Another little town I visited in Australia was Gwalia WA. It is pretty much the complete opposite of Hahndorf, the town I wrote about last. Gwalia used to be a prosperous gold mining town, located a couple of hours north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Now it’s virtually deserted, except for millions of flies, kangaroos and the occasional visitor. I’m not lying when I say millions of flies. I only spent a couple of hours there, but that was enough to be utterly annoyed by them. I was constantly surrounded by dozens of flies. It was insane, but I liked my visit nonetheless. It surely is an interesting place.
The Ghost Town of Gwalia WA
It is basically a ghost town nowadays. The town became wealthy with the growth of the Sons of Gwalia gold mine, which used to be the main employer. It had been a thriving town since 1890, but when the mine closed its door in 1963, pretty much everyone left immediately. In only three weeks’ time the population fell from 1,200 to 40. The houses and buildings of Gwalia are still there, though, and provide a unique look at gold mining life in the mid-20th century. It is essentially a free open-air museum. You can step inside the former homes, shops and guest houses and take a look around.
The Sons of Gwalia gold mine was once one of the biggest gold mining companies in Australia. Its first manager was a guy called Herbert Hoover, a young American mining engineer who had travelled all the way there on a camel. He would later become the 31st President of the United States. Hoover also designed a house for the mine manager (himself), which is still there and located in the Museum Complex. Herbert Hoover House is now a fancy B&B – one of only a few in the area – where museum visitors and travellers can spend the night.
The town of Leonora, about four kilometres north of Gwalia WA, is still inhabited and is now the area’s centre of mining.
With the invention of efficient modern extraction methods, however, the Sons of Gwalia gold mine was reopened in 1980. A superpit was cut into the old gold mine and the mine now extracts the same amount of gold as it used, but in a third of the time. Most of the mine workers now reside in Leonora.
The ghost town of Gwalia makes for a true Outback experience. Pick up a car hire or motorhome rental in Perth, and you literally have to drive two hour through the Outback to get there. It’s desolate and peculiar and I loved it for that.