Kalgoorlie developed rapidly after the discovery of gold in the hills, as did many of the settlements around the area.
The mining industry is still the main employer in town.
You can get to Kalgoorlie on public transport; there are buses and even a train out of Perth, plus one flight a day to the tiny little airport. You would however be seriously limited once you get here without your own transport. There aren’t enough visitors to run organised tours and virtually everything requires a drive from the centre of town. There are some buses (they don’t run on Saturday afternoons or on Sundays) but really you need your own transport to get around.
I visited as part of my little road trip. It is around 600 kilometres inland from Perth.
Things to do in town
This is the Trip Advisor number 2 thing to do in Kalgoorlie (number one is the visitor centre).
There are tours where you can go down into the pit (it is still a working mine) but I felt snapping a photo from the observation deck was enough for me.
There is some discussion about what will happen to the pit once it closes. One suggestion put forward is to make it into a Super Casino, making Kalgoorlie into a kind of Australian Las Vegas. However no decision has been made yet.
North tourist mine
Actually this was far more interesting than I thought it would be. They have recreated a mine as it would have been in the gold rush, with boards giving out more information.
The gist is that life was tough in the pioneering days.
You can even pan for gold yourself here with some handy instructions on how to do it.
Casa Cuesta (Kalgoorlie’s oldest brothel)
They run tours every day at 3pm. For AUS$25 you can go inside, hear about the history of the brothel and see a couple of the ‘play rooms’.
It does seem a somewhat bizarre thing to do; the fact that these tours exist at all suggests to me that the income of a brothel-keeper may not be what it used to be (my landlady said that brothels are being squeezed out by ‘Chinese girls who work from private flats and pay no taxes’. Great; just like any other business we’re all being undercut by the Chinese).
On the day I visited, Casa Cuesta were down to just one girl and they’re not allowed to advertise for more (encouraging women to enter sex work is against the law; instead they have to wait until somebody already in the profession contacts them).
These tours are very popular with older people who like to message their grandkids to tell them they’re in a brothel. I did find it interesting; there is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding the prostitution laws and the owner herself is forced to live a double life, telling her friends that she runs a boarding house.
Mount Charlotte lookout.
This is the end of the giant water pipe. I had seen the beginning just a few days before in Mundaring, on the outskirts of Perth. I then followed along beside it all the way here, and then got to see where it ends.
It cannot be overstated how much the provision of water changed the lives of people living in the Goldfields towns.
Water was more valuable than gold in the old prospecting days. Many people died through lack of water and diseases resulting from poor sanitation. Houses frequently burnt down because there was no water to put out the fires.
The rich would buy new clothes when their old ones got dirty, since this was cheaper than wasting water washing clothes. This is a technique I often consider when I’m travelling and struggling to find a launderette.
This is a gambling game that involves betting on the toss of a coin (it’s a little more complicated than that but this is the gist). The game is legal to play only on Sundays and only at this hut, just on the edge of town.
A large park/bushwalk on the outskirts of the town. Great spot for some exercise and there are some seriously expensive properties in the roads around it.
Out of town
Including Lake Ballard and the Anthony Gormley statues. You can read my post here.
Also worth a visit is the town of Coolgardie, just 32 kms west of Kalgoorlie. Coolgardie is very small. It has a similar history to Kalgoorlie, having developed rapidly following the discovery of gold. Don’t expect it to be Party Central.
When I mentioned I was travelling to Kalgoorlie, the response I got from most Aussies was ‘why?’, making me stop and question why I wanted to go so much. However I thought it was a fascinating city. I wouldn’t want to live there, but fascinating all the same. I wish now that I’d spent more time exploring the ghost towns and near ghost towns in the area, however the driving distances are huge and you have to pick and choose what interests you the most; you can’t see everything.
However for the person who said to me ‘what are you going to do in Kalgoorlie for four days?’, completely incredulous that I could be spending that long, here is the answer. 3-4 days is probably about right.