Step Back in Time: Must-Visit Museums and Heritage Attractions Along The South West Edge

This one is for the history buffs.

Have you ever wondered how the young service men and women leaving Australia for war felt? Or how early settlers adjusted to living in Australia? Take a step back in time at these museums and heritage attractions, and you’ll gain invaluable insight into the towns and people of The South West Edge’ past.

Bunbury Regional Art Gallery

No heritage building in Bunbury is more iconic than the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery (BRAG). Painted a cheery shade of pink, the two-storey Federation Gothic building certainly stands out among the more modern builds of the neighbouring TV stations and local government departments. In a past life, BRAG was the convent for the Sisters of Mercy. The convent was constructed in 1897 and decommissioned some 80 years later, in 1979. Despite undergoing renovations and upgrades to convert the building into the gallery space it is now, many of the original convent features – like the stained glass windows and ornate balustrades skirting the balcony – are still visible. Keep an eye out for them as you peruse the local artworks spread throughout the four gallery spaces.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet is mainland Australia’s tallest lighthouse: Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Constructed from local limestone in 1895, the structure played an important role in guiding ships through the hazardous waters at the cape. It still does to this day. Jump on a tour and climb to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views over the ocean and headland, listening to stories of the lighthouse keepers past along the way. Back on solid ground, you’ll find an interpretive centre. Inside, film, sound, and artifacts come together to give even more insight into life on the cape for the lighthouse keepers and their families.

The South West Edge is brimming with world-class produce. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best degustation and tasting menus in the region where you can sample the goods on the ultimate foodie adventure.

Esperance Museum

Esperance is home to sunbathing, beach-going roos and one of Australia’s most scenic drive trails. It’s also home to the world’s most comprehensive display of NASA Skylab memorabilia. Back in 1979, America’s first space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere over Australia’s South West, scattering debris near Esperance as it did so. Now, pieces of the vessel – as well as artifacts from the Sanko Harvest shipwreck and some bits and bobs from early pioneering times – are displayed in the quaint Esperance Museum in the Old Goods Shed. An icon in itself, the museum’s building is as iconic as the artifacts it houses.

National ANZAC Centre

Assume a serviceman’s or woman’s identity and follow their wartime experience as you navigate through Albany’s National ANZAC Centre’s interactive displays. It’s a unique and all-immersive way to learn about life as a soldier, nurse, or civilian during WWI. The Heritage-listed Princess Royal Fortress site on King George Sound is a fitting location for the museum, as this was the last port of call for troopships departing Australia for the war. The forts, built in 1893, were the first federal defence of Australia.

Fremantle Prison

Built in 1850, the World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison is the largest convict-built structure in all of WA. Over its 100+ year lifespan, it housed imperial convicts, prisoners of war, and everything in between. Maximum-security prisoners populated the cells right up until 1991, when it was decommissioned and turned into a museum and tourist attraction full of prisoner art, colonial artifacts, and photographs. If you want to see the cold, dark jail cells and gallows first-hand, leave the museum behind and book yourself onto a day tour. Or, test your nerves on an evening tour by torchlight. You’ll learn about the people who populated the prison, their crimes and maybe even encounter a ghost or two.

Wonnerup House

Get a glimpse into the lives of early South West settlers at the historic Wonnerup House. Nestled between the Ludlow Tuart Forrest and the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands, the homestead sits on several acres of manicured lawns, gardens, and bushland. The Layman family built it in 1832, and over the years, the site grew to incorporate not only the homestead but also a school, blacksmith, dairy, and stables. Though much of the original furniture and artifacts remain in storage until the National Trust can put together the complete story, visitors are still welcome to come and experience what remains on-site, piecing together their own story of what life was like in the early days.

Museum of the Goldfields

There’s no better home for Western Australia’s largest display of gold bars and nuggets than at Kalgoorlie’s Museum of the Goldfields. It sits proudly beside a showcase of the region’s mining heritage, detailing how prospectors and their families lived in the gold rush era through photos, artifacts, and informative signage. There are even full-scale replicas of successful mining magnate Claude De Bernales’ opulent boardroom and the typical miners’ cottage. It’s free to enter the museum and join a guided tour of the museum’s highlights, though gold-coin donations are most appreciated.


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