In the northern Goldfields of WA, Leonora is a regional tourism and administrative hub that oozes heritage charm. For those exploring the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, Leonora is an ideal place base for a couple of days. Here are our top tips for two days in Leonora.

Day 1

Start your day right with homemade pastries and great coffee from the Food Van Shop in Tower Street, a favourite café for locals and visitors alike.

Next, pop in to see the friendly staff at the Leonora Visitors Centre on the corner of Tower and Trump Streets. Pick up local tips on visiting Leonora, neighbouring Gwalia, and many attractions further afield. Stock up on souvenirs, maps and memorabilia, and information on where to dine.

Armed with all the information you need, take the three kilometre drive out to Gwalia, a quirky ghost town and home to the former Sons of Gwalia Mine. In 1896, both Leonora and Gwalia were in the thick of gold rush fever, and there was a fierce rivalry between the two towns. While Leonora was formally gazetted as a town, Gwalia was not, and ramshackle camps popped up for the miners to live in.

The Shire of Leonora owns the ghost town, but many of the cottages have been ‘adopted’ by locals and restored. Take a wander through these rough homes and Mrs Patroni’s Guest Home, a single men’s boarding house, and try to imagine life in this harsh desert.

Drive up the adjacent hill to explore the Gwalia Museum, which is situated right on the edge of the open-pit mine. The museum showcases the life of the Sons of Gwalia mine, which closed in 1963.

From here, visit the lookout to observe the open pit, which was reopened in 1983, and is now functioning as the deepest underground mine in Australia.

Spend a couple of hours in the museum precinct, which features outdoor and indoor exhibits, including WA’s first passenger tram that linked Gwalia and Leonora and the original Oregon pine headframe. Other exhibits here include personal stories of local workers, and the gold assay office. There’s free RV camping for up to 72 hours.

Once you’ve perused the museum, you’ll be ready for scones and tea, or even a hamburger, at Hoover House Bed and Breakfast, located inside the museum grounds. The elegant mine manager’s house was commissioned by American Herbert Hoover, a young mining engineer sent to work here in 1898. Hoover had moved on before the manager’s house was finished, and eventually became the 31st President of the USA, but Hoover House Bed and Breakfast is open for visits or stays. Take a stroll through Hoover’s shady garden beside the deep mine, and sip your tea on the verandah.

Before leaving Gwalia, admire the State Hotel, which was WA’s first government-built hotel. Although it’s boarded up these days it still stands as Gwalia’s grandest building.

When hunger calls, join the locals back in Leonora at the Central Hotel for good country pub meals like chicken parmigiana or a hearty steak. Check in to the Leonora Motor Inn for clean and airconditioned, motel-style units.

Day 2:

Lace up your walking shoes for the Heritage Trail, a stroll down the heritage-lined Tower, Trump and Gwalia Streets. Following the engraved markers, the trail is 1.6 kilometres long, and a guide book is available at the visitors centre or online. The trail leads you through 30 sites showcasing Leonora’s heyday, the era of Cobb and Co coaches, and some of the historic businesses that were located here, like Lamont Brothers General Store, and the Cosy Tea Rooms.

Leonora boasts two historic drive trails to help curious travellers explore the nature, history and present-day mining operations north of town. Each drive trail is recommended as a day trip, but if you’re short of time, you could spend the afternoon picking out a few key sites closer to town.

On the Darlot Loop (total of 346kms) to the north-east of Leonora, you’ll encounter characteristic mulga bushland, dramatic breakaways, and salt pans rimmed with samphire. Highlights closer to Leonora include Malcolm Dam, 14 kms from town. Built-in 1902 it provided water for the railway. Today, it provides water for wildlife, and is ideal for birdwatching. The Terraces are a large breakaway formation about 47 kilometres north-east of Leonora, great for a bushwalk.

On the Agnew Loop (398 km total), you’ll explore the history of mining and old stock routes of the region. Close to Leonora, you’ll find the town’s original gold mines like Edward "Doodah" Sullivan's original "Johannesburg Lease", which is now the Trump Mine. Follow the short track to see Sullivan’s grave.