Wagin, Western Australia: Travel guide and things to do

Wagin is located 228 km south east of Perth and 257 m above sea level. It is an important centre for the surrounding wheat and sheep industry with the inevitable grain silos and bulk loading facilities beside the railway line. The town also produces agricultural supplies including superphosphate and stock feed.

No one is quite sure what the word 'Wagin' actually means but it is likely that it either means 'the place where emus watered' or is a variation of 'wedge-an' an Aboriginal word for 'emu'.

The first European explorer through the area was John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor General, who in 1835 reached Mount Hugel (which he named after the German scientist, Baron Hugel) which lies south of the present town.

There was little development of the region until the arrival of the railway in 1889. Between 1835 and 1889 a few settlers eked a simple living by cutting sandalwood and shepherding small flocks of sheep. Land was granted to pastoralists in the Wagin area from the late 1870s onwards.

The town came into existence as a result of the construction of the Great Southern Railway which was completed in 1889. By 1898 Wagin had been proclaimed a town and by 1906 it had become well established as a major service centre for the surrounding area.

Things to see

Wagin Heritage Trail
There is an interesting guide to the historical sites in the town titled Wagin Heritage Trail: Settlement and Development of the Wagin District. With the town really only coming into existence in the late nineteenth century many of the so called Œhistoric sites¹ are quite recent. The Heritage Trail includes St George¹s Anglican Church (1902), St George¹s Hall (1912), the Wagin Masonic Lodge (1907), the Old Power House (1914) which is now the Little Gem Theatre a combined cinema and live theatre with seating capacity for 99 people, the Wagin Road Board Office (1912) now the Town Library and the delightful and impressive Palace Hotel (1905). There is very little of great historical interest in Wagin. Like all country towns it has some old buildings but none of them are such as to catch the attention of the visitor and in some cases, the Masonic Lodge for example, the buildings are notable only for their lack of distinction or character.

Wagin Historical Village
The town¹s great attraction is the very substantial and interesting Historical Village which is located inside the grounds of the local showground. The village continues to expand and seems as though it will eventually become a town in its own right. In 1988 there were 33 buildings and the complex was expanding rapidly. The buildings include an old Bank, School, Printing shop, wattle and daub humpy, shepherd¹s camp, Community Hall, Blacksmith¹s Shop, Barber¹s Shop, Dressmaker, Bush shearing shed and Mallee Root Shed. Most of the buildings in the complex have been furnished appropriately. Apart from the actual buildings there is also an extensive display of memorabilia from the local area. There is little doubt that this is one of the finest Historical Villages in the country. There has been a great deal of care taken to recreate an environment which combines a Œmain street¹, an Œearly settlement¹ and extensive displays of farm machinery which are reputed to be the best in Western Australia. It is open every day from 10.00 am - 12.00 noon and from 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm.

The Big Ram
There are a number of Big Ram¹s around Australia. The one at Wagin, which stands 7 m high and 15 m long, seems to be particularly appropriate given that each March the Wagin Woolorama draws up to 20 000 people to the town¹s Agricultural Show. This show is second only to the Perth Royal Show as Western Australia¹s premier agricultural event.

A book on the area titled The Emu¹s Watering Place and written by M. J. Pederick covers the history of the town in great detail.

Tourist information

Wagin Tourist Information Centre
Historical Village P.O .Box 303
Wagin WA 6315
Telephone: (08) 9861 1232
Facsimile: (08) 9861 1811