After our dawn hike to the ‘summit’ of Fraser Range Station and a leisurely breakfast within earshot of the lingering emus, we packed up the Birdsville and hit the road bound for Kalgoorlie – a mere 300km away, and our shortest driving day by far!
We made a quick pitstop at the Norseman Beacon Lookout in the RV Friendly Town of Norseman along the way. The lookout has vistas over the salty red lakes, and we got our first taste of the importance of mining to this area through the informative displays there.
Not long afterwards, in the early afternoon, we arrived in Kalgoorlie and checked in to our accommodation at the Discovery Parks – Kalgoorlie.
Kalgoorlie and Boulder have distinct town centres but operate jointly as the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Australia’s largest outback city. It is home to about 33,000 people and occupies an area of 95,576 sq km. The city was built, and has long prospered, on mining – gold, in particular. And while gold mining remains at the centre of the city’s economy, tourism has sprung up around that as an important secondary industry.
THE SUPER PIT
These two industries are now intrinsically linked and nowhere is that more evident than at the KCGM Super Pit mine on the edge of town. The Super Pit, formal name Fimiston Open Pit, is the biggest open pit gold mine by size (not production) in Australia – it is roughly 3.6km long, 1.5km wide and about 570m deep. Apparently, it’s large enough to be seen from space!
Every inch of the megalithic pit is a working gold mine but operator KCGM has created a tourist attraction around it which is now Kalgoorlie’s number one tourism drawcard. There is a large lookout hanging out over the impressive hole, the daily ‘blasts’ are publicised for those who want to see stuff get blown up, a pictorial history of the mine and Kalgoorlie’s goldrush is laid out, and there’s even a huge shovel you can climb inside.
Standing on the lookout waiting for the blast, it was almost impossible to comprehend the size of the Super Pit beneath us. People on the ground were completely invisible; even making out trucks crawling along the lower walls of the pit was difficult, yet the place absolutely buzzed with activity. It was easiest for me to imagine it as a computer game, or a whole different world, playing out in front of me in miniature.
Our next stop was Kalgoorlie’s infamous Two-Up Shed, about 7km, or 10 minutes, out of town. The old corrugated tin shed, dating back to the 1950s, is a relic of a bygone era – a large, circular arena with rudimentary seating surrounding the pitted and cracked concrete centre. The game of Two Up – which traditionally involves betting on which way two pennies will fall (heads or tails) when thrown into the air – rose to prominence during the gold rush of the 1880s and has a somewhat checkered history in Australia. It is now only legal to play on ANZAC Day and in specific venues such as casinos – and the Kalgoorlie Two-Up Shed. Games run there every Sunday and attract a large crowd of tourists and locals, with funds raised going to local community groups.
After a brief afternoon siesta back at the Discovery Parks – Kalgoorlie because, well, why not, we ventured into the historic town centre of Kalgoorlie – Hannan Street – for a beer and a meal. There were people about but the town lacked the vibrant Friday night buzz I had expected, although it did make it easy to park the big Birdsville in an angle park adjacent to the main street!
Roadworks up the middle of the street took away from its charm, somewhat, but the grand old buildings lining the street were still impressive and the names of the infamous Kalgoorlie hotels jumped out at us everywhere we looked – the Exchange, the Australia, the York, the Palace. We picked the balcony of the beautiful Palace Hotel (c. 1897) for happy hour before heading back to the Exchange Hotel – home to Kalgoorlie’s infamous ‘skimpy’ barmaids – for dinner at the surprisingly wholesome and family-friendly Paddy’s restaurant.
Back at the caravan park, we settled in for the night, making sure to visit the hotel-quality bathrooms the reception staff had told us about! Recently renovated, the bathrooms were seriously impressive for caravan park amenities!
Bright and early the next day, we bid goodbye to Kal and headed west for Fremantle – the last leg of our Cross-Country Epic.
Not far out of Kal, we came across what we would later discover was the first of nearly 200km of roadworks, stretching from Kalgoorlie to well past Coolgardie, and turning our expected six-hour trip into a much longer proposition.
Our next stop was the RV Friendly Town of Coolgardie and, here, we happened across one of those experiences that really makes your day. We pulled up outside a grand old building and wandered up the street to check out another, the Coolgardie RSL.
Long after Coolgardie, we eventually passed all the roadworks and had a clear and uneventful run into Perth. We skirted the city to the south and – seven days and 3900km after we left Melbourne – we pulled into our final destination – the Discovery Parks – Woodman Point holiday park (see page 188), on the edge of the Indian Ocean.
The park was bustling with weekenders enjoying happy hour as we parked up in the late afternoon light. We took advantage of the captive audience to do some fundraising for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and had a great response from park-goers.
As the light softened, we set off on foot via a bush path to nearby Woodman Point beach – about 10 minutes’ walk away – to watch the sun set over the ocean; a truly Western Australian experience.
And so it ended – our seven day, 3900km Cross-Country Epic, ably transported from Melbourne to Perth in the comfortable Avida Birdsville, with a lifetime of memories and experiences under our seatbelts.
Check out the Avida Cross Country trip overview!
If you feel inspired by the Avida Cross-Country Epic, please consider donating to help the NBCF achieve its goal of zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030. You can donate here:
The full destination piece appears in Caravan World #565 2017. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!