Kalgoorlie, a mining town nearly 600 kilometres east of Perth, was once known for its crazy gold discoveries and socially accepted brothels.
Image above by Paul Pichugin.
Today, it is best known for the Super Pit, Australia’s largest open pit gold mine. Being the hub of the Western Australian Goldfields and home to 25-or-so pubs, Kalgoorlie’s nightlife is infamous and has been for years.
History of Kalgoorlie
1893 marks the day that three Irish prospectors Paddy Hannan, Thomas Flanagan and Daniel Shea discovered gold near Mt Charlotte which sparked a major gold rush in the town Kalgoorlie. Miners came in their hundreds and thousands, and the traders followed. Soon the rash of tents, shanties, canvas-walled pubs, tent brothels and timber framed shops grew into a sizeable settlement.
Unfortunately, Paddy Hannan never made the list of the richest men in the Goldfields. He died in Melbourne on 4 November 1925, a relatively poor man. He has been immortalised in the name of Kalgoorlie’s main street, whose many beautiful buildings remain some of the gold rush era’s best examples of mining town architecture.
The Kalgoorlie Super Pit
The Super Pit has harvested a total of 50 million ounces since it started operating in 1989. The hole is approximately 3.7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 480 m deep – big enough to bury Uluru. Guided tours of the Super Pit are available, 1.5 h for an Insight Tour or you can throw on a high vis vest and safety glasses and go for a 2.5 h experience in one of the worlds largest mines.
The Pink House
The mines aren’t the only attraction to have a look at in Kalgoorlie. Introducing Questa Casa (The Pink House), the last standing brothel on Kalgoorlie’s infamous Hay Street. Hay street was a socially accepted red light district in the Goldfields region. At its peak, there were about 20 prostitutes working at any given time. The strip was lined with dozens of brothels. Questa Casa claims to be Australia’s oldest working brothel, operating since at least 1904. Unfortunately for the madams of Hay Street, the strip started to die down when containment was lifted. Today only one prostitute works at the brothel and the madam of the house gives daily tours to keep business afloat.
If you don’t mind a bit of driving, a trip to Lake Ballard is highly recommended. The lake is considered the largest open gallery in Australia. A beautifully open piece of terrain that has sculptures scattered across the open plains. It’s the creation of Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley and it’s called “Inside Australia”. The lake only ever fills in roughly 20 year intervals, however if there hasn’t been any rain then fear not. Lake Ballard glistens from the salt leaving you with mesmerising views when it’s dry.
Kalgoorlie’s population sits at around 30,000 people proving that it’s much more than just a former mining town. “The mining industry is booming and the workers increasingly coming here are family men and women, mothers and fathers, rather than the single guy looking for a quick buck,” says Mayor John Bowler.
It may not be a quick weekend away but if you’re road tripping across the country, Kalgoorlie is one of those intriguing towns that just might pull you a few hundred kilometres off course. However long you stay, you’re sure to discover a a few hidden treasures.