The small town of Cue in Western Australia’s Murchison Region is to me a particularly interesting outback town. Like so many old WA mining towns, Cue has thrived and floundered over the years with times of boom and bust.
The town was established in 1893 following the discovery of gold in the area the year before, which sparked a gold rush to the remote Murchison Region desert. In its heyday at the beginning of the twentieth century Cue was home to over 10000 people, a thriving and prosperous town known as “The Queen of the Murchison”.
These days things couldn’t be more different. With a population of less than 300, Cue is very close to being a ghost town.
When we visited Cue earlier this year the wide streets were still and silent beneath a big blue desert sky. The whole time we were there we didn’t see a single soul walking around town and we noticed a good number of the buildings were abandoned or up for lease.
The empty streets of Cue would have felt really quite spooky if it weren’t for the constant parade of roadtrains roaring through on their way between Perth and the Pilbara, carrying fuel and massive pieces of mining equipment. This for me is what made Cue such a memorable place – the decay and ghostliness of the semi-abandoned town, and the way it felt as if time had stood still there ever since the 1930’s.
However I have a feeling that Cue might be quite a different place in a few years time as the shire seems to be going to some effort to restore the town’s buildings to their former glory and attract more visitors to the town and surrounding region. And with rumours of a new big mine opening in the area, the population could soon be set to rise again.
Gracious Heritage Architecture in Cue
Walking around the streets of Cue feel like stepping back in time. Not much appears to have changed on the main street over the years. Almost all of the buildings are the original ones that were built in the 1890’s and 1900’s – some still serving their original purpose, some beautifully restored and others abandoned and left to ruin.
While a lot of the old heritage Goldrush-era buildings look crumbling and decrepit, I can still understand why Cue’s town slogan is “Queen of the Murchison”. Some of the old sandstone buildings sure are grand for a dusty outpost in the middle of nowhere!
Visiting and Exploring Around Cue, Western Australia
If you happen to be heading up Great Northern Highway for any reason – on your way to Karijini and the Pilbara perhaps – then I highly recommend making a stop in Cue.
It is an interesting and memorable place to spend some time in and is well-situated for a stopover on a long outback drive, being 650km from Perth and approximately half way to Newman and Karijini.
If you’ve got a bit of time to spare while you’re in the area, it’s well worth taking a half-day detour westwards out to Walga Rock and the ghost town Big Bell.
First Stop, Get the Heritage Trail Brochures
If you want to have a look around the town of Cue or head out into the surrounding area to explore make sure you first stop in town to find out about road conditions and gather some brochures, maps and information booklets.
My mum and I found the heritage trail brochure and maps to be full of excellent useful info and historical background information. Someone has gone to a lot of effort to write such a detailed and entertaining brochure!
Also, be sure to check for up-to-date info on road conditions. When we were driving out to Walga Rock and Big Bell there were “road closed” signs at the start of the unsealed section of Austin Downs Road. If we hadn’t checked first at the visitor centre we wouldn’t have realised that the road was in actual fact completely fine and the council just hadn’t gotten round to removing the sign yet.
Where is the Cue Visitor Centre?
At the time of my recent visit to Cue the visitor centre had closed down, with plans to completely revamp and reopen it at a later date. In the mean time, you can visit the Shire Office. They’ll be able to provide you with the info you need or point you in the direction of wherever the tempoary visitor centre happens to be at that time.
Things to See and Do in and Around Cue, Western Australia
- Go for a drive or walk around town and have a look at the interesting and beautiful old heritage buildings.
- Government Buildings – police station, court house and post office
- Gentleman’s Club (now the shire office)
- Masonic Lodge building
- Bank of New South Wales building
- Rotunda (site of the town’s first well)
- Pensioner huts and old gaol (part of the caravan park)
- Check out the historical photograph collection in the shire office building (formerly the town Gentleman’s Club) to gain some more context to the history of Cue.
- Drive up to the top of the Radio Tower Hill (Cue Lookout) for views over the town, the nearby mines, and horizon-to-horizon dry red earth.
- A good idea is to pick up the brochure and follow the Cue Heritage Trail, which will take around to the main attractions in the surrounding area and provide interesting background info.
- Try fossicking for gold – you never know, you could get lucky!
- In late winter and spring the beautiful desert wildflowers bloom to life, carpeting the red dusty ground in fields of colour. This is the best time of year to visit Cue and explore the surrounding country.
- Camp out for the night or just enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife at Lake Nallan, a nature reserve about 24km north of Cue
- Or camp/picnic at Milly Soak, 16km north of Cue. Also has a small pioneer cemetery and well
- Head out west along Austin Downs Road to Walga Rock to see the cave paintings, climb the rock and perhaps camp there for the night.
- While in the area, check out what remains of Big Bell, a ghost town.
- Drive down to Day Dawn, a ghost town and abandoned gold mine that’s been working again since the 90’s, and check out the Great Fingal Mine Office, the last remaining building from the early days
Finding Food in Cue
As you could probably guess, dining establishments are in short supply in remote outback towns like Cue.
We rocked up to Cue around midday and were hoping to grab some lunch before heading out to Walga Rock and Big Bell, but the two places we could find in town that looked like they might serve lunch were closed until later in the afternoon.
The lady in the visitor info shop suggested we get something to eat from the road house on the highway at the southern end of town where all the trucks stop. Not being much of a fan of roadhouse food (as an understatement!), I was dubious about this suggestion but Mum insisted on going there anyway as we had to put some petrol in the car. So I reluctantly followed along.
In the end it was all good, as the burger I ordered turned out to be not so bad after all (relatively speaking) and I liked the way they had a quiet room for the truckies and other customers with free tea and coffee making, a TV and some chairs to sit down. I also found it interesting to have a good look at a couple of road trains up close.
I have heard that the Murchison Club Hotel does quite good pub meals, but never got to try any for myself. What I’d recommend is that you try and be more organised than my mum and me and make sure your car is stocked up with plenty of food for picnics.
Where is Cue in Western Australia?
Cue is a remote town in the Murchison region of Western Australia, a long way from any cities or big towns. It’s located on the Great Northern Highway 645km north-east of Perth (7 hours of driving) and 415km west-north-west of Geraldton (5.5 hours of driving).
The closest smaller towns to Cue are Mount Magnet (80km to the south), Meekatharra (115km to the north), Sandstone (240km south-east) and Yalgoo (285km to the west).
Have you been to Cue, or do you have a question about travelling there?
Leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to reply.
Last Updated: 11th May, 2015.
First posted on 6th December, 2013 by Bonny.
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