Woodlines and Holland Track

See also another page on the woodlines in general


The Holland Track was originally opened as a short cut from Albany to the Coolgardie goldfields. A group of men lead by John Holland left Broomehill in April 1893 to cut the track to Coolgardie. They arrived in Coolgardie in June. The track was immediately used by prospectors rushing to the goldfields in search of their fortunes. A number of attempts had been made previously to forge a route through the scrub and had met with failure. In November 1892, one prospector vanished never to be seen again in his attempt to get to Coolgardie. Scarce water and uncharted bushlands made the exercise extremely dangerous. Today many farms and local roads have meant that for the modern traveller the start of the Holland Track is about 50km east of Hyden on the Norseman Road.

The woodlines described in these notes are northeast of Norseman. They are an extensive series of tracks that follow early light railway tracks laid specifically to take cut wood back to the furnaces at Kalgoorlie for the mines and for the boilers at the water pipeline pump stations. Literally millions of tons of wood was cut. Today the area is all regrowth with some sections that are almost impenetrable. There are dozen of old "campsites" where the cutters and their families lived whilst eking a living in this remote section of bush. It is still possible to find relics of that bygone era lying amongst the leave litter. This section out of Norseman operated from the late 1930s to almost 1964.


The Holland Track is east of Hyden and runs generally north east towards Coolgardie.

The woodlines are north east of Norseman and are access from several tracks leaving the Eyre Highway east of Norseman.


The old railway that went to Esperance left from Coolgardie and went via Widgiemooltha and Norseman. It was closed in the 1950.

Cave Hill and Burra Rock were used as main camps and water collection points for the woodlines operating out of Kurrawang. Burra Rock was used in the 60s to the 80s as a small farm where pigs were raised.

The telegraph line was built in 1897 to extend the line from Coolgardie to Esperance via Norseman. At Norseman it also branched eastwards to Balladonia. This inland route allowed for new technology to transmit and receive at the same time, as well as reducing the effect of coastal atmospheric conditions on the signals, eventually allowing the backlog of messages to be eliminated.  The original telegraph line went from Bremer bay to Israelite Bay then Eyre's Sandpatch and then Eucla. The large stone buildings along this section were built in the 1860s to replace the original wooden huts. The new Balladonia section went to Eyre's Sandpatch. Israelite Bay Telegraph Station was shut down in 1897 and the whole telegraph line closed in 1927 when the telegraph was rerouted across the Nullarbor with the Trans Australian Railway.

Balbinia was operated by the Brooks family and it was a very tough existence. Israelite Bay was where sheep and wool from Balladonia were sent for shipping to markets. The Brooks family struggled to make a living. John Brooks and his mother are buried at Balbinia and John's sister died much later and is buried in Norseman.

Deralinya was built for the Ponton family and was part of the Balladonia sheep empire. Is had been abandonned, but the current owners have restored the building and it is open to visit and stay. Very, very generous and deserves respect and thanks.

Trip Report 

This trip was the third of our expeditions and done in April 2011. We drove pretty much straight to Hyden from Perth where we refueled. A visit to Wave Rock was undertaken so that our kids (who are now adults) could see this remarkable feature. It is a testament to the vision of some locals that the rock has become the tourist attraction it is. This formation is not uncommon in many of the large rock formations in the area. Banks Rock near Norseman is a perfect example of another similar formation, yet due to its isolation, is relatively unvisited.

The trip started at the track intersection about 5km past the rabbit proof fence. This intersection is marked by a 44 gallon drum and plough disc mounted on star pickets. This track is not hard to drive and there are sections with very low scrub to high salmon gum trees. We hard a limited time frame to traverse the Holland Track due to work commitments of one of the party, so many side trips were not done. We used trip notes from Western 4WDriver magazine's "the Holland Track Book" to help guide us. Also a built in mapping system in the car allowed us to view a moving map display with both modern and older topographical maps.

There were some wet sections on the track. We crossed a couple but then decided to avoid them as they were very muddy and gritty and we didn't wont anything to wear away like we did in the Rudall River National Park the year before. We visited places like Sandalwood Rocks (the sandalwood has all gone!) and other rockholes.

Generally the track was pretty good and well signposted.

