Exploring the Ghost Towns of the Western Goldfields
In this article, Rochelle from Love Family Life Travel shares their travels through the
North of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, a series of Goldfield Ghost Towns have been abandoned to the dust and the sun. After reading through this article i'm sure you will be wanting to add this to your WA itinerary.
Some of the towns, have left almost no trace, just some shattered glass and a memorial plaque. Others still have a handful of residents and restored miner’s shacks. One still has a pub, and not much else, but the pub opens it’s doors every day for the intrepid traveller to sip a cool drink in the hot desert.
The start of our big lap around Australia took us through the Western Goldfields and I was eager to explore the ghost towns that remain. We were fascinated with what we found, and I have created this guide to give you a taste of what is on offer in this remote region of Outback Australia.
All that remains of the old Broad Arrow township is a couple of old houses surrounded by a junk yard of vehicles and an old historic water tank.
The highlight is the Broad Arrow Tavern, whose walls are covered in history conveyed through faded photographs, newspaper stories and graffiti which you are welcome to contribute to, if you can find a tiny space to spare.
Photographs tell the stories of people from the gold rush days and from more modern times.
I was fascinated with the tribute to ‘Hook’ - A man with a hook for a hand who died in 1993 in an underground accident. A photograph accompanies the tribute showing a man with an 80’s style moustache, opening a beer with the hook which has replaced his hand.
Photos of the old Broad Arrow footy teams have pride of place on the walls. One of the photos is so faded that soon the ghosts in the picture will disappear completely.
The bar still offers food and drink and we had a Broady burger, which was huge and satisfying. Worth a stop on the ghost town trail.
Goongarrie has a series of 3 houses from the old Railway Station Masters Office.
Surrounded by old ghost gums and a smattering of wildflowers we passed a rock carved with 'home' which acted as a doormat to the first house that we investigated.
We peered through a window covered in spiderwebs and cautiously tried the door. The door creaked open and we spotted collapsing floorboards and signs of recent habitation which we found even more spooky than the thought of old ghosts.
We hightailed it out of there and on to the next site.
A cemetery really brings a ghost town alive by offering a glimpse into the lives and deaths of those from the gold rush era. It was sad to see how many people died from such simple causes. Francis Herley, 10 months old, died of diarrhoea. James Wilson, 2 years old, died of bronchitis. William Smith, aged 41, committed suicide.
Many of those in the cemetery died of the Typhoid outbreak which affected almost 50% of the population of Menzies between 1895 and 1905. 1 in 5 affected died of the disease and more than 100 of the graves in the cemetery are from that outbreak alone.
Kookynie is a ‘living ghost town’ with a remaining population of 15 to 20 inhabitants.
The landscape is dotted with rusting vehicles and crumbling buildings with beautiful brickwork. Scrap metal and smashed glass cover the ground.
Interpretive signage is located all over the town with stories and images from bygone days. The Grand Hotel still operates, and its front door is guarded by a horse who doesn't like kids.
Gwalia is the jewel in the ghost town crown. Abandoned overnight in 1963 when the local mine closed, the area has been transformed by locals who have lovingly restored many of the old miner’s cottages.
A museum has been erected nearby and the old cottages form a part of the museum precinct. They are furnished with day to day items laid out as though the owners have just popped down to the shops.
The museum is free but donations are accepted. Or you can have a coffee and cake at the historic Hoover House which has been transformed into a Bed and Breakfast and small café. There is so much history located within this little stretch between Kalgoorlie and Leonora.
As we explored the area comfortably with car and camper, we couldn’t help but imagine those from bygone days exploring on horseback or by foot, wandering aimlessly searching for gold.
The ghosts come alive with imagination, if you let them, as you wander through the ruins they have left behind. They have a lot to teach us about hard work and resourcefulness and their stories show us what we are truly capable of as human beings.
By Rochelle Harrison