Kalgoorlie is the gold mining, wild west outback town in remote Western Australia that you will probably only have ever heard of if you are in fact from remote Western Australia.
Those that do know of this place, know that is a city with an unshakeable reputation borne from the rags-to-riches age of the gold mining boom, when anyone could make a fortune – and spend it just as quickly – amongst the red dust, bars and brothels of Kalgoorlie.
Let’s be honest, it’s a city that isn’t high up on anyone’s bucket list, certainly not your average beach-loving, coastal-dwelling Aussie or your international tourist with an already tight itinerary and thousands upon thousands of kilometres to cover in a short space of time.
I’m hoping to change that and to give people a reason to travel to this misunderstood outback city; because there really are a lot of things to do in Kalgoorlie.
But what is there to do in Kalgoorlie I hear you ask? Surely not enough to warrant an ENTIRE article dedicated to the things to do in Kalgoorlie? Isn’t there just red rock, gold mines and a few dodgy bars?
Well, yes. Kalgoorlie is all of those things. However, there are a lot more things to do in Kalgoorlie than I would ever have imagined before I travelled to this outback Western Australian City. Here are the best things to do in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia!
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The Best Things To Do In Kalgoorlie
I recently wrote an article on my travels through Kalgoorlie, and I realised while writing it that actually, this city of 30,000 people, way out in the middle of nowhere – the biggest city in outback Australia! – deserves a lot more attention than it gets.
Sure, it looks a long way from anywhere on the map, but honestly, it’s not that far, at least not in Australian terms, it’s only 600 kilometres from Perth after all. You can see most of the highlights of Kalgoorlie within a day or two, of course, but spend a few days soaking up that gold-mining, Outback town atmosphere that the city is famed for (and don’t forget to hit up the bars!).
1. Be Awed By The Kalgoorlie Super Pit
Top of the list of things to do in Kalgoorlie has to be the Super Pit. This is a massive, gargantuan, mammoth, open-cut gold mine on the edge of the city. But wait, didn’t I say Kalgoorlie was more than just gold? Yes, it is, but the city was made on gold, and in many ways still relies on gold. To begin to understand Kalgoorlie, you have to start at the Super Pit, and quite simply, it is huge.
The Super Pit is on the site of the Golden Mile, the original stretch of land that caused the gold rush in 1893 that drew people from across the world to try their luck earning their fortune here. Things have changed, and over time all the mines were consolidated into one massive Super Pit which has to be seen to be believed.
It’s an ugly scar, but at the same time, it’s weirdly aesthetic. It works around the clock, 24 hours a day, and trucks continually drive in and out, removing rubble and precious metals. It’s over 500 metres deep and getting ever deeper, and is 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide.
The Super Pit is just a short drive from the city, and if you call ahead of your trip you can find out when the explosive blasts are scheduled. These are equally huge, with tonnes of explosives being used to dig even deeper for that gold.
Read more: 46 Best Places to Visit in Western Australia
2. Explore The Museum Of The Goldfields
After seeing the mining in action at the Super Pit then the next best spot to really learn about Kalgoorlie’s past – mainly how the city and that giant hole in the ground came to exist hundreds of miles from anywhere – then it’s best to pay a visit to The Museum of the Goldfields.
This is Kalgoorlie’s premier museum, and collected here are stories from across the Goldfields, from the Indigenous local history to the mad gold rush that founded the city. Some of the stories are insightful, others are grimy or full of sleaze, and it’s easy to see how Kalgoorlie gained its reputation as a Wild West gold town from the exhibits on display.
But it’s not just about the gold. As important as it is, Kalgoorlie has other, more overlooked achievements which the museum emphasises, the main feat being the existence of a city of 30,000 people in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. A lot of that is down to an incredible feat of engineering called the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, and the museum is great at providing insightful facts and anecdotes about its construction and its continued use to this day.
3. Visit the Mount Charlotte Water Reservoir And Lookout
Kalgoorlie is remote. It’s in the middle of a semi-arid desert. As I’ve already pointed out, if it wasn’t for the gold, this city wouldn’t exist here. But more important resources were needed to sustain the city and to ensure the future of Kalgoorlie. No other city of this size is found anywhere in the Australian Outback. Kalgoorlie is different because Kalgoorlie found a solution to the biggest problem of all. Water.
