Standing on Kokerbin Rock in Western Australia’s central Wheatbelt, one wonders if explorer John Septimus Row imagined the scene below. The patchwork of brilliant yellow and vivid green, laced together by ribbons of gum trees spreading to the horizon would be very different to what he saw when he travelled through here in the 1830s and 40s as Surveyor General for the fledgling Swan River settlement.
|view from Kokerbin Rock|
Whilst many small railway siding towns have sprung up and later disappeared over the years as farming practices changed and people moved to larger centres, a drive through WA’s Wheatbelt today reveals the country’s pioneering spirit and many treasures for the visitor. You will see paddocks of ripening heads of wheat and golden canola, roads lined with salmon gums, mallee, sandalwood, quandong and wildflowers, quiet country churches and railway sidings, granite outcrops with panoramic views, and if you’re here in early summer, massive headers harvesting the grain.
Leaving Perth over the Darling Scarp via the Great Eastern Highway, we arrive at York, in the rolling hills and fertile grazing country of the Avon Valley, 96 kilometres from Perth. York is WA’s oldest inland town and you are immediately struck by the history oozing from its stone walls. Indeed York is one of Australia’s best preserved nineteenth century towns. Settled by farmers in 1831, only two years after the establishment of the Swan River Colony, York became the starting point for pastoralists, sandalwood cutters, explorers and gold seekers. Now a popular tourist centre, York is classified by the National Trust and heritage enthusiasts should plan to stay at least two nights.
The article takes us on a tour around the central wheatbelt. Some of the highlights include:
- York - fantastic for day trippers from Perth - drive up for lunch. And for heritage enthusiasts there are walk trails covering 57 historical sites and heritage buildings.
- Beverley - displays some fine examples of 1930s Art Deco architecture.
- Moorumbine - stone and shingle St Partrick's Anglican Church built in 1872
|St Patrick's Anglican church, Morrumbine|
- Cuballing - a number of early 1900s buildings. The town hall was built by voluntary labour on Sundays in an attempt to improve the town's status when Narrogin became the major centre for the area.
- Narrogin - larger than the average wheatbelt town, the key to Narrogin's early development was the arrival of the Great Southern Railway in 1889.
- Dryandra Woodland - the largest remnant of original vegetation in the western wheatbelt and centre of the area's conservation and eco-tourism. DEC's "Return to Dryandra" project is re-introducing native animal species. There is camping, cottage accommodation and walk trails.
- Wickepin - visit Albert Facey's cottage - from the autobiography "A Fortunate Life" - gives an insight into the harsh and simple lifestyle of a small 1930s wheat farmer.
|Albert Facey's cottage, Wickepin|
- Kulin - Look out for the tin horses in the paddocks along the Kulin Holt Rock Road - the "Tin Horse Highway" - built in friendly competition between farmers. The Kulin Bush races are held at Jilakin Rock in October.
|Tin Horse Highway, Kulin|
- Hyden - Wave Rock - a 270 million year old granite rock cliff face, fifteen metres high and 110 metres long in the shape of a wave breaking.
- Corrigin - Pioneer Museum, dog cemetery. Corrigin won the "Dog un a Ute" competition in April 2002 and the world record with 1527 dogs in utes.
- Bilbarin - step back in time along a historical walk with interpretive signage through the remains of this railway siding town
- Ardath - Federation style Ardath Hotel
- Bruce Rock - ideal base for exploring the central wheatbelt, wildflower drive, pioneer well, recreation facilities, amphitheatre, Vietnam Veterans Reunion week in November.
- See harvesting during late October to mid December
- Kokerbin Rock - the third largest monolith in Australia. Enjoy camping, picnicking, bushwalking and 360 views from this 122 metre high rock.
- Shackleton - 3x4 metre Australia's smallest bank operating since the 1930s and used as an aircraft observation post during World War 2.
- Narembeen - Roe Lookout, Gate 54 of the Rabbit Proof Fence, Holleton gold mining area
- Merredin - Old Railway Station Museum, Peak Heritage Trail, remains of WW2 field hospital relocated to Merredin from Gaza Ridge Palestine in 1942.
- Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail - pipeline from Perth to Kalgoorlie completed in 1903 - 26 historical special interest sites, including wells and pumping stations, Mundaring Weir
- Return to Perth along the Great Eastern Highway through Doodlakine, Kellerberrin, Tammin, Cunderdin, Meckering, Northam and Toodyay
|view from Roe lookout, east of Narembeen|
|Bruce Rock wheat bin|
Best time to visit – The wheatbelt has hot dry summers and mild winters, averaging 170 clear days per year. Daytime temperatures range from mid teens in winter, mid 20’s in autumn and spring, to mid 30’s to low 40s in summer. Best time to visit is April, May, August to October – spring for wildflowers.
Look out for wildflowers on road and rail reserves, bush blocks and granite outcrops. Most towns have Heritage Trails, Wildflower Trails and Nature Reserves. Granite outcrops afford spectacular 360 degree views. Pick up brochures from local Visitor Information Centres.
Take with you -
A map, walking shoes, sun hat, sun screen and fly repellent if you’re walking through the bush!
Water, Check your fuel
Useful Websites –
Tourist information – www.wheatbelttourism.com and www.westernaustralia.com
Dryandra Woodland - www.dryandratourism.org.au
The WA Department of Environment and Conservation - www.naturebase.net
The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail - www.goldenpipeline.com.au
Also check websites of towns on the net
To read this full article, please see November 2012 issue of On The Road magazine
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