A golden 8 day road trip experience.
Get out of the big smoke and head to real Australia. What does that exactly entail? It involves venturing to quirky, one-of-a-kind outback pubs that are quintessential Straya’, seeing the outback’s natural carpets – burnt red desert to the mirror-esque off-white salt lakes and seeing the best of our backyard art gallery.
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is for those who are up to experiencing a matchless Australia. This blockbuster outback road trip takes you on an adventurous loop from Coolgardie to Laverton and back, visiting Gold Rush towns of yesteryear and capping it off in Australia’s famed outback city, Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
Perth to Merredin (260km)
It’s road trip day! If you have packed up the car the night before, you can wake up early and head out on this 3-hour journey from Perth to Merredin in the Central Wheatbelt region. Otherwise, head off around midday and arrive in the late afternoon, ready to settle into your accommodation or set up camp for the night. Make sure you have packed some snacks and activities for the journey, but you will drive through some great little towns along the way, so keep your eyes peeled out the window. Staying in Merredin tonight helps break up your Golden Quest Discovery Trail journey, as you are about to spend a lot of time in the car, the overnight stop will have you refreshed for the next morning! If you’re looking for something to eat when you arrive in Merredin, stop into the Commercial Hotel for some pub classics, Café 56 for a relaxed vibe, or the newly opened Wild Poppy Café from Monday-Friday. If you are needing accommodation for the night, there are providers such as the Merredin Motel or the Merredin Bed and Breakfast to accommodate you.
Depending on the time you arrive here, there are plenty of places to explore in Merredin and its surrounds. Walk around town and explore the heritage buildings, wander along the many walking trails throughout the beautiful parks, follow the Golden Pipeline interpretive walk, and explore the incredible Merredin SILO mural as part of the Public Silo Trail.
NOTE: If you want to head straight to Coolgardie and start the trail, you can skip this day and start from Day 2.
Related reads: Your Ultimate Guide to WA’s Public Silo Trail
Merredin to Coolgardie (297km) / Coolgardie to Menzies (180km)
Your first day of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail begins in Coolgardie, so wake up early in the morning and get on the road for the 3 hour drive to Coolgardie. It is a good idea (if you haven’t already) to stock the car with today’s food, drink, and snacks, as the towns you’ll be visiting are remote and may not have the facilities you need. Site 1 along your journey is the town of Coolgardie ‘Mother of the Goldfields’, known as the birthplace and unofficial capital of the Eastern Goldfields at the height of its prosperity. Spend an hour or two here, and visit the town’s gold rush museums like the Goldfields Exhibition Museum, which has one of WA’s largest antique bottle collections that date from 300BC, and the open air Ben Prior’s Park. The town is full of rich gold rush history, with its historic buildings and the wide main street.
Jump back in the car and head off on the 30 minute journey to Kunanalling. The first half of this road is sealed, turning unsealed at the 14km mark, so make sure you are aware of this changing road condition. You will cross over the famous pipeline, see Emu Hill, and Mt Burges. Kunanalling is site 2, and here you will see the fenced in ruins of the Premier Hotel. Spend 15 minutes walking around the old townsite and its surrounds, before jumping back into the car.
You are now on your 40-minute drive to site 3, Ora Banda. This used to be home to the famous outback pub, the Ora Banda Historical Inn, which has since burnt down in 2019. The pub was built in 1911, operated until its closure in the late 1950s, and restored again in 1981. There are many outback tales of this pub which make for a great research experience as you’re leaving the town.
The next leg of the journey is off to Siberia, taking you 20 minutes along an unsealed road with sharp corners and holes, so take this one slow and easy. Mt Carnage is visible to the west, and plenty of flora along the way. You should arrive at Siberia around mid-afternoon to visit site 4, Siberia Cemetery. Here are old mine shafts, and you need to venture into this area at your own risk. Spend around 20 minutes here and sign the visitors book located in a box near the large bougainvillea tree in the old town site. Before you arrive in Menzies, site 5 will have you visiting Goongarrie, a 35-minute drive from Siberia. Spend 15 minutes here exploring a former railway platelayers’ cottage and information panels, and the nearby Government Dam, an impressive saucer-shaped concrete tank.
