In 1892 Coolgardie became the birthplace of the West Australian gold rush when Arthur Bayley and William Ford unearthed 554 ounces of gold at Fly Flat. Over the next 70 years half a million ounces were won form the aptly named location.
Within 10 years 16,000 hopefuls had invaded Coolgardie in the hope of discovering their own fortune or relieving other successful prospectors of theirs. The railway arrived in 1896 and 60 stores, 26 hotels, 3 breweries, 7 newspapers and 2 stock exchanges sprang from the desolate sands of the newly found field. In this early heyday only Perth and Fremantle boasted larger populations and London speculators formed over 700 new mining companies, determined to reap the benefits being wrenched from the colony.
Gold was discovered 40 km northeast at what was then known as East Coolgardie. The new find attracted the prospectors of Coolgardie who were finding gold harder to recover as the surface colour was picked over. East Coolgardie became Kalgoorlie - one of the most productive gold ventures in the world.
Today Coolgardie is home to around a thousand residents but remains one of the best preserved mining towns in Australia. The distinctive stone and brick architecture reflects the enormous wealth wrought from the nearby ground and the ultra-wide main street gives testament to the assistance the Afghan Cameleers and their caravans gave in establishing the goldfields.
Coolgardie offers one of the best historical insights into the early days of the Australian gold rush. The architecture is beautifully preserved and the exhibitions well presented. There are a wealth of abandoned settlements and old diggings in the area as well outback tracks such as the 'John Holland Way' which begins at Coolgardie and ends 670km away at Broomehill. Other attractions include the 'Waghorn Bottle Collection' - the largest in Australia, Burra Rocks, Caves Hill and the historical cemeteries.
An interesting distraction is the 1907 story of Modesto 'Charlie' Varischetti a mine employee who lay trapped underground in an air pocket for nine days. A thunderstorm flooded the Bonnievale mine in which he worked and a train rushed underwater divers and deep sea breathing equipment from Fremantle to recover him.
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