The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is a unique 965km road trip through WA’s Goldfields. The drive follows in the footsteps of the adventurous pioneers looking for gold, visiting once prosperous communities that are now mere ghost towns.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Wangkatha people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

About Golden Quest Discovery Trail

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail links the once busy gold towns, that 100 years later are essentially ghost towns. It’s interspersed with salt and freshwater lakes including one that’s the location of the world’s biggest outdoor art gallery.

How to Get to Golden Quest Discovery Trail?

To get to the Golden Quest Trail, drive to the small town of Coolgardie, 550km east of Perth via Great Eastern Highway.

Places to Stay along Golden Quest Discovery Trail

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail has a varied range of places to stay from free camping, to historical pubs, and unique B&Bs.

Denver City Hotel

Coolgardie has a few options, but to get in the mood of the era you can’t go past the Denver City Hotel. Established in 1897, it still has much of its original character.

Rowles Lagoon Conservation Park

This large freshwater lake is often dry, but occasional heavy rains have filled the lake in recent decades, attracting over 40 species of waterbirds. There’s a free campground with toilets amongst the gimlet trees.


outback way rob mulally


Lake Ballard

The largest outdoor art installation is located on a massive salt lake. There are plenty of free camping sites near the lake’s edge. Watching the full moon rise here is spectacular. The campsite is well served with self-composting toilets.

Grand Hotel Kookynie

Built in 1902, this classic outback pub has some caravan and camping sites as well as rooms for a night or two.

Hoovers House B&B

There aren’t many places in Australia where you can stay at a US President’s home. Before Herbert Hoover became the 31st President of America, he was the mine manager for the Sons of Gwalia gold mine. The mine manager’s house, built in 1897, is now a bed and breakfast.

Things to do on Golden Quest Trail

  • Explore ruins of ghost town such as Kunanalling Pub and Kookynie Jump back in time in Gwalia where the abandoned shanty town has been restored
  •  Birdwatch at Rowles Lagoon
  • Check out the dining room in Hoover’s House and the replica gold bars on the dining table
  • Climb the small hill island for an overall view of the 51 statue installations at Lake Ballard
  • Grab a beer at an outback pub such as Grand Hotel Kookynie, Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie, or the eclectic Broad Arrow Hotel. Water was more expensive than beer back in the gold rush, so the most substantial buildings were pubs
  • Picnic in one of the largest temperate forests left in the world


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey

Golden Quest Trail History

The First Nations history of the Golden Quest Trail goes back many thousands of years. The Wangkatha people have strong Dreaming stories, like the Seven Sisters at Lake Ballard.

The story goes that seven sisters were flying over Lake Ballard and saw the salt glistening in moonlight. They went down to play on the surface, but a man began chasing the youngest sister. Today there are seven islands on the lake representing the seven sisters.

Gold was first discovered in Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields at the site of Coolgardie in 1892. As more people arrived, miners spread out to find their fortune. Overnight, tent cities would spring up around a new gold strike, creating an active network of communities. As wealth grew, more substantial buildings were built.

When these gold deposits ran out, miners moved on, leaving behind buildings that have become ruins. In once-booming townships such as Niagara, they simply packed everything up, including solid buildings, leaving nothing. In others like Gwalia, people just walked away leaving their basic tin and hessian huts as they stand.

In 2003, the shire came together to link everything of interest together and the Golden Quest Discovery Trail was born.

Skill Level

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is a good outback trip for beginner 4WDers. The route is on dirt roads that require careful driving but nothing too difficult.

Distance Covered / Duration

965km total / 5 days

Essential Gear for Exploring the Golden Quest Discovery Trail

  • 4WD or AWD for driving the rough dirt roads
  • Download or buy the Golden Quest Discovery Trail guide
  • Drinking water – the Goldfields still rely on water piped from Perth
  • Hat and sunscreen for the hot outback sun
  • Warm gear for night – it’s the desert so it gets cold at night, especially in the winter months
  • Topped up fuel tank

Read more: How To 4WD For Beginners

Experience of Visiting Golden Quest Discovery Trail

For explorers, the Golden Quest Discovery Trail gives us the opportunity to experience how the adventurous people of the 1890s lived their lives and made their fortunes, or not. Their world centred around gold, cutting timber to stabilize their mine shafts and water for survival. The trail can be driven in three days, but four or five days is recommended if you’re visiting Laverton.

