia Tank, a nearby water supply for the area. No-one really knows quite why such a hot place was named thus but the story goes "A swagman struck the track near here and cut on a tree the words: To Hell or Siberia."
Ora Banda (Spanish for 'Band of Gold") has more to show for its 100 year history - the solidly built sandstone pub is still open for business and although little else remains a story board tells visitors something of the town's history. As with Siberia, gold was found here in 1893 and by 1910 2000 people were living here, with a police station, post office, school and Catholic church just some of the amenities of the town. Thanks to some good "shows" (finds of gold seams) the mine remained open until the 1970s.
Siberia is 80km from Kalgoorlie , Ora Banda is closer, 66 km from town .
The knock-off whistle has just blown
The sense of times past at the old Yarloop Workshops (125km south of Perth, signposted off the main highways to Bunbury) is palpable. As you walk through the complex of sheds and workshops you would swear the knock-off whistle had just blown and the men who once worked here had all just left. It's nearly 30 years since the workshops closed down though, and the wonderful collection of steamdriven engines housed here only fire up for the steam days held here from March to November (2nd Sunday of the month). The workshops themselves are open daily from 10-4 .
The great forests of WA's south-west yield magnificent timber and there was once a whole network of railway lines that serviced the timber mills that operated throughout the region. Whilst most of the engines and milling machinery came from England, the industry depended on the workshops to keep them running as well as to build and adapt others. The Yarloop complex , with its stores and sheds, forge and workshops - all still full of tools, machines, patterns, huge whim wheels - everything that needed to keep the mills working, is a fascinating place. There is even the lending library that provided the men and their families with access to literature and learning. This is industrial archaeology at its best.
A really great way to see the bush is to take a ride through it, and there's nowhere better to do this than on Cape Naturaliste. A bush ride will take you across ridges with wonderful views out to sea, down deep gullies filled with wildflowers, and perhaps even onto the beach. You don't have to be an experienced rider and you will get a fantastic feel for the bush. Go early in the morning or for a twilight ride and you may see even kangaroos.
Meelup Beach, a few kilometres out of Dunsborough on the Cape Naturaliste Road is without a doubt one of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see. The forest comes right down to a crescent of fine, white sand; the sheltered, brilliant turquoise water always seems to be the right temperature for swimming; there's shady grass for picnicking on, barbecues to cook on (watch out for thieving kookaburras) or you can walk up through the bush to a nearby vineyard for a leisurely lunch; and for those feeling like a little more exercise there is an excellent bush trail, the Meelup Coastal Track.
The historic and important gold-mining twin city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a 600km drive from Perth - which does put it out of the reach of lots of visitors. One sight not to be missed by those who do make it this far however is the lookout over the massive mining operation known as the Super Pit. This vast open-cut gold mining operation is the result of the bringing together of all the individual gold-mines that once operated along what was once the "Golden Mile" that had been in operation for the 100 years since Paddy Hannan first discovered gold here in 1893. Since then over 50 million ounces of gold have been taked from this one small strip of land - one of only 4 mines in the world to have yielded such riches. The single pit that we see today is 3 km long, 1.5 km wide and nearly 400 metres deep. It is fully expected to be 600 metres deep within the next few years.
Operating around the clock, the pit itself is hardly tourist territory but you can get an excellent overview from the lookout. It is an amazing sight with huge trucks looking like tiny toys as they inch their way down the terraces. It all becomes even more dramatic at night as work continues under a blaze of lights.
Short of flying over it, the only way you'll get a shot of the whole pit is to do as I've done here - take a photo of one of the display boards.
Address: Hainault Road, off the Goldfields Highway - it's very well sign-posted
The Lookout is open daily 7.00 a.m. - 9.00 p.m. Temporary closure may occur during mine blasts
Phone: 08 9022 1100 for blasting times
An truly extraordinary experience
Lake Ballard is about as far Off the Beaten Path as you could imagine. The "lake" is a vast salt pan, no different from scores of such places to be found here in Western Australia - but there is something here that makes this place truly extraordinary.
