Discovering Kalgoorlie – Boulder
I’m rarely lost for words but right then, I was speechless. Standing at the top of Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit for the first time, I was awe struck. I’d been warned it was big. However, it …
I’m rarely lost for words but right then, I was speechless.
Standing at the top of Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit for the first time, I was awe struck.
I’d been warned it was big.
However, it was so large I was left gaping.
But then, that wasn’t the first or last time Kalgoorlie would leave me speechless.
On subsequent visits, I learned to expect the unexpected: ghosts, secret tunnels, stolen gold and even an American president.
Here’s our guide to Discovering Kalgoorlie-Boulder: everything you’ll need to plan your trip.
How to Get There:
The twin towns of Kalgoorlie-Boulder are located in West Australia’s Goldfields region:
- 597km (6 hours drive) from Perth
- 392 (approx. 3.5 hours drive) from Esperance
- 1946km (approx 3-4 days comfortable drive) from Alice Springs
- 2158km (approx 3-4 days comfortable drive) from Adelaide
Kalgoorlie can be reached by air (1 hour flight from Perth) by bus or train.
There are a few adventurous ways to get to Kalgoorlie, either by fabulous 4WD tracks or good unsealed roads.
If you’re planning a trip to Kalgoorlie as part of a bigger outback adventure, there’s a few different ways to approach it:
- Via the Great Eastern Highway (sealed the entire way)
From Adelaide via the Nullarbor Plain
- Via the Princes Highway, Eyre Highway, Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and then onto the Goldfields Highway
From the Canning Stock Route (CSR):
- From the CSR’s southern end in Wiluna via the Goldfields Highway
By Unsealed Roads from the NT:
- Via the Great Central Road/Outback Way (permits required)
By 4WD Tracks:
- From South Australia via the Anne Beadell Highway & Great Central Road (permits required)
- From Cocklebiddy on the Nullarbor Plain via the Arrubiddy-Rawlinna Track, then along the Trans Access Road (the Indian Pacific Railway access track)
- Via Hann’s Track, from Warburton to Laverton (permits required)
How Long to Stay?
There is a LOT to see and do in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the immediate surrounds.
I’d recommend you plan at least 2 nights-3 days here, just to scratch the surface.
See & Do
Kalgoorlie is really like Alice Springs in this regard: there are so many sights to be seen, you could fill up a week without travelling more than 50 kilometres from the town.
Below, I’ve selected a few highlights, including a few unusual places you may not have heard of:
One of the most surprising things about Kalgoorlie is the architecture in Hannan Street, the town’s main street.
The only way to fully appreciate Hannan Street’s history and buildings is -you guessed it- to walk.
Even better, pop into the tourist information centre and grab a guided audio tour. I did this the first time I visited and can’t recommend it enough (it’s $12 per headset).
Ghosts (if you believe in them) have been encountered in many of these old buildings.
There used to be a Kal’Ghoul’lie ghost tour, held at night. I had a blast when I did it – learning about the dozens of entertaining ghosts in Hannan Street’s buildings.
Unfortunately, the tour doesn’t run anymore – however the audio tour (above) does mention a few of the town’s more restless spirits.
The Palace Hotel
I promised you an American president and the Palace Hotel is where he’s at!
Herbert Hoover was 22 years old when he grew a beard, lied about his age and set sail for England.
Long way to go for a job interview, but he was determined to become a mining engineer with the London & WA Exploration Company.
He was successful, and posted to Western Australia where he soon set about making unprofitable mines profitable and himself unpopular – which is a story for another post!
One of the places he spent a lot of time in was the beautiful Palace Hotel. Rumour has it he fell in love with a barmaid there, but he left for a position in China before things got too hot and steamy between them.
As a parting gift, he left a stunning carved mirror, which now stands in the foyer of the hotel.
For some real presidential treatment, book yourself an upstairs table on the verandah one evening and dine at the Palace Hotel (there’s pub food, so you won’t need to strike gold to pay for it).
If you don’t have the time for all that pomp and ceremony, just wandering around the Hotel’s exquisitely preserved rooms and decor will make you feel like a First Lady (or gent).
The Kalgoorlie Super Pit
It’s free to visit the lookout and your jaw WILL drop. (dimensions)
You can take also take tours of the SuperPit, but I do recommend that you book ahead.
I was surprised to discover on my first visit, even in the February heat, the tours were booked out for two weeks in advance!
