This Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary takes in Western Australia’s famous Wave Rock, wonderful silo art, and a vast agricultural region stretching from the fertile Avon Valley towns of York and Northam to the Goldfields and Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The route is punctuated by pastoral towns with wide streets, old corner pubs, golden pastures, and plains dotted with windmills, wheat silos and salt lakes.
This Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary follows Western Australia’s Great Eastern Highway, branded The Golden Way, and runs parallel to the Golden Pipeline, which carries water from Mundaring Reservoir to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the Goldfields. This itinerary is punctuated with brief but fascinating stops at some of the sleepy country towns along the route.
Between now and October is the time to do this Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary, when the countryside comes alive with dazzling wildflowers such as acacia, everlastings, grevillea, orchids, and wreath flowers. See Australia’s Golden Outback site for more information on wildflowers in the Wheatbelt and this site for more on wildflowers in Western Australia. The state is home to one of the largest collections of wildflowers in the world, with some 12,000 species and over 60% found nowhere else on the planet.
During winter it can get chilly overnight and drop down close to zero so take a warm coat. We recommend wearing layers, because by day you’ll warm up pretty quickly in the sun when you’re walking and hiking, especially at spots such as Wave Rock.
Central Wheatbelt Road Trip Itinerary – Where to Start this Drive
You could start this Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, and take National Highway 94, the Great Eastern Highway, to Cunderdin via Mundaring and Meckering. The 136km drive would take you around 1 hour 45 minutes. You could also stop off at Northam along the way.
With more time, you could spend a couple of days exploring these five historic country towns first. If you do and you end up spending your final night in lovely York, you can then either backtrack the 35kms to Northam (which would be fastest) to begin this drive or take the more picturesque albeit slightly slower route from York along the quieter Quellington Road to Meckering.
From York or Northam, your Central Wheatbelt road trip would be a 5-hour 15-minute drive to Kalgoorlie-Boulder along the Great Eastern Highway, which would take a full day if you started out early and spent a little time at each of the towns below calling into small museums and historical sights.
If you’re not a fan of a full day’s driving and prefer a more unhurried pace and a stop overnight en route, then Southern Cross, where you could check into the Palace Hotel, is your best bet. The next morning it’s just a 2-hour 20-minute drive to Kalgoorlie.
Wave Rock, near Hyden, is a detour that you could do on your return journey from Kalgoorlie to Perth, and in that case, it’s a left turn soon after you leave Southern Cross, heading south along Southern Cross South Road for Hyden, which is a 2-hour 10-minute drive.
From there, you could make your way back to Perth via the quieter backroads through tiny country towns, such as Kondinin, Corrigin (which has a handsome Town Hall and Pioneer Museum), Brookton, Jelcobine, and Westdale via Midgegooroo National Park (and Boulder Rock) through the Perth Hills and Armadale back to Perth. That’s a 4-hour drive. We’ll provide more detail on that route in a future post.
Another alternative from Hyden is to head south to Ravensthorpe and west to Albany. Or you could drive east along the coast to stunning Esperance. If you take the route west, you can also spend time in and around Denmark-Walpole, then drive through the towering southern forests to Pemberton and onto the gorgeous holiday town of Augusta. Drive north to explore the Margaret River wine region, where you can easily enjoy a couple of days of wine, waves and caves. This south-west part of the state is home to many of Western Australia’s best beaches. Then you can do our Perth to Margaret River itinerary in reverse to return to the capital.
Central Wheatbelt Road Trip Itinerary – What To See Along the Way
Our Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary follows Western Australia’s Great Eastern Highway, also known as The Golden Way, which runs parallel to the Golden Pipeline. It includes a detour to Wave Rock, which you could do on the way to the Goldfields if you’re continuing east or south, or on your return journey if you’re heading back to Perth. We provide options below.
Your first stop on this Central Wheatbelt road trip is the agricultural town of Cunderdin, named after the Aboriginal Nyoongar name of a nearby hill meaning ‘place of flowers’, which is apt considering it’s carpeted with wildflowers in season. First settled by pioneers in 1894 when the railway arrived, Cunderdin’s main sight includes a restored historic water pumping station converted into the compelling Cunderdin Museum (100 Forrest Street), which has good displays of memorabilia and old photographs on the pastoral history, agricultural equipment, and gold mining. There’s also, somewhat bizarrely, a replica of the original Ettamogah Pub now called the Cunderdin Pub (75 Main Street). The original Ettamogah Pub is actually in Albury-Wodonga on the New South Wales-Victoria border, and it’s a fictional pub that featured in a long-running comic of the same name by Ken Maynard in the long-defunct Australasian Post magazine. Continue east for 47km along the Great Eastern Highway to Kellerberrin; the highway becomes the town’s main road, Massingham Street.
Kellerberrin, which is a Nyoongar name for ‘camping place near where rainbow birds are found’, is your next stop on this Central Wheatbelt road trip and we recommend you take a look at the first town building to be constructed in 1897, Kellerberrin’s Agricultural Hall, which served as the town school, courthouse and roads department office. It’s now a Pioneer Museum (110 Massingham Street) and it’s set within Pioneer Park, where you can check out displays on pastoral life, including farm machinery and local memorabilia. Architectural buffs might want to admire Kellerberrin’s other heritage buildings and there’s more information about those on that last link. Nearby Kellerberrin Hill Lookout offers up expansive vistas of the surrounding countryside. Continue east for 57km along the Great Eastern Highway to Merredin.
