Great Southern Treasures – Where it all began…
Established in 2004, the Great Southern Treasures is a Local Tourism Organisation representing eight shires in the Upper Great Southern region and is delivered by Australia’s South West. The communities within these shires are predominantly recognised in the primary industry of agriculture for broad acre cropping, sheep for wool and meat production, viticulture, silviculture, and horticulture.
Steeped in the heritage of our early settlers, this region of Western Australia offers a unique glimpse of the ‘backbone’ of our farming communities. Grand old homesteads, community halls and hotels through to large scale grain operations showcasing modern agriculture, add in some award-winning wineries, local produce, breathtaking scenery, wide open spaces just crawling with adventures to be had.
Located in the Upper Great Southern, eight local governments of Broomehill-Tambellup, Cranbrook, Gnowangerup, Katanning, Kent, Kojonup, Plantagenet and Woodanilling, form the Great Southern Treasures.
Take the road less travelled to discover one of Western Australia’s top tourist destinations.
The Great Southern Treasures region is famed for its diversity and genuine country hospitality. Dominated by livestock farming and crop-growing, the region is also known for its amazing national parks, breathtaking mountain ranges, stunning flora and award-winning wineries.
The Great Southern Treasures drive trail takes in 19 towns that each build a picture of how the area was developed.
As you drive through the Great Southern Treasures, you get a sense of its incredible history of our first inhabitants…
The Noongar people were the first inhabitants of the Great Southern Treasures, with Noongar (boodja) country covering the entire southwest of the state. Excavations beside the Kalgan River near Albany reveal that Aboriginal people were living in the area 20,000 years ago.
At the time of the first European contact, Albany was the home of the Menang Noongar people, who called the area Kinjarling, ‘the place of rain’.
Early European settlement
Europeans began exploring along the southern coastline in 1626 when the Dutch ship Gulden Zeepaert sailed past and charted major features. English explorer George Vancouver entered and named King George Sound, the site of present-day Albany, in 1791.
Albany is the oldest continuous European settlement in Western Australia. The King George Sound settlement was founded in 1826, three years before the Swan River Colony, now Perth, was settled in 1829. It wasn’t long before early settlers realised the importance of an overland link between the two settlements.
Those exploring the area between Albany and Perth soon realised the potential of the region, and in 1847 the government introduced a system of grazing land leases to regulate the squatters who pastured their flocks on Crown land. Towns popped up along the Perth-Albany Road, including Williams and Kojonup.
A rail link between Perth and Albany was completed in 1889; and towns were established along the line at Katanning, Broomehill and Cranbrook, with sidings at Tambellup and Yarabin (Woodanilling).
More settlers flocked to the area with the selling off of land from the railway company; and following the end of the gold rush in the late 19th century. Many of the grand old homesteads built in this era remain today.
The towns in the Great Southern Treasures grew apace with the rate of settlement. Stores, hotels, boarding houses, commercial buildings, schools, halls and community buildings popped up; and Katanning, half-way along the new railway line, grew into the commercial central hub of the Great Southern Treasures.
The story behind Bob
The Blue Tongue lizard, or ‘Bob’, as he’s affectionately known, has been the icon of Great Southern Treasures since its inception in 2004. Due to Bob’s established recognition in the marketplace and sentimental value to the group, he remains the most identifiable feature of our identity.
He symbolises one of the many ‘hidden treasures’ of the region and aims to inspire people to seek out and discover more of what this area and its communities have to offer. With his mouth open wide and his blue tongue proudly on display, he evokes the sense of excitement and surprise one feels upon the (often accidental) discovery of one of these lovable local lizards!