Back in 1896, the frenzied rush for gold built Gwalia (adjacent to Leonora). Seemingly overnight, corrugated iron shacks, cobbled together with hessian and tree branches, rose from the red dust to house workers from the Sons of Gwalia mine. While other camps have been swallowed by desert sands, Gwalia remains a living museum, waiting for explorers. Try these top tips for your Gwalia ghost town visit.

1. Sticky beak through the miner’s camps

Most of the miners built their own accommodation, close to the mine. Although the Shire of Leonora now owns the ghost town shacks, many were ‘adopted’ by locals. Stroll right through these preserved shacks, like the little pink camp, and the Function House with a piano on the patio, and read about the characters that lived there. Mrs Patroni’s Guest Home was a single men’s boarding house, and the dining room is still set, as it would have been when the final mine whistle blew in 1963.

2. Visit Gwalia Museum

Dedicate a couple of hours to exploring this museum, located on the spectacular edge of the Gwalia open-pit mine (entry by donation). Discover the rigors of desert life, where water was scarce, heat was fierce, and flies were plentiful. Check out WA’s first passenger tram that linked Gwalia and Leonora from 1903 to 1921 and the original Oregon pine mine headframe, the only of its kind in Australia. Exhibits include personal stories of locals workers, and the gold assay office. Free RV camping available for up to 72 hours (no facilities).

3. Drop into the President’s house for scones

American Herbert Hoover was 23 years old when he was sent to Australia in 1898 to inspect the Sons of Gwalia mine. A mining engineer, Hoover became the superintendent here, and along with designing the mine, he commissioned the elegant mine manager’s house. Hoover was moved on before his house was finished, and later moved into an even grander home, the White House, becoming the 31st President of the USA. Hoover House Bed and Breakfast, is open for visits, garden strolls, and fluffy scones on the verandah. After 4pm, it becomes a guest-only, boutique accommodation, in a gob-smacking, mine-front location.

4. Check out the State Hotel

The splendid State Hotel was WA’s first government-built hotel, and although it could do with some TLC, it still stands and can be viewed from outside. But this wasn’t Gwalia’s only drinking establishment. Back in 1900, Gwalia had 21 ‘sly grog’ shops, reportedly more than any other town in the Commonwealth. There’s one in the ghost town, and you’ll see an original collection of old bottles used in the trade. The illegal drinking houses were particularly popular with the migrant workers, avoiding the formality of the State Hotel.

5. Take in Australia’s deepest underground trucking mine

After the mine closed in 1963, it was abandoned for 20 years. In 1983, descendants of Peter Lalor (of Eureka Stockade fame) reopened the mine, and the Sons of Gwalia mine became an open pit. In 1999, the company began underground mining, and this mine, now owned by Genesis Minerals, is the deepest underground trucking mine in Australia, at 1,600m deep. Learn more about the underground operations in the Gwalia Museum, and see the trucks disappearing into the underground from the public lookout beside Hoover House.