You are now off to Menzies! The 30 minute journey will have you seeing some grave sites, old townships, and old mines along the way. The official site 6 stop is opposite the town hall when you arrive in town, and spend an hour or more walking around town on various walking trails, check out the visitor centre, and enjoy a drink and/or meal at the Achievable Outback Café while stretching your legs, as this will be your last stop for the day. This town once had over 5,000 residents and boasted many hotels and breweries, and is known as the gateway town to Lake Ballard which you will visit later in your trip. Accommodation wise, there is the Menzies Hotel and the Menzies Caravan Park to stay for the night before your next day of adventuring around the Goldfields.
Menzies to Kookynie (142km)
Aim to set out on the road mid-morning/lunch time if you are needing a sleep in after yesterdays long day on the road. Today is a shorter day, so you can take this one at your own pace. Your first stop of the day will be site 7, Menzies Cemetery. Located just 2km north-east of town, this is a place that truly shows the hardship and dedication people had into making Menzies a vibrant, profitable town during the regions roaring days. You can spend around an hour here reading the headstones, and the rotunda in the middle with a box containing a list of the known burials.
Head back into the car and out onto the road, as you are now travelling from the cemetery to Niagara Dam. Along this stretch you will notice the dramatic change in the landscape around you compared to south of Menzies, with open saltbush plains. This journey should take you about 50 minutes as you arrive in Niagara Dam, which is site 8 along the discovery trail. This is a reservoir created by a 225-metre concrete dam wall that is 7 metres thick at its base and rises 18 metres above its foundations. The site is of strong Aboriginal cultural significance, and the dam walls offer sweeping views to the south, including some impressive breakaway country. Explore the site for around an hour, and there are some great picnic spots for lunch.
The next stop is Kookynie, just a 10 minute drive from Niagara, and this is site 9. Expect to spend a couple of hours here exploring the old townsite. There is a walking trail with marked sites with special steel interpretive signs to follow. You will see a fully restored row of shops on Cumberland Street, and the ruins of the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Head to the Grand Hotel, the town’s pub, where you will be greeted by Willie the horse at the front door! He was once a racehorse, and now spends his time at the outback pub posing for photos, eating apples, and trying to sneak inside for a pub feed! Inside the pub there are some great photographs showing Kookynie in its heyday, so enjoy a few cold beers while perusing these. You will be staying in Kookynie the night, so there is accommodation at the Grand Hotel (bookings are advised as it is one of WA’s most iconic outback pubs) including rooms, caravan sites, and camping grounds.
Kookynie to Laverton (230km)
Today will be another full day of exploring and adventuring! Wake up early and head out on the road as soon as possible, to make sure you have enough time to fit all the sites in. From Kookynie, you will be heading out on the 60-minute trip to the Old Rail Bridges, site 10. The road is unsealed, so again drive with caution here. You’ll cross Dingo Creek, pass a cattle station, see where the town of Malcom once stood, and cover some flat mulga and salt bush along the way. Once at the Old Rail Bridges, you’ll see the remnants of three old rail bridges, constructed to allow the railway to traverse a series of sandy creeks. Spend 15 minutes here exploring the ruins and learning the history.
Back into the car to site 11, Mt Morgans. The road is again unsealed and can be washed out due to flooding. This 50-minute drive will showcase a few watercourses, with remains scattered around from old town sites. When you arrive at Mt Morgans, park at the old Municipal Chambers to read the information panels. Explore the old buildings and notice the evidence of the former streets and the remnants of the old railway platform. There is a picturesque cemetery just 2km from here, which is well worth the visit. After an hour or so, it’s time to hit the road again.
Mt Morgans to Hawks Nest is a 30 minute drive. At site 12 you’ll find the lonely grave of a young New Zealand prospector, John Aspinall, who was struck by lightning out here in this remote part of the Goldfields in 1896. The grave was discovered in 1980, with a nearby piece of tin that proved to be the headstone. Spend around 30 minutes here, as you see the nearby mineshafts and active mining leases. It is strongly advised you do not venture near any of the old shafts.