Learn more about the Superpit tours on the Kalgoorlie Tours website here.
I took a one hour flight over the SuperPit which was STUNNING.
Here’s a very short video:
Goldfields Air Service operates short scenic flights over the Superpit and Kalgoorlie’s surrounds. The pilots will fly over from all angles so you can take amazing photographs.
Western Australian Museum of the Goldfields
No matter where you go in the main streets of Kalgoorlie, the Ivanhoe Headframe (see below) draws the eye.
Located at the northern end of Hannan Street, the Ivanhoe headframe is part of the Western Australian Museum of the Goldfield’s display.
Now, you might be thinking that museums are boring, and full of little dioramas and lots of interpretive signage.
This one is DIFFERENT.
There’s an underground mine, a pub, and an entire mini-mining town, composed of actual, heritage-listed buildings lovingly rebuilt within its grounds.
If you take the tour, you’ll learn about one of Australia’s biggest and most mysterious gold robberies. I’m not giving anything else away – you’ll just have to join a free tour to find out the rest.
The British Arms Hotel inside the museum is of particular interest. It’s the narrowest two storey pub in the Southern Hemisphere (and there’s a ghost in it!).
You’ll need 2-3 hours to take everything in here.
Entry is free, but a donation is very appreciated.
For opening hours and exhibition details: http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/museum-of-the-goldfields
Hannan’s North Tourist Mine/Former Mining Hall of Fame
Want to get up close and personal with those giant, dinosaur-sized mining trucks?
The Hannan’s North Tourist Mine (formerly the Mining Hall of Fame) was closed for a few years, but has now been reopened.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a haulage truck, and get inside of one, this is the place to do it.
There’s a complete old timer’s mining town inside the complex, you can try gold panning, and there’s a Japanese memorial garden to stroll through as well.
Karlkurla Park is a 200 hectare park with loads of walking trails, lookouts, picnic tables, bird watching and wildflower photography (in the right season).
That this was one of my favourite, most unexpected places to visit.
If’ you’re visiting Kalgoorlie with kids or travelling with dogs, if you like running or hiking, add this to your must-see list.
There are even drink troughs provided for your dog, too.
One plant to look out here for is the Australian Sandalwood tree, which is a has long been used by Western Australia’s Aboriginal people as a medicine.
Harvesting and exporting Sandalwood was once a booming industry in the Western Australian wheatbelt, and there is a small, but lucrative industry still doing so today.
Boulder’s Main Street
Take a 3 minute drive from Kalgoorlie across to Boulder’s Burt street, and you’ll think you’re in a movie set.
Burt Street is being restored to its original early 20th Century glory, with bullnosed verandahs, parapets and shop facades now gracing the street.
To appreciate the work that’s been done, you need to park your car, get out and walk.
I thoroughly recommend a visit in the golden hour (before sunset) for photographs.
When you’ve finished, you really MUST call in for a beer or cider at the next place on the list.
The Metropole Hotel
A pub with a secret tunnel?
Yep. You read that right.
At the eastern end of Burt Street is a big, bold corner pub with its own cloak-and-dagger entrance.
The tunnel was built by desperately (!) thirsty miners, but I’ll let Jac Eerbeck, whom I visited the Metropole with in December 2016, tell the story. (Jac’s voice is far more impressive than mine).
Beaten Track Brewery
Want a REAL local secret that comes in 120 flavours?
Then head over to the aptly-named Beaten Track Brewery in Dwyer Street and sample an ale or five.
Owner, Nick Galton-Fenzi started the Beaten Track Brewery after finding an old home brew kit in a friend’s garage. One thing led to another, and he’s now brewing 120 amazing beers.
You won’t be able to taste every one of them on tap (Nick rotates them seasonally), but there’s still a huge choice and something new or unusual to try. For those who don’t like beer, he also has cider.
Opening hours, and more detail here: http://www.beatentrackbrewery.com.au
Hay Street in Kalgoorlie is famous for its goldrush era brothels.
Although most of them have now disappeared, you can take a quirky, fun tour through the only house of ill repute still operating since the goldrush days, Questa Casa.
Yes, you read that correctly: a tour of a historically significant working brothel.
The tour takes 1.5 hours and, for obvious reasons, you must be over 18 to join.
More information here: http://www.kalgoorlietourism.com/questa-casa-australias-oldest-brothel
Two Up Ring
Located a short 10 minute (7km) drive on the Goldfields Highway, the bush Two Up Ring was something I loved visiting even though I’m not much of a gambler.
