Australian Traveller escapes the winter blues by visiting Marble Bar in northwest WA, Australia’s hottest town.
Heating Up In Marble Bar
Talk about finding some winter sun. To chase these chilly blues away, Kathy Littlemore heads to WA to visit Australia’s hottest town.
Marble Bar, in WA’s Pilbara region, claims our greatest heat wave of all time. During the summer of 1923-’24 there were 160 consecutive days – more than five months – with the mercury above 38.7C, and the Guinness Book of Records has 49.2C as Marble Bar’s highest.
Travellers who like to experience the quirky avoid arriving in the remote town during the pleasantly mild winter, just so they can boast, “I wore a coat in Marble Bar during summer.” This also gives them a good excuse to quench their thirst at the Iron Clad Hotel. (There’s some debate about the origin of that name: was it named by American goldminers after the Ironclad warships on the Mississippi River during the Civil War? Or the Ironclad Battery to the north of Marble Bar? Or simply because of its corrugated iron cladding? But, since the beer is cold and it’s the only pub in town, who really cares?)
There’s one other strange thing about Marble Bar: the colourful ridge on the Coongan River after which the town is named is not marble (settlers mistook the brilliant deposit of jasper). Locals are pretty protective of this landmark, so don’t even consider taking a souvenir from the Marble Bar Pool unless you want to be $10,000 poorer. There’s another jasper deposit about three miles from town where you can legally take a sample.
Vehicles can be hired in Port Hedland (200km to the northwest) or Broome (599km to the northeast) and access to Marble Bar is via sealed roads, but you need a 4WD for many local attractions. Conditions are harsh in this neck of the woods, so be prepared rather than perish. Carry adequate food and water to last several days. And the cardinal rule of outback survival is very much in play here: if you break down, never, ever leave your vehicle.
So, is it really worth the bother of taking a trip so fraught with danger and discomfort? You betcha. The natural beauty of this hot spot, especially after rain, is breathtaking. Pack your camera, base yourself at Marble Bar and prepare for a holiday crammed with adrenalin, awe and relaxation. Whether you toast the sunset over Doolena Gorge with bubbly, fight a barra in the DeGrey or set out into the Great Sandy Desert for extreme 4WD trekking on the famous Canning Stock Route, the rugged beauty of Australia’s hottest town seeps into your being. You’ll yearn to return.