Out here, there isn’t much water at all. During the early gold rush days, water quickly became more precious than the gold the prospectors had walked all this way to find. Kalgoorlie should probably be more well known for the mammoth feat of engineering that allows it to survive- not the Super Pit – but the enormously long water pipe that runs all the way from Perth for 600 kilometres, crossing mountains and desert, to provide water to 100,00 people in the Goldfields Region.
This is the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, built back in the early 1900s and still providing all the water for the region. All of it.
The Mount Charlotte Water Reservoir is where the water from Perth arrives and from here it is distributed all over Kalgoorlie and further afield. This hilltop outside provides excellent views over the city, but it also provides a glimpse and a few informative, educational displays too, of the pipeline that allows Kalgoorlie to exist where it does.
4. The School Of Two Up
One of the most intriguing things to do in Kalgoorlie is to pay a visit to an old rusty shed that’s surrounded by nothing more than red rocks and a few old beer bottles.
But why? Well, this is no ordinary rusty, outback shed. This is The School of Two Up, and one of only two venues in the entire country where the Aussie gambling game of Two Up can be legally played all year round.
Two up is a bit like heads or tails, only with two coins. It originated in the goldfields during the rushes of the late 19th Century and became popularised by soldiers during World War I. It eventually became banned across the country, except on 25 April, Remembrance Day in Australia, when as a sort of mark of respect it can be played all day.
Kalgoorlie though, somehow managed to become one of only two places- the other being Broken Hill in NSW, also an old gold rush town- where Two Up can be played all year round, and the only venue in Kalgoorlie where it can be played is here, at this rusty old tin shed.
The tin shed itself can be visited all year round, and it’s just a short drive away from the city, but visit on Sunday and the shed becomes the School of Two Up, where the game is played and taught by the best in Kalgoorlie!
5. Fossick for Gold In Kalgoorlie
Of course, Kalgoorlie is all about the gold. So why not give gold fossicking a go? You could strike it rich! It’s probably not quite the same as the gold rush era, and most of the gold has already been uncovered, but it would be a shame to leave Kalgoorlie without having at least tried to find some gold.
You need a permit to start looking- this costs $25 – and you need permission to fossick on other people’s land. There are rules to this game and some people still make it rich, but if you just want some fun then a few companies also offer day tours to well-known fossicking sites and a solid introduction to the gold-digging game.
6. Take a Stroll Down Hannan Street
Hanna Street is the main drag in Kalgoorlie. It’s named for the city’s prospecting founder, Paddy Hannan, who first discovered gold on The Golden Mile. Hannan Street is as historic as it gets in Kalgoorlie, and strolling down here will give you a slight insight into the old Wild West days, as many of the frontier-style hotels and buildings are still standing today.
More than that though, it’s the heart of the city, where the city hall, restaurants, bars and everything else you expect of a city is found.
When you’re ready, jump into some of the old hotel bars, and check out what all the fuss is about. They might have a reputation, and many still have regular Skimpies- scantily clad women– as entertainment for the miners but you’ll soon find it’s not so Wild West-like, just a bit Outback is all.
7. Dig into the past at Hannans North Tourist Mine
Hannan North Tourist Mine provides an authentic glimpse into the region’s mining history. Named after Paddy Hannan, who first discovered gold in the area in the 1890s, this old mine is still home to a mix of original mining equipment and buildings, some of which are over a century old.
Immerse yourself in the miner’s experience by exploring historic equipment displays, viewing gold pouring demonstrations, and even trying your hand at gold panning. Informative displays and guided tours unravel the tales of the gold rush era, pioneering spirits, and the technological evolution of gold mining.
8. Drink Craft Beer Bars in Boulder
Unknown to most of the world, there’s a thriving craft beer scene in the city. The pick of these microbreweries is found in Boulder, the other half of Kalgoorlie, and serves up a beautiful tasting paddle of locally brewed hops.
The Beaten Track Brewery is found in an unsuspecting little tin shed – like the best things in Kalgoorlie- on a side street in Boulder. Inside you will find an array of craft beers to choose from, everything from IPAs to German-style Wheat Beers.
