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John Forrest, the famous Western Australian explorer, who later became the first Premier of the State, named Mt Leonora when he camped near there on his search for the lost Leichardt expedition. Little did he realise the riches which lay beneath him. It was another 25 years before prospectors moved through the area and in 1896, the first claims were pegged and mining started soon after at Leonora and Gwalia.

The Sons of Gwalia mine was the major contributor to the area. The largest underground gold mine outside the Golden Mile, Sons of Gwalia operated continuously for 67 years until it closed in 1963.

An interesting part of the mines history is the fact that a 23-year-old mining engineer named Herbert Hoover was appointed mine manager in 1897, and commissioned the construction of a house as the mine manager's residence. Herbert Hoover later became the 31st President of the United States (1929-33) and the residence, which has recently been extensively renovated and upgraded, now serves as a quality bed and breakfast facility adjoining the Gwalia Museum.

The twin townships of Leonora and Gwalia were once joined by a 3.2km tram service which ferried workers and the general public between them. While mine workers no longer reside in Gwalia and the tram service is long gone, many of the original iron cottages in which they lived, remain today and there is plenty to see on a walk through the township including cottages and the State Hotel.

Malcolm Dam, 12kms out of Leonora, was built in 1902 to provide water for the railways and is a pleasant picnic spot. The Terraces, a beautiful breakaway formation on both sides of the Goldfields Highway, approximately 40kms North, offers some excellent views and bushwalks for the more adventurous. Prospecting is very much a favourite activity for many and there are still to this day, frequent reports of good strikes by enthusiasts and professionals armed with a little knowledge, plenty of luck and a metal detector.

The town hosts many of the Northern Goldfields events, from outback race meetings to the annual Golden Gift, a weekend of entertainment and athletics held on the Foundation Day long weekend in June.

For more information, contact the Leonora Tourist and Information Centre on 08 9037 7016.

In the early 1970's, a group of residents from Lenora and Gwalia, formed a community Museum at Gwalia, located in the mine management precinct. A historical gallery, as well as other elements of the mine and town, were over time also incorporated into the museum. The Gwalia Ghost Town and Museum offers the opportunity to look at various aspects of mining history in the region, as well as a strong Italian influence brought about by a large contingent of Italian miners who worked and lived there. In addition to the townsite buildings, visitors can explore the Assay Office, Mine Manager's House, the headframe, woodline steam engines and the Leonora-Gwalia tram. Allow 1 to 3 hours to cover the museum precinct and then enjoy coffee, cake or lunch on the verandah of Hoover House. Open 9:00am to 4:00pm daily (excluding Christmas Day).

While some people have an appreciation for collecting stamps, trinkets, or shoes, the Goldfields are proud to feature Gwalia's Number Plate Collection, just one of the many stories on show from Gwalia's past.

For more information, visit

Gwalia 1
Photo courtesy of Brad Donaldson

Gwalia 2
Photo courtesy of Brad Donaldson

Photo courtesy of Tourism Western Australia