Short lived gold and copper mining town, now a sheep and wheat centre
Ravensthorpe is a small sheep and wheat town on the Highway 1 (the South Coast Highway) between Albany and Esperance. For the latter half of the nineteenth century the district was rural and the town didn't really exist. Then, at the end of the century gold and copper were discovered, the town grew, and for a brief moment it was a prosperous mining town. The mines were short-lived and today it is stopping point for people driving the South Coast Highway and for people wanting to explore the beauty of the Fitzgerald River National Park.
Ravensthorpe is located 526 km south-east of Perth via Hyden and Lake King.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The area was first surveyed by the Western Australia Surveyor General John Septimus Roe in 1848 and he named the local range, the Ravensthorpe Range. Roe named Mount Short after the Bishop Augustus Short of South and Western Australia. Short had been Vicar of Ravensthorpe in Northamptonshire from 1835.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Cattlin Creek Heritage Trail
The Cattlin Creek Heritage Trail - Development of the Ravensthorpe District brochure explores most of the important historical sites in town. It starts at the Dance Cottage Museum, moves to the Railway Station and Railway Turnaround (the railway ran between Ravensthorpe and the Phillips River mining area between 1909-1935), crosses Cattlin Creek where once there was a railway bridge, moves on to the Mount Cattlin Mine, passes the Big House which was built in 1906-7 for the manager of the Government smelter, reaches the current shire offices (they were built as the Western Australian Bank in 1906) and finishes, appropriately, at the Palace Hotel. It is "a leisurely two hour walk exploring the early history of the Ravensthorpe area".
The Palace Hotel
The Palace Hotel in Morgan Street was built in 1907 with local bricks. It is a fascinating building which features a large upstairs veranda, Jarrah furniture, an Edwardian stained glass window in the stairwell, an impressive ornamental staircase and some beautiful stamped metal ceilings.
Ravensthorpe Historical Society Museum
The Ravensthorpe Historical Society Museum is located on the corner of Morgan Street and Andre Street and includes an old Dance Cottage (1901), a guard's van from the Hopetoun-Ravensthorpe railway and a steam engine. The collection is centred around local history from the late 1800's and spans the time from early whalers in the mid-19th century, through the indigenous community to white settlement farming and agriculture. It includes farming implements, mining equipment, a CBH elevator, various household items and furniture, some linen and writing equipment and an impressive display of shoes. There are many photographs depicting the early days. It is open from 9.30 am - 4.30 pm seven days a week, tel: (08) 9838 5041.
Ravensthorpe Community Centre
The Ravensthorpe Community Centre, located on Morgans Street, was built in 1906 as the Commercial Hotel. Built by John F. Brown it was the first two storey brick building in the town. In 1993 the local community restored the building so that it is now the local Community Centre.
St Andrews Anglican Church
Located at 23 Dunn Street, St Andrews Anglican Church was built in 1906 and was dedicated as a church in 1954. In recent times the altar and lecturn were hand crafted by Ivor Rowe using jarrah timber from Hopetoun jetty. This corrugated iron building is the only remaining church of its kind still in regular use in Western Australia. It has been in continuous use since 1906 when the first service was held by Rev WK Elphick who had travelled from Albany by boat and coach. Check http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/028905a5-5766-41aa-b9a5-ccc3a1020c3c for more details.
A reminder of the town's mineral importance can be seen on the Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Road about 2 km from Ravensthorpe. On the left hand side of the road is the disused Government Smelter where tailings dumps and old equipment stand as a reminder of the town's copper and gold prosperity. The smelter operated between 1906 and 1918. It smelted gold and copper ingots and employed around 120 men. The rounded chunks of molten rock are slag remnants which were once poured into crucibles then wheeled off for dumping via trolleys.
Other Attractions in the Area
Fitzgerald River National Park
The beautiful Fitzgerald River National Park, which covers 297,244 ha of coastline between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun, is recognised as one of the largest and most botanically significant national park in the country because it can claim to have nearly 20% of Western Australia's floral species (1883 plant species have been identified, 75 of which are found nowhere else); a superb and diverse landscape which includes plains, breakaways, headlands and impressive white beaches and inlets.
It has four rivers cutting dramatic gorges, wide sand plains, isolated mountains, rugged cliffs, pebbly beaches and spectacular displays of wildflowers between August and October.
