Spend a day at Marble Bar (WA) (BL#23)
Marble Bar was on my bucket list simply because of what I had heard about it as being the hottest town in Australia.
I spent the best part of 2 days in Marble Bar and thoroughly enjoyed the trip out and back. There is plenty to keep your interest – even more so if you had a 4WD – but nonetheless I saw enough to make it worth the 406km round trip deviation off the Great Northern Highway.
Marble Bar has the dubious reputation of the hottest town in Australia when the temperature stayed above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) for 160 consecutive days in 1923-24. It reached the mid 30’s when I was there in late April.
The town grew out of a gold strike near the remote Coongan River in 1887 when massive jasper mineral deposits some 4km away were mistaken by prospectors for marble, and settlers named the town Marble Bar. Francis Jenkins discovered alluvial gold at Marble Bar in 1891 and in the 1930’s there was another Marble Bar gold rush. The Comet Gold Mine was productive between 1936 and 1955. The Comet Gold Mine today is inoperative. It originally stopped production due to the drop in the price of gold making it unprofitable. There is still making it unsafe and not viable to mine today. I gold in the mine and lots of it but the shaft has all but collapsed. The mine is National Trust listed and also has the highest smoke stack in the southern hemisphere. There is a museum on site which is well worth the drive out (7.5km) with plenty of exhibits, information and jasper souvenirs to purchase. The entry fee is a modest $3.00
Nearby is Marble Bar Pool, where if you splash water on the rocks it brings out the colour of the jasper. Next to that is Chinaman Pool. This is a great picnic area and I spent quite a bit of time here enjoying the peace and quiet over lunch by the water. Apparently a Chinese miner was hanged here in the olden days when he refused to disclose the secret location of his gold strike to claim jumpers.
The Government Buildings, which consist of the old Post Office (now Visitors Centre and museum), Mines Department (still operational) and Police Station (also still operational and with sergeants residence next door), were all built in 1896 from local stone and today stand as testimony to the building skill and prowess of the day.
During the Second World War, a RAAF Base operated from Corunna Downs Station, located 40km southeast of the town. Corunna Downs RAAF Base was built in 1943 for long range attacks on the Japanese in the Indonesian archipelago. To visit this site you need 4WD access.
Gold mining, manganese mining and pastoral production are the mainstay of the town now, with about 1,000 people calling Marble Bar home. It is situated in the Shire of East Pilbara, which lays claim to being the largest geographical shire in the world.
In town on the left before the General Store is a Pioneer Wall. It is dedicated to the poor souls that lost their lives in the harsh conditions and environment of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It consists of plaques with basic details of who, where and how the people died. Most were buried in unmarked graves, often literally where they took their last breath in the outlying areas around Marble Bar. There is also a good park/playground in town with a Memorial to all fallen soldiers.
There is a Pioneer Cemetery as well as a “modern” Cemetery.
The Heritage Trail is also well worth walking, though the flies and heat can become oppressive. The reward after that is a visit to the Iron Clad Hotel. The hotel, which was first built in 1893 is a treasure trove of memorabilia and strangeness. The present building was built in 1947. I can vouch that the beer is cold and the only thing warm is the welcome. Food is not cheap but it beats cooking yourself.
So glad I made the effort to go to Marble Bar.