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Your Ultimate Guide to WA’s Public Silo Trail

Experience WA’s huge silo murals.

When you hear the words ‘public art trail’, remote wheat belt towns, epic road trips, and huge silo-side murals don’t generally come to mind. This is, in fact, exactly what makes up Australia’s largest public art trail, the FORM Public Silo Trail in Western Australia.

Through FORM’s ‘art in place’ program – a program that brings art to unexpected places – the wheat belt region of Western Australia has become a tourist hot spot. People are flocking to the area to road trip through, and explore, the 7 towns along the silo trail.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Esperance or the Exmouth road trip, this trail through inland WA should do the trick.

Fair warning: at 842.5kms long, the looped trail (from Perth, through to Albany and back) is not a road trip for the faint-hearted.

Northam

Phlegm and Hense, CBH Avon grain silos.

It seems fitting that one of the first murals along the silo trail was actually the very first silo ever painted in Australia. Yes, the silo painting trend had humble beginnings, right here in country Western Australia.

Back in 2015, HENSE and Phlegm prettied up a working CBH grain silo just outside of Northam, 1.5 hour’s drive north-east of Perth. It kicked off a national trend of silo painting and, of course, the FORM Public Silo Trail.

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HENSE’s fun, geometric mural was the first to go up. It is an explosion of colour that covers the silos to the right of the structure.

Not long after, Phlegm’s whimsical characters went up on the silos to the left. His Lemony-Snicket-esque paintings tie back to Northam, paying homage to the hot air ballooning culture of the region.

What to do while you are there

Northam is home to Western Australia’s only dedicated Aboriginal cultural centres, Bilya Koort Boodja. Opened just this year, the centre gives you an insight into the Ballardong Noongar booja (Ballardong Noongar country), and the Ballardong Noongar people. There are photos, relics, and plenty of interactive displays to fully immerse you in the experience.

A short walk from Bilya Koort Boodja, is Laura’s Wine Bar. This quaint little wine bar sits across from the gorgeous Avon River, and is the perfect spot for you to unwind with a glass or two of wine.

August is arguably the best time to be in Northam. The fields are green, the river is full, and Northam’s most iconic event – the annual Avon Valley Descent – comes to town. Catch the start of the adventure race, and enjoy the ‘family fun’ day, before heading out on your own adventure on the Public Silo Trail.

Merredin

165km east of Northam is Merredin, a wheat farming town of just under 3000 people – and the home of the second silo mural on the art trail.

It took local Perth artist, Kyle Hughes Odgers, 2 weeks to finish his silo-side masterpiece in Merredin. Depicting the natural environment, community, and agricultural industry, the 35-meter high artwork paints an abstract picture of life in the country town. 

What to do while you are there

Before you do anything else, a beer at the local watering hole – The Commercial Hotel – is in order. Like any country pub, it is a bit rough around the edges, but full of charm.

When hunger strikes, make a beeline for the Merredin French Hot Bread Shop for a pie, the Dimensions Café for something a little more vegetable driven, or a Merredin institution, Jimmy’s Merredin Palace Restaurant, for a Chinese feast.

Instead of jumping back in the car and heading on to the next stop right away, spend some time exploring what Merredin has to offer.

Shopaholics will love calling in to the adorable Petticoat Lane. They always say that you find all the gems when you go hunting through second hand stores in small towns, and Petticoat Lane is no exception. You won’t find mountains of pre-loved chain store threads here.

History buffs should prioritise a stop at the Merredin Military Museum. There are some WW1, WW2, and Vietnam war displays, as well as some restored military helicopters, a Macchi RAAF jet, and a few tanks.

Katanning

Of all the stops along the Public Silo Trail, Katanning is the only one where – oddly enough – you won’t find any silo murals; but, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be seeing any art here. Dotted about town are 6 FORM commissioned murals, from 5 local and one international artist.

On the corner of Clive Street and Carew Street, you can find Brenton See’s colourful mini menagerie. After researching the local fauna, See settled on having a phascorgale, a hooded plover, and a long neck turtle as the stars of his artwork.

Just a short walk away, is the old Katanning shire building (now the medical center), which is home to another 2 art pieces. Behind the new shire building, and in the car park of the local Coles, you can find Peche and Mel McVee’s works respectively.

What to do while you are there

You can’t go to Katanning without getting a curry puff from Alep at The Daily Grind – he is famous for them, and his other authentic Malay dishes. Conveniently, The Daily Grind is just up the street from Brenton See’s artwork on Clive St.

The old Kobeelya school is worth a look too. Once the extravagant house of F.H. Piesse (Katanning’s founding father), the building became a girl’s boarding school, before being purchased by the Baptist church and used as a public space. It is a stunning piece of architecture, on a stunning piece of land.

Indulge yourself in more amazing architecture at another of Piesse’s old buildings, the Premier Mill Hotel. Since the hotel opened in mid-2017, it has been making headlines around Australia. This flour-mill-come-5-star-stay is easily one of WA’s most beautiful hotels. Artfully combining remnants of the old factory into the new, sleek interior, the Premier Mill Hotel is an architectural masterpiece. Treat yourself to a night in one of their silo or packing rooms, or just head in for a few drinks at the wine bar in the basement, Cordial Bar.

