Visit Onslow (WA) (BL#77)
Onslow is one of those places that you have to divert off the main highway to go into and then come back out the same road and with a round trip of 160km it is easily avoided. Onslow I was curious about as I had never called in. From time to time you hear about Onslow in the news, more often than not during cyclone season. I also have a friend who owns some property there and I was keen to catch up with him but alas, he was in Perth and wouldn’t be in Onslow until May.
Whilst a neat and tidy town, it hugs the coast pretty much for just 3 streets back and apart from what appears to be a relatively new subdivision. Most of the housing is built of corrugated iron which is obviously the best to withstand the strong winds they experience on a regular basis. There are plenty of holiday accommodation type places available to hire/rent and little in the way of town shops. It has 2 caravan parks, a pub, general store/supermarket, chemist, hardware store and very little else apart from a couple of service stations. It does boast some impressive new looking facilities including school, hospital, multipurpose stadium, a great skate park and footy oval. Quite a bit of light industrial type place to service the needs of the town and the various mines in the area. It also caters for stations in the area including the famous Mindaroo Station.
Onslow Salt dominates the landscape as you enter. Situated 80km off the North West Coastal Highway the road in is the very best remote country road I have ever travelled on. Super wide in sections, the majority of its length has been resurfaced. There is money in this Shire, which covers a vast amount of country.
Onslow is unique in so many ways. It claims fame to being the most cyclone affected town on the West Coast of Australia, the most southerly town to have been bombed in World War 2, home to Chevrons $ Wheatstone LNP Gas Plant at Barrow Island some 47km off the coast, and home to the Atomic Bomb testing at the nearby Monte Bello Islands on 3rd October 1952. It is also the only town that has been literally uprooted and moved 14 miles to the north of its original place. The original town, named in honour of Sir Alexander Campbell Onslow, Chief Justice of Western Australia at various times between 1874 and 1901, was gazetted as a township in 1885. The town was moved to Beadon where a secure jetty was established in 1923-25.
It has a good lookout next to one of the caravan parks and opposite the police station. It doubles as a memorial to our armed forces and there is a nice boardwalk leading from here along the dunes for just over a kilometre and takes you to a carpark, bbq and toilet area with access to the beach. It is known as the Ian Blair memorial walk in honour of a local identity who came to Onslow as the local copper in 1959 and decided to stay on after his police term was up. Along the boardwalk every 50 metres or so is an information plaque giving relative information about different aspects of life in Onslow over the past 135 years.
I drove down to old Onslow (and out to Mindaroo Station because I missed the turn) which still has the shell of the Police Station and Cells for viewing. There are relics of other buildings with information plaques telling you what was where. The road in was rough and to be honest not worth the effort. There isn’t enough still there to make it worthwhile. What is exceptionally worthwhile, is a visit to the Information Centre and Museum at the old Goods Shed back in town. I spent over 5 hours here. I only left because I thought they might start charging me rent. They have a very good selection of memorabilia which has been donated by locals or ex locals. I spent most of my time here reading accounts of the early days in Onslow district written by locals. They were personal family history accounts and were great reading. One in particular that I enjoyed was by the lady from Perth who married a local pastoralist and they lived on Mt Stuart Station. On my way to Karijini I just happened to do an overnight stop right opposite their station gate. Growing up or moving their as a new city bride was tough to say the least. It was a 3 day car trip in the early days with the bitumen running out at Northampton and the only fuel supply north of their being The Overlander in the early days.
While I was sitting at a table in the museum reading these articles, a visiting lady came up to me and said “excuse me, could you please tell me what this machine is for over here?” Obligingly I got up and walked over to the gas fired ice making machine she was referring to and gave her a bit of a run down on how it worked. I then told her I wasn’t 100% sure but as I didn’t work there my knowledge was limited. She was most apologetic. She thought I was working or volunteering there. We both had a laugh over it.
I had a wander around the new town cemetery, which is on the outskirts as you enter the town and decided that was as good a place as any to camp and ended up staying there 2 nights. Nice and quiet. Didn’t hear boo out of the neighbours. Thank goodness!