Day 1 – Coolgardie to Kookynie

Distance: 350km


The official starting point of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail is Coolgardie. As we drive out of town, we try and imagine what it must have been like for the 15,000 people who once lived there.

The size and grandeur of the town hall hint to the importance of the town. Today it has a population of just over 800.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey


We hit the dirt early and soon come across Kunanalling, where 1,000 people once lived, trying to find that elusive piece of yellow metal. Today, there are remnant buildings such as the hotel missing a roof with partially collapsed walls. Along the road, there are past gold diggings and mineshafts.

Ora Banda

The next place of interest is the 108-year-old Ora Banda pub. The tiny town of Ora Banda had a historic pub and state battery to process gold. They were in ruins until restored by a policeman followed by the reintroduction of the local horse races.

Without getting into the details, a run in with some bikies ended up with one bikie shot after the races, the battery and pub being blown up, and a police car bombed in Perth. The historic inn was restored again by a fire destroyed in 2020. The present owners are intending to rebuild it.

Our drive continues past the site of Siberia, a once thriving gold town where nothing remains except for some lonely gravestones.

Goongarrie National Park

Agriculture is marginal out here. Some stations run cattle that you might encounter on the roads. Goongarrie Station was taken over when its 99-year lease ended.

The National Park protects part of the Great Western Woodlands, the largest intact temperate woodland left in the world. We’ve been lucky on occasions to be around here after rain. The tree trunks and limbs glistened in vibrant greens, browns, and reds.

We stop and stretch the legs at Menzies, a historic pastoral and gold town with interesting old buildings.

Kookynie and Niagara

The journey continues north to Kookynie, our overnight stop on day one. Ten people live in Kookynie today, a far cry from the 1,000 or so in its heyday. The Grand Hotel is still operational, and you might jag a prospector coming in with their gold finds or the local horse poking its head in the door.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey


A short drive trail passes other old pubs that remain like the Cosmopolitan (seems like an oxymoron), and many mine shafts to be wary of. We love exploring around here, always finding some old relic or interesting objects of a bygone era.

Unlike Kookynie, the once thriving town of Niagara no longer exists. Driving past, we wonder how a town with three brick pubs and a brewery could just disappear.

Nearby is Niagara Dam. Water was more valuable than beer, so a water source had to be found. The dam wall was built as a replica of the Mundaring Weir near Perth in 1897. Camel trains brought the concrete blocks to construct the dam. By the time it was finished, the pipeline running 560km from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie was completed and much more reliable. Today the dam usually has some water and camping is allowed.

Kookynie offers rooms in the Grand Hotel as well as caravan and camping spots. The hotel has a unique regular visitor, a local horse.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey

Kookynie Bar

Day 2 – Kookynie to Leonora

Distance: 70km

Although day two is only a short 70km drive, it allows us more time in Gwalia, the major highlight amongst many along the Golden Quest Discovery Trail.


Leonora is a small goldfields service town that has a twin. Right next door is Gwalia, a settlement for the workers of the sons of Gwalia gold mine. Around 1897, Herbert Hoover ran the mine until he was transferred to China. Later, he became the President of the United States.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey


In 1963, the mine ceased operating, and all the workers just up and left, creating a unique ghost town. In the late 1990s, the shacks were restored by the local Leonora community.

We’ve visited Gwalia on several occasions, captivated by this time capsule of history. At your own pace, stroll in and around the shacks, experiencing how the workers and their families lived.

Hoover’s mine managers house has been turned into a B&B, a unique place to stay. The town of Leonora also offers pub and caravan park accommodation with a more salubrious option at Hoover House.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey

Day 3 – Leonora to Lake Ballard

Distance: 152km

On this trip we didn’t have time to venture further afield to Laverton, so we headed west and south to continue the loop after fuelling up in Leonora. This is a more isolated part of the journey that gives the traveller a greater appreciation of how inhospitable the outback actually is.

