Western AustraliaThe Golden OutbackAustralia's Golden Outback offers up vast desert landscapes, dazzling wildflower displays, one of the greatest concentrations of salt lakes on the continent, craggy rocky outcrops, and some of the whitest beaches in the country.
Beyond rich gold rush heritage, bountiful treasures lie in Australia's Golden Outback. Prepare to be dazzled by Australia's whitest beach - Lucky Bay in Esperance. View some of the largest collections of spring wildflowers on the planet. Ride one of the nation's biggest waves at Wave Rock and scale the world's largest monolith at Mount Augustus, or enter the largest outdoor art gallery on Earth, created by world-renowned sculptor Antony Gormley. You can reach the Golden Outback's lively hub of Kalgoorlie by road, air, rail or guided tour from Perth. Follow the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail and hit the Great Eastern Highway for the 600-kilometre road trip from the city to outback. You could join one of the many self-drive routes such as the Pioneer Pathways, Leonora Loops and the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. For a more direct route, catch one of the daily flights or TransWA trains from Perth. You could also take time to indulge in the ultimate rail experience - riding the Indian Pacific to Kalgoorlie from Perth and continuing across the Nullarbor Plain to the east coast. It's here, in the vast rust-red landscapes and rugged outback, that you'll find a real Australian outback experience - stepping back in time to the heady gold rush era of the late 1800s and encountering fascinating local characters in the region's historic pubs and authentic farm or station stays. Four-wheel drive enthusiasts get to blaze a trail along the longest and most remote stock routes, finding challenge and adventure on the Canning Stock Route, Gunbarrel Highway, Golden West Discovery Trail, Holland Track, Gascoyne-Murchison Outback Pathways and Australia's most adventurous shortcut from Perth to Cairns along The Outback Way. Driving enthusiasts of the golfing kind should also swing by a hole or two on the world's longest course - the Nullarbor Links - stretching 1,386 kilometres from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna. Australia's Golden Outback is out of this world.
Take an adventure along Gascoyne-Murchison Outback Pathways
The Gascoyne-Murchison Outback Pathways are classic adventure trails traversing the timeless landscapes of the outback, following in the tracks of some of the most courageous pioneers. There are three main trails. To begin the Miner’s Pathway, take the five-hour drive north of Perth to Paynes Find. To reach the Kingsford Smith Mail Run, head to Gascoyne Junction, three hours’ drive east of Carnarvon, and for the Wool Wagon Pathway from Geraldton, take the five-hour drive or a one-hour flight from Perth. The region has been home to the Yamatji people for at least 30,000 years, and European settlers for more than 150 years. Order the Outback Pathways book and you can read about their fascinating histories along the way. Follow the trail of Western Australia’s transport pioneer on the Kingsford Smith Mail Run. Discover the wild and heady days of the Gold Rush on the Wool Wagon Pathway. Or relive the adventures of pastoral pioneers on the Miners Pathway. The ideal time to travel is between April and October, and a good selection of accommodation is available, from station stays to caravan parks, bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels. Book ahead and plan fuel stops and provisions carefully.
One of Australia's biggest waves is also the furthest from any ocean - Wave Rock rises 15 metres above the outback plain. Over 2,700 million years in the making, today it's a popular tourist destination. Located near the Wheatbelt town of Hyden, getting there from Perth is a pleasant 340-kilometre drive (approximately three to four hours) through picturesque rolling farmlands to wide vistas of wheat and canola fields. This 110-metre long multi-coloured granite cliff is shaped remarkably like a huge wave about to crash onto the bush. Pose on the rock face and surf the giant wave or see it from a different perspective by following the walk trails around the base and over the top. After winter rains, you'll be surrounded by a sea of dazzling colour as Western Australian wildflowers bloom in their billions. Nearby, a collection of over 450 ancient rock paintings cover the walls of Mulka's Cave, telling the story of a local Aboriginal legend. Just outside Hyden, the wildlife park invites you to meet its koalas and white kangaroos, with the Wildflower Shop and Cafe offering souvenirs and refreshments.
