Road trip. Is there a more evocative phrase? Two words that bring images of blazing through wide open, beautiful country to mind. Adventure. Experience. Making memories that will last a lifetime.
How lucky are we then to have one of the world’s most stunning road trips right here in Western Australia?
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail ticks all the boxes that a perfect road trip adventure should tick – breath-taking landscapes, a glimpse into enthralling, enlightening and occasionally dark history, and warm hospitality from true blue locals.
That sounds like a big ask – we’re talking about a big bit of story-laden bush here – but the GQDT has been proving it’s up to the job since 2003. Since then, tens of thousands of travellers have trusted it to deliver the perfect itinerary and simply loved the results.
All you need, then, is your vehicle – any two-wheel drive will do, but if you can go with a 4WD all the better – and a yearning to get out there.
Check out the GQDT website, free-to-download app or purchase the guidebook and you’ll see the impressive itineraries that have been devised – a three-day trail, a four-day drive and the one to pick if you want five days on the road.
Each option starts in Coolgardie. Today, this charismatic outpost, steeped in history, is a comfortable, friendly stop for travellers, but it once reigned as the third biggest settlement in WA, and the biggest in the bush. Gold made it boom and it was key in Australia becoming what is today.
It’s the perfect place then to begin a journey which will take you to some equally iconic overnight stops. Your destinations vary depending on which option you pick – Menzies and Laverton are on the longer trips – but all itineraries include stays in Kookynie and Leonora-Gwalia.
All these outposts have their own stories to tell, but a favourite has to be Kookynie’s proudest boast. The tiny town – population 12 – is home to ex-pacer named Willie Strike More, a horse who used to race at Gloucester Park in Perth and was sent away when he retired. Like all good residents he drops into the town’s pub every day for his lunch. Rock up at the right time and grab a bite alongside him. Willy the Horse has an ever-growing Facebook page so those who meet him can follow his antics.
Other highlights along the way include the Niagara Dam, Laverton’s Outback Gallery, the Gwalia Museum in Leonora and the eerily beautiful Lake Ballard, a huge salt lake 40 minutes from Menzies that’s home to 51 sculptures, an army of steel giants that stand silently guarding this jewel of the bush.
The GQDT website, guidebook and free app provides comprehensive directions and advice, including important tips on respecting Indigenous communities and lands, as well as sorting out where to bed down at the end of the day. Comfortable, friendly and affordable accommodation is provided by Outback Parks and Lodges and should be pre-booked if required.
The places you’ll go and the things you’ll see will never leave you, but it’s sensible to also remember that the country you’ll be driving through is real. This is no theme park joy ride, so it goes without saying that those travelling the trail need to respect the land they’re crossing. While most roads are sealed, some are not, so leave your metro driving habits at home. And watch the weather – a change in the elements means more here than remembering to get your washing in on time.
Don’t worry though – the GDQT has all the information and resources you need to work alongside nature in this ruggedly beautiful part of the world. Stay sensible, make sure you’ve got loads of water on board, don’t bug the driver, take regular breaks and make sure you’ve loaded your Spotify with some good old driving anthems and you’ll be golden.
Ultimately, though, all three tours have to come to an end, but once they do your adventure is only just beginning – welcome to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
This unique bush capital is unlike any other city on earth. A place that boasts a, let’s just say, colourful history, here you’ll find a modern, vibrant bolthole that still has echoes of the truly wild west that built it.
Indigenous culture sits comfortably alongside settler history in a city that was built on overcoming adversity and succeeding against the odds. While you’re here, make sure you hit up the Hannans North Tourist Mine, take the tram tour and visit the Super Pit, but the list of things to experience just goes on and on.
Those on a tighter schedule can also make Kal their base, and follow one of three day-tours or two overnight trips that take in many of the gems the Goldfields has to offer. Each is a delight, an experience, an adventure, and each will make you want to come back for more.
The good news? There’s so much here in this big red land that, when you do, we’ll always have something new to show you.