HANGIN’ OUT ON THE HOLLAND
5 reasons to hit this historical Goldfields Track
Words by Grant Hanan & Linda Bloffwitch. Images & Video by My Aussie Travel Guide.
When WA has a stack of 4X4 tracks in every part of the state, you could easily spend a lifetime chasing every one of them. Not that we think that would be a bad thing. And while we’ve had a real crack over the years at ticking them off one at a time, the Holland Track finally made it to the top. Having heard so much hype about this track from WA locals for ages, our visit was well overdue. Here’s why we had the Holland track on our list.
MILD OR WILD – IT’S YOUR CHOICE
One great thing about the Holland is you can make it as challenging as you want, when track conditions vary from sand and dirt, to bog holes and mud. The mainly single-lane track runs between Hyden and Coolgardie through either mallee thickets or pockets of eucalypts. It has a bit of a reputation for being a mud pit at the Hyden end, which we found lived up to its name, as there’s plenty of deep wheel ruts full of water which rendered them a sloppy mess. But we soon learned the Hyden end wasn’t going to have the only mud we came across.
But all isn’t lost if you’re not keen on tackling the boggy sections head on as it’s easy enough to take a side track here and there to avoid travelling through mud pit after mud pit. Although, there were exceptions when the main and side tracks were both as bad as each other. We travelled solo this trip and towed our wide quad camper trailer, which wasn’t always easy, as at times its wheel track was wider than the wheel ruts or the width of the track, or both. Even side tracks proved a bit challenging as the turns were a bit tight for the 79 Series and the trailer, so we kept a lookout to avoid staking a tyre. With the varying track conditions our speed was fairly constant, but we picked up a bit of speed whenever we reached the firm sandy bits.
AN ICONIC GOLDFIELDS TRACK
If you’re wondering whether the track was given its name to honour some Dutchy, you’d be thinking wrong – it was named for a very good reason after a local bushie named John Holland. When the Coolgardie gold rush kicked off in the early 1890s, there was no direct route for goods, supplies and diggers to travel when coming from further south. So when private investors put up some money for a more direct route to be made, John raised his hand for the job and cut the entire track in just over a couple of months with a few offsiders. A simply phenomenal effort. When the extension of the rail network all but sealed the fate of the track a few years later, mother nature began to reclaim it. But thanks to the efforts of others to re-trace the track during the 1950s, it was eventually opened to four-wheel drivers some years later. These days the Toyota Landcruiser Club of WA have adopted the track, and no you don’t need to own a Toyota to drive it.
IT’S NOT JUST ANOTHER TRACK
Some say it’s the journey, others say it’s the destination, but we think it’s the experience. And having a track guidebook made a load of difference so we didn’t miss out. Two of the more obvious features along the track are the rabbit-proof and state barrier fences (although I’m not sure whether the state barrier fence was really designed to keep emus out or the Mexicans from across the border!). Anyway, you can’t miss it as you follow it for almost 5km. Mother nature has also done a top job by supplying multiple gnamma holes around the granite outcrops. These natural and often deep rock holes are filled with water and were important water sources for the indigenous that sometimes can be cleverly disguised as a small puddle from a distance. The track also passes a massive mallee fowl’s nest near Wattle Rocks, which was a work of art as far as nests go.
You can take a small diversion to reach the summit of Mount Holland at the Southern Cross-Forrestania Road intersection, or you can stick to the track and continue. Further on you’ll come to the centennary commemorative plaque of Holland’s exploration where you can also sign the visitors’ book located inside a suitcase. You drive right past it, so it’s not something you can easily miss. The track also passes some excellent granite outcrops along the way (Krakouer Rock and Ewing Rock), and Diamond Rock has the most unusual orange-coloured pin cushion plants. Victoria Rock Nature Reserve is closer to the Coolgardie end that is a large, tall granite outcrop with excellent views of the surrounding area. You can probably gather by now this track has plenty of rocks! Our last stop before reaching Coolgardie was Gnarlbine Rock (yes, it’s another large granite outcrop), but it’s one with a difference. Back in the 1800s, the soak found here was the main water source for the Coolgardie gold rush. It’s worth a stop to check out the century-plus aged wells that are still in good condition.
TOP BUSH CAMPING
With the ever-changing landscape along the track, there’s an abundance of campsites of all sizes that provide a variety of camping conditions. The mallee camps are great for taking shelter from the wind, and the granite rock camps keep you out of the mud. But these have little firewood, so top up supplies when you reach areas of eucalypts. Popular and named campsites such as Sandalwood Rocks and Centenary Rocks are well suited for groups, but the campground at Victoria Rock Nature Reserve would have to be the top pick if you’re looking for a little bush camping luxury with its BBQs and toilets.
YOU DON’T NEED A LOT OF TIME
If you’ve got a few days up your sleeve and itching to have a bit of sand, mud and dirt under the wheels, the Holland Track can satisfy a thirst for remote adventure, and it’s only a little more than a half-day’s drive from Perth. It’s the type of track that could easily be completed in a couple of days, but we reckon the younger kids (and some adult kids) will appreciate allowing an extra day to explore all the sensational stuff along the way. We found the track easily lived up to its hype, and we were stoked to follow in the steps of pioneering legend John Holland and to relish his hard work of blazing the track more than a century ago.
GETTING THERE: The Holland Track is around 350km in length and runs between the towns of Hyden and Coolgardie.
SUPPLIES: Limited fuel, mechanical services, accommodation, food and supplies are available in Hyden and Coolgardie, so plan ahead and top up your fuel and supplies before heading out.
BEST TIME FOR TRAVEL: Spring is a good time to visit when the wildflowers are blooming, temperatures are comfortable, and before the summer heat. Winter and autumn can also be good due to mild temperatures, but not after rain. Rain in any season can render some of the sections impassable.
WHAT TO TAKE: Other than the BBQs and toilets located at Victoria Rock Nature Reserve, there are no other facilities along the track. So you need to be fully self-sufficient for bush camping; consider carrying some recovery gear, and carry your rubbish out.