The white salt plain of Lake Ballard creates a dramatic setting for the largest outdoor art gallery on Earth. This extraordinary natural landscape was selected by world-renowned artist Antony Gormley to display his Inside Australia exhibit, a collection of 51 individually cast black chromium steel sculptures, stretching across 10 square kilometres. You can reach Lake Ballard by car in one hour and 45 minutes from Kalgoorlie or in 45 minutes from Menzies. Day Tours are also available from Kalgoorlie. Each sculpture represents a local resident of Menzies. For a fantastic overview, climb the hill and see the sculptures disappearing into the distance, each connected by the footprints of visitors. The exhibit forms part of the self-drive Golden Quest Discovery Trail, which takes in eerie gold rush ghost towns, historical gold mining sites and the former home of US President Herbert Hoover in Gwalia. The best times to visit are early morning or late afternoon when the sculptures' shadows stretch across Lake Ballard. Allow at least two hours (it will take considerably longer to view all 51 sculptures as they are spaced 500 metres apart), always walk with a friend, and carry water as the heat can be extreme during summer.
A beach and nature lover's dream, Esperance is blessed with squeaky-clean white sand, turquoise waters, untouched islands and colour-filled wildflower country. Among its most famous beauty spots is Australia's whitest beach, Lucky Bay - set against a stunning seascape of 110 islands of the Recherche Archipelago, even the kangaroos can't resist hanging out here. It's a one-and-a-half-hour flight or eight-hour drive south-east from Perth, making Esperance an ideal get-away-from-it-all holiday. Many attractions are easily accessible, with plenty of guided tour options, but a four-wheel drive is a must if you want to venture off the beaten track. The calm, clear waters of Blue Haven Beach and Twilight Cove, just a short drive from town, are idyllic spots for swimming and snorkelling. If you're seeking waves, hit the surf at West Beach, Fourth Beach or Observatory Beach. To hook dinner, throw in a line out near Bandy Creek Harbour or try your luck rock fishing at Salmon Beach located out along the Great Ocean Drive. Back in town, the adventure continues with four-wheel drive beach safaris, Indigenous cultural tours, coach tours, island cruises, diving and fishing charters, sand boarding, canoeing, mini-golf and steam train rides. Check out the arts centre and galleries, making time to drop into the museum to view what's left of the NASA Skylab after it slammed back down to Earth near Balladonia. On the way to Cape Le Grand, you'll even find a slice of ancient druid history with a full-size replica of Stonehenge. A good choice of hotels, motels, apartments, bed and breakfasts, chalets and hostels are available in Esperance. For something a little nearer to nature, hop on a ferry to Woody Island and pitch your tent or stay in a safari hut. There's also the chance to bunk down under the stars beside the beach at Lucky Bay. The campsite has solar hot showers, camp kitchens and barbecues, and bushwalking trails and spectacular coastal views are just a few steps away.
Stay in the living gold rush ghost town of Kookynie
For an authentic Australian outback experience, visit Kookynie - a living gold rush ghost town on the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, with a quintessential goldfields pub and a host of gold rush relics to explore. Located 8.5 hours east of Perth by car, the small town of Kookynie is 1 hour northeast of Menzies or a 2.5-hour drive from Coolgardie. In its gold rush heyday, following the discovery of gold in 1895, the booming hub of Kookynie had 1,500 residents, 6 hotels, public baths and brewery. Today, it's practically a ghost town with just 13 permanent residents, but several buildings bear testament to Kookynie's heritage, including the Grand Hotel where you can enjoy a cold beer, a hearty meal and drink in the outback ambience. View the hotel's collection of historic photographs, antique bottles and memorabilia. Stroll to the old shops and the Cosmopolitan Hotel ruins and imagine the life of a pioneering prospector during the gold rush with a visit to the Old Miner's Cottage - the last timber and iron building in Kookynie from the turn of the 20th century. Nearby, Niagara Dam was built in 1898 to provide plentiful freshwater for the railway linking Kalgoorlie with Menzies. This oasis in the wilderness is now a top spot for a picnic, refreshing swim or a night in a swag under the stars. Whether you're following the 965 kilometre Golden Quest Discovery Trail - a self-drive tour that takes in 25 sites of historic and Indigenous significance - or creating your own Goldfields adventure, be sure to include a trip to sculptor Antony Gormley's Inside Australia exhibition. Inside Australia on the flat salt lake of Lake Ballard, is the country's largest world-class open-air sculpture exhibit. Covering an area of 10 square kilometres, the art installation showcases 51 statues representing residents from the nearby town of Menzies. If you'd like to make Kookynie your base, book a stay at the historic hotel or caravan park.