In A Park in Perspective by Keith Bradby the appeal of the park is explained: "The park sits astride the incised valleys of four major river systems, which flow south-east to the coast. Dominating the southern section is a low range of rugged quartzite hills known collectively as The Barrens, while the core of the park is an extensive undulating plain ... The flora of the park is exceptionally rich and diverse. Although the Park is only 0.2 per cent of Western Australia's land surface, over 20 per cent of Western Australia's plant species occur there. Many of the plant species are endemic to the region, reflecting the tight and varied plant/soil mosaics. Vegetation varies, from woodland on the richer soils through to mallee and mallee heath.
"There are more recorded species of birds, mammals and frogs than in any other reserve in south-west Australia. This is partly a reflection of the park size, but also because of the blending of wet country and dry country species which occur in the park."
In fact recent research has revealed that the park is home to 22 mammal species, 41 reptile species, 12 frog species and more than 200 bird species including rare species such as the western ground parrot, the western bristle bird and the western whipbird.
The Fitzgerald River NP brochure suggests entry from the east "You can enter the park near Hopetoun via the east entry station on Hamersley Drive, which is sealed to the turnoff to Hamersley Inlet Road. Hamersley Drive provides two-wheel drive access to several eastern precinct coastal recreation sites (see map), including the Hamersley Inlet camp site."
Two roads run off the South Coast Highway to the west of Ravensthorpe. Hamersley Drive is a sealed road that winds down to the coast between the park’s eastern boundary and Hamersley Inlet. This drive takes visitors to Four Mile Beach, Barrens Beach, Barrens Lookout, East Mount Barren, East Mileys, Mileys Beach, Cave Point and West Beach.
There is also a road - Moir Road - which runs to Hamersley Drive from Ravensthorpe and a road from Hopetoun which runs along the coast to the west of the town.
And Quiss Road runs down to St Mary Campground and the coast at Point Ann and St Mary Inlet. There is a very useful website created by the WA Parks and Wildlife Service. Check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/fitzgerald-river or tel: (08) 9842 4500. The brochure on the park can be downloaded at https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/downloads/parks/20140471-FitzgeraldRiverNP_brochure_WEB.pdf and the rangers at the west of the park can be contacted at (08) 9835 5043.
Walks from Hamersley Drive entrance to Fitzgerald River NP
East Mount Barren Summit Trail - a 2.6 km return short walk to the summit of East Mt Barren. It provides exceptional panoramic views over the central park and eastern Barrens Ranges, the Culham Inlet to Hopetoun, and beyond to Esperance.
Barrens Lookout - a very short, 250m return, walk from the car park to Barrens lookout which offers both panoramic views and a superb wildflower display in spring.
Sepulcralis Hill - an easy 600m return to the lookout which offers views over the Hamersley River. Sepulcralis Hill is named after a gum tree (Eucalyptus sepulcralis) which grows in the ridges of this section of the park.
No Tree Hill - a 6 km return walk which is ideal in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Hakea Walktrail from Cave Point to Quoin Head - a long 46 km return walk down the coast which passes through a rich diversity of flora habitats. It is possible to spot echidnas, sea eagles, osprey, mallee fowl, dolphins and whales (in season).
The coastline of the Fitzgerald River National Park is home to southern right whales during the winter months where they come for protection and to nurture their newborn calves. Whale watching can be productive from the Cave Point (recognised as one of the best spots of the coast) from July to October.
Frank Hann National Park
The Frank Hann National Park is a remote 60,000 ha sand plain and heath park which is located about 100 km north of Ravensthorpe. It has no facilities and therefore is best experienced by simply driving through it on the Lake King-Norseman Road. The primary appeal of the area is the flora which is particularly impressive between August and November. The Parks and Wildlife Service website (check https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/frank-hann) explains the importance and appeal of the area: "On the deeper sandy soil, mallees are the dominant plants, forming an open upper canopy, over several layers of shrubs, and annuals such as everlastings during good seasons. Snap and rattle (Eucalyptus gracilis), tall sand mallee (Eucalyptus eremophila), capped mallee (Eucalyptus pileata), Fremantle mallee (Eucalyptus foecunda) and the mallee form of red morrell (Eucalyptus longicornis) are common.
"Four different banksia species can be recognised in shrubby areas. Swordfish banksia (Banksia elderiana) is a large, scruffy shrub whose golden flowers, produced in summer, hang downwards from the branches. Another golden-flowered banksia, flowering a little earlier, is cannonball banksia (Banksialemanniana). It is a sparser, upright bush, with solid, spherical fruits. Southern plains banksia (Banksia media) forms a large, rounded shrub with prominent yellow flower-spikes in autumn through to winter. Violet banksia (Banksia violacea) is much smaller, with needle-shaped leaves and small violet flowers in early summer.