Pingrup

Pingrup might just be the smallest town on the Public Silo Trail. With 150 residents in the catchment area, this is one tiny town with big heart.

The community had a lot to do with this mural. Locals were an important part of the planning process, and the school leveraged off what was happening at the silo, incorporating it into their curriculum (like decorating baked bean tins).

After consulting with the local community, Miami based artist Evoca1 settled on what is affectionately known as ‘dog on a tractor, jockey on a horse, lamb in a man’s arms’. Depicting the Pingrup races, the Merino sheep industry, and the farming life, the 25m high mural paints the perfect picture of life in this small, rural town.

What to do while you are there

Stop and take some photos at the pink lakes along the route from Katanning to Pingrup.

A great deal of the land out this way is salt affected, so salt flats are quite common. These particular salt flats harbour Halo bacteris, bacteria that turns the lakes a vibrant pink colour. To see them at their most vibrant, head out in the middle of the day on a sunny, blue-skied day. If you can make it out during wildflower season, the empty plots of land are even prettier!

Save your stomachs for Pingrup, because this teeny little town is serving up some city-grade food.

There isn’t much to the town of Pingrup. There is the obligatory pub (which appears to be a part of somebody’s home), a service station, and a caravan park. The jewel in Pingrup’s crown is The Store Café 6343. A community purchased café run by 4 local ladies, The Store Café serves up some of the best food in the wheat belt – think pulled pork burrito bowls, smoked salmon and avocado on toast with dill and capers, and the best sausage roll in Western Australia. The space is also home to a gourmet deli full of local delights, and an amazing little gift store.

Newdegate

Newdegate’s silo mural isn’t just a stunning piece of art, but it was a much needed morale boost for the town too.

Affected by drought, farmers in Newdegate were doing it tough. But, having Brenton See in town painting the silos was a very welcome distraction. Locals stopped by each day to watch See’s progress, have a chat, and forget about what was happening on the farm; and school children even had the pleasure of learning from See too. It was a real community effort.

Just like his piece in Ravensthorpe, See chose to feature local flora and fauna on his signature colourful background.

It took him 13 days to finish the 4 silos.

What to do while you are there

Chase down the Happy Little Caravan to get your coffee fix. The adorable, little black caravan is normally hanging out on Mitchell street, but during football season it roams out towards the oval.

Take trip down memory lane at the Hainsworth Museum. This old corner store is a treasure trove of vintage relics. There are things like diaries, old ‘housewife’ manuals, and clothing to be discovered. A team of dedicated volunteers have even gone to the lengths of finding old labels of iconic Australian products (think Milo, Heinz beans and Carnation milk), printing them out, and sticking them to tins to bring this mini-museum to life.

40 minutes out of town, in the middle of the outback, is Walkers Hill Vineyard. Yes, a vineyard. Considered WA’s biggest inland wine producer, this vineyard is so unexpected and quirky, it is a ‘must visit’. Their stand out varietals are shiraz and chardonnay, but their annual rose is well worth a try too. It always has an Aussie-battler story to tell.

Ravensthorpe

If you have ever road tripped to Esperance, there is a good chance you have already passed by the Ravensthorpe silo mural. Of all the murals along the way, this one took the longest to complete – a whopping 31 days.

Painted by Perth-based artist Amok Island, this towering mural shows the different stages of a banksia flower, native to only the area between Esperance and Albany. There is some pretty cute local fauna hidden in there too.

What to do while you are there

The Fitzgerald River National Park, to Ravensthorpe’s south west, is said to be one of the largest and most botanically significant parks in all of Australia. There are some 547 different flowering plant species in the park, so wildflower season out here is magnificent.

Call into the Ravensthorpe Historical Society museum for some history on this old gold rush town. There is significance in the building itself – it was the first gaol of the region – and plenty of relics from the town’s heyday.

Albany

The last stop on the Public Silo Trail is Albany. Yok and Sheryo’s sea dragon, Ruby, is the most controversial of all the murals; but by no means is it any less impressive than the others.

Many people still question the relevance of Ruby, and why the Albany mural paid no reference to the ANZAC history of the town. But, Ruby is indeed very symbolic of Albany. Leafy sea dragons are endemic to the southern coast of Australia, and there is a huge population of them in Albany. The ruby seadragon (like in the mural) is an incredibly rare species of sea dragon that was spotted for the very first time in the wild in Albany in 2017.

While the mural might not pay reference to what Albany is most known for, it does pay homage to another really important aspect of the city.

What to do while you are there

On the way down to Albany, stop and stretch your legs in the Stirling or Porongorup Ranges. The hard-core hikers can tackle Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges, while the time poor can give the climb up to Castle Rock’s granite sky walk in the Porongorups a go. Don’t forget to pack a bottle of local wine to sip on while you enjoy the view!

Take a slight detour through Denmark on your way through to Albany. The wine, art, and coffee are totally worth it. Stop in to Singlefile Wines to try an exemplary chardonnay, grab a coffee from Ravens Coffee (they roast their own beans), or call in to Poornati gallery to meet local elder Joey Williams, and check out his Karalup Mission style Aboriginal artwork.

Once you are in Albany, you can’t not head out and see the gap and the blowholes. The ocean here is wild, resulting in spectacular crashing waves and water spouts all along the coast. Before you leave, pay your respects with a visit to the National ANZAC Centre.

The writer was a guest of FORM

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