Laverton is one of the luckiest gold rush towns in the Goldfields. Its late 19th-century architecture was spared from ruin when fortune stuck twice and nickel became the town's new gold. Today, you'll find Laverton's greatest riches lie in its well-preserved history and captivating heritage trails. This golden oldie is a one and a half-hour drive east of Leonora. You can reach it in just under five hours from Kalgoorlie, or 12 hours from Perth. Alternatively, you can make it a journey of discovery by following the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, stopping at 25 interpretive sites as you travel through Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Coolgardie. Nickel is no longer mined here, but you're invited to dig deep into Laverton's past with a visit to the original police station, sergeant's house and jail. Here, you'll find yourself in a world far removed from the one we know today - where convicts endured cramped conditions and extreme desert temperatures. Be sure to drop by The Great Beyond Explorers' Hall of Fame - a multi-million dollar visual exhibit that brings to life the characters and stories of the region's early European history in the most engaging way. Venture two and a half hours to the east and you'll see more relics of the gold rush era in the eerie ghost town of Gwalia. For experienced four-wheel drivers, Laverton marks the start of some of Australia's most challenging long-distance trails. From here, the Outback Way extends 2,750 kilometres across central Australia to Winton in Queensland, while the Anne Beadell Highway takes you on a five-day drive to Coober Pedy in South Australia. Extensive work on The Outback Way now means two-wheel drive vehicles can access the route to Uluru, but a four-wheel drive is recommended. Permits are required for these remote roads, so make The Great Beyond Visitor Centre your first stop to grab your permit and some valuable travel advice. Refresh your driving eyes and immerse yourself in outback life with a night or two at Laverton's hotel, motel or caravan park.
The biggest city in the Australian outback, Kalgoorlie is a vibrant mix of gold rush history, grand colonial buildings and immense mining operations, surrounded by some of the most dazzling spring wildflowers and eerie gold-rush ghost towns. You can get there by air, road, rail or guided tour from Perth. Flights and TransWA trains depart daily. Or, hit the Great Eastern Highway for the 600 kilometres (seven-hour) road trip from the city to the outback, stopping to ride one of Australia's biggest waves at Wave Rock. 'Kal', as the locals call it, was born during the 1880s gold rush, when thousands of starry-eyed prospectors made the journey east of Perth to seek their fortunes. Today, their legacy lives on in magnificent architecture and one of the world's largest open-cut mines - the Super Pit. At 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, the pit produces 900,000 ounces of gold each year and makes a mind-blowing experience for those who join the guided tour. There are riches in Kalgoorlie's centre too, particularly on Hannan Street (named after Irishman Paddy Hannan who struck gold in 1893) where you'll find a buzz of lively bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants. For a real slice of gold rush life and Goldfields culture, check out the Kalgoorlie-Boulder WA Museum, the Royal Flying Doctor's Visitor Centre and the art galleries featuring the works of Aboriginal and Goldfields artists. Venturing north to the vast salt pan of Lake Ballard, you'll find yourself in the largest outdoor art gallery on Earth - the Inside Australia exhibit by world-renowned artist Antony Gormley. Continue further to Leonora and the ghost town of Gwalia, and you'll stumble upon the home of America's 31st President, Herbert Hoover. Golfers should swing by the multi-million dollar international golf course that's rapidly becoming one of the world's top desert courses. It marks the beginning of the Nullarbor Links - the longest golf course on Earth. Accommodation wise there are many options, from camping and caravan parks to hotels and motels. You'll even find free 24 hour overnight caravan parking near the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Shire Office.
