On September 17, 1892, Arthur Bayley rode into Southern Cross with 554 ounces of gold that he and his partner, William Ford, had found at an area called Fly Flat, 120 miles to the east of that town. Within hours of the pair registering their claim, a frenzied rush began for Coolgardie, starting the biggest movement of people in Australian history.

Just six months later, there were thousands of people living in tents on the Goldfields and the population of Western Australia had increased by 400%. Given the distance from Perth, the conditions of transportation and negotiable roadways, the droves of people travelled the 550kms any way they could, by bicycle, dray, horse, or walking, carrying their belongings on their backs. However, while some found gold, many only found hardship, sickness and death, as the booming settlement suffered the associated rigours of inadequate housing, fresh water, food, medical supplies and attention.

Within a decade, Coolgardie became WA's third largest town with a population of 16,000, and many more thousands living in areas surrounding the township. This extraordinary development was the impetus for the development of the Goldfields Water Scheme and the Eastern Goldfields Railway, two factors which were vital in the economic and social development of the Eastern Goldfields. While the surface gold ran out and the original mine, Bayley's Reward, closed in 1963, Coolgardie has retained many of its magnificent buildings associated with its rich and colourful past. 

Today, Coolgardie offers tourists a fabulous heritage precinct.  There is plenty to see and do in and around Coolgardie and visitors should allow at least a day to ensure they don't miss the Goldfields Exhibition Museum, Railway Museum, Warden Finnerty's Residence, Pioneer and Coolgardie Cemeteries, Ben Prior's Park and a walk along Bayley Street to view the heritage architecture.

Then there are a multitude of day trips such as the Cave Hill Nature Reserve, Burra Rocks, Mt Burgess (the Gorge featuring remains of an extinct volcano), Kunanalling Hotel ruins, Widgiemooltha's Larkinville Mine (where the largest gold nugget ever found in WA was discovered in 1931), Victoria Rocks, Rowles Lagoon and Jack Carins' Camp (where prospector Jack Carins lived in isolation for 30 years).

For more information, contact the Coolgardie Visitor Centre on (08) 9026 6090.

 

Coolgardie 1
Photo courtesy of Jessica Wood

Coolgardie 2
Photo courtesy of Jessica Wood