Kalgoorlie is a must see in Western Australia for several reasons. It is a city with history in a place that requires
The drive to Kalgoorlie from Perth is 7 hours of wheat fields and empty outback and other things specific to this vast country. Arriving in Kalgoorlie couldn't be a more welcome relief. It's a city with history that shines in the architecture and its wild west way of life.
This town revolves around mining, a fact that is evident around every turn. As a tourist one can't go through Kalgoorlie without visiting the Super Pit or the local Skimpy bars. Embracing the traditional way of life is just something you have to do in Kalgoorlie.
The York is one of the many historical hotels in Kalgoorlie, having been built in 1907. While the bar maids at the York and many other hotels are fully dressed, you won't have to walk far for a cheeky look at Kalgoorlie's world famous Skimpies.
Even Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the USA, spent time in Kalgoorlie during Australia's gold rush days. He managed a gold mining operation not far from here called Gwalia, and frequented the bar scene in Kalgoorlie enough to fall for a bar maid who worked at the Palace Hotel. It was this hotel which I also stayed at during my time in Kalgoorlie. Herbert Hoover missed his Kalgoorlie gal so much, upon his return to the USA, Herbert shipped her a mirror and a poem, confessing his admiration for her. Back in those days a post card wasn't good enough. This mirror still sits in the entryway of the Palace Hotel.
Do you ever dream, my sweatheart, of a twilight long ago,
Of a park in old Kalgoorlie, where the bougainvillaeas grow?
Where the moonbeams on the pathways trace a shimmering brocade,
And the overhanging peppers form a lovers' promenade?
Where in soft cascades of cadence from a garden close at hand,
Came the murmurous, mellow music of a sweet orchestral band.
Years have flown since then, my sweetheart, fleet as orchid blooms in May,
But the hour that fills my dreaming, was it only yesterday....
Producing 800,000 ounces of gold per year, the Super Pit is Australia's largest open cut gold mine, and you guessed it, located in Kalgoorlie. From a viewing platform you can watch as massive trucks carry earth up this huge hole in the ground. For a particularly interesting view, go at night and watch the miners at work. The pit is over two miles long, a mile wide and a third of a mile deep. This pit is the size of three Niagara Falls and can fit two Statues of Liberty. The Super Pit is inked to earthquakes in the area according to seismologists.
If you look closely, you can see a few of the earth moving machines on the winding road. From this perspective it's hard to gather just how big those machine actually are.
Something that makes it a bit more clear is when they transfer them to another area. This particular truck gets moved by another truck, and stops traffic as it takes up both lanes getting through town.
Tours of the Super Pit are available and worth the price.
So much a part of the woodwork are the Skimpies, it doesn't take long to find signs of their whereabouts. These school kids walk right past one of the Skimpier places we visited, with the bar maids going topless well before 10pm. What else would you expect in a town built around miners. How about a brothel or two? Yes, Kalgoorlie still has working brothels, with one that offers tours to tourists and lonely men. You can find the brothels on Hay street, just a couple blocks down from the supermarket and across from the backpackers. How appropriate.
My skimpy bar of choice was the Exchange Hotel. It has a wild west theme and even though they employed skimpies throughout the night, it was inviting for men and women, workers and tourists.
The exchange is one of about two dozen pubs in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and employs Skimpies. While the skimpy bars were originally for the enjoyment of locals and miners, there are a few that make for a comfortable place for tourists, and this was a great one. The bar scene for a small town like Kalgoorlie is pretty extensive, with regular weekend nights lasting well into the early hours of the morning. Yes, they know how to drink in Kalgoorlie.
For an area that is designed around miners, drinking and sex, it seems like an unlikely place for art. That was until Antony Gormley came for a visit.
180 Kilometers north of Kalgoorlie is Lake Ballard, home of the Inside Australia Sculptures. On Lake Ballard you will find 51 sculptures of people, with each one representing one of the local townspeople. For more in depth "artsy" explanation, see what Antony Gormley himself has to say about the works.
Getting here is no easy task. The drive is north from Kalgoorlie is on the way to nothing, and the last hour is on an unpaved road. The whole trip to the lake is a constant reminder of how difficult this environment is and how adaptable these people have become to survive. All of this in the name of Art. Visiting the sculptures is a great experience. This desert is unforgiving so bring plenty of water if you plan on walking around the lake.
Kalgoorlie, is a great place to visit,
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