We finally have some time off work and school commitments, and as we all love any opportunity to get away from it all, this time we decide to explore Westonia.
We arrive at Westonia’s Caravan Park after travelling a short 10 kilometres north off Great Eastern Highway at Carrabin Roadhouse. Carrabin Roadhouse is located approximately 42 kilometres east of Merredin (or 302 kilometres east of Perth) and Westonia is well sign posted from the highway.
The approach to Westonia is welcoming, with a variety of lovely local eucalypt trees sheltering the road like an inexhaustible guard of honour as we drive into the town.
I am glad for a good night’s rest at what turns out to be a quiet and leafy caravan park conveniently located on the southern end of the town’s main street.
My husband and I are also delighted to find that a powered site at the park costs only $15 a night and that a spacious camper’s kitchen is on offer plus all the usual facilities.
The next day the kids bound out of bed early, keen to explore the town. We walk up the town’s main street and enjoy inspecting a variety of historical treasures set amongst the gardens on our way to the town’s centrally located playground.
The town’s built infrastructure is also a visual feast, with a range of heritage buildings along the main street, as well as new buildings that have been built in a 1920’s heritage style. Immaculately landscaped native gardens also fill the length of the main street and the centre of the town. I admire the work that has gone into creating such an impressive townscape.
We discover a variety of playground equipment for the kids to enjoy as well as a small skate park adjacent.
The kids continue to explore the various old trucks and other historical items that pop up as we walk through the town. Flowers tumble delightfully out of crates on a well-loved old truck outside the town’s grocery store and post office.
Our next stop is the Westonia Gallery Café on the main street, another heritage building that has been beautifully restored by the current owners and that offers an impressive range of gifts and artwork. I am also pleased to find that they sell reliably good coffee as well as eat in and take away food.
We then head down to Westonia’s Hood-Penn Museum, which turns out to be an interesting and interactive experience for all of us. We pay only $3 each for adults and $1 each for children to check out this jam packed museum that incorporates a number of scenes exhibiting early life in the shire. The museum also features a number of life size mannequins (that were modelled on real human beings), which stand as incredibly life like characters within each scene. The building itself is a re-creation of the Club Hotel that existed in the town’s heyday.
The attention to detail that has gone into Westonia’s Hood-Penn Museum is extraordinary. My husband particularly liked the below sign that hangs on the wall in the bedroom scene.
The museum also features many interesting and varied displays that are housed within solid beautifully made jarrah cabinets. These jarrah cabinets were originally used at the Perth Mint.
Overall I find the museum to be quite the opposite of the dry lifeless experience that museums can sometimes be. The famous quote from Phyllis Diller, “I buried a lot of my ironing in the back yard,” is displayed along with a selection of extremely old and daunting solid metal irons.
The kids were also delighted to find a Scitech vibrating gold mine experience within the museum. The vibrating gold mine broadcasts the conversation of some early Westonia gold miners as well as various sound effects while a series of replica mine blasts go off beneath one’s feet. The kids loved imagining they were rough old style gold miners like the old gold miner standing in the corner and went back just to experience the vibration of the blasts a second time.
After leaving the museum we decide to take a drive out to the Ramelius Gold Mine Lookout located only two kilometres north of the town centre. We park the car and walk up an incline until we reach a lookout shelter that gives us an excellent view of an operating open pit gold mine at work. A variety of machines can be seen in action, and the kids love watching the fully loaded trucks crawl slowly back out of the pit.
Later that day I take a peaceful wander through Westonia’s walk trail which is located within 5,600 hectares of town common woodland just south of the caravan park. Westonia is unusual in that it is completely surrounded by this large area of town common woodland. Paradoxically this woodland was originally preserved because it was thought that the additional timber would be needed to fuel the steam boilers that powered some aspects of the early gold mining industry. Luckily the woodland was not needed, and it still envelopes the town today.
I am taken with the spectacularly varied shades of colour in the bark of the local eucalypt trees and enjoy seeing various interesting remnants of the town’s early years as I meander along the four kilometre trail.
I find that there are plenty of other quirky and pleasurable surprises around the town to take in. Small replica stores from the town’s early history appear on various streets throughout the town, and a collection of these assemble at the entry to the town as shown in the photo below.
The day turns into a balmy evening and as I find myself in one of my non-cooking moods (these happen on most nights), we decide to take the short walk to the Westonia Tavern on the main street for dinner. The Westonia Tavern is a beautifully restored and maintained 1916 heritage listed hotel, complete with polished floorboards and a crackling open fireplace. Like many bush hotels, this hotel is family friendly, and small children play while their parents finish their meals in the large beer garden.
Later, when the day has drawn to a close and everyone else is asleep, I reflect on the enterprise and effort that has created such a friendly, peaceful and pretty town.
It really has been refreshing to experience.
For more information about Westonia visit http://www.westonia.wa.gov.au/explore-westonia.aspx
By Annemaree Jensen who writes at www.extramilewriting.com.au. Huge thanks to Kylah, Abigail and Emma whose beautiful faces appear in the photos within this article.