Winter sunshine and blue skies saw us head inland from the South west coast of Western Australia for a day trip to Collie, an old coal mining town about a four hours return drive from our home.
With the coal industry on the wane, a heap of Government money is going into developing and promoting attractions to put Collie on the tourist map.
It’s not a hard sell. Collie – once known as Western Australia’s dirty coal town – is morphing into a very attractive place with a lot of attractions for visitors, including national parks, attractive waterways forests. And it has the Wellington Dam, now a canvas for one of Australia’s most famous new mega murals.
Collie is located in a beautiful valley less than 60 kilometres from the coast, and there’s a good road route through it to other inland Western Australian towns. It’s a scenic uphill drive to reach Collie from the coast. Not a big hill, but in mainly flat Western Australia, any hill is a treasure!
The town was established in the late 1800’s. The State plans to shut down its two coal-fired power stations by the end of this decade, replacing them with renewable energy and storage projects. So for Collie, this has meant changing the fabric of its town. It is being reborn, and it’s already looking good with an attractive town Art Gallery an excellent tourist/visitor centre, museums and great walking and biking trails.
Did I mention the little bakery? Lets get down to tin tacs! It’s the steak pies at the Collie bakery that are a major attraction for me. Pies are part of Australian foodie culture, and we took ours down to a park bordering the Collie River to enjoy lunch. Of course, we had some good Aussie ice cream to finish with!
Lucky I had my camera as the birdlife was great! I managed to capture photographs of this gorgeous little pardalote, along with white breasted wrens and a host of water birds.
The Collie River, meandering through the outskirts of the small town, is pretty gorgeous as well with parklands and excellent walking/biking path along its shores. I noted a pretty good looking golf course along the river as well!
After lunch, we headed to the nearby Wellington Dam, built in the 1930’s, and one of three hydro power stations in Western Australia. I saw it early last year when work was finishing on a massive mural on its walls. Today, it was wonderful to see it complete.
The mural was painted by Australian Guido Van Helten. Apparently, because our WA borders were tightly controlled for Covid, he had to isolate in a local hotel for a fortnight after flying in from the United States to start the project. He sorted through local photographs, stories and memorabilia before choosing six images of real people to reflect the local community on the dam wall. They include migrant workers, kids playing sand, and an 1800’s aboriginal couple.
To complete the painting, floating platforms and abseiling ropes were included amongst the work day tools!
Collie also now has a delightful mural trail that you can follow scattered throughout the town and featuring about 40 works done by Western Australian artists.
Collie is a great day trip from the WA South West Coast, and Perth is only a two hour drive away. It’s packed with lovely old buildings, including a line up of old Aussie pubs along the main street. Accommodation in Collie can be found in the old hotels or at a new upmarket motel/resort. Another boutique hotel is on the planning board.