We stumbled upon this precious gem of a town quite by accident.
After driving in to the town where we’d planned to stay and finding it closed for the weekend (and its free camp soul-destroying and desolate), we hastily consulted the trusty oracle Wikicamps for an alternative along our route.
And that’s how we found the small town of Kulin in the Western Australian wheatbelt – population 369, and growing!
We try to support small towns that offer great free camps to attract self-contained travellers, and have been known to spend hundreds of dollars in these communities, stocking up on groceries, fuel and frequenting the cafes, pubs, restaurants, shops and galleries.
Kulin was such a fabulous and quirky find.
Firstly, it has a free camp right in the middle of town, alongside a delightful community park and gardens, with a great playground, BBQs, picnic tables, spotless amenities block with hot showers, as well as access to drinking water and an RV waste dump point.
Bonus: there are great pub meals across the road, as well as good coffee at the cafe, and an IGA supermarket around the corner.
But what we didn’t know before arriving is that Kulin, like many small country towns, was struggling a couple of decades ago – and that’s when the community set about reinventing itself. Kulin is now developing quite a following and attracting many visitors, courtesy of its quirky Tin Horse Highway, annual bush races and giant water slide.
And it has been getting some publicity along the way, thanks to a recent Back Roads episode on ABC television, and a 2018 article about How the WA town of Kulin reinvented itself and brought the tourists flooding in.
The story of how Kulin acquired its now famous giant water slide (incidentally, the largest water slide in regional Australia) is a fabulous tale of a community working together for a shared purpose. After Kulin was bequeathed funds to be used for sport and community purposes, the community was consulted on what they would like – and something that Kulin’s kids identified was a water slide. So, in an effort to stretch the funds as far as possible, a second-hand water slide was sourced from Queensland, over 4,000 kms away, and then transported across the country by local Kulin farmers on their own trucks.
Evidence of the inclusiveness of the Kulin community is everywhere – you can feel it! People are friendly. And community artwork is splashed throughout the town, right down to large posters of children’s art, on poles that proudly announce that “Kids colour our community”. Great stuff!
Tin Horse Highway
But the Tin