One of the most iconic 4WD tracks in Western Australia
It hardly gets more Aussie than throwing the swags on the roof and setting off on an outback adventure to follow in the footsteps of the early pioneers. We did exactly that when we embarked on a journey of history and discovery, to tackle the Holland Track in Western Australia.
Beginning in the heart of the Southern Wheatbelt region at Broomehill the track heads in a general north-easterly direction to Coolgardie in the Goldfields. Forged through rugged bush and woodlands, it represents the longest cart road ever carved in one stretch in Western Australia.
History of the Holland Track
In September 1892, the discovery of gold at Fly Flat (now part of Coolgardie) saw a rush of people hoping to strike it rich. Many prospectors from the Eastern states arrived by steamboat in Albany before making the arduous trek to the Goldfields. In 1893, experienced bushman John Holland, recognised the need for a quicker route. He and a small party took two months to cut the 500km track through dense bush.
The track was immediately used by prospectors travelling from Broomehill to Coolgardie. The Holland Track cut off more than a fortnight from their journey. Over 18,000 gold seekers used the Holland Track. However within three years, the railway line was extended to the Coolgardie Goldfields meaning the route was soon abandoned.
The track was essentially forgotten for almost a century until a small group of enthusiasts recognised the importance of the route and re-cut the Holland Track in 1992. These days the Holland Track has become one of the most popular and iconic 4×4 tracks for avid adventurers.
We tackle the Holland Track
Although we set off at the beginning of the school holidays (also a long weekend in WA), we actually didn’t really experience any crowds. Many travellers opt to tackle the Holland Track from Hyden onwards… but as with everything, we wanted the complete experience. That meant after setting off from Perth we headed to Broomehill first. Here we got a dose of history by visiting the commemorative plaque marking the site where John Holland and his crew set off.
Southern Section: Broomehill to Hyden
From there it was short back track to the start of the route. Much of the southern half of the track is bitumen roads and incorporated into pastoral lands. This made for a relatively easy but enjoyable first day of driving. We were even lucky enough to pass through some gorgeous yellow canola fields that were in full bloom. As the day drew to a close we pulled into the Silver Wattle Hill Nature Reserve to set up for the night. It was a cracker free camp set in the bush and we had the place all to ourselves.
In the morning we woke to the sounds of the bush and nothing else for miles. We cooked up a feed, rolled up the swags and hit the track again. Simplicity at its best. The whole section between Broomehill and Hyden is considered easy but after that the real 4WD experience begins.That’s where we were headed!
Northern Section: Hyden to Coolgardie
After passing through Hyden we crossed over the rabbit proof fence and came to the start of the northern section of the Holland Track. Connecting popular tourist town of Hyden (home to Wave Rock) to historic mining town Coolgardie, this section is only accessible by 4WD.
It’s around 290km long but don’t let the distance fool you. Most people take 2-3 days to complete the route so it’s important to go well equipped and prepared.
The track and the vegetation varies significantly across the journey. There’s dirt (and mud), clay, rock and sand surfaces along the track. It’s a challenging track and even if you only plan to take the side tracks around the obstacles it’s not really recommended for vehicles with stock suspension and tyres.
Each day we’d drive a section of the track, explore what it had to offer and only once the sun started to sink lower on the horizon would we select a bush camp to set up for the evening. There are literally plenty of campsites all the way along the track. This is great as you can take each day as it comes and there’s no need to plan too much ahead.
There’s quite a sense of remoteness out here. In retracing John Holland’s historical route, we couldn’t help but appreciate what a feat it was. Even more so, when you consider this was achieved without GPS or the machinery of today!
Things to See and Do on the Holland Track
It’s not all just about the 4WDing for this track. There’s plenty to see and explore along the route. Our picks would be the following:
– View the huge Malleefowl Nest: a ground-dwelling bird that rarely flies, this species was once common in the Wheatbelt. Sadly, they now only exist in very limited numbers. At one stage the track ran close by the active nest and in a protective measure it was diverted. The nest is viewable after a short walk off the track and is protected by bollards accompanied by an information sign. Please respect and appreciate from a distance.
