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Kulin, WA

Small wheatbelt town known for the Tin Horse Highway.

Kulin (pronounced 'Cool-in') is a small wheatbelt town servicing the surrounding sheep and grain farming land where wheat, barley, canola, lupins and field peas are grown. In the town the main attractions are the Giant Water Slide (proudly claimed as the largest in Australia) and the local museum which is located in an old garage dating from the 1930s. But the main attractions in the district are the natural features and the fauna and flora. It is an area noted for its wildflower displays which occur between August and October and include a particularly beautiful flowering gum - the Eucalyptus macrocarpa. The Kulin Bush Races are a major attraction drawing over 5,000 people to the town and including an art and craft show, camel races, foot races, Clydesdale horse rides and horse racing.

Location

Kulin is located 277 km south east of Perth.

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Origin of Name

The Aborigines who showed Surveyor John Septimus Roe the Kulin Soak referred it it as "coolin". The settlement was originally known as Jilakin but this was changed to Kulin when the railway reached the town. No one is sure what the original "coolin" meant although it was probably the name for the Kulin Soak. There is also an interpretation which says Kulin comes from a Nyoongar word "koori-iny" meaning "coming and going".

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Things to See and Do

Kulin Aquatic Centre and Giant Water Slide
It is unusual to such a large water slide in such a small town but the Kulin Water Slide is the biggest waterslide in Australia and probably the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere - it is 18 metres high and 182 metres long. It is open during the hot summer months and well worth visiting. For more information tel: (08) 9880 1222. Check out http://kulin.wa.gov.au/main/recreation/aquatic-centre/ for opening times and entry fees.

Butlers Garage - Kulin Museum
Located at Lot 87 Johnston Street, Butlers Garage, which was built in 1936, now houses the Kulin Museum which contains a collection of vintage cars, farm equipment and machinery. Tel: (08) 9880 1024 or 0427 811 970. It is open Saturday mornings from 8.30 am - noon and by appointment.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Tin Horse Highway
There is a 20 km stretch of the Kulin-Lake Grace Road which has become known as the Tin Horse ‘Highway’ because, in recent times, budding sculptors have taken 44 gallon drums and shaped them, with a sense of amusement, into interesting and unusual tin horses. By 2017 there were over 70 tin horses displayed on the Tin Horse Highway. They became such a popular local attraction that people started displaying sculptures on the Kulin-Corrigin Road and calling them the West Kulin Tin Horses - they included the biggest horse yet built. Then, as if there was no end to this harmless competition, people started building sculptures in the centre of the town. Near the town's famous Water Slide there is now the ‘Thorpedo’, inspired by Australian Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe. It doesn't really have much to do with horses ... but it does have a lot to do with the town's tourism. There is a downloadable brochure titled Drive the Tin Horse Highway which can be accessed at http://kulin.wa.gov.au/file/THHDRIVINGTHETHHDLFLYERHRFINALlittleevil.pdf.

Jilakin Lake and Rock
The Jilakin Rock, which lies 16 km to the east of the town on the Kulin Holt Rock Road, is a huge granite monolith which overlooks the 1214 ha Jilakin Lake. The area is noted for the jarrah trees - the only ones this far from the coast - and the excellent picnic facilities and views across the lake. The local Noongar Aboriginal people believed that the jarrah trees had grown as the result of two groups of Aborigines driving their spears into the ground as a sign of friendship. It is interesting that there are no jarrah trees on the wheatbelt and the nearest stands of jarrah are 140 km away.

Buckley's Breakaways
The dramatic and unusual Buckley's Breakaways are located 70 km east of Kulin en route to Wave Rock. They are distinctive because they are characterised by unusual cliff formations in pink and white rock topped by orange laterite. The Kulin website explains: "The gully is dominated by Cypress Pine, Blue Mallet and Box Poison, but it is the top of the “breakaway” which carries the most interesting plants. It’s the natural garden with something in flower all year round. In the shelter of the shrubs, look for delicate orchids, trigger plants and sundews. At the site you will find interesting interpretive information about the area, a fabulous picnic spot and endless photo opportunities!" For more information check out http://kulin.wa.gov.au/main/tourism/buckleys-breakaway-/

Macrocarpa Wildflower Walk Trail
Located on the Corrigin-Kulin Road which runs north from Kulin, the Macrocarpa Wildflower Walk Trail is named after the town’s  floral emblem, the Eucalyptus macrocarpa, which can be seen in abundance on the short 1 km walk during the spring when wildflowers are in bloom. 

