Western Australia’s Public Silo Trail is a 1000km self-drive journey linking six towns in the Wheatbelt all the way through to Albany in the Great Southern region.
While the silos themselves are worth the drive to admire the artworks created by world-class local and international artists, the journey reveals an unexpected abundance of culture, tasty cuisine and luxurious accommodation. The road might be long and dusty, but the welcome is always warm and intriguing.
1. WA’s Public Silo Trail
The juxtaposition of painted silos set against the red ochre earth, olive green scrub and the everchanging sky of blues and greys seems surreal. The sheer scale of the artworks transforms the Western Australian landscape into the state’s largest and most iconic outdoor gallery among golden canola, pastoral fields, granite outcrops and pink lakes.
WA’s Public Silo Trail spans from Northam to Merredin, Katanning, Pingrup, Newdegate, Ravensthorpe and Albany. The trail can be broken up into segments covering The Golden Edge Trail (Northam and Merredin), Wave to Wave Trail (Newdegate, Ravensthorpe and Albany) or the Central Heart Trail (Katanning, Pingrup and Newdegate). Maps can be found along the trail and are downloadable at publicsilotrail.com
2. Luxurious Accommodation
You mighn’t associate the dusty Public Silo Trail with luxury, but you might after staying in Katanning’s historic flour mill converted into the luxurious Premier Mill Hotel. This boutique hotel wouldn’t be out of place in any cosmopolitan city. Moody, industrial and oh-so chic, each of the 22 rooms are unique and a throwback to the glory days as a profitable flour mill once owned and managed by Frederick Henry Piesse. He founded the building in 1890 and invigorated Katanning with a water reservoir, orchards, vineyards, installed the first electric generator, traded in sandalwood and manufactured lemonade – which you can sample in the hotel’s basement at the Cordial Bar as well as cocktails and tapas.
At Mary’s Farm Cottages in Kukerin the one and two-bedroom cottages are a great place to base yourself while exploring the region along the Public Silo Trail. Fully self-contained, you can enjoy all the gourmet goodies you’ve collected along the way.
The Beach House at Bayside is Albany’s premier bed & breakfast accommodation. Owners Craig and Sally Pullin offer a personalised service to each and every guest staying in their 10 beautifully designed rooms. Always on hand to offer advice on exploring and eating your way through the region, Craig is a wealth of information ranging from the coastal walking trails just moments from the property to day trips to The Stirling Ranges, Porongurups, Denmark and Walpole. Not that you’re likely to ever go hungry in these parts of WA, but the brownies, banana bread, port and chocolates left in our room were a lovely touch.
3. The Public Silo Trail is remote
While Western Australia is faring well in the wake of the pandemic, much of that is contributed to our remoteness. Most of the towns on Western Australia’s Public Silo Trail are remote, especially WA’s most remote winery in the middle of the Wheatbelt in Lake Grace. Bill Walker, the original owner of Walkers Hill Winery, realised his land wasn’t conducive to planting cereal crops. Since he was a fan of wine, he planted some vines in 1995, yielded his first crop in 1998 and won his first award for his Shiraz in 2002. The vineyard was taken over by its new owners in 2011 and they’ve continued on with the wines and also run functions and events from the rustic cellar door.
4. World-class food
While there’s nothing quite as quintessentially Australian as a counter meal in an outback pub, you might be surprised to discover Waygu beef, Asian cuisine, Mt Barker chicken, Plantagenet meat, freshly baked goodies, handmade relishes, jams and spreads are just part of the course along the Public Silo trail. Our picks are the Riversedge Café (Northam) for the views, Lume Café (Northam) for the huge Waygu burgers, Dome’s After Five menu (Katanning), The Cordial Bar (tapas and cocktails in the basement of the Premier Mill Hotel, Katanning), fresh yabbies from Cambinata yabbies (North Kukerin), Hybla (Albany) for local beef and lamb, the upmarket Three Anchors pub (Albany), Hooked on Middelton Beach (Albany) voted as the best fish and chips and the epic breakfasts at The Beach House at Bayside (Albany).
5. Vast waterways
While driving past vast canola fields we also passed a number of boats. We wondered why anyone would have a boat hundreds of kilometres from the coast? We soon discovered there quite a number of large lakes covering the region including several salt lakes in Lake Grace and waterways and wetlands in The Wheatbelt offering magnificent scenery and watersports. Lake Dumbleyung was made famous when Donald Campbell broke the water speed record in 1964 in his Bluebird and you can visit the replica in Dumbleyung. You can swim, water-ski and paddle around the lake, which is home to over 20,000 bird species, and also enjoy a picnic on the waters edge or at Pussy Cat Hill, which gives some perspective on the enormity of this extraordinary waterway and surrounding landscape.
6. Art & Culture
Apart from the Public Silo Trail itself, the landscape would inspire the artist in any of us. Northam’s Bilya Koort Boodja Cultural Centre celebrates the culture of the Nyoongar people through a gallery and interpretative exhibitions, plus the town offers some unique architecture. Visit the outdoor sculptural gallery in Wagin and its famous giant ram. Stroll through Katanning’s historic streets and follow the public art trail and if possible, time your visit to catch the Harmony Festival in March for a celebration of the town’s multiculturalism. Pop into Newdegate’s Hainsworth Museum for a taste of pioneer life. Using nothing more than a chainsaw and wood, artist Darrel Radcliffe has created over 100 sculptural pieces in an open-air art gallery on the Chainsaw Sculpture Drive in Albany.
7. Community spirit along the Public Silo Trail
While a rural lifestyle on a remote farm seems idyllic and peaceful, you might be surprised to discover life can get hectic, especially for the women in these regions who not only raise families often with limited resources, but they also help manage the farms, do community work and run their own businesses. Although no longer open, one example of the community’s entrepreneurial spirit could be found at The Store Café 6343 in Pingrup where three local women got together to set-up and manage the café, which was run on a volunteer basis. Before its opening in 2018, they were one hour away from fresh bread and milk and although its closure is a big blow to the community, as they say, watch this space as there has been some interest in resurrecting this much-loved spot. Another example is Dumbleyung Mini Mall in the cute town of Dumbleyung, which is a small business incubator for locally made products. And if you’re lucky you just never know who might jump in for a visit.
8. Chasing the light
Don’t forget your camera! The amount of times you will want to stop along the way could easily add hours onto the journey – the scenery is simply staggering. And as the light changes throughout the day and throughout the seasons, no two scenes ever look the same.
It’s always best to plan ahead when travelling throughout Western Australia and even in some of these remote towns bookings are essential. Also check Covid-19 regional travel restrictions before setting out on any journey and follow social distancing and hand sanitation rules at all times.