Do you love old Westerns? Or maybe you find the idea of having a go at gold-prospecting exciting? Either way, you will love a trip to Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia.
During the Australian gold rush (sparked in 1893) Kalgoorlie developed rapidly and soon became Australia’s third largest town. Its status is nowadays diminished somewhat, but the wealth with which the town was built is still evident in the now aged but still grand buildings. The architecture is splendid and quite unique to the town. Walking along Hannan Street is like walking onto a Wild West movie set, if you can ignore the traffic and mobile phone shops that is. Here are some things to check out on your trip to Kalgoorlie.
The KCGM Superpit is the reason for Kalgoorlie’s existence. It is possible to take a tour of the Superpit to see see the action up close. You can also head up to the lookout for a view over the largest hole I have ever seen. The pit is 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 360m deep. There is a massive digger claw at the lookout to make you feel really small and a display about the pit’s past and a look at it’s future.
|Digger Claw at Kalgoorlie Super pit|
Patrick Hannan was one of the original pioneers to the area, finding gold in 1893 near Mount Charlotte, and Kalgoorlie’s main street has taken his name. He is also immortalized with a statue outside the visitor centre – or so they’d like you to believe. It is in fact a replica. The original is in the Hall of Mining to protect it from vandals.
Kalgoorlie’s Ladies of the Night
Being a male dominated town for years, brothels quickly appeared in Kalgoorlie. They were the only licensed brothels in Australia, on account of the belief that they acted as a sort of pressure valve. The women working in the brothels were subject to strict controls as to where they could go and when in order to protect the town’s image. The brothels continue to operate today although they have discovered a new source of income and until 6pm each day offer tours to tourists and visitors.
Pubs and Hotels
Kalgoorlie is a great place to plan to sink a few drinks. There are plenty of pubs and hotels in town. Many have magnificent balconies overlooking the streets below. They are not all simply drinking holes though; the Palace hotel, as well as having a popular restaurant, is worth visiting to check out the Hoover Mirror. Herbert Hoover spent several years in Kalgoorlie as a mining engineer before he later became US President. The intricately carved wooden-framed mirror was his parting gift to the Palace hotel in whose employment was a barmaid with whom he had been in love. There is an excerpt from a poem he wrote to her, hanging on the wall by the mirror.
|The Hoover Mirror, The Palace Hotel, Kalgoorlie|
Boulder is Kalgoorlie’s less famous neighbour. It is a much smaller settlement with more of a village-feel than enormous sprawling Kalgoorlie, but since the amalgamation of the two towns it has become a suburb of Kalgoorlie. The main road is lined with independent traders my favourite of which was the Old Boulder Sweet Shop selling traditional sweets from all over the world especially Britain. Strawberry Bon-Bons, Rhubarb-Custards, Gobstoppers and Cola cubes are all here people!
|The Old Boulder Sweet Shop|
On the third Sunday of every month Boulder hosts a small market which spills out of the green and along Burt street, featuring stalls selling handmade crafts and local produce. The Metropole Hotel offers visitors something you don’t see everyday. They have an abandoned mine shaft beneath the pub and a display panel laid into the floor shows it off.
|Abandoned Mine Shaft beneath the Metropole Hotel, Boulder|
Kalgoorlie - Boulder (as the region is now known) is an interesting place to spend a few days. It is enormously different from the towns which hug the coast in the South West corner of Australia. It seems almost to be stuck in history, architecturally at least. The difference is amazing when it is only four hours drive away from Perth or Esperance (that’s local in Australia!)