Travel & Touring | WA Road Trips

By: Chris Morton

Forged in 1893 by John Holland, the Holland Track is the longest cart road ever carved in Australia.

Originally built as a short cut for miners travelling to the Goldfields from the south, today the track offers a great four-wheel drive adventure for novice and experienced drivers alike. Starting in Hyden, the track winds its way through a changing landscape finally ending in historic Coolgardie.

Distance and days 680km, allow three days.
Best time to go Autumn through to spring. Avoid travelling if the area has experienced heavy rain or during the hotter summer months.

What you'll need to know

This is a four-wheel drive track and is not recommended for all-wheel drive or two-wheel drive vehicles. Towing of camper trailers and small caravans is possible but some sections can be extremely tight. Vehicles should be well maintained as there is no opportunity to resupply once you commence.

Ensure that you carry adequate fuel, water and food and are competent to self-recover if required. Drop tyre pressures to suit track conditions and keep your speed down. Speeding over corrugations is not only dangerous but can result in serious vehicle damage. Watch for oncoming traffic.

RELATED: A beginner's guide to taking your 4WD off road »

Holland Track road trip itinerary

For the best historically accurate experience, it is recommended that you travel from Hyden to Coolgardie.

Perth to Hyden - 339km

Best known for Wave Rock, Hyden also boasts multiple granite outcrops, famous for the greatest number of species of wild orchids (20 varieties, some extremely rare) than anywhere else in the state’s south-west. All are protected, as the plants die if flowers are picked. Altogether, there are 2,500 species of flora known from the Hyden region.

Hyden to Wave Rock - 4km

Formed after 2,700 million years of weathering, Wave Rock stands 15m high and extends for 110m. Another interesting formation at the northern foot of Hyden Rock is a hollowed-out boulder shed from the upper slopes. Its distinctive shape has led to it becoming known as Hippo’s Yawn. About 18km northwards another large granite outcrop known descriptively as The Humps features Mulka’s Cave, a cavern associated with ancient Aboriginal legend.

Immediately adjacent to the Wave Rock formation is ‘Pioneer Town’, displaying a collection of memorabilia including a general store dating from the 1930s. There is also a wildlife park. Over 50 varieties of wildflower are on display at the Wave Rock Wildflower Shop which features the ‘Bushtucker Restaurant’ and ‘The Lace Place’ (said to be the largest collection of lace in the southern hemisphere) and also houses the Hyden Tourist Information.

RELATED: Perth to Wave Rock road trip  »

Wave Rock to No. 1 Rabbit Proof Fence - 50km

Heading north east, your first feature is the fence. Extending from Starvation Boat Harbour to Cape Keraudren, this section of the 1,822km fence line is still maintained. A permit is required if you travel along the maintenance track.

Sheoak Rock

Approximately 5km further on, this low granite outcrop, the site of a trigonometrical station, is named after the Swamp Oak or Sheoak, a Casuarina species common around the base of granite tors. These trees actually occur as separate male and female plants.

Native Rocks

Native Rocks is another 16km up the tracks and was recorded for the scattered flat rocks during a traverse by surveyor H A Smith in 1927.

Wattle Rocks

Named by surveyor H A Smith in 1927 after the Acacia Wattles prevalent throughout the area, Wattle Rocks is a short 6km away.

Mallee Fowl's Nest

Keep your eyes peeled at the 1.8km mark past Wattle Rocks. This nest alongside the track was active in April 1995 and appeared to still be in 2013. This beautifully marked turkey-sized bird survives only in a few wilderness areas.

Mount Holland

Less than 19km from the Mallee Fowl’s nest, Mount Holland provides an impressive vantage point over the surrounding terrain. A gnamma hole, discovered by Holland’s party is also in the vicinity. Marvel Loch is located 90km north along a formed gravel road. Another 31km will bring you to Sandalwood Rocks.

Sandalwood Rocks

Named by Holland after he reported finding 30 tons of sandalwood in the surrounding area, Sandalwood Rock offers a fairly open area suitable for larger groups to stop for the night. The sandalwood has long since been harvested.

Jilbadji Nature Reserve

The reserve is not a destination but more of an immersive experience through a living wonder. You will move slowly through an area that is more than 200,000 hectares which has been set aside for the protection of flora and fauna. This reserve contains several plants found nowhere else in the world. These include a mallee Eucalyptus steedmanii, a banksia Banksia audax and the native pomegranate Balaustion pulcherrimum.

