Marble Bar

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Marble Bar is warm welcome to grey nomads
The sign says it all

Its name will forever be synonymous with blistering heat, but there’s a lot more to discover in Marble Bar than an endless need for shade and water.

Yes, the remote town located nearly 1500 kilometres north of Perth on the Great Northern Highway can get a little on the warm side. And, yes, it’s true that the Pilbara community once sweltered through a world record breaking 160 consecutive days of above 100°F (37.8°C). However, it’s also true that between April and September, most grey nomads would prefer the temperature here to that in Hobart, Ballarat or Albany.

And, far from the dusty, desolate image often associated with remote WA towns, Marble Bar is a modern mining town with a range of facilities including restaurants, shops, mechanics and, of course, a caravan park. For a view over the town and the surrounding area, both the Water Tank Hill lookout and the Horizon Power lookout are recommended. Today, gold, silver, copper and jade are successfully mined here but it was really gold alone that put the place on the map back in the early 1890s.

At one stage, gold fever saw the town’s population grow to 5,000. Today, it is more like 500. Evidence of a booming past is not hard to find. In the mid 1890s, the Government Offices were built out of local stone with corrugated iron roofs and these impressive National Trust listed buildings can still be seen today.

The building most grey nomads are keenest to clap eyes on though – particularly when the mercury rises – is the Ironclad Hotel. The pub, named by American miners who were reminded of the Ironclad ships from the US, even has air conditioning!

The name Marble Bar came courtesy of a jasper bar which crosses the Coongan River just west of town that was originally mistaken for marble. There is a water hole below the Bar, and both this and nearby Chinaman’s Pool are popular for swimming. Further out, there are a number of great gorges to visit and perhaps enjoy another swim or a picnic. These include Coppin’s Gap, Kitty’s Gap, Carawine Gorge, Glen Herring Gorge and Doolena Gorge … but you’ll need a 4WD.

For rock hounds, the place to go is the Comet Gold Mine which is just out of town but hard to miss courtesy of its 75 metre smoke stack. The mine actually ceased operations in 1955 but is now a museum. Visitors can also take an underground mine tour there.

Many grey nomads enjoy a drive out through the dusty landscape to the Corunna Downs Airfield. It was built in 1943 as a long-range base for attacks on Japanese-occupied islands during World War II, and has long since fallen into disrepair. Like Marble Bar itself, the airbase was for a long time a well-kept secret but, in both cases, the secret is now well and truly out.

Click here to read Victor Courtney’s superb poem, The Man from Marble Bar.

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