By: Tatum Stafford
Soak up Western Australia’s rich gold rush history with a road trip along the fascinating Golden Quest Discovery Trail.
Passing fascinating landscapes, historic hotels, active gold mines and some of the region’s most recognisable ghost towns, the Golden Quest Discovery Trail is one of WA’s most iconic road trip itineraries. Here’s how to complete it in three days.
|Distance||655km from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie|
|Best time to go||May to September, for pleasant temperatures and the beginning of the Goldfields’ wildflower season.|
|Access and safety||Some roads are unsealed, so four-wheel drives are advised. When travelling through remote areas, bring extra fuel and supplies with you.|
Day one: Coolgardie to Kookynie (350km)
Start your trip in Coolgardie, a town considered the birthplace of Western Australia’s gold rush. Take a stroll down the main street to view an array of grand, heritage-listed buildings, local museums and the historic railway station. Head north-east to begin the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, passing through Ora Banda and Goongarri to Menzies.
Once you’ve reached Menzies, take a worthy detour to view the Antony Gormley sculptures on Lake Ballard. Officially the world’s largest outdoor art gallery, the 51 black steel sculptures scattered across the salt lake each represent a local Menzies resident. Each is connected by dotted ‘footsteps’, so a stroll around the lake will give you the best view of the artwork up close.
Continue north, stopping at Niagara Dam before arriving in Kookynie. Virtually a ghost town with only 13 permanent residents, here you can try your hand at fossicking for gold, explore ruins of old shops and town buildings, and enjoy a pub meal at the historic Grand Hotel (and its resident horse) before hitting the hay. Camping sites or rooms at the Grand can be booked in advance.
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Day two: Kookynie to Leonora (70km)
Start the day with a detour to another famous Goldfields ghost town, Gwalia. Once home to a mine managed by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st President of the United States, the ghost town today houses a museum, general store, hotel and a range of abandoned homes and businesses to wander around. Pick up a map at the Gwalia Museum for more information about the town’s ‘ghost’ status.
Next, head east to the township of Laverton, the northernmost site on this trail. It marks the starting point of the Outback Way, which links Kalgoorlie with Alice Springs and Winton in Queensland. Here you’ll find a museum devoted to the town’s early pioneers, an Indigenous art gallery, a number of four-wheel drive adventure tracks and a panoramic lookout over the Windarra Nickel Mine.
Spend the night in Leonora, a large township with plenty of amenities. Avid birdwatchers should make a side trip to Malcolm Dam, a haven for a variety of native bird species with plenty of scenic bushwalking trails. Accommodation options include campgrounds, caravan parks or basic motel rooms.
Day three: Leonora to Kalgoorlie-Boulder
Continue west towards Kalgoorlie, passing stunning outback landscapes and bursts of wildflowers in springtime. Aim to arrive by midday so you have plenty of time to visit town attractions.
A ‘must’ on any Kalgoorlie itinerary is the Super Pit. Sitting just outside of the township, this 1.5km-wide pit is one of Australia’s largest active gold mines, with close to 900,000 ounces of gold harvested here each year. If you’re eager to try your hand at gold fossicking, there are a handful of tour operators in town that can lead you to gold hotspots, lend you detectors and give helpful hints on how to scout out nuggets.
Other popular attractions in Kalgoorlie include the picturesque Mount Charlotte summit, the miniature Bavarian Castle in Hammond Park, the Museum of the Goldfields and the historic Exchange Hotel.
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail links in with the Green Trail, created to highlight the biodiversity in and around this section of the Goldfields. If you’re hoping to extend your Goldfields road trip, consider adding the below townships to your itinerary.
Located 40km north of Kalgoorlie, the ghost town of Broad Arrow was abandoned in the mid-1920s and today houses a quintessential Aussie outback pub, the Broad Arrow Tavern. In fact, it’s the only building in town still standing.
This purpose-built mining town less than 60km south of Kalgoorlie is packed with fascinating natural attractions. Start at the Red Hill Lookout and Walk Trail for 360-degree views of the township, visit the 510sqm Lake Lefroy salt lake, and wander through part of the Great Western Woodlands to view native vegetation (notably, varieties of eucalyptus).
Ready to head off-road and explore the Goldfields?
Make sure you fuel up first – RAC members save 4 cents per litre at participating Puma Energy and Better Choice service stations.
Image credit: Tourism Western Australia
Last updated: May 2021