The story of Kalgoorlie in the Western Goldfields starts in 1893 when a pair of prospectors found 100 ounces of alluvial gold close by at Mount Charlotte.
So began the Western Australia Gold Rush and the gradual discovery of an immense goldfield, the Golden Mile, that continues to produce gold in huge quantities to this day.
The jumble of mines around the Golden Mile have become one pit so large that it can be seen from outer space.
With museums, gold rush-era architecture, an historic show mine and the vast Super Pit, there’s nowhere better to unearth the past and present of gold mining in Western Australia.
1. The Super Pit
For more than a century up to the 1980s Kalgoorlie’s fabled golden mile was controlled by an assortment of small operations.
This changed in 1989 with the foundation of Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Pty Ltd (KCGM), which immediately went to work excavating a single pit on such a whopping scale that it would soon be known as the Super Pit.
This can be seen from space, at 3.5 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres wide and more than 600 metres deep.
It is served by two processing plants, treating 12 million tonnes of gold ore and producing 800,000 ounces of gold each year.
To gauge the size of this chasm there’s a lookout at the top of Outram Street in Boulder.
But if you want to experience this operation firsthand you can take a 2.5-hour tour of the Super Pit, wearing a high-vis vest and safety goggles on the air-conditioned Mine-Spec Bus.
With an in-depth commentary you’ll see gigantic haul trucks up close, enjoy staggering views and find out more about the gold milling process.
2. Hannans North Tourist Mine
In the north of Kalgoorlie you can visit one of the most productive goldmines on the Eastern Goldfields.
This was Hannans North, first sunk in 1893 and worked until 1991. Now it’s a world-class mining museum, showcasing more than 120 years of local mining heritage, but also presenting some of the awe-inspiring machinery employed in the industry today.
The shaft descends to a depth of almost 400 metres on 13 levels, amazing considering the seam was initially only thought to be about 36 metres deep.
At the site you can tour historic outbuildings, try your luck panning for gold and take it easy at the calming Chinese Gardens.
For heavy duty hardware, check out the humungous Caterpillar 793C haul truck, and stand in the bucket of a 994K Large Wheel Loader.
3. Museum of the Goldfields
Hard to miss for the giant Ivanhoe headframe towering over the site, the Museum of the Goldfields gives you all the context you need about the region’s mining tradition.
First off, this museum has the largest display of Western Australia’s collection of gold bars and nuggets, all on show in the underground vault.
The museum also sends you back to the Gold Rush years, in preserved settings like a miner’s cottage, the Woodline Office and the office and boardroom of entrepreneur Claude De Bernales, lined with jarrah wood.
Bring everything to life is a big inventory of artefacts from the turn of the 20th century, as well as detailed information about the natural history and ecology of the Goldfields.
And make sure to scale that headframe, now an observation tower, for an all-encompassing view of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
4. Hammond Park
Kalgoorlie’s premier park is a verdant and immaculately-tended haven on the west side of the city.
Hammond Park has hints of gold rush opulence, exemplified by its beautiful heritage-listed rotunda with an onion dome.
This structure is more than a century old and one of the largest in Australia.
For children the park’s main event is the animal sanctuary, where you can get within a few metres of emus, kangaroos and peacocks, while there’s also a spacious pond close by with lots of ducks to feed.
A curiosity hiding in Hammond Park is a miniature Bavarian castle, the walls of which are claimed to be covered with more than 40,000 gemstones.
5. Golden Quest Discovery Trail
Kalgoorlie can be the first step on an unforgettable journey through Western Australia’s Goldfields.
This is still one of the most productive gold mining regions in the world, but has much to offer people with a taste for adventure.
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail spans almost 1,000 kilometres of stunning outback terrain, and is the ultimate way to get in touch with more than 120 years of mining heritage.
On the route, best navigated by 4WD are ghost towns, endless expanses of woodland, captivating places steeped in gold rush legend, immense modern mines and lots more.
Lake Ballard is haunting for its statues by Antony Gormley, while the outback of the Wheatbelt and Goldfields is embroidered with colourful wildflowers in spring following heavy winter rains.
6. Kalgoorlie Town Hall
One look at the Town Hall and its pedimented facade tells you all you need to know about the kind of money flushing through Kalgoorlie in the Edwardian period.
This stuccoed monument was completed in 1908, and its interior is even more richly decorated, with chandeliers, a grand staircase and intricate metalwork throughout.
The only way to look around is on a tour given by City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Heritage Services, taking place on Monday and Wednesday at 10:30. You’ll visit the municipal office, the mayor’s parlour and council chambers as well as a delightful auditorium and stage.
Your guide will fill you in on the Town Hall’s many enthralling stories and characters, while pointing out its valuable collection of art and historical memorabilia.
7. Karlkurla Bushland Park
One of the sadder aspects of the Coolgardie Gold Rush was the destruction of the eucalypt woodland that once covered most of the region, cut down to fuel wood-fired steam engines at the mines.
In an ongoing effort to make amends, this 200-hectare park in the north of Kalgoorlie-Boulder at Hannan was planted by volunteers from the community in 2000. On the park’s four-kilometre signposted trail you’ll wander among native trees and shrubs, and may catch sight of a kangaroo in the morning or evening.
