The Tin Horse Highway is an otherwise ordinary stretch of country road in Western Australia’s central wheatbelt that has become transformed by a delightfully quirky collection of outdoor sculptures.
The small town of Kulin is 280 kilometres east of Perth, just a short detour south of the most direct route to Hyden and Wave Rock.
The town is an agricultural centre with a population of around 350 people, with wheat and sheep farming as the main activities. It is best known for its horse races: the weekend-long Kulin Bush Races held in October every year.
In the 1990s, when Kulin Shire Council thought the races could use some promotion to draw more visitors to the town, local farmers and residents took it up themselves to start their own community marketing campaign.
At first, one tin horse appeared without fanfare on the side of the road – and from there, it grew. Soon, the main road out to the race track, a 15-kilometre stretch east of town, was lined with tin horses made out of scrap metal, spare parts and farm junk.
Ever since, the roadside paddocks in Kulin have become a living gallery of bright, quirky community creations, and the tin horses are as much of a drawcard as the races they originally promoted.
Now, the Tin Horse Highway has become one of Western Australia’s most popular and unique self-drive tourist attractions.
The Tin Horse Highway provides a seriously entertaining drive and a fun alternative route through to Hyden and Wave Rock.
The hilarious horse characters are made of everything from corrugated iron, to 44 gallon drums, tin cans, farm equipment and other bits and pieces from the scrap heap. With a little bit of paint – and a lot of imagination – they became amusing, larger-than-life sculptures.
Some have signage that would cure any long face. Witty puns abound: there’s “Fillypoosis,” a play on the tennis player Mark Philippoussis, and Usain Colt, Usain Bolt’s equine relation. There’s horses doing handstands, playing bagpipes or reading “Playhorse” on the loo. There’s even a seahorse. Every horse has a story behind it, including some local legends.
It’s best to stop along the way to truly enjoy the details, creativity, humour and ingenuity behind each sculpture – and selfies with these horsey creations are definitely a must. With over 100 horses in town and on the highway, there’s plenty to see!
The horses are now there year-round, but new ones will occasionally be seen popping up on the roadside. These new tin horses are constructed in great secrecy, between farmers who have developed a friendly rivalry with fellow tin horse creators. When new additions pop up, they are often larger, more colourful and cheekier than the last.
On the western side of town, you will find the biggest tin horse in the region: the ‘West Kulin Whoppa.’ This tin horse is a reflection of many years of friendly competition between East and West Kulin farmers.
A boon for tourism
The region is also now known for having the largest waterslide in WA outside of Perth, as well as Blazing Swan, a Burning Man-style festival held at nearby Jilakin Lake. The tourism that these events, as well as the Bush Races and the Tin Horse Highway, bring to the town has been a great boon to the area, encouraging more people to experience the country life, hospitality and unique experiences on offer.
You never know what you might see the next time you drive the Tin Horse Highway.
For more quirky landmarks, take a tour of Australia’s ‘Big Things.’