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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Coolgardie, Western Australia

The town of Coolgardie is referred to as the Mother of the Western Australian Goldfields. It was here in 1892 that Arthur Bayley and William Ford discovered gold.

Coolgardie pays homage to the camels and their Afghan owners who helped pioneer this land. Without the camels transporting goods, people and water to this barren land people would not have been able to survive here.

The town makes the most of its history and has information plaques in many places in town.

Ben Prior Park is a free open air museum named after the garage owner who started the park. Ben Prior came to Coolgardie with his family in 1932 and some of the statues in the park were made by him. Other objects were found by Ben in the bush when he went prospecting or donated to the park.

Tents were the first lodgings of the gold seekers, followed by corrugated iron buildings. Once the money started to flow more substantial buildings of one and two stories were constructed. The miners required goods and services, so businesses started to flourish.

The main street of Bayley St and the adjacent Sylvester St were lined with businesses. Bayley St was named after Arthur Bayley. Coolgardie was the first inland city to have street lights. “Mayor MacDonald switched on the first arc of light of inland Western Australia…. Down on Bayley Street the arc lamps flashed on the vision of the astonished spectators to whom the change in the streets from darkness to light was surprising in its suddenness” – Coolgardie Miner, 8 June 1896. You can imagine their amazement.

From a population peak over 15,000 in 1904 to just 250 in 1969, the 2016 census shows a population of 865. The gold mines at Kalgoorlie in 1893 and then Boulder saw people leave for these newer, richer areas. Then World War 1, followed by a recession and then World War 2 saw a shortage of manpower and the town dying.

Coolgardie’s grand buildings have been destroyed by neglect, fire, repurposing and removal over the last hundred years. Only 4 of the once 23 hotels are now remaining. Fortunately some of the grand buildings have been retained for historical purposes but sadly some are deteriorating, like the old Marvel Bar Hotel.

The Coolgardie Goldfields Exhibition Museum is housed in the historical 1898 built Warden’s Court building. This is a must-see museum when you are travelling in the goldfields. For more information click here.

The small admission fee into the museum will also give you entry to visit Warden Finnerty's residence, built in 1895. For more information click here.

The current Coolgardie Post Office was constructed in 1898 has also previously been used as a gaol and police station.

Now known as a tourist town and a mining ghost town Coolgardie is 558kms east of Perth and site number 1 on the Gold Quest Discovery Trail. It is well worth a stop to wander through the town and its museum.

Happy Travels!

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