Wittenoom, Western Australia

wittenoom, western australia. its almost a ghost town now with only a few residents left in this area. an nice spot for a quiet holiday off the beaten track...

Wittenoom was a asbestos mining town, so you have heavy asbestos contamination in the town and surrounding areas. The dust may cause cancer and the area is generally considered bad for your health. I got a message from "Department of Local Government and Regional Development" about this topic at the end of the page which tells you not to go. If you want to see Wittenoom anyway then dont stay to long and don't pick up blue asbestos (crocidolite) fibres and tailings. I have been there in 2005 for a few hours and took all this pictures and wrote this page shortly afterwards. The last thing i heard was that they bulldozed all the remaining buildings down in 2007, that means there is most likely not much left to see today.
If you have a general interrest in ghost towns you could still take a organized and guided tour to Chernobyl from Kiew in the Ukraine, where is much more left to explore, or have a look at forbidden-places.net for alternative places.

Wittenoom is in the northern part of Western Australia, drive from Port Hedland ~200km south along the Great Northern Highway (95) until you arrive at Cnr Great Northern Hwy & Wittenoom turnoff (at Auski Tourist Village Motel). Fill up your car here, then follow the signs. It's about 20km sealed and another 30km unsealed road, a 4x4 is an advantage but not required.

Here is a map of Wittenoom (zoom in!), you can see a few bright dots in the middle - that's where most of the people live who refused to leave this city. West of this spot you can see (well, almost..) the few streets where i took most of this photos. You can make out a small airstrip north of the town.
A lot of empty buildings there have been demolished, but there is still a lot of junk (old cars, barrels and even more junk) to explore. The other buildings are empty or filled up with more stuff like old engines, broken gearboxes or tyres.

If you want to see some nature and nice places, you should take a tour to the Wittenoom Gorge or visit the Karinji National Park. Sure, this place look a lot more like postcard pictures, but you don't get the silence and "end of the world feeling" there and -unlike wittenoom- you have to share the campground with some tourists. I recommend that you enter Karinji National Park only with a 4WD because the roads in the park can be REALLY BAD sometimes. Don't forget to fill up your car at Auski Tourist Village.

update 10. Nov. 2007

i got this email from "Department of Local Government and Regional Development" about Wittenoom:

Geotechnical and engineering consultants GHD and Parsons Brinckerhoff recently compiled a detailed report into the nature and extent of asbestos contamination in the Wittenoom area in the Pilbara, north Western Australia.

The resultant report concluded that there was a medium to extreme risk for potential tourists who visit the area in and around Wittenoom to be exposed to airborne asbestos dust, which may result in mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer. The Department of Health, who independently reviewed this report, expressed the view that the exposure and risks identified in the report represent an unacceptable public health risk.

The Government of Western Australia is proceeding with the closure of Wittenoom. To date, Wittenoom's status as a townsite has been removed, the electricity has been shut off, the postal service has ceased operation and water has been restricted to permanent residences. Any accommodation offered is unlicensed and is believed to be functioning without the appropriate environmental health permits.

It is important that backpackers and visitors to the area are aware of the present risks associated with asbestos contamination in the Wittenoom area, and should be urged to find alternate travel destinations in the Pilbara region. Information can be found at http://www.wa.gov.au/wittenoom.

As the agency responsible for implementing the Government's policy on Wittenoom, the Department of Local Government and Regional Development seeks your support in preventing unnecessary health risks to tourists and possible future litigation by those who are victims of the associated diseases by discontinuing advertisement for Wittenoom on your website and associated publications.