There’s a lookout about 1.5 kilometres from the entrance, as well as the Eco & Cultural Education Centre that opened in the grounds of the park’s nursery in 2017. “Karlkurla” is the local Aboriginal world for “silky pear”, one of the many species now flourishing in the park.
8. Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre
Understandably a source of pride, Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service is a real lifeline for communities in the remotest parts of the outback.
Kalgoorlie’s base is crucial to the organisation’s Western Operations and was set up at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Airport in the 1930s.
The visitor centre at the base shines a light on the dedication of Flying Doctors today, but also recalls the history of the service, highlighting some of its pioneers who strived to bring healthcare to some of the most inhospitable places on the planet.
You can watch footage at the Roger Waller Theatre, and browse informative and interactive displays.
Entry is by donation and there’s a gift shop with RFDS memorabilia.
9. Palace Hotel
One of a cluster of historic hotels on Hannan Street, the Palace Hotel at No. 137 opened in 1897 and is a handsome example of Federation Architecture.
At the time it was thought to be the most luxurious hotel in Western Australia outside Perth, and was the first hotel in Kalgoorlie to have electric lighting.
Future President of the United States Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) frequented the Palace Hotel in the late-1890s when he was based in Kalgoorlie as a mining engineer.
If you pop into the foyer you’ll see a couple of artefacts from his time.
There’s a framed poem that he wrote for a barmaid that he fell for, next to an ornate mirror that he gifted to the hotel before he left Australia.
10. Questa Casa
Certainly not for everyone, Questa Casa is the last brothel still standing at what used to be the red light district on Hay Street.
If you’re into unorthodox travel experiences or need a story to tell, you can take a tour of what is claimed to be one of the world’s oldest working brothels.
This of course dates from the gold rush in the 1890s, and is a gritty but interesting snapshot of a different time.
The tour lasts around 1 hour 15 minutes, and takes you through the working areas of the house, from the “starting stalls” at the front where workers get clients, through a maze of little rooms.
Your guide will share compelling anecdotes about Kalgoorlie’s “Wild West” days, and the lives of prostitutes and the miners who thronged this outpost some 130 years ago.
11. Broad Arrow Tavern
Go north on the Goldfields Highway and in about half an hour you’ll be at the ghost town of Broad Arrow, once inhabited by 2,400 people and now little more than desert.
In 1893, when it was known as Kurawah, this became the epicentre of the Coolgardie Gold Rush as the place where gold was first discovered.
The last holdout is the Broad Arrow Tavern, which dates all the way back to 1896 and continues to offer food and accommodation for travellers.
Business is good for this outback pub, thanks in part to the revival of the mining industry.
Almost every wall is covered with handwritten notes left by past visitors, and the thing to order is famed “Broady Burger”.
12. Beaten Track Brewery
Kalgoorlie has a rich brewing tradition, and once supplied beer throughout the Eastern Goldfields.
The last brewery closed and the industry was all but forgotten by the end of the 20th century.
Brewing was finally revived in 2007 when Beaten Track was set up.
This is a boutique-sized microbrewery making an ever-changing lineup of small batch craft beers, from IPAs, to amber ales, stouts, sours and lagers.
There will always be something outlandish to try, and a new release in 2020 was a cold brew coffee-infused pale ale.
There’s a satisfying food menu, with burgers and pizza, as well as a relaxing outdoor terrace warmed by patio heaters and blankets on chilly evenings.
13. Mount Charlotte Reservoir and Lookout
Off the Goldfields Highway in the north of Kalgoorlie is an enthralling piece of local heritage.
At the site of Kalgoorlie’s first gold discovery in 1893, this reinforced concrete reservoir built into Mount Charlotte represented the region’s first assured water supply.
Able to hold 4.5m litres, the Mount Charlotte Reservoir was the culmination of an epic project, pumping water 560km from the Mundaring Weir just outside Perth.
The reservoir continues to fill its original role, but is now used as a reserve after the Mount Percy reservoir was built in the 1980s to the north.
Also at the peak of Mount Charlotte there’s a circular lookout platform for panoramic views of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the Great Western Woodlands and the mining landscape bordering the city.
14. Kalgoorlie Golf Course
Past Hammond Park and the Kalgoorlie Arboretum is an 18-hole golf course winding out into the bush.
Designed by Graham Marsh, Kalgoorlie Golf Course is ranked in the top 20 public access courses in Australia.
Each hole has an evocative name relevant to the region, like Golden Mile or Super Pit, and the fairways and greens are edged by eucalyptus trees, native shrubs and water hazards.
When we wrote this list in 2020 the driving range had just been renewed, and there are practice greens next door to help you polish your short game.
At the time of writing, greens fees were $66.50 for 18 holes.
And after your round, stop for a bite and something cold at the Waterhole Bar & Bistro, which overlooks the course.
15. Kalgoorlie Visitor Centre
Also at Kalgoorlie’s historic Town Hall is the largest tourist information centre in the whole of the Goldfields.
In such a remote region, this is an invaluable amenity for anyone who wants to see more of the Goldfields and the greater outback.
You can book transport, accommodation and tours, and pick up tons of firsthand tips, brochures and leaflets for interesting things to do and places to go.
The centre has free Wi-Fi and also sells plenty of Kalgoorlie and Goldfields-related mementoes, from handmade Aboriginal art to souvenir gold coins.