Gold Mining, Brothels and More in Kalgoorlie, Australia

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if you are like most americans, myself included, you probably haven’t heard of a mining town called kalgoorlie, australia. when i heard this is the town where my husband and i were invited to speak for the district 17 toastmasters’ convention, i wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

kalgoorlie (cal-goo-lee) is a 6 hour drive from perth (where we did play with kangaroos and koalas).  the drive was absolutely gorgeous to my eyes, since all of the scenery there is very different than anything i have seen before.

IMG_2152 kalgoorlie australia outback tree

i think gum trees are my new favorite trees.

kalgoorlie was originally founded in 1893 by irshmen patrick hannan, tom flanagan and daniel shea when they stumbled across 100 ounces of gold! by the early 1900s, thousands of men were rushing to get here to strike it rich with gold. in fact, US president herbert hoover even lived and work here in 1897, before his presidency!

nowadays, kalgoorlie is quite famous for the human-made “super pit!” this is the largest gold mining pit in all of australia and 4th in the world for gold production. it produces 800,000 ounces a year! it’s massive, coming in at 600 meters deep (or 1,698.5 feet american friends), 3.6 kilometers long (2.2 miles) and 1.6 kilometers wide (1 mile). apparently you can even see it from space!

IMG_3887please look at how tiny those big dump trucks look and then notice the white, normal-sized SUV driving on the same road. these trucks are massive and carry 225 TONS of rock each.

IMG_3876 kalgoorlie australia truck comparisonthis is how big their scooper is (i’m sure that’s the very official name too):

IMG_3872 kalgoorlie australia super pit jumpi love jumping photos just about as much as i love getting cavities filled. my husband loves jumping photos so i sometimes i oblige, just as i do with cavities because marital compromise and dental hygiene are important.

what do you do in kalgoorlie after you visit the massive gold mining pit? take a tour of a brothel, DUH. this brothel is in fact the last and only still functioning brothel in kalgoorlie, located on the infamous “hay street.”

IMG_2197i received a handout apparently from ‘outback family history’ that says “in 1902, hay street was officially recognized as the ‘red list district’ of kalgoorlie. no other town in australia is known to have so openly supported the presence of prostitution within its jurisdiction.”

here’s how we were feeling about this brothel tour at first:

IMG_2204i was nervous of the stories i’d hear and potentially how terrible it was for women. the madam of the house named carmel, gave us all the tour and she had one of the best storytelling voices i’ve heard. lucky for you, i found several audio interviews of her here so you can give a listen!

she shared with us that she has been the madam at the brothel for over 23 years and when she first started, there were 18 brothels on hay street. she told us that in the 1970s, the women had to live there and under no circumstances could intermix with the town. they were not allowed to go anywhere except the doctor or hairdresser for fear they would solicit customers or she would see one of her clients and he would be found out. this whole system was enforced by the local police in cooperation with the brothel madams. that made me sad to hear.

carmel also told us that she had one worker that would come from europe each year and work in the brothel for a few months where she would make so much money she would then leave and travel the world. carmel made it sound like the money they made back in the day could have bought multiple mansions so some serious dough was happening.

i will only show you an appropriate picture of one of the rooms…apparently christmas bears are sexy?

IMG_2219this is still a functioning brothel but it’s struggling now and can only employ two women. it now makes most of it’s money off of the tours. i was really surprised by how much i learned about this lifestyle and the town through taking this tour so if you’re ever in kalgoorlie, it’s worth the hour long tour through the brothel.

the next morning before my husband and i spoke (recap of a huge lesson learned here when we spoke together) we got to experience breakfast in the bush! this was absolutely one of my highlights of our trip here. the scenery was the epitome of what i had always imagined australia to be, which is pretty rare for me to experience while traveling. usually places in my head always turn out very different in real life.

IMG_3925 australian outback ryan and chelsea avery


IMG_3905 kalgoorlie australia outback

what’s that little tin looking thing, you ask? oh well, it’s the dunny/thunder box (not sure what that is? find out when i decoded the aussie language).

IMG_3916 kalgoorlie australia outback outhouse

i was careful not to consume too much liquid so this would be of no use to me. after a delicious breakfast of eggs and sausage on a massive roll, we all learned how to play “two-up” in the semi-covered area below.

IMG_3910 kalgoorlie australia two up

“two-up” is an australian gambling game, which consists of two coins, often pennies being tossed in the air from a small board. people bet with each other on whether it will land both sides heads up or tails up. it’s null if it’s one of each and the ‘spinner’ throws the coins in the air again.
IMG_3935 kalgoorlie australia two up chelseathat’s me being a spinner with danny, the man who runs it after his father started the two-up ring more than 50 years ago. here’s a nifty video about him and his family! he actually wrote a book on it and was kind enough to give us a copy.

since this game is based so much on chance, it’s only legal to play ‘two-up’ on anzac day or certain venues in kalgoorlie and broken hill. danny shared with us that when this game is played with real money on each sunday, it always benefits a charity. we used some massive fake money and even then i found it hard to bet it away. i’m working on being more of a risk-taker…



during our breakfast, i had to chance to chat with lisa evans, who is a member of the webinar co-facilitate monthly all around professionally speaking called vocal women! i love the internet because i get to make virtual friends and then i love travel because then i can squeeze them in real life! pretend like i’m not wearing horribly clashing patterns, i literally had to buy that poncho because it’s autumn in australia right now and it was c.o.l.d.

look at my little aussie!