British sculptor, Antony Gormley's installation of no less than 51 sculptures is spread out over 7 sq km of the lake near the tiny town of Menzies. Local people were the models. His intent was to bring together two notions of the "interior" - human and the heart of Australia.
Out at the lake, the silence and emptiness is profound.
The lake's surface is very tricky to walk on in places - a thin crust on top of very sticky mud, firm enough to walk on but you have to be very careful not to slip. At the lake's edge the salt shows itself just as tiny pinpricks of brilliantly sparkling light. The further out you go, the thicker and firmer the salt layer gets, until you're walking on a blinding white solid crust that crunches underfoot. The horizon is a broken band of mirage. Where the crust is soft enough to leave footprints you can see the tracks of those who've been before you - people, kangaroos and the odd dingo.
The sculptures all stand in isolation - some looking back to the lake's edge, others gazing into the far distance. As you walk towards one you see others in the distance - but they seem almost insubstantial and with the dazzling light it's hard to tell whether what you're looking at is figure or figment.
The figures are a bit smaller than life size, and despite being reduced to essential elements. each on is absolutely recognizable as an individual. I'm still pondering on what I made of it all. I know I found it a really intense experience, and I know I'm definitely going again - next year, a little earlier - it got very hot out on the salt even at this stage of late winter. I want to camp out there, at the time of a full moon, so I can see the lake in that light, see it at sunset and again at daybreak.
Nature at work
Mention mangroves and most people think of mud, mosquitos and crocodiles - not exactly appealing. A walk along the boardwalk through one of Australia's most southerly mangrove colonies along the Leschenault Estuary in Bunbury (160km south of Perth) will soon dispel those images. The 250m long boardwalk takes you out through and over this fascinating eco-system, home to many species of bird and marine life, where the pencil-like aerial roots of the mangroves poke up through the water, gathering oxygen for the plants.
It's a lovely, peaceful place, part of the 4.5km long Koombana Bay Walkway, which makes its way right around the inlet, with boards and markers telling the history of the area which is full of tales of shipwrecks and sailors.
Access to the walkway is from the carpark just down the road from the Dolphin Discovery Centre on Koombana Drive.
Not any ordinary rock, stromatolites
Heading up to Monkey Mia? Make a detour tp Hamelin Pool to see the world's best colony of stromatolites - strange rocks formed by 5,000 years of the calcification of accumulated cyanobacterial material.
Stromatolites just like these were formed by the very first living organisms on the planet 3.5 billion years ago and the ones you see here are their identical ancestors. To learn more about these extraordinary formations, take time to visit the museum at the Flint Cliff Telegraph Station and Post Office.
Meals, camping and caravan sites are available in the area.
Check the Shark Bay website for other things to see and do in the area.
You'll find the quaint little chapel dedicated to St Werburgh (a Saxon English saint I believe)a few kilometres outside the small town of Mount Barker in the heart of the rich farming region known as Western Australia's Great Southern, on private property but with access permitted.
It was built in 1872, with money sent by the brother of one of the pioneers of the region who was a country Squire back home in England. The church they built has a particular charm as it reflects the style of the local farmhouses with its wide verandas and steep iron roof. Using all local materials, the ironwork made in the farm forge, the font once used for grinding flour and all the plastering done by the propety's owner - this church truly reflects the pioneering spirit with which it was built .
To find the church, take the Mount Barker Hill Road south out of the town and look for the signs.
Mount Barker, once a major apple growing area is now particularly noted for its fine wines. The town is situated on the Albany Highway, 360km south of Perth.
Click on the website given to download a pdf file on Mount Barker's attractions.
Flowers in the desert
Harsh and dry as it is for most of the year, an amazing transformation comes over the semi-desert area of the Upper Murchison north east of Perth in Spring. Winter rain brings on a magnificent show of wildflowers as, for just a few short weeks, the landscape is awash with colour that stretches in great sheets as far as the horizon.
Travel north to see the show and you will also discover the history of Western Australia's fabulously rich gold rush era, a gallery of Aboriginal rock paintings that date back 10,000 years and some lovely churches built by an extraordinary priest.
A three or four day tour looping from Perth to Cue
(650km north-east of the city) will give you a good look at this part of Australia's great outback
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