Merredin is one of the more compelling stops on this Central Wheatbelt road trip. A former sandalwood centre and now a rich grain-producing town, Merredin boasts a handful of sights related to its early development and its role in World War II. There’s the Merredin Railway Museum, home to charming old Railway Station buildings, which host an exhibition on the development of the railways in the Wheatbelt, along with the history of Merredin. Kids and adults alike love the 1897 locomotive that hauled the Kalgoorlie Express. There’s more on Merredin’s early history in the Pioneer Women’s Room and Memorial Rose Garden. Don’t miss the splendid 1928 heritage-listed Cummins Theatre. Also interesting is the Military Museum (Barrack Street) which features displays of equipment and memorabilia from the World War II sites around Merredin, which once hosted an important army hospital. During wildflower season, from August to October, the whole area around town is ablaze with colour from almost a thousand species of wildflowers.
Public Silo Art Trail
Merredin’s most popular sight these days is its silo art and the Merredin silo murals are also a highlight of the Public Silo Art trail, which starts in Northam and includes silo art stops in Kattaning, Pingrup, Newdegate, Ravensthorpe and Albany. It took Kyle Hughes-Odgers, a Western Australian street artist “200 litres of paint, 14 days, 168 hours, two lifts, 80 rollers and 10 brushes” to create his jaw-dropping murals across four 35-metre high silos in August 2017. The artworks tell the story of Merredin’s natural environment, diverse community, geological landforms, and agricultural history.
If you’re heading directly on to the Goldfields – and seeing Wave Rock on your way back to Perth – continue east along the Great Eastern Highway and follow our suggestion for a Wave Rock detour on the return journey, as described above. But if you’re heading on to the Nullarbor and South Australia, or down to Esperance after Kalgoorlie, then you could do your detour to Wave Rock now.
To get to Wave Rock from Merredin, drive east 2km on the Great Eastern Highway, then turn right on the Merredin-Narembeen Road and head southeast for 68km. Turn left onto Mount Walker Road (sign-posted to Hyden) for 40km, then right onto the Hyden-Mount Walker Road for 45km. This becomes McPherson Street; turn left after 400m for Hyden Lake King Road and Wave Rock.
Hyden is best known for its unique 15m-high 100m-long wave-shaped rock formation called Wave Rock. One of my earliest memories of living in Perth with my parents as a child in the early 1970s is a visit to Wave Rock – a memory helped along by faded photographs of us at Wave Rock no doubt. Mostly visited by travellers on day-trips from Perth, more eager to strike a surfer pose for a photo op than to appreciate the striking granite rock itself, which is said to have taken shape over 27 million years, Wave Rock nevertheless offers some good easy walking opportunities around the rock. Hippo’s Yawn is another rock that resembles a yawning hippo, while you can see Aboriginal rock paintings at nearby Bates Cave. The drive here is especially scenic during wildflower season. More information here about Wave Rock.
In Hyden itself, the welded rural-themed sculptures in the public park warrant a closer look. There’s also a good bakery here where you can buy meat pies and sausage rolls and other snacks for the onward journey. The visitor centre at Wave Rock has information, souvenirs, and a café, but tickets to Wave Rock are bought from the machine in the car park at the start of the walk.
From Hyden, you can backtrack to Merredin then continue driving northeast for 109kms along the Great Eastern Highway to Southern Cross. You could also attempt to follow the backroads to Southern Cross, but it’s easy to get lost and if you do the journey can take twice as long. We are speaking from experience here! And if you’re really not up to the drive, there are always Wave Rock tours from Perth.
Your next stop on this Central Wheatbelt road trip itinerary is Southern Cross, settled in 1888 after prospectors Tom Riseley and Mick Toomey discovered gold here. The town was named after the Southern Cross constellation of stars that the fossickers followed to guide them. Western Australia’s first gold-rush town, Southern Cross is considered to be the last Central Wheatbelt town and the first Goldfields town. Distinguished by its extra-wide streets that had to be large enough to turn a camel train around on, Southern Cross has a handful of handsome historic buildings, including the quaint 1892 mud-brick Yilgarn History Museum, which served as Western Australia’s first Registrar’s Office and Courtroom, and features a prospectors’ camp. The Old Cemetery is a fascinating place for a stroll and a solemn reminder of how challenging the environment was for the early pioneers and prospectors.
From Southern Cross, it’s a 2-hour 20-minute drive to Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Continue to drive northeast along the Great Eastern Highway for 186kms to Coolgardie, which you should stop at first if you’re continuing east or south after the Goldfields.
Where to Stay on Your Central Wheatbelt Road Trip
The Palace Hotel
The Southern Cross is your best if you want to break up the journey mid-way, then push on to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie-Boulder the next morning. The Palace Hotel has compact but clean and comfortable rooms in a big old hotel that’s typical of outback corner pubs with a wide wrap-around veranda. If you want an en-suite bathroom, make sure to book a room with private bathroom otherwise you’ll be using shared bathrooms in the hallway. There’s a happy hour from 5-6pm and guests love the ‘pub grub’ here. 6 Orion Street, Southern Cross.
Do let us know if you do our Central Wheatbelt road trip to take in Wave Rock, the Wheatbelt’s pastoral towns and the wildflowers and wonderful silo art. We’d love to hear your tips.