Every Australian has heard of Kalgoorlie: the outback town in the heart of Western Australia. Australians have heard of it, but because of its remoteness, relatively few have gone out of their way to visit and see what it’s really like. Is it really as you imagine it to be? Is Kalgoorlie (or Kalgoorlie-Boulder, its official name) worth going out of your way to see?
One thing can be said for sure: Kalgoorlie is worth visiting. It may not be as you imagine it to be – in fact, it probably won’t be. Many Australians imagine it to be a dusty outback town with a handful of hardy residents. If you are one of these, you’re in for a big surprise. Kalgoorlie-Boulder has a population of over thirty thousand and is a vibrant community in the middle of some of the most amazing scenery on earth.
Kalgoorlie has such a rich history, you might be surprised to learn that it is newer than many other historical Australian towns. HM Lefroy first mentioned crossing through the region in 1863. He was followed by CC Hunt, a year later. Neither of these explorers found the pastoral land they were seeking.
It wasn’t until nearly 30 years later that Kalgoorlie’s “cash crop”, gold, was discovered in nearby Coolgardie by Arthur Bayley. His find generated interest and in 1893, prospectors discovered 100 moree ounces of gold and the Kalgoorlie gold rush was on. Miners hoping to strike it rich in the Kalgoorlie gold fields flooded into the region. Gold was the only thing on their mind and many died from disease and exposure. They came so quickly, there was no infrastructure in place and for awhile, water was so scarce, it had greater value than gold.
The Kalgoorlie Gold Rush was no “flash in the pan.” The town’s current population was equaled soon after the gold rush began and businesses were established for the miners. At one time, there were 93 hotels in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and 8 breweries made sure the miners didn’t suffer from thirst after a hard day’s work. In a little over a century since its discovery, an incredible 50,000,000 ounces of gold has been extracted from its desert floor.
Kalgoorlie has become quite a bit more cosmopolitan since its rough and tumble beginnings, but other than that, it is much as it always has been, including the architecture, the better examples of which still stand. To give you a feel for what old Kalgoorlie looked like, the locals have created the Inner City Trail which takes you past the finest examples of 19th century architecture in the town.
Two “must see” Kalgoorlie attractions are the Super Pit and the Antony Gorley sculptures. Antony Gorley chose the haunting salt plain on Lake Ballard as his “gallery,” where 51 black iron sculptures stand out against the stark, salt-encrusted soil. In marked contrast to this, but equally surreal, the Super Pit is the largest open pit gold mine in Australia.
You don’t have to worry about going without the necessities or even the luxuries in life when you visit Kalgoorlie today. Many of the 93 original hotels are gone now, but they have been replaced by modern Kalgoorlie accommodation options ranging from comfortable station stays in the surrounding outback to Five Star luxury resorts.