Also protected are a number of interesting birds such as mallee fowl, parrots, wrens, honeyeaters, treecreepers and thornbills. Another fascinating inhabitant is the unique Thorny Devil lizard Moloch horridus.

State Barrier Fence

Just under 7km from Sandalwood Rocks, this 260km spur fence, running down from Butlers Corner on the No. 1 Rabbit Proof Fence northwards of the Wheatbelt town of Bonnie Rock, was built in 1954 to deflect emu flocks from farmlands that had extended east of the original fence. The fence ends at this remote spot because work stopped for the simple reason that the government ran out of funds.

Just past the 15km mark you will come across the Banker-Mount Day Road. This offers you quick access north to Great Eastern Highway if your circumstances dictate it.

Banker-Mount Day Road

Where the Holland Track crosses the Banker-Mount Day Road, a plaque provided by the Broomehill Historical Society was erected by Graeme Newbey and Ted Smith in May 1993. From this point it is 80km north-west on a fair dirt road to Marvel Loch.

Toovey Claypan

Just 1km south of the present track and 8.5km from the Banker-Mount Day Road, this feature is named after Henry Toovey who came across it in 1893.

Blazed Tree Camp and Centenary Rocks

Just over 23km from the crossroads, Centenary Rocks were named by Dobbie Graham, an East Hyden farmer, to commemorate the June 1993 Holland Track Centenary Expedition. Large salmon gums with old blazes cut into their trunks were situated on a rise here. The nearby Cat Camp was named by Frank Hann in 1901 after observing a black cat at his overnight camp.

Grid Line

This is a mining exploration seismic grid line, which can be followed north-west for 2km to allow a realignment onto Holland’s original route. The grid line continues north-west for 63km, reaching Great Eastern Highway at a point about 50km east of Yellowdine. The condition of the track is unknown.

Krakouer Rock

20km further on from Centenary Rocks, Krakouer Rock is named after the Krakouer brothers who accompanied Holland in 1893.

Ewing Rock

A further 7km on and about 1.5km southwards of the track, Ewing is a large rock which has a small cairn on the summit.

Agnes Gnamma Hole

Named after John Holland’s wife and 16km from Krakouer, Agnes Gamma Hole marks the southern boundary of the Goldfields Woodlands National Park.

Diamond Rock

Approximately 5km on, the present track passes on the east or high side of Diamond rock. A marked tree indicates a footpath to the rock. Do not drive onto the rock as it crushes and destroys the habitat of the small dragon lizards that live on these granite outcrops. It is well worth exploring on foot.

Thursday Rock

The presence of water on the south side of this rock led to its use as a campsite by goldfields woodcutters. Barriers have been erected to prevent vehicle access to the flats around the foot of this rock. The campsite here has plenty of space to spread out and soak up the ambience of the national park.

The original path taken by Holland has not been cleared and spending some time here will give you a greater appreciation of the challenges he faced.

Pigeon Hole

Around 9km up the track you’ll come to a turn off to Pidgeon Hole. This 18km return trip on a reasonable woodcutters’ track will allow you to visit this tiny gnamma hole. It was most likely found using an old bushman’s trick of following birds to water and was named by Holland in 1893.

Victoria Rock

About 25km from the Pidgeon Hole track and named by Holland on 13 June 1893 after Queen Victoria, Victoria Rock Nature Reserve is well equipped with barbecue facilities, picnic tables and toilets. There is a large gnamma hole on the west side of the rock.

Gnarlbine Rock

Almost at the end of your journey and a short 16km from Victoria Rock, this prominent feature and the nearby soak was one of the principal water supplies of the Coolgardie gold rush with two wells being dug here. From here you are only 30km from Coolgardie.

Coolgardie

Situated by road 557km east of Perth, Coolgardie’s growth was meteoric. With gold first being discovered at Fly Flat in 1892, the subsequent rush is said to have been the greatest movement of people in Australia’s history. Nowadays Coolgardie is overlooked by many on their way to Kalgoorlie however it is well worth stopping for a while.

Considered by some as the place that finally put Western Australia on the world stage, its architectural heritage needs to be experienced firsthand to truly appreciate it. Much of it has been lost, dismantled, and transported to other towns or destroyed, however you will be hard pressed not to hear the echoes from a bygone era just below the dusty surface.

Despite our modern luxuries, an adventure with friends and family along the Holland Track is more than that. It is a chance to disconnect from our present and reconnect with the past. Savour it and share the experience.

Ready to take on the Holland Track?

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Last updated: February 2021
Image credit: Ian Elliot