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Golden Quest Trail

Thursday, August 16, 2007
Western Australia is a place of vast landscapes and wide open plains. If you are prepared for a few days of driving, it could be one of the most rewarding holidays you've ever had.

Getaway took the Golden Quest Trail, which runs for 965 kilometres north from Coolgardie. It is a true self-drive adventure winding through 25 sites of natural, Aboriginal and European history.

The trail goes through the Eastern Goldfields, passing through contemporary and historical mining towns, country pubs and Lake Ballard with its incredible Antony Gormley sculptures rising from a salt lake.

Paddy Hannan, a rambler from County Clare, landed in Melbourne in 1863 at the age of 21. The lure of gold took him and two other Irishmen west in 1889 and he joined the throngs in the unknown country. Within two days they had unearthed 100 ounces of gold.

Paddy is still very much remembered in the area, with Boulder-Kalgoorlie's main street being Hannan Street, the railway station Hannan Station, plus there is a Hannan Hotel and in the local pub you can drink a pint of Hannan lager!

Coolgardie is a beautifully maintained major goldmining town with a population of 2000. It offers the chance to see how life was in the 19th century. Visitors can put in a day following markers recording the town's buildings. There are old photographs which make the history of the town come to life. The cemetery also gives an insight into the town during the boom period.

The 1897 Marble Bar Hotel was popular as it had good, cheap meals and the owners were kind to miners down on their luck. Its architectural ostentation is a reminder of the extraordinary wealth which once existed here.

Ora Banda (Spanish for "band of gold") hovers between ghost town and revitalised mining centre. Gold was discovered here in 1893. The Weston brothers established the mine and it continued to operate until the late 1970s. The Ora Banda State Battery is still used to crush ore on the outskirts of town.

The sandstone hotel has been restored to its 1911 condition and each year in mid-September is particularly busy on Ora Banda Race Day.

Menzies is another ghost town which was caught up in the gold frenzy. Every fossicker and prospector wanted to be the next Paddy Hannan. A man named Menzies got lucky and had a strike. The township was established in 1894 but had virtually disappeared by 1905. At its height the railway had arrived, there were two breweries, 13 hotels and a population of over 10,000. Today it is little more than a main street.

Not far from Menzies is Lake Ballard, a white and very shallow salt lake laden with history and myth. British sculptor Antony Gormley created an ambitious public art project there in 2003 marking the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts Festival. Titled Inside Australia, it comprises 51 sculptures of slim, fragile, life-sized naked people. He convinced locals to disrobe and be models. The salt crust covering the white sand reflects the sun, creating a mirror-like surface which gives a powerful effect.

Seventy kilometres north-east is Kookynie. Commonly referred to as a ghost town, it caters for tourists, prospectors, fossickers, mining and exploration companies, pastoralists and a sprinkling of locals. Once it had a population of 3500.

The Grand Hotel offers an excellent collection of historic photographs, antique bottles and memorabilia. The Old Miner's Cottage is the last timber and iron building remaining — it dates from the turn of the 1900s.


Between Coolgardie and Kookynie in WA.


The Golden Quest Discovery Trail Guide Book is $39.95. It is available at most visitor centres in Western Australia or from their website.
Prices correct at 16.08.2007.

For more information

Golden Quest Trail
Ph: 0408 511 969

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