Sandstone is a tiny outback town in the Murchison region of Western Australia, located about 660 kilometres north east of Perth and roughly half-way between Mount Magnet and Leinster.
The town really is in the middle of nowhere and is only home to about 100 or so people. It’s a friendly and interesting place to stop over in with a great old pub, plus a number of curious natural and heritage attractions to see. The main things to see are located along a sign-posted tourist drive along a dusty track that you can do as a loop drive from town or as a one-way detour off the Agnew – Mount Magnet Road.
For some reason Sandstone is a place in WA that I’d wanted to visit for years, having noticed it on the maps. I’d also seen photos of the “London Bridge” rock formation, thought it looked interesting and wanted to see it for myself. So I was pleased to finally get the chance to visit while driving between the Eastern Gold Fields and Cue.
Sandstone struck me as being a very dry, red and dusty town with huge wide open streets and a couple of gorgeous old heritage buildings, and a row of date palms growing along the middle of the main street. Although it’s still a living town, it almost had a ghost town feel to it with a lot of open space and not many shops or services.
Before we reached the town itself we turned off onto the Sandstone Heritage Trail, which we followed to the Old Brewery, London Bridge and the Sandstone State Battery among other attractions. London Bridge made for nice spot for a picnic so we stopped a little while there for lunch and a cup of tea.
Afterwards we visited the post office (in the old Post and Telegraph Office building), which that day was holding a local’s art exhibition and was full of children, and explored the town and its historic buildings. Over a few beers at the front bar of the old pub we chatted with the young woman working at the bar who’d come all the way from Ireland. It’s funny how working in a remote outback pub is such a novelty for backpackers from Europe, I’m not sure it’s a job many Australians would think to apply for!
Beyond the wide dusty streets of the town the landscape is vast and open, typical outback scenery with rust-stained red dirt and low desert shrubbery beneath a huge clear blue sky.
The Sandstone Landscape: Red Dirt, Breakaways, Spinifex and Huge Skies
The vast empty land surrounding Sandstone is ancient. Most features of the landscape have been eroded away over the ages and the earth is rust-stained red. Depending on where you are, you can often see all the way to the horizon in every direction and this makes it feel as if the land is all flat, but there are in fact many low hills, ranges and rock outcrops that you notice when you’re up close to them.
One of the most striking features of the landscape are the Breakaways – rock formations and bluffs of weathered, rust-stained basalt that have eroded less and rise above the surrounding flat sandy landscape.
The air is incredibly clear with rarely even a cloud in the sky and you can easily see a long way into the distance. The nights tend to be freezing cold and the days warm to very hot. At night the stars are absolutely incredible. My mum and I saw the most amazing night sky I’ve ever seen in my life (and I’ve seen many amazing night skies both in Australia and elsewhere around the world) on the night we stayed at Wondinong Station north-west of Sandstone.
Exploring Sandstone, WA:
Things to See and Do
If you’re into gold prospecting then you may want to spend quite a few days around Sandstone, but we were just passing through on our way between Leinster and Wondinong Station where we were staying for the night. We found a half day in Sandstone was long enough to see all the main attractions and get a good feel for the town.
That being said, it would have been nice to see the London Bridge and the desert surrounds in the late afternoon around sunset when it’s a bit cooler and more atmospheric. I’d like to return some day and stay overnight camped in or near Sandstone.
Explore Sandstone: Attractions and Things to Do
Here’s a video introduction to Sandstone and its many charms:
- Sandstone Heritage Museum
- Old Miner’s Cottage
- Black Range Chapel
- The Old Brewery Cave
- London Bridge
- Sandstone State Battery
- Contradiction Well
- Peter Denny Lookout
The Sandstone Heritage Trail
All Sandstone’s main attractions are located along the Sandstone Heritage Trail, a self-guided walk and drive that links historic sites in town with a gravel road that loops around through the desert out to the Brewery, London Bridge and other local curiosities.
The wild flowers come out after the winter rains, blanketing parts of the desert landscape in pretty shades of pink and white everlastings. Wild flower season is the best time of year to visit! The exact timing of the wild flower season varies from year to year depending on the weather, but early August is usually a good bet and you’re likely to see them in July and later in August too.
The Sandstone district is an area where you can still sometimes find nuggets of gold on the ground. Gold prospecting is one of the main reasons people travel out to Sandstone and is a great way to explore the landscape.
Location and Getting There
Sandstone is located 661km north-east of Perth, or 734km by road via North West Highway(8.5h driving time). It’s about a 7h drive north-north-east from Kalgoorlie via Leonora and Leinster. The closest towns are Mt Magnet to the west and Leinster to the east, both a two hour drive away. Meekatharra is not much further away to the north-west but the road is a lot slower.
Last Updated: 21st August, 2015.
First posted on 21st August, 2015 by Bonny.
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