After Coolgardie we travelled southwards again to pick up the old railway line to Widgiemooltha. Once again this track is easy to follow, though there are some tight sections with overgrowth. We explored around a couple of old sidings, one of which had a spur to a large gravel pit. We also managed to find some small lumps of coal along the way too. Unfortunately, the flies were a real pest. Luckily they went with the sun, but sadly they re-appeared the next morning. As we went further south they tended to disappear, but they were our biggest nuisance this trip! Thankfully no mozzies, though! We also saw our first snake, a big one that disappeared in a crack in the ground. It was estimated to be about 5 feet long and probably either a dugite or gwardar. Once we reached Widgiemooltha we followed the track to Cave Hill. We explored the northern section of this rock for a while, but didn't camp there. The campsites are in really nice spots, but were not very clean. The DEC toilets were disgusting. God provides us with much better campsites. We went from Cave Hill to Burra Rock and explored around there. The information area is really good and we had a leisurely morning there. We took the old rail formation, described as a 4x4 track back to Cave Hill. this was Donna's first experience of woodlines. This brought us out near the main dam at Cave Hill and we explored for a while again. The pace of the trip had slowed as there was no pressure to rush back to work!

Both Burra Rock and Cave hill are very interesting places to visit.

We continued back on the Higginsville track towards Sunday Soak, where we visited the lonely graves at Sunday Soak. See the lonely graves pages for more detail.

From Sunday Soak we travelled the Mundale Track towards the old Hyden - Norseman Road. It was along this section that a low branch broke the end from the autotune antenna on Stephen's car. There are some magical views along this track especially along some saltbush areas near dry salt lakes and the vista from Mundale Dome is pretty cool too. Once we reached the old road we headed east towards the Esperance Highway, but just prior to it, we turned south on the old telegraph line. There are sections along this section where the are steep inclines and declines and very close scrub. It is a great 4x4 track. We started clearing trees from the section we drove.

After this we refueled at Norseman and headed to the Woodlines. This is a special location for me as I opened a lot of the older tracks. We explored one that I opened some years ago, and others have used it (you can see there rubbish left behind), but it looks as if they have been the only ones to go down there. Old marker ribbons I used are still there. We spent some time in the woodlines and travelled down a very difficult section over 4 days. We had our first flat tyre along this section. We only did 2/3 of it before deciding to head off towards Balladonia for a shower. We had some days of light drizzle and it was a beautiful place. Somewhere the flies left us. We found many interesting objects in the bush, including the remains of a handmade bocce ball and a hurricane lamp with the glass still intact!  We had no trouble finding sandalwood trees out here. We could even see stands of them amongst quandong trees so we could compare the differences. Leaving the area caused our second flat in a brand new Cooper! Before we got onto the Eyre Highway we had to clean all the loose sticks and tree leaves from the cars.

Balladonia was a bloody disappointment. We could not buy a shower, and nearly everything we had hoped to get there was not available! So after paying nearly 40c/l more for fuel than in than Perth, we left.

We made camp at Booanya Rock, and it was really nice. The moss on the rocks in the morning was a brilliant green, but changed colour as the sun came up. We explored the rock and old hut for some time. We headed south where we stopped at Deralinya and Balbinia to check out the restored huts. A lot of work has gone into Deralinya, but the white-ants are also having a good time. We found the graves of the Brooks at the rocks near the old orchard. The orchard had a couple of mulberry trees and figs trees still growing alongside a rose bush. The work that went to channel water to this area is extraordinary!

We continued south past Mt Ragged to Israelite Bay where we spent some time at the restored ruins of the telegraph station. We found both sets of old graves out there.

Our trip ended at Israelite bay where we headed westward again for home. We stopped at Peak Charles for a look, then at Lillian Stokes Rock.

Places to See

Agnes Rock and gnamma holes
Old rail sidings Burra Rock and Cave Hill
Lonely Graves at Sunday Soak
Museum at Coolgardie
Old debris along woodlines
Sandalwood trees
Mundale Dome
Israelite bays Telegraph ruins and graves

Degree of Difficulty 

I would class this trip as easy. However, in wet conditions the soil can become very slippery and difficult to stay on course. If rain is persistent and the ground becomes saturated then  it can become very boggy and hard to keep moving forward. Winching can be required as the ground seems to swallow heavy vehicles. In some cases high clearance is required and there is the possibility (actually likelihood) of terrible scratches to paintwork of the vehicle, but what did you buy it for? Once again this is remote area travelling for most people and the appropriate precautions are required. We had 4 punctures, smashed a windscreen and rear view mirror and had the autotune HF radio antenna damaged. This was all caused at speeds less than 40km/h because of low tree branches, close scrub hiding heavy tree limbs and fallen logs across the track. We removed at least 10 large trees that had fallen over the track. 


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