Site 13 takes you through to Laverton, where you will be staying for the night. This is a 20-minute drive from Hawks Nest and is the next major townsite along your discovery trail. Arrive mid afternoon and start at the Great Beyond Visitor Centre and Explorers Hall of Fame. This celebrates the many explores who traversed the Laverton region from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, including John Forrest. Grab a snack while you are here and spend a couple of hours having a look around. Visit the Laverton Outback Gallery, promoting and selling Aboriginal artwork. The parks around town are great for walks, and there are plenty of historic sites within a 30km radius of town that do not feature on the discovery trail route. Laverton is also the start of the Outback Way road trip, connecting the Goldfields with Alice Springs and Winton in Queensland. It is also the starting point for the Anne Beadell Highway, leading to Coober Pedy in South Australia. Stay at the Laverton Caravan Park, which has on site vans, family cabins, and one and two-bedroom units available, or Laverton Chalet Motel. Have dinner at the local pub, The Desert Inn Hotel and it’s back to your accommodation to settle in for the night.
Laverton to Leonora (124km)
Start your day mid-morning and head off on the 20 minute journey from Laverton to Windarra, which is site 14 of the trail. You’ll see the landscape change from the dominant flora of the acacia woodlands into that which characterizes the Great Victoria Desert, complete with spinifex and marble gums. The site is at the summit of Mt Windarra, providing a lookout across the former Windarra Nickel Project. It is quite a steep climb, however worth it for the rewarding outback views. There are information panels, picnic tables, and sweeping 360-degree views across the Northern Goldfields region. Spend around an hour photographing the panoramic landscape and exploring the historical aspects of the Windarra Nickel Project.
Site 15 is Murrin Murrin, so hop back in the car and head off on the 30-minute trip. Along the way you will see a vast salt pan known as ‘The Boats’, and Mt McKenzie. Arrive at site 15 which is the visitor lookout for the Murrin Murrin Nickel Project. This is one of the largest and most advanced of its type in the world! Allow 30 minutes here, before you jump back in the car.
Site 16 is one of the most popular along the trip, the ghost town of Gwalia. Located 50 minutes from Murrin Murrin, you’ll reach the parking area opposite the hotel in Gwalia. Spend quite a few hours here exploring all there is to see in this ghost town. What was once a gold rush town with the Sons of Gwalia mine, is now a snapshot of time gone by, with the old miners camps and iron cottages still standing, even with some belongings inside. Explore the Sons of Gwalia timber headframe, and the old Gwalia State Hotel which is still standing. You can explore the Gwalia Historical Museum, which is includes Hoover House, named after the young mining manager who later became an American President, Herbert Hoover. The house is available for accommodation options.
When you’re finished exploring, head back to the car and drive the 5 minutes back up the road to Leonora, site 17. The town takes its name from the nearby Mt Leonora, a conical hill that has ancient Aboriginal spiritual significance. The historic main street features many surviving buildings from the gold rush days, so spend the rest of the afternoon walking around town and learning some gold rush history. This is a good place to stock up on your food and drink for the rest of your journey too, as it’s the largest commercial centre north of Kalgoorlie. Drive 10 minutes out to Malcolm Dam for bird watching and natural beauty. Head back to town and settle into your accommodation for the night. Choose from the Leonora Caravan Park, Leonora Lodge, or the Leonora Motor Inn and Apartments.
Leonora to Lake Ballard (160km)
Set off early-morning from Leonora for this scenic day on the 1-hour road trip to Granite Creek. This is possibly the least travelled of all the roads within the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. Granite Creek is site 18 on the western side of the bridge, with a picnic table and toilet facilities. This place is an ancient rocky watercourse with river gums. Spend up to an hour walking around and exploring at this pleasant rest stop, before hopping back into the car and heading out on the 50-minute journey to Copperfield. In its heyday, Copperfield was a major mining site with a small resident community, making it site 19 on this trip. Spend a quick 15-minutes looking around the old Timoni Mine, and it’s time to jump back on the road.