The building is unique – a corrugated iron ring shed and has to be seen to be believed.
Games of two-up are held here every Sunday from 1pm, but visiting is free and you can do so at any time.
Broad Arrow Pub
Head on another 20 minutes or so from the Two Up Ring, and you’ll come to the famous Broad Arrow Pub (38km north Kalgoorlie).
Broad Arrow is one of a number of ghost towns you can visit in the Goldfields.
Although it’s hard to imagine today, Broad Arrow was once a town with 15000 residents, eight hotels, two breweries, two banks and even a cordial factory.
The only building left intact today is the pub, which is one of those quirky outback pubs with an unusual corrugated iron architecture, and walls inside and out signed by previous visitors.
Great for lunch and cold beer is always on tap.
Kalgoorlie has a huge range of accommodation options.
Everything from the 5 Star Rydges (which I’ve stayed in and yes, it’s fabulous) through to family-owned motels, historic hotels and backpackers’.
Budget accommodation is available at several backpackers’ hostels:
Kalgoorlie Backpackers, 166 Hay St | Bookings & details here
Golddust Backpackers YHA, 194 Hay St | Bookings & details here
Caravan parks in Kalgoorlie-Boulder:
Discovery Parks Kalgoorlie– 286 Burt St, Boulder, ph. 1800 004 800 | Bookings & details here
Discovery Parks Boulder – Lane Street, Boulder (different to the Burt St caravan park above), ph. 1800 001 266 | Bookings & details here
Goldminer Carvavan Park, 40 Great Eastern Hwy & Atbara Street Kalgoorlie, ph. (08) 9021 3713 | Bookings & Details here
Kalgoorlie Caravan Park, 8 Great Eastern Hwy, Kalgoorlie, ph. (08) 9021 4855 | Bookings & Details here
Prospector Caravan Park, 9 Ochiltree St, Kalgoorlie, ph. (08) 9021 2524 | Bookings & Details here
Free Camping Options
There is a free 24 hour caravan/RV site within the town at Hannan Park. Unfortunately, tents, camper trailers and sleeping in your car is NOT allowed at this location.
There are also several good, bush free camps on the Goldfields Highway, just to the north of town.
Find ALL free roadside reststops & camping areas around Kalgoorlie-Boulder using THIS fabulous app.
Food, Fuel & Supplies
Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a large town (by Australian outback standards) fully serviced by major supermarkets, K Mart, pharmacies, clothing stores, post office and just about everything else you’ll need.
Tyre and vehicle repairs and all kinds of fuel are available from a number of places.
Large supermarkets, Woollies, Coles, IGAs are open 7 days per week.
Smaller shops and businesses are open 9-5:30pm, Monday-Friday, plus Saturday mornings.
Be aware that most smaller shops and businesses are CLOSED on Sundays.
Like many outback towns, strict liquor restrictions apply in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Read the following carefully to avoid frustration.
Bottle shops may only sell take away alcohol from 11am-10pm Mon-Sat.
No take away alcohol may be sold on Sundays.
Alcohol may be purchased at hotels, bars, clubs etc to be consumed on the premises from:
- 11am-midnight Mon-Sat
- 11am-10pm Sunday
When to Visit
Although the cooler months of the year, from May-September are the best times to visit Kalgoorlie, I’ve visited twice in summer and it did not stop me getting out and about.
From May-September, you can expect clear days with perfect blue skies, and daytime temperatures of around 20-25C.
Winter nights often fall below 0C (30F) in this part of the world, so make sure you take plenty of warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.
In summer, daytime temperatures of over 40C (104F) are common, though I can assure you that it does cool down at night and is VERY pleasant.
Really, our best tip is to allow several days to explore the town and its immediate surrounds.
We’ve been told that August is the best time to visit for wildflowers, so you could easily combine a visit
Better still, you could make Kalgoorlie-Boulder your base to explore the region – we’ve only just scratched the surface with this post.
Places like Coolgardie, the charming ghost town of Gwalia, Lake Ballard, Kookynie, Menzies and Leonora are all within an easy day’s drive of Kalgoorlie, so you could spend several weeks in the area, exploring and staying free camps or low cost accommodation.
Got any other tips for Kalgoorlie-Boulder you’d love to share?
This article was originally posted by Travel Outback Australia.