Kalgoorlie is a very interesting and unique place. You could say that it is the real wild wild west.
Some of the streets are still home to historic buildings, dating back to the late 1800’s, when gold was just starting to be discovered here. It’s a place where some of the oldest brothels in the country still operate on the main street, directly across the road from the Post Office in fact.
In Kalgoorlie there are boards outside the pubs with the names of the skimpys that will be working that night. Locals head to outback pubs on dirt buggys, taking the back roads and showing up covered in mud. A super pit operates literally at the end of the main street, pulling out millions of dollars in gold each week and operating 24 hours a day.
It’s crazy and hectic and wonderful all at once.
After crossing the Nullarbor and arriving in Western Australia we decided to head north to explore a little bit of the Western Australian Outback, before we headed down to the coast. So we arrived in Kalgoorlie, with no expectations, ready to see more of this very different part of Australia.
Getting to Kalgoorlie
Kalgoorlie can be found 596 kilometres east of Perth. It’s about a six and a half hour drive from the capital, through The Wheatbelt region of the Golden Outback.
Since we were coming from South Australia, we first arrived at Norseman at the end of the Nullarbor. From there, it was short two hour drive north (approximately 189 kilometres) and we arrived in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
If you would prefer to fly, there is also an airport in the city. Kalgoorlie-Boulder Airport (KGI) has direct daily flights to and from Perth with both Virgin Australia and Qantas.
Our guide to the best things to do in Kalgoorlie:
The Kalgoorlie Super Pit
The largest open pit gold mine in Australia, and one of the largest in the world, the Kalgoorlie Super Pit is quite amazing. It’s 3.5 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres wide and more than 500 metres deep, and is made up of around 260 individual mining leases that are all joined together. 15 million tonnes of rock is moved from the Super Pit each year, which results in about 800,000 ounces of gold.
It’s attracts visitors not just because of it’s size, but also because of it’s famous blasts where an explosion will break away a little more of the pit. The blasts happen three to four times a week between 7am and 6pm. There is a great lookout at the Super Pit, giving you views over the whole operation. It’s surprisingly close to town, only a five minute drive from the main street. The lookout is open from 7am until 7pm each day, but can be closed in the case of extreme weather.
The Super Pit also operates tours if you want to actually go inside the pit and get a close up look of all the action. Each Monday to Saturday you can choose to take either a one and a half or two and a half hour tour into the pit to learn more about their operations and what they do there.
To find out more head to kalgoorlietours.com.au or call (08) 9021 2211
Address: 250 Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie
Boulder Historical Street
Beautifully preserved, the main street of Boulder looks just like it did 100 years ago in it’s gold rush hey day. The buildings have so much detail, it’s a lovely drive down the main street of town. Many of the buildings are still filled with different kinds of shops and businesses, so there’s still a lot of hustle and bustle happening here on week days.
To learn more about the city and it’s history stop into the Boulder Town Hall, where you will find the Goldfields War Museum. Or jump on the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Tram, which is more of a tourist attraction than a form of transportation. On board your driver will share entertaining and informative facts about Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the landmarks you’re driving past. Not operating all the time, check with the Visitors Centre for timetables and more information.
Play a game of Two-Up
Apparently playing two up isn’t legal in Australia, except for at this small shed in Kalgoorlie. Every Sunday locals gather here to either join in or watch the action, as large bets are placed on the game which is essentially a game of heads or tails with two coins. Seriously, there is some BIG money moving around here.
The game is played in the city’s original corrugated iron shed and bush ring on Sunday afternoons, starting at about 1:30pm and continuing well into the afternoon. You’re welcome to just go and observe, but bring some pineapples with you if you want to join in. The handful of change we grabbed from the car was definitely not going to cut it.
There’s a food truck near the entrance as well, serving hot food and drinks if you get hungry.
Address: Goldfields Highway, Kalgoorlie
Eat your way around the city
As you drive around the city of Kalgoorlie you will no doubt notice heaps of modern restaurants and bars that have been popping up around the city. Mixed in with the old school pubs, there are lots of more hipster food options in Kalgoorlie, with beer gardens covered in fairy lights all over the place.
Some of the favourites include:
- Cecilia’s On Hay
- Prime West Grill
- Restaurant 259 at the York Hotel
- Blue Monkey Restaurant
- Paddy’s Eat & Drink
Mount Charlotte Lookout
Head to the lookout at Mount Charlotte Reservoir for the best views over the city of Kalgoorlie. From here you can see all the way from the super pit to the main streets of town, and it’s definitely best viewed at sunset to take advantage of that golden hour.
Mount Charlotte is actually the water terminus for the town, with water piped in across 563 kilometres from Mundaring Weir in Perth. This is one of the longest pipelines in the country, especially for fresh water and it has been used since it was built in 1903.
Address: Sutherland Street, Williamstown
Visit the oldest brothel in Australia
Whether you want to take a tour inside or just do a drive by like we did, the oldest brothel in Australia can be found right in the heart of Kalgoorlie. In fact, Case Questa, or The Pink House as it’s known to locals, is on one of the main streets in the city, just around the corner from the Post Office. Operating for more than 120 years since it opened in the late 1890’s, this is definitely a very unique piece of Kalgoorlie’s history.
Look I’m going to be honest, brothels are not my thing, I’m not interested, don’t want to know and certainly wasn’t going to do a tour of the premises. But brothels are a huge part of Kalgoorlie’s mining history, and it’s actually a highly recommended tour by the Visitors Centre to learn more about the region.
Address: 133 Hay Street, Kalgoorlie
Take a road trip along the Golden Quest Discovery Trail
If you’ve got a couple of days to spare, check out more of the Western Australian Outback with a road trip along the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. Home to all kinds of random gems, the highlights of this road trip will take you to a real life ghost town, Australia’s most remote art exhibition, a lake that swirls pinks and purples, and a collection of random outback pubs.
It’s a part of the country that few choose to explore, but is definitely an interesting piece of country. Be careful of road trains if you’re driving in this part of the outback, you’re likely to see some of the biggest trucks you’ve ever seen in your life out here.
Where to stay in Kalgoorlie
During our visit we stayed in the Kalgoorlie Goldfields Discovery Parks and it was fantastic. We felt safe and comfortable, and were happy to leave our van there as we drove out into the outback. The facilities were modern and clean, and overall we were very happy with our stay.
Before we arrived in Kalgoorlie, we read many negative reviews about different caravan parks in the area (not this one), where people felt unsafe, or where they were turned away with a caravan and told that the park was only for miners not tourists, or where they had strange people wandering through the caravan park at night.
I’m not sure if any of these reviews were true (normally I try not to read reviews, but we didn’t know the best area to stay in Kalgoorlie) and most of the time take negative reviews with a grain of salt, but they did make me a little anxious and nervous. The only reason I’m sharing that is because we definitely did not have any of those experiences at Kalgoorlie Goldfields and couldn’t have felt more safe during our stay. We highly recommend staying here during your visit to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
Address: 286 Burt Street, Boulder || Ph: (08) 9039 4800
Find out more: Kalgoorlie Goldfields Discovery Parks
Although it might be easily overlooked by many travellers, we actually loved explore Kalgoorlie and this random part of Western Australia. We originally headed to Kalgoorlie to check out the Super Pit, but we quickly realised that there’s so much more to explore here. Add it to your big lap itinerary, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.