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Leonora, WA

Gold mining town north of Kalgoorlie

Leonora can get very hot. In the summer of 2012/2013, dubbed The Angry Summer by the Climate Commission, the temperature in Leonora reached a new recorded high of 49°C. In essence it is a fascinating desert service centre for the surrounding pastoral holdings and the mining and mineral exploration industries. Its appeal lies in its sense of being the true Australian outback and the nearby fascinating towns of Menzies and Gwalia.


Leonora is located 828 km north-east of Perth and 235 km north of Kalgoorlie.


Origin of Name

John Forrest named a hill in the area, Mount Leonora, in 1869. He was honouring the wife of the Governor of Western Australia whose name was Lady Eleonora. When the town came into existence it was named after the hill.


Things to See and Do

Tower Street
The primary appeal of Leonora is the historic charm of Tower Street which has remained largely unchanged since the turn of the century. The shops, with their footpath verandas, and the turn-of-the-century hotels have a charm which has remained relatively unchanged by the booms and busts of the goldmining which drives the town's economy.


Other Attractions in the Area

Gwalia Historical Precinct
See the separate entry on Gwalia. Gwalia is a ghost town only 1.5 km from Leonora.



* Prior to the arrival of gold prospectors the area had been sparsely populated by

people from the local Wangkathaa Aboriginal language group.

* In April, 1869 the explorer John Forrest passed through the area looking for the lost explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt. He named Mount Leonora on 20 June, 1869.

* In 1895 a prospector named Booden found alluvial gold in a gully about 37 km north-west of the present site of Leonora.

* In 1896 Edward 'Doodah' Sullivan found gold 6 km from Leonora and in March that year he pegged the Johannesburg lease.

* In May, 1896 the Sons of Gwalia reef was discovered by prospectors named Carlson, White and Glendinning.

* By September, 1896 the Sons of Gwalia mine had attracted £300,000 of capital investment.

* On 1 May, 1898 Herbert Hoover, later to become President of the United States, was appointed General Manager of the Sons of Gwalia.

* In 1904 the Assistant Government Geologist, C.F.V. Jackson carried out a geological survey of the area.

* The Leonora townsite was declared on 15 April, 1898

* The town was formally gazetted on 21 August, 1900.

* In 1903 a steam tramway linked Leonora and Gwalia. Two years later the tramway was linked to Menzies and the main railway line to Perth.

* By 1925 a number of pastoralists had moved into the area intending to raise sheep for their wool.

* In 1949, dealing with a shortage of labour, the Sons of Gwalia shipped 67 miners from Italy. Only 31 were still working at the mine a year later.

* On 13 December, 1963 it was announced that the Sons of Gwalia mine would close.

* When it closed on 27 December, 1963 Sons of Gwalia had produced over 2 million ounces of gold.

* The increasing price of gold in 1980 saw the mines reopen. The famous Tower Hill mine was reopened in 1983 and the Harbour Lights mine came into existence in 1985.

* In the summer of 2012/2013, dubbed The Angry Summer by the Climate Commission, the temperature in Leonora reached a new recorded high of 49°C.


Visitor Information

Leonora Visitor Centre, cnr Tower and Trump Streets, Leonora, tel: (08) 9037 7016.


Useful Websites

The local council website is genuinely useful, particularly the Tourism and Leisure section. Check out http://www.leonora.wa.gov.au/

Got something to add?

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6 suggestions
  • Have just been looking up my family history and my paternal grandfather Sergeant O’Donovan was the police officer at Leonora around 1907. Grandma told us many stories about the bushrangers and she had house boys she called Jackie Jackie.

    Carmel maloney
    • Thats amazing Carmel. I also came here to trace some family history. My grandma was born in Leonora in 1918. She turns 100 in June. My maternal great grandfather, was working for Westerm Australia Railways at that time or shortly after. It would be terrific to be able to see / access some old photos of Leonora around the time of WWI, if they exist?

      Alyson Welch
    • Carmel, my wife’s great grandfather James O’Donovan was Sergeant O’Donovan’s brother. I have completed extensive research on the O’Donovans, both in Australia and Ireland. I found your grandfather Patrick’s story so interesting that I have written a 65 page story about him. I updated it yesterday. He was stationed in Lenora from 1/3/1905 to 1/8/1910. He left Lenora for Perth due to ill health. I have included your grandma Annie’s family as well as a brief mention of your generation. I have thought about sharing his story with his descendants. If we can make contact I can send you a copy.

      Brian Kelly
  • Was Trump Street added after or is it a coincidence?

    Grant Mills
  • My great Uncle Rev Lionel V Caldwell, wife Caroline, son Stewart (1) was a rector there between Aug 1915 to December 1916. I would like to get the feel of Leonora. What was the population, average weather in winter and summer. He came from Ballarat to Norse-by ship to Esperance then up to Leonora. What was the mode of transport. Or did they go to Perth and then to Leonora. How long would it have taken. The population, number of hotels, schools, hospitals. when the surface gold was exhausted did companies form to go deeper underground, How long from L to Norseman. Were the aborigines find work and what did they do etc. I appreciate your help.

    Robert E H Brown
  • My late grandfather lived with Aboriginal tribes and mined in this area for years prior to returning to Gordon, Victoria. He signed up ww1 along with 5 brothers. William Mills (no second name) was 37 at the time. He returned home and taught me bushcraft and survival stuff learned from his Aboriginal brothers as he fondly called them.

    Michael English