The capital city of the largest state in Australia is Perth, the most isolated of all state capitals: it is closer to Jakarta than it is to Canberra. It is a well planned, modern city, on the estuary of the Swan River, and was called the Swan River Colony, named after the black swans common here, when it was proclaimed a city in 1865. It grew rapidly from the late 19th century, after the discovery of gold in the colony. The Perth metropolitan area now has an estimated population of almost 1,700,000. About 170 kilometres south is Bunbury, a resort town founded in 1836, and a centre for the surrounding farms.
It is a beautiful region, exemplified by the scenic coast between the towns of Walpole and Albany which is as far south as you can go here. There is a forest of Giant "Karri" Eucalyptus trees, up to 80 metres high, near the timber town of Pemberton and strange looking "Blackboy" grass trees near the Stirling Ranges, named for Western Australia's first governor, James Stirling. This is a 65 kilometres long row of mountains, about 50 kilometres north of Albany, with the state's highest peak, 1073 kilometres high Bluff Knoll.
Further east, in the dry interior, are the gold mining towns of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Coolgardie. In 1893 Patrick Hannan found gold in the area where the local Aborigines called a particular shrub "kulgoolah" and this became "Kalgoorlie" for the town that grew here. A twin town, Boulder, grew up when the "Golden Mile" was discovered, one of the world's richest gold reefs. Earlier, gold had been discovered in 1892 at a place that was called "Golgardi" by the local Aborigines and this brought in many gold seekers: at one stage the population of Coolgardie was 15000, Australia's third largest town. But soon people moved on and today the town is almost an open air museum.
The small town of Norseman, founded in 1892 on the Dundas gold field is south of there; as legend has it, a horse kicked up a gold nugget here, leading to the discovery of the reef and the town that grew up here was named after that horse, Norseman. Going east, the real Australian bush takes over, with salt lakes, flocks of emus and finally the Nullarbor Plains, endless treeless expanses with a road and railway, straight as an arrow, stretching into South Australia. This is empty, lonely country, south of the Great Victoria Desert.