Visit the ghost town of Broad Arrow
Broad Arrow is a 'Ghost Town’ located 38 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie on the road to Leonora. The town was gazetted in 1896 and at its peak during the gold rush, it had 15,000 residents, eight hotels, a soft drink factory, two breweries, a hospital and a stock exchange. By the mid-1920s the rush was over and the town was virtually abandoned. Significant finds of gold came out of Broad Arrow and it is rumoured that you can still find gold there today. Known originally as Kurawah, it is said that Broad Arrow changed its name when a prospector found gold and marked his way back to the spot with Broad Arrows. While you are in town, stop into the Broad Arrow Tavern, built-in 1896, this quintessential Aussie outback pub now provides food and accommodation to visitors. Broad Arrow is around a 7-hour drive east of Perth via Kalgoorlie.
Kennedy Range National Park
The beautiful gorges and red rock landscape of Kennedy Range National Park are about a 2-hour drive east of Carnarvon. Perfect for a four-wheel-drive adventure, Kennedy Range National Park is the place to go camping under a star-filled night sky where you're surrounded by pristine wilderness. Go bushwalking and explore gorges and sandstone cliffs, see native animals, birds and look out over the vast plains of pastoral leases. Rising to 100 metres above the valley, the Kennedy Range plateau has dominated the surrounding plains for millions of years. With red dunes, Spinifex, Wattle and Mallee trees scattered throughout the area, this is what the Aussie outback is all about. Bushwalking trails run from the northern visitor site and camping area and take you into gorges where you'll see honeycomb-like rock formations. The best time to visit is late autumn and early spring. From Perth, it's a 2-day drive to the Kennedy Range National Park. Camping in Western Australia's natural areas is a special experience. Selected campgrounds from across the state are now bookable online for a trial period. Tourists are advised to check for alerts and road/park closures before commencing their travel on www.emergency.wa.gov.au and https://alerts.dbca.wa.gov.au
The world's largest monolith, Mount Augustus, is two and a half times the size of Uluru. It's an awesome sight, whether you're gazing up at the 750-metre high summit from its 49-kilometre scenic base trail (four-wheel drive only) or snapping shots from the Emu Hill Lookout. At sunrise and sunset, the colours change from cool greens and blues to golden glows. Standing proudly in the north-west of the Gascoyne-Murchison region, 360 kilometres from Meekatharra, you'll need to allow at least two days to drive here from Perth. A closer look will reveal ancient rock art and the mysterious caves of the Wadjari Aboriginal people, who call the ancient landmark 'Burringurrah'. For thousands of years, the rock's natural springs have been a source of water for the Wadjari people, and you can see evidence of their habitation at the Mundee, Ooramboo and Beedoboondu visitor sites. Surrounded by gum trees, wattle and many native trees and shrubs, the area is also a haven for wildlife, from emus, kangaroos and goannas to kookaburras, honeyeaters and birds of prey. To stay safe when visiting this attraction, please visit the website for more information.
Discover more in Western Australia
- Broome & North West
- Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve
- Cape Leveque
- Coral Bay
- Eco Beach
- Eighty Mile Beach
- El Questro Station
- Exmouth and The Coral Coast
- Gibb River Road
- Karijini National Park
- Kennedy Range National Park
- Lake Ballard
- Margaret River
- Mitchell River National Park
- Ningaloo Marine Park
- Perth & Surrounds
- Pilbara Region
- Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)
- Rottnest Island
- Shark Bay World-Heritage Area
- The Golden Outback
- The Pinnacles