IMG_2264on sunday evening was a “gold rush” dinner paired with hard core dancing! it was fantastic to see half of the guests decked out in their glad rags (fancy clothes) and the other half looking like prospectors (not to be called miners).

guess which one we chose:

us with mark and robynthat’s robyn and mark, the remarkable and generous duo who hosted us, drove us to and from kalgoorlie and showed us a marvelous time. robyn is currently the district governor for district 17 toastmasters and they are lucky to have her as their leader! they were SO FUN, as you can tell.

i had no less than 6 separate people come up and insist that i should never ever EVER let my husband have a mustache. i can only agree…ew.

we had such a fantastic weekend that i was pretty sad when it was time to say our goodbyes to all the wonderful new friends we made and to this unexpectedly fun town.

this water pipeline (i am once again obliging to jump off), runs all 330 miles from perth to kalgoorlie to bring the town water. the engineer of it, C.Y. o’connor killed himself due to the stress of intense criticism that the pipe wouldn’t work. 12 months later the water finally made it’s way to the goldfields. point being…never give up hope!

ryan and chelsea jumpingthank you to the wonderful and hilarious people we met during our time in kalgoorlie and for making it such a fun experience. my husband and i are filled with hundreds of memories and will forever cherish this as our first time to australia!






  1. Elyse

    June 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I love that you’re having so many unique experiences on your trip! Keep the posts coming, I love seeing them all!
    Elyse recently posted…Acceptance

    • chelsea

      June 12, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      yay thanks so much for reading and commenting, elyse! you’re fantastic 🙂 we really did have so many unique experiences while in australia that i’m going to cherish forever!

  2. Renée ♥ The Good Hearted Woman

    June 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

    What an adventure! Games of chance notwithstanding, I think that simply by virtue of the fact you are there – in Kalgoorlie – you are demonstrating that you are far more a “risk-taker” than you give yourself credit for!
    Renée ♥ The Good Hearted Woman recently posted…Amaretti ~ Italian Macaron Cookies {Recipe}

  3. Monica Louie

    June 12, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I’ve never heard of Kalgoorlie, but it looks like you had a blast! Those dump trucks are gigantic!
    Monica Louie recently posted…How Alice and Scott Paid Off $200,000 of Student Loans in Less Than 7 Years

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      aren’t those trucks insane!?! they were blowing me away to watch drive around! thanks for reading monica 🙂

  4. Neen

    June 13, 2015 at 3:17 am

    I miss the gum trees too! So glad you got to experience a part of Oz that many Aussies haven’t even seen!
    Neen recently posted…Be Ah-Mazing: Conquer the World

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      oh my goodness i was falling in love with those gum trees (made me even consider a tattoo of them, that’s how much i love them)! i already can’t wait to go back to your home country, such an amazing time with great people!
      chelsea recently posted…10 Things To Do at the Singapore Changi Airport

  5. Roz Cartter

    June 13, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Awesome blog Chelsea! Great stories, pictures and videos! I felt like I was there with you and Ryan. Enjoy your travels and I look forward to your next post

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      yay! thanks so much for reading and your comment roz 🙂 i hope you are doing marvelously and hope to see you soon!

  6. Pech

    June 13, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I’m not much into selfies, or asking others to take photos of me, much less jumping photos. I have obliged in some instances, and I can always tell who in the photos are into it and somehow got jumping poses and air time practiced and those like me who haven’t haha. Definitely enjoying the detailed trip recap, including that you have my strategy of trying not to need public toilets 😡
    Pech recently posted…Portland Mercado

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      haha i’m sure you could tell in some of our photos then pech that i am less than thrilled to be jumping ha! also glad you enjoyed the details of watching my bladder too hah! appreciate you reading and for your comment!

  7. Amanda

    June 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    “i love jumping photos just about as much as i love getting cavities filled. my husband loves jumping photos so i sometimes i oblige, just as i do with cavities because marital compromise and dental hygiene are important.” Omg you guys are awesome.
    Amanda recently posted…North Dakota Writers Workshop

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      haha gotta keep it real, right amanda?!

  8. Audrey

    June 15, 2015 at 5:29 am

    WOW! I’ve learned so much from your posts lately! That brothel tour is fascinating! So cool that you got to experience all that! I love the mining history. Awesome!
    Audrey recently posted…Faith & Church & Fellowship

    • chelsea

      June 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      yay! thanks for saying you learned something, audrey! this post took me a while to write because i had to do some more research to get all the facts right so i appreciate you saying that 🙂

      i was totally enthralled in the brothel tour, so beyond my scope of life experience so it was quite interesting. appreciate your comment and for reading!
      chelsea recently posted…10 Things To Do at the Singapore Changi Airport

  9. Bea

    June 17, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    That sounds like a very interesting visit; who knew that there are brothel tours 🙂

    I especially enjoyed the picture comparing the regular sized SUV to the “shuffler”; and yes, one of these days we will have to travel to Australia as well.
    Bea recently posted…Maryhill Winery, Museum, & Stonehenge #Washington {#travel} Columbia River Gorge

    • chelsea

      June 18, 2015 at 8:22 am

      we had such a fun time, thanks bea and i hope you get out there soon! aren’t those shufflers impressive!!!

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