Site 20 is split into two sections, and they are some of the most striking of the trip. Set off on the 50-minute journey from Copperfield and arrive at Snake Hill (Site 20A). Experience the incredible views across Lake Ballard to the north and east, and this is a great spot to sit for an hour while relaxing and taking in the view. Site 20B is the spectacular Lake Ballard, the official Inside Australia outdoor art installation site. There are 51 steel sculptures to explore across the wide salt plain, and the sun casts some incredible shadows along the salt. Spend around 2 hours exploring this lake and watching the sun change the colours of the land, before the sun begins to set and a sky full of stars surrounds you. You will be camping here tonight, so expect for an amazing sky show to come!
Lake Ballard to Kalgoorlie Boulder (253km)
Make sure the car is packed up nice and early as you wake up with the sun and head off on the road for the last day of your journey. Jump on the road and travel 1 hour to site 21, Ularring, on the unsealed road. The official site is next to the old soak at the foot of Ularring Rock. You can easily spend an hour here walking around the grassy pasture and finding the stone cairn on the top of the rock. Jump back in the car and head off on your way to Davyhurst, site 22. This journey will take you a short 15 minutes, and on your way, you will have your first good view of the Davyhurst mine. The flat and open expanse was once the Davyhurst townsite. This is a very sobering place, as virtually nothing remains. The Davyhurst cemetery is 2km from here and is worth the visit, however the road is not suitable if you are towing a caravan. Spend 20 minutes here.
Your next stop is site 23, which is Rowles Lagoon, a 1-hour drive from Davyhurst. This picturesque lagoon is a refreshing stop along your journey, if some rain has been present at this freshwater lagoon. Spend an hour experiencing this relaxing and delightful wetlands environment. See if you are lucky enough to spot the Freckled Duck, which are among the rarest ducks in the world! Its nearing midday, so it is time to set off on the road to reach your lunch spot.
Broad Arrow is site 24 and will take around an hour to get there from Rowles Lagoon. You should have arrived at around lunch time, and luckily Broad Arrow Tavern is known for it is famous ‘Broadie Burger’. Head there for lunch and a drink, sign your name on the wall, and then explore the town site with the handful of buildings that remain. Try to be back on the road in about an hours’ time to make sure you have enough sunlight for the rest of the journey.
Your last leg of the journey has arrived. Broad Arrow to Kalgoorlie Boulder is a 30-minute drive along a sealed highway. At 31km in, you’ll pass the turn off for the Kalgoorlie Two Up shed. Detour down here and check out the only legalized two up shed in Australia, with all the original corrugated iron! Stay for 15 minutes, then jump back onto the road and arrive in Kalgoorlie. The parking area for site 25 is at the Super Pit lookout, so you can marvel at the incredible Kalgoorlie Super Pit, which is still operational and functioning today. You may be lucky enough to see a blast happen or the trucks driving around the edges. This is officially the end of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, but we have so many interesting places for you to explore in Kalgoorlie! The town is full of history, in particularly gold rush history, and has a true Aussie outback feel to it. Explore the old character buildings, and pop into the pubs for a drink and a bite to eat if you are getting hungry. There is plenty to do, like going to Hannans North Tourist Mine, Museum of the Goldfields, and the pubs and restaurants scattered around town. If you’re needing accommodation for the night, we recommend Rydges Kalgoorlie, Ibis Kalgoorlie, The View on Hannans, Hospitality Inn, or Quality Inn Railway. Settle into your accommodation after your long day of adventuring.
Kalgoorlie Boulder to Perth (593km)
Bid farewell to life in the outback as you have just completed the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. The journey back to Perth is roughly under 7 hours, so this is easily done in the one day if you head out in the morning.
Salt lakes, gold rushes, ghost towns and a unique token town pub horse, Wille – no doubt you will be a treasure trove of stories to tell about the varied encounters and spectacular sights found in Australia’s Golden Outback!
Please note: This is the full version of the itinerary. This trail covers both sealed and unsealed roads, so please consider the road conditions and your vehicle before setting off. The trip can be done in 3, 4, or 5 days by altering the route to take out the unsealed roads, certain towns and sites. We do recommend seeing everything there is to see along the Golden Quest Discovery Trail to ensure you get the most out of it and visit all 25 sites along the way. Grab your copy of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail Guide Book for further information and download the free audio book to accompany the drive at goldenquesttrail.com.
Want to discover more of Australia’s Golden Outback? Check out our Esperance Guide.
Feature image: Supplied by Australia’s Golden Outback