In the outback, everything is big: blue skies, woodland forests, gold mining pits and larger-than-life characters. An economic driving force integral to Western Australia, the Golden Outback attracts tourists seeking red-dirt deserts, pristine white beaches, and the legacy of the Wild West.
Esperance’s famously unspoiled white beaches mark where the Golden Outback meets the Southern Ocean. Five national parks make this destination a nature haven – as well as human beachgoers, Cape Le Grand National Park’s blinding sands attract sun-baking kangaroos. Experience the peaceful coves via an organised tour, or drive and explore at your leisure.
The biggest drive, bar none, is across the Nullarbor Plain – some get it over and done with, while others take their time to appreciate the vast open space, enjoying whale-watching and spectacular cliffs plunging into the Great Australian Bight.
Ideal for camping, the Wheatbelt area is granite belt country, with fascinating formations – the most famous of which, Wave Rock, lives up to its description. It’s also a hotbed of wildflowers, particularly around Morawa, Mullewa and Paynes Find.
Between vast stretches of farmland are bigger towns like Narrogin and Merredin. Smaller ones have just an outback pub and general store.
The Goldfields themselves have a famed history. American president Herbert Hoover spent his early years there, managing goldmines in the Western Australian outback. These days, ghost towns like Kalowna, Ora Banda and Kookynie tell the stories of abandoned dreams, while small towns such as Leonora, Menzies and Coolgardie still exist, with their current mining communities nearby.
The twin Goldfields towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder have merged over time. Hannan Street – the main drag in Kalgoorlie – and Burt Street in Boulder, are lined with imposing historic hotels and 120-year-old buildings, reflecting the grandeur of the gold rush and its larrikin culture, with a pub literally on every corner.
Nature has something to say about survival, too. In what most would consider a desert, the red dirt supports one of the largest temperate woodlands left in the world.
The Golden Outback is rich in fascinating Dreamtime history. The region’s Indigenous groups include the Wongi people of the Western Desert and the Goldfields, the Yamatji people of the Gascoyne-Murchison region, and the Noongar people from the Wheatbelt and Esperance-South Coast. Take an Indigenous guided tour, on which you can learn about how the ancient land was shaped by the ancestral Dreaming spirits, across the immensity of the landscape.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit is spring, for lovely weather and wildflowers. Winter can be chilly, temperatures dropping to sub-zero by night, while summer can be well over the old century (38°C).
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/GoldenOutback.
Striking examples of Esperance flora.
Totadgin Conservation Park in the central Wheatbelt has wheelchair-accessible pathways from Hunt’s Well parking bays to Totadgin Rock.
The Brookton campsite and toilet facilities are also wheelchair-accessible.
The Western Australian Museum in Kalgoorlie offers complimentary wheelchairs, with accessible unisex toilets available on site.
Remodelled heritage-style Albion Hotel in Kalgoorlie was built in the 19th century, and has two wheelchair-accessible rooms.
Wave Rock Lakeside Resort is 1km from Wave Rock in Hyden, and one of its 14 two-bedroom cottages is accessible by wheelchair.