Take the road less travelled to discover one of Western Australia’s top tourist destinations.
The Great Southern 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, large ephemeral inland lakes and amazing flora.
Our drive trail takes in 19 towns that each build a picture of how the area was developed.
As you drive through the Great Southern of Western Australia, you get a sense of its incredible history.
Our first inhabitants
The Noongar people were the first inhabitants of the Great Southern, 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 also 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 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 hub of the central Great Southern.
Today, the Great Southern is thriving. Many small farms which were allocated to ex-servicemen and migrant settlers have been amalgamated into larger, more viable holdings which are being successfully farmed.
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!