How to See WA Wildflowers - A Guide
When planning a trip there are a number of very simple rules.
(1) Start by downloading Your Holiday Guide to Western Australia’s Wildflowers at http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/things_to_do/forest_and_flowers/pages/wawildflowers.aspx#/. It is a comprehensive guide to the wildflowers. There are over 12,000 species and 60% of them are found nowhere else on the planet.
(2) There is a tendency to say "But I won't know what I'm looking at" but that is rubbish. There are a number of great books and the best, by far, is the answer to "Wildflowers for Dummies" titled "Colour Guide to Spring Wildflowers of Western Australia". It is privately published by Wajon Publishing Company, written by Eddie Wajon, and comes in three volumes – 1. Kalbarri and the Goldfields, 2. Perth and the Southwest and 3. Esperance and the Wheatbelt. They can all be purchased online from Kings Park & Botanic Garden in Perth. Check out https://www.aspectsofkingspark.com.au
The publication's design masterstroke is that the flowers are listed according to their colours and all the pages are colour coded. Thus Mr and Mrs Wildflower Illiterate, when gazing at a Spiny Synaphea, only need to open at the "yellow flowers" section and flick through until they find the colour photo which matches the reality. The company can be contacted directly on (08) 9310 2936. 
(3) No one should ever underestimate the power of local knowledge and assistance. The Western Australian wheatbelt, probably because of the declining prices for both wool and wheat and the increased levels of salinity, has decided that the spring wildflowers are a good for the local economy and worthy of patronage. When innocently asking where I might see a wreath flower (they are a flower which naturally forms itself in a circle like a wreath – particularly appealing to those with a morbid interest in death) at the local coffee shop in Morowa I was told that there were some in the area but the person who knew was at the information office. 
At the information office I was advised, and this is verbatim, to "drive down the main street until you see the road that crosses over the railway line, drive across the line and past the Police Station and Fire Station (or is it the SES), turn right at the next road, continue up past the sheds for a couple of hundred yards [metres haven't arrived here yet] and you'll see some beside the road". Absorbing the instructions I headed off and three minutes later, having noticed a sign reading "Wreath Flowers" on a fence, I found the plant. 
Morowa also publish a leaflet titled "Morowa Wildflower Drives" which, if you were thorough, could keep you in the area for a couple of days.
At the next town, Mingenew (which, for lovers of Australian Big Things now boasts the Big Wheat Stalk – known locally as "Big Ears") the information centre provides both a map and a list of locations with details like "20 km on the Pingelly road on the left hand side there are some excellent wreath flowers". And at Watheroo there's a wonderful local mud map with wryly enthusiastic comments like "Heaps of banksia, grevillea, snake bush etc along the road" and, getting quite technical "Rare and Endangered. E. Rhodantha (rose mallee) Only large patch in the world".
(4) There is a logical route which can be honed or expanded according to the amount of time you want to spend. 
The best starting place, if you want to get a good foretaste of what you are about to experience in the wild, is to visit Kings Park & Botanic Garden in the heart of Perth. Apart from offering sensational views over the Swan River and the Perth CBD the gardens boast a 17 hectare area which has more than 1700 native species of wildflowers. This is, not surprisingly, rather pristine and not very wild but it does allow you to develop a working knowledge of devils pins, kangaroo paws, desert peas, everlastings, starflowers, grevilleas, firebush, a range of orchids and hundreds of other natives. 
You really don't need to be a flora expert. All you need are your eyes and a sense of wonder because the Western Australian wildflowers in spring really are as remarkable and significant as a unique part of Australia as Uluru, the Great Ocean Road or Cradle Mountain. 

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was home to the Noongar Aboriginal people for at least 40,000 years.

* The first European through the area was the Surveyor and Explorer, John Septimus Roe, on his 1848-1849 expedition.

* By the 1870s sandalwood cutters were in the area cutting the scented tree for the Asian market.

* By the early 1900s pastoralists had moved into the area. The reliability of water at the Kulin rock soak saw sheep being successfully grazed.

* In 1905 Michael Brown took up a large land holding which included land upon which modern Kulin now stands.

* In 1909 Michael Healy and Edward John Reardon took up land at Kulin Rock.

* In 1915 the railway from Narrogin reached Kulin.

* In 1919 the Kulin Hotel opened for business.

* The Memorial Hall was built and opened in 1928.

* In 1932 the local wheat silos were installed with two grain elevators at the railway siding.

* In 1938 Butler's Garage, now the local museum, was built.

* The Kulin Railway Station was built in 1946.

* The town came alive with the first Bush Races in 1995.

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Visitor Information

Kulin Visitor Centre, Shire of Kulin Administrative and Community Resource Centre, Johnston Street, tel: (08) 9880 1021. Open Monday-Friday 9.00 am - 4.30 pm

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Useful Websites

There is a useful, downloadable brochure with a comprehensive overview of Kulin. Check out http://kulin.wa.gov.au/file/A3VisitorGuide_web_updatedAugust2015pdf.pdf. There is also a promotional video which can be accessed at http://www.australiasgoldenoutback.com/travel-destinations-outback-australia/Wheatbelt_and_Wave_Rock/Pathways_to_Wave_Rock/Kulin.

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