Despite the isolation, there’s no shortage of sights along the way that highlight the highs and lows of gold prospecting.

After checking out landmarks such as Granite Creek and the ex-mining location of Copperfield, we turn off towards Lake Ballard via Snake Hill Lookout. It’s worth the short drive for expansive views of the lake and surrounding barren landscape. Then, it’s onto the nearby campsites on the edge of Lake Ballard, our stop for the night.

Lake Ballard

Lake Ballard’s surface is usually dry cracked mud, shimmering with salt crystals. The outback of Western Australia is dotted with salt lakes.

The difference with this one is the 51 statues placed on the lake’s surface. British artist Antony Gormley was commissioned to create an installation for Perth International Arts Festival in 2003. It was so popular, it’s now a permanent installation on the lake, creating the largest outdoor art gallery.


Golden Quest Discovery Trail: A Guide to Driving WA’s Goldfields & Ghost Towns, Jane pelusey


Walking on the lake’s surface, we found the muddy surface a little tacky. Our footprints break through the salt crust with a slippery mud underneath.

An old pair of runners is a good idea. An impressive rocky outcrop rises abruptly out of Lake Ballard. We climb up a short, but steep trail for a higher perspective of the widely spaced statues. The stunning everchanging colours of the lake kept my camera trigger busy.

Self-sufficient camping for caravans and tents is allowed in the area provided.

Day 4 – Lake Ballard to Rowles Lagoon

Distance: 145 km

The next day, we head south passing yet more historic golden landmarks such as Ularring and Davyhurst to a surprising freshwater oasis. We think Rowles Lagoon is a great spot for an overnight camp if you’re self-sufficient with supplies.

Rowles Lagoon is a beautiful tree-lined freshwater lake, a haven for nature lovers. Some years it dries out and then refills from cyclonic rain. It’s a paradise for bird life including eight endangered species. A late afternoon stroll around the lake revealed a stunning sunset reflected in placid waters.

The campsite just has a toilet and some picnic tables.

Day 5 – Rowles Lagoon to Kalgoorlie

Distance: 86km

The following day, our Golden Quest Discovery Trail adventure ends in Kalgoorlie, an 86km drive. On the way, we stop to quench our thirst at the eccentric Broad Arrow Pub.

The Broad Arrow Hotel was on the cards to be bulldozed. Locals came down and signed the walls. So many people came, the business stayed open and still operates today. It’s a good place to pop in for a pub lunch and make an inscription on the walls, as we did.

Tips for Visiting Golden Quest Trail

  • Take plenty of water. This is semi-arid outback and water is scarce when away from towns
  • Tell someone when you’re going and when you’ll be back. Mobile phone coverage is limited
  • Bring a PLB (Personal Location Beacon)
  • Take extra food and fuel
  • Drive to the conditions. The roads can be rough with washouts, bulldust or mud after rain. Watch out for kangaroos and cattle
  • Take care around abandoned mine shafts in the bush, especially with children


Golden Quest Trail FAQs

Where is Golden Quest Discovery Trail located?

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is in the Western Australian Goldfields, 550km east of Perth.

How do you get to Golden Quest Discovery Trail?

To get to the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, drive from Perth on the Great Eastern Highway to Coolgardie.

When is the Golden Quest Discovery Trail open?

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is open all year round, although very hot in summer. Being desert, it can be very cold at night in winter. Unsealed sections can be closed after heavy rain so check with Main Roads and local shires.

Is Golden Quest Discovery Trail good for beginners?

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is good for beginner 4WDrivers.

Can you drive Golden Quest Discovery Trail?

Yes, the Golden Quest Discovery Trail is for driving but a 4WD or AWD is best because the roads can be rough.

How long does it take to drive the Golden Quest Discovery Trail?

The Golden Quest Discovery Trail is 884km if including Laverton and can take three days minimum, but a week would be ideal.