9. Take A Tour Of Casa Questa, Australia’s Oldest Brothel
The city’s reputation for debauchery does of course have some basis in history. Casa Questa- The Pink House– is Australia’s oldest working brothel, and once you have had a few beers for courage, then the strangest of things to do in Kalgoorlie is to take a tour of this establishment.
This isn’t as seedy as it might sound, and in fact, it was recommended to me by the Visitor’s Centre. Kalgoorlie has realised that this is an integral part of their history, and the Madame runs daily tours before the night’s work kicks off. It’s a strange situation, but the history and stories told by the Madame really give an insight into Kalgoorlie that is hard to find elsewhere – of both the city’s past and its future.
10. Tee Off On The Nullarbor Links, The Longest Golf Course In The World
The Nullarbor Links is the world’s longest golf course. The 18 holes stretch across some of Australia’s most remote outback, across the Nullarbor Plain from Western Australia to South Australia. It’s a distance of 1365 kilometres, with roadhouses and remote stations hosting different golfing holes along the way.
Kalgoorlie is home to hole number 18, the last or the first – depending on which direction you travel!- on the Nullarbor Links course.
Once you’ve finished all the things to do in Kalgoorlie, then why not head off down the Nullarbor on the world’s longest golf course?!
11. Have a pint in the Broad Arrow Pub
To get a sense of Kalgoorlie’s isolation – and really, Kalgoorlie is isolated, even by Australian standards! – then take a drive on the road running north into the Outback. Route 49 eventually goes all the way north to Meekatharra, which is seriously Outback, but you’re aiming for Broad Arrow, which is around 40 kilometres away from Kalgoorlie.
Broad Arrow is a deserted desert town. Like many in the Goldfields, this was a boom and bust town. The people that fossicked for gold here left as quickly as they arrived, and Broad Arrow was left to wither in the red dust.
Except, amongst the abandoned houses and shops, you’ll find one solitary pub that’s never closed. The Broad Arrow Tavern, which dates back to 1896 is still pouring pints and cooking burgers, and it’s a marvellous place to stop for a drink!
Map of the best things to do in Kalgoorlie
Here’s a map of the best things to do in Kalgoorlie:
FAQ: The best things to do in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Here’s a short FAQ on the best things to do in Kalgoorlie:
Q1. What is Kalgoorlie most famous for?
Kalgoorlie is most renowned for its significant gold mining history, especially the Super Pit, one of the world’s largest open-cut gold mines.
Q2. Where can I get the best view of the Super Pit?
The Super Pit Lookout offers a comprehensive view of the mine. From here, visitors can witness the vastness of the mining operations and occasionally see the massive trucks and machinery in action.
Q3. Are there guided tours of the mining operations?
Yes, several tour operators offer guided tours that provide insights into the city’s mining history, operations, and even opportunities for gold panning.
4. What historic sites can I visit in Kalgoorlie?
Hannan Street, the main street of Kalgoorlie, boasts numerous historic buildings. Additionally, the Goldfields War Museum and Kalgoorlie-Boulder WA Museum are excellent places to delve into the region’s rich history.
5. I love nature. What green spaces are there in Kalgoorlie?
Hammond Park offers a recreational area with a mini-zoo and playground. For those keen on local flora, the Kalgoorlie Arboretum is an excellent place to explore.
6. Is there a place for panoramic views of the city?
Yes, the Mount Charlotte Reservoir and Lookout offer breathtaking views of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and its surroundings.
7. Are there any unique golfing experiences in Kalgoorlie?
Absolutely! The Kalgoorlie Golf Course is one of the world’s top desert golf courses, providing a distinctive golfing experience against the backdrop of the outback.
8. What’s the best way to experience the local culture?
Visiting historic pubs such as the Exchange Hotel or the York Hotel can give you a taste of the local atmosphere. You can also participate in annual events like the Race Round or the St Barbara’s Festival.
9. I’m interested in ghost towns. Is there any nearby?
Yes, the Broad Arrow Ghost Town, a short drive north of Kalgoorlie, provides a glimpse into the fleeting nature of gold rushes and the remnants they leave behind.
10. How should I prepare for the desert climate when visiting?
Kalgoorlie has hot summers and mild winters. Carry plenty of water, wear sunscreen, use protective clothing like hats and sunglasses, and be cautious of staying out during the peak heat periods.
All Photos and Word By Richard Collett