"Wattles, sheoaks and melaleucas, such as broom bush (Melaleuca uncinata), tend to be the dominant plants in areas of thicket, with diverse but sparse layers of shorter shrubs beneath them. The ground layer often includes everlastings and orchids.
"Featherflowers are a colourful part of the heathland vegetation. A yellow featherflower (Verticordia chrysantha), the painted featherflower (Verticordia picta) which is pink, the rapier featherflower (Verticordia mitchelliana) which is red, and the extraordinary bush cauliflower (Verticordia eriocephala) - whose small, crowded white flower heads look, from a distance, exactly like that vegetable - are among those found in the park."
The 45 km long Ravensthorpe Range encircles the town, is notable for its exceptional stands of Salmon gums, has a rich diversity of flora, was the location for the mining of gold, silver, copper and nickel, and provides panoramic views of the district. It can be accessed in 2WD vehicles either by Ethel Daw Drive (16 km south-east of town) which leads to the Mt Desmond Lookout or Archer Drive (10 km north of town).
The No. 1 Rabbit-Proof Fence
Sections of the 1833 km rabbit-proof fence can be seen in the area around Ravensthorpe. It was constructed between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits out of farming areas and the No.1 fence ran from north to south. It was the longest unbroken fence in the world. There were three Rabbit Proof Fences in WA and one, famously, was used as a guideline for three young Aboriginal girls in the 1930s who walked the length of the fence to make their way back to their families. To see sections of the fence, ask at the Fitzgerald Coast Visitor Centre and to understand its significance see Phil Noyce's 2002 film Rabbit-Proof Fence or read Doris Pilkington Garimara's book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence upon which the film was based.
John Dunn's Grave
John Dunn, one of the first Europeans to settle in the district, was killed by local Aborigines in 1880. His grave is located on Cocanarup Road which runs off the South Coast Highway, 17 km west of Ravensthorpe.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Nyoongar Aboriginal people.
* In 1802 Matthew Flinders sailed the Investigator along the coast charting its beaches and rugged cliffs.
* In 1841 Edward John Eyre passed through the area having crossed the Nullarbor Plain. Eyre must have passed very close to the present site of Hopetoun. His journals record that he spent a night at the Jerdacuttup Lakes east of Hopetoun and the following night was camped by 'the Lake', Culham Inlet.
* The area around Ravensthorpe was first explored by John Septimus Roe in 1848 who passed through on his way to Esperance. Roe named many of the features in the area including Mount Madden (which he named after the Colonial Secretary), Roe named Mount Short after the Bishop of South and Western Australia and Ravensthorpe after the bishop's old parish in England. He also named the Phillips and Young Rivers and Mount Desmond.
* The first settlers were the Dunn brothers. John Dunn became interested in the area when he became temporarily marooned while sealing off the coast near Mary Anne Harbour.
* John Dunn moved into the area in 1868 and spent 'the first three years clearing scrub, building sheep yards and preparing for permanent occupation' on a piece of land he would name 'Cocanarup'.
* In 1870 John Forrest surveys the area to build an Adelaide-Perth telegraph line.
* In 1871 John Dunn took three months to overland some sheep from Albany with his brother George.
* The Dunns were formally granted 4049 ha on 1 January 1873.
* John Dunn was killed by local Aborigines in 1880.
* In 1898 James Dunn (one of John Dunn's brothers) found gold on the 'Cocanarup' property. Overnight prospectors pour into the area and the Phillips River Goldfield is established.
* In 1900 the town was surveyed and the population had grown to 500.
* In 1901 Ravensthorpe was formally gazetted. That year the Dunn Brothers purchased two lots in the main street and built the Miners Arms Hotel and a General Store. A school opened and the construction of the Rabbit Proof Fence started.
* By 1902 wheat was being planted in the area.
* In 1904 the state government built a smelter.
* In 1907 the Palace Hotel, Union Bank and Mechanics Institute were all built in the town.
* By 1909 the population had reached 3000. Railway between Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun opens.
* By 1918 the smelter and the mines had closed and most of the prospectors had moved away.
* In 1935 the Raventhorpe-Hopetoun railway closed.
* By 1958 the Elverdton and Cattlin copper mines had reopened.
* In 1967 a new police station and court house were opened. The Ravensthorpe Co-operative bulk handling bins were built in this year.
* In 1973 the Fitgerald River National Park was gazetted.
* The official opening of BHP Billiton's Ravensthorpe Nickel Project occurred in 2008.
* The BHP Billiton's Ravensthorpe Nickel Project was suspended.^ TOP
Fitzgerald Coast Visitor Centre, cnr Morgans Street and Andre Street, tel: 0400 499 267, Open 10.00 am - 4.00 pm.^ TOP