– Soak up some history: Today’s travellers will find numerous memorials and commemorative plaques along the track that pay tribute to both John Holland’s expedition and those that re-cut the current route for 4WDers. This includes the Centenary Marker which commemorates 100 years since the track was first cut. You’ll come across this around half way along the track. Here you’ll find a memorial plaque for John Holland plus a signing book and a rusty old survival case containing an eclectic assortment of trinkets left behind by past travellers.
– Gnamma Hole: A key factor in the the survival of John Holland’s party and the subsequent success of the Holland Track was the availability of water. Water is essential for survival in the bush and the rocky outcrops of the region would naturally hold water in the rock pools. Knowing this, Holland would ride out in advance of his crew seeking the rocky outcrops and then cut the track accordingly. Known as Gnamma holes, some of these rocky areas were covered over to prevent contamination of the water. We came across one absolutely teaming with tadpoles and another with a snake cooling off.
– Wildlife: speaking of critters, we spotted plenty of lizards – bobtails, goannas etc – a whole family of emus and a total of three snakes over the week. A few eagles and other birds.
Track Conditions and What To Expect
Difficulty: Medium but just like any track it’s very dependent on conditions at the time of course.
Vehicle requirements: This one is better suited to high clearance 4WDs. Some parts of the track should only be attempted by experienced drivers. That said, there’s also chicken tracks (easier side tracks) to bypass most of the challenging sections.
In many places it’s a narrow, single lane track. Watch out for oncoming traffic. There’s also plenty of epic bog holes and trenches that can be deceptively deep and muddy. The mud and sludge deserve some level of respect because of the damage it can do to alternators, radiators and general mechanicals. In any case, it’s highly recommended you have your own recovery gear (and know how to use it).
The other thing to look out for are tree roots which can easily stake tyres. We came across a bloke who hadn’t come too far and had already shredded two tyres and had no spares left. Fortunately he was travelling with others who’d gone for help/spares. Anyway we’d suggest not tackling the Holland Track with highway tyres. We run aggressive all terrains (Toyo RTs) which have a good strong sidewall. You can read more about our rig here.
Weather: Keep up to date with local weather forecasts because the track can become very slippery and muddy following rain. Take care when wet and respect any closures.
Supplies: You’ll be travelling fairly remotely so fuel up and take plenty of water as well as your food and other supplies. There’s no facilities out on the track so you’ll need to be fully self sufficient for the free bush camps.
Campfires: If you plan on having a campfire please know and respect any fire bans or restrictions. If you are travelling when fires are permitted, use the existing fire pits as there are plenty around (no need to create more). It can get quite cold overnight in the cooler months so stock up on firewood.
Pets: Leave your best mate at home for this adventure (well your furry one anyway).
Shout Out: We’d be remiss if we didn’t note some recognition for The Toyota Landcruiser Club of WA. They contribute time and skill to maintain the Holland Track. A big thanks to them for their efforts.
Our Best Tip for the Holland Track
We picked up a handy guidebook, “Explore the Holland Track and Cave Hill Woodlines.” It was full of historical info and provides points of interest for anyone wanting to tackle the Holland Track. It certainly helped us get the most out of our experience. You can get one online here or from many local 4×4 or camping stores. We picked one up at TWD4x4.
Our other tip… pack your fly nets!
Best Time to Visit the Holland Track
The ideal time to tackle the Holland Track would be either Spring or Autumn. Any visit in Summer is bound to be uncomfortably hot. During Winter on the other hand, there are track closures that may disrupt your plans.
We visited in late September/early October. Although the days were warm some of the nights were still quite cool and we also had the bonus of seeing some of Western Australia’s amazing wildflowers.
So how did we rate the Holland Track?
It’s the history and background that make this track worth visiting. We enjoyed the adventure of following the route of early pioneers and learning about the history.
For us it was an epic way to spend the school holidays. A family road trip certainly beats the kids sitting at home glued to electronics. If you’re interested in an outback Aussie adventure whilst exploring the relics of pioneering days, be sure to add the Holland Track to the list. We had a great time tackling the Holland Track and know you will too!
…and if you’re anything like us and up for a little more adventure don’t stop there, head onto the Woodline track.