GOLD RUSH

Following the spectacular Holland Track then exploring the huge WA Goldfields is one of those once in a lifetime epic trips. It combines tough, technical 4WDing, remote bush camping, exploring areas that are barely known or visited and you’ll experience some absolutely beautiful parts of outback Australia.

TACKLING THE HOLLAND

The most exciting way to get to Coolgardie and your trip into the Goldfields is to follow the historic Holland Track. Tough touring doesn’t get any better than this, with ever-changing track conditions – you’ll have to contend with ruts, bogholes, sand and bulldust. Starting at Hyden, top off your tanks and fill up on supplies then follow the Hyden-Lake King Road and turn left to start on the Holland Track.

Find a campsite before dark on one of the many clearings and expect to camp for at least one or two nights along the track before you reach Coolgardie. We wrote a full article on the Holland in Issue 238 so if check it out for more info. Arriving for lunch in Coolgardie, Australia’s original gold rush town, fuel up the tanks and jerrys and re-stock your food and water.

THE GOLDFIELDS

Low scrub and red dirt borders the town with your route beginning north along Coolgardie North Road, to the old Premier Hotel ruins. The Golden Heritage quest trail runs throughout the Goldfields and can be used as a trip route in itself, or if you are feeling even more adventurous you can pick your own route throughout the land ahead like we did.

The first afternoon, make a plan to head to Credo Station about 80km North of Coolgardie. Credo is a former pastoral lease now managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW). The homestead has facilities such as showers and toilets and it’s like a little oasis in the middle of no where. Like us, you might opt to head out along the numerous station tracks to some old dams marked on our maps in search of a feed of yabbies and some secluded bush camping. We were rewarded with full nets and cooked them up over the fire in a clearing near the dam. Now this is camping – remote, self-sufficient and a belly full of fresh yabbies!

EXPLORING THE AREA

Waking up the following day you can check out the nearby Rowles Lagoon before heading past some old mining operations. Both open pit mines and small uncovered mine shafts are everywhere in the region, which gives you a good chance to check them out if permitted. Beware getting too close to the high walls, as some areas are unstable. After a morning of exploration there’s plenty of time to visit a couple of iconic bush pubs still standing after a long history through the Goldrush era.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”If you have the fuel range, there’s no limit to what you can explore”[/blockquote]

Following a zig zag of old single lane and overgrown tracks you can stop in at Ora Banda Historical Inn where we suggest you stop for a burger and refreshments. Take your time to have a look about the pub, with historical pieces found throughout its walls and bar tops, local gold nuggets on display and folders full of history for you to go through. Second on the agenda is drive to the nearby Broad Arrow Tavern, famous for its name-covered walls of travellers who have stopped by and left their mark. As these small businesses rely heavily on the tourist dollar, head in and see the staff and support them into the future.

The next day you’ll be heading back into deep scrub so it’s a good idea to take a run up the blacktop about 90km to Menzies where you can top up the tanks again. The small abandoned town of Davyhurst about 50km South West from Menzies was home for us that night as we laid out camp in a clearing under favourable sky. As sunset approached we took the opportunity to explore the old town site, now levelled and littered with small relics of times past. It is well worth a good walk around to see what you uncover. Old billy tins, glass bottles and even an old door lock plate were just some of the items we came across in the area being taken back by the scrub.

MORE TOUGH TRACKS

Day three will see you head 200 km from Davyhurst toward Mt Elvire, a former pastoral lease acquired by the government after the owners were busted for growing a certain crop… On the way along the Menzies – Evanston Rd, Hospital Rocks towers from the earth and is one of the largest Granite outcrops in the region. Low range was selected as we crawled up the rock face to Summit for a 360° view of the land around, and the most peaceful silence you will hear(or rather not hear) anywhere!

Bustling with native lizards and birdlife sustained by the natural water pools in the rocks, it is well worth a stop for lunch and would even make for a beautiful bush camp too. Our trip along the gravel access road was easy thanks to recent maintenance but it will get rough and treacherous in parts if it hasn’t been graded recently. We had to hit the anchors a few times for wild cattle roaming the tracks and space out the vehicles due to the bulldust being kicked up as we moved along – as always don’t let yourself get distracted.

OUTBACK LUXURIES

Arriving at Mt Elvire, a small homestead meets you after emerging from the single lane access track that weaves between rocky outcrops and the remnants of old stock yards and in recent years a drop toilet and fire pits have been installed at the campsite. We set about preparing a stew and spent the remainder of the day exploring the station tracks.

