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Esperance to Kalgoorlie drive

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Esperance, on the shores of Esperance Bay on the centre of Western Australia's southern coast, enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Hundreds of islands dot the coast and four National Parks offer pristine nature with seasonal wildflowers, granite headlands, rugged coastal scenery and views of the Recherche Archipelago. It's a great place for camping, fishing and bushwalking, and one of the best spots is Lucky Bay. It's a great destination for family holidays.

There's plenty to do in and around Esperance. Four-wheel drive safaris, helicopter tours, island cruises, diving charters, fishing, abseiling, sand boarding, canoeing and there's even a steam train. It has its share of art galleries and there's also an arts centre, museum and aquarium with touch pool.

When you're ready to head off, take the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and in around 200km you will reach Norseman, the western gateway to the Nullarbor.

The town was founded in 1894 by Laurie Sinclair who named it after his horse who pawed the ground and uncovered a gold nugget. That led to the discovery of one of the richest quartz reefs ever mined in Australia. In November 2002 the current mining company celebrated the extraction of the five millionth ounce of gold from the Norseman operation.

The town is surrounded by beautiful dense eucalypt bushland, ancient rock outcrops and large salt lakes.

There are good facilities for travellers and thousands of them pass through the town each year. A tourist complex offers welcome showers, toilets and there are barbecues in a shady, grassed area. For summer months, an Olympic-sized pool is great for a cooling swim.

Phoenix Park is a tribute to mining and prospecting history. Relics and equipment from mines have been relocated to the park and there are plenty of stories of times past.

At Norseman Visitors Centre you can obtain a permit which allows you to fossick the gemstone leases. Many of the ancient rocks and stones are beautifully patterned and coloured. Most common are moss opalite, moss agate, banded ironstone and gypsum crystals from the salt lakes.

About 130km further on our crew reached Kambalda. One of this town's attractions is the Red Hill lookout which gives views to the east and nearby Lake Lefroy.

The magnificent dry salt Lake Lefroy stands out from the surrounding area thanks to its white, gleaming colour and extreme lack of vegetation. Apart from being something great to look at, land sailing on it is amazing. Strapped to a land yacht which looks like a catamaran on wheels, sailors achieve speeds up to 140km/h, pushed along by desert winds rolling over the lake. For those who love an adrenalin rush, this is definitely worth a go. The Land Sailing Club sails every Sunday, weather permitting, and visitors are most welcome. If there is a spare blokart around you can have a go.

Prior to European settlement the area was within the traditional tribal lands of the Galaagu people. The first modern settlement was at the base of nearby Red Hill in 1897, thanks to prospector Percy Larkin who discovered rich shoots of gold there. That sparked a rush and over the next 10 years the goldfield produced over 30,000 ounces. A number of fabulous mineral specimens were discovered, including the legendary Golden Butterfly. By 1908, when the gold had become depleted, the settlement reverted to native bushland.

In 1954 John Morgan and George Cowcill presented an unusual rock specimen to the Kalgoorlie School of Mines and it turned out to be gossan, a green nickel bearing ore. By 1966 Kambalda's Silver Lake Mine had commenced production and sparked Australia's great nickel boom. Speculative fortunes were won and lost on the stock exchange, but the nickel mine proved to be enduring and commercially viable. Kambalda's prosperity today continues to rely on nickel mining.

It's just 58km north to Kalgoorlie Boulder and if you missed our recent story, go to our website or write for a fact sheet.


Two-day fossicking permits cost $5.50 and can be purchased at the Norseman Visitor Centre.


From Esperance 400km north to Kalgoorlie Boulder

For further information

Norseman Visitor Centre
68 Robert Street
Norseman 6443
Ph: (08) 9039 1071
Fax: (08) 9039 1488

Kambalda Visitor Information Centre
Emu Rocks Road
Kambalda West
Ph: (08) 9027 0192
Fax: (08) 9027 0194

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