You have to head up to Mt Elvire itself where breathtaking views over Lake Barlee fill the horizon. Lake Barlee is the second biggest lake in Western Australia and really is a sight to be seen, usually dry, once every 10 years or so it fills for a short period and supports breeding for the local birdlife. A radio tower has been erected at the homestead, which provided AM/FM radio, invaluable for getting the latest weather reports for the region. Not only that, it’ll keep you updated on the football scores as well – talk about living the high life!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Leaving Mt Elvire homestead head toward Bullfinch and then onto Southern Cross via the Evanston – Bullfinch road. Numerous unmarked tracks weave through the bush linking small rocky outcrops and government wells and soaks from back in the day. If you have the fuel range, there’s no limit to what you can explore if you push even further off the beaten path.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”WA tough touring dosen’t get any better than this”[/blockquote]

We had originally planned to head to the Mt Manning and the Helena and Aurora ranges on our journey south for our last nights camp but had to continue on as the rear brakes were beginning to fail on the ‘Cruiser. Passing Lake Deborah and the Rabbit Proof Fence was a highlight and very scenic with the ranges off into the distance. Wildflowers starting to bloom were a stark contrast to the usually arid environment and worth stopping for a photo when a particular bright pocket of pink, yellow and purple fills your windscreen.

The road crosses over active mining access roads so to stay out of trouble follow the signs when you come to them. Also be wary of old mind shafts dug away just on the edge of the track. These litter the bush out here and are usually not marked so caution should be taken when moving away from any track itself, as these hidden hazards well and truly exist.  Nearing Southern Cross, we decided our best chance was to head to Kalgoorlie along the highway to repair the brakes and finish up our epic trip.

WRAPPING UP YOUR TRIP

The beauty about the Goldfields region is there is so much to explore and you could easily do multiple trips and not touch any areas you’ve travelled before.  Its isolation and beauty is what attracts people to the region, not to mention some prospecting, and it should be treated with respect as it can turn around and bite travellers who are under-prepared.

The rewards however, are unearthing history of times long past and exploring areas very few people will ever get a chance to see. One thing is for sure though, there’s a feed in the dams, life on the rocks, thousands of stars in the sky and some of the nicest remote bush camping and 4WDing you will find anywhere begging to be explored in the WA Goldfields – you just have to choose which way to go! 

FACT FILE

WHERE:
Our trip begins in Hyden following the Holland Track to Coolgardie then heading north into the expansive Goldfields region toward Mt Elvire and south again toward Southern Cross.

INFORMATION:
When gold was first discovered in the region, thousands flocked to seek their fortunes leading to bustling towns and infrastructure being established. Once the rush was over, these once bustling towns receeded into the scrub. With such a vast area that is the Western Australian Goldfields, there are literally 100’s of places to search and uncover the history of times past, with magnificent 4WDing, landscapes and remote area touring.

CAMPING:
There are a few station stays in the region which offer various accommodation options from cabins too basic bush camping, however 95% of the region is open for some of the nicest free bush camping you will find anywhere in the country. It is simply a matter of finding a nice spot amongst the scrub, an abandoned dam or even the numerous rocky outcrops found in the Goldfields region. Credo and Goongarrie stations are well worth a stop to explore and provide facilities such as toilets, showers and limited water supplies.

FACILITIES & AMENITIES:
Depending on how self-sufficient you are, managed stations by DPAW such as Goongarrie and Credo provide various options. Bush camping in more remote areas will have zero facilities and it is not uncommon to be hundreds of km from nearest towns in your travels.

WHAT TO TAKE:
Pack a comprehensive tool kit, basic spares and fluids, two spare tyres and tyre repair equipment. Multiple water containers and plenty of perishable, and non-perishable food including your basic survival food, flour and plenty of water. Ensure you have warm bedding, and clothes to cover the cold nights and warm days. Recovery equipment is a must, and a shovel is mandatory not only to help you out of a slushy bog if rain falls on your journey, but to turn the coals over in the fire as well. Finally pack detailed maps and it is also an idea to take a Sat Phone or have a locating beacon, and make others aware of your plans.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL:
Out here it is not uncommon to see near 50 degree days in the peak of summer, with extremely cold temps at night in winter. Spring and Autumn months are the pick with early September one of our favourite times to get out in the region as it also rewards you with the Wildflower blooms.

FUEL & SUPPLIES:
All fuel types are available in Hyden and Coolgardie with next fuel available in Menzies and then once again in Southern Cross, on the particular route taken. With so much to explore it is important to work out your basic range and exploring range. Multiple Jerry cans should be carried as back up. You should identify along your chosen route fuel availability in your planning process. All your major shopping should be done before you arrive or you can travel the extra 40km to Kalgoorlie while on the trip.

TRIP STANDARD:
In dry conditions the tracks are rated a C and require a good degree of trip preparation and self-sufficiency. After heavy rain areas may become impassable, with the dirt turning to slop. It is not uncommon to be stranded for a few days to let things dry out. For this reason we rate travel through wet conditions A and very treacherous.

TRIP TIME OF YEAR:
We travelled in early September, just after a few days of rain and with temperatures between 25-30 degrees throughout the day. Nights can still get cold.

RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
Due to mining activity, it pays to observe signage near mining lease land. Maps with lease boundaries can be found from the Department of Mines and Petroleum. Access into active mining areas, and some working station land is restricted, but usually well signed. No permits were required on our route. If you do drop into a station, head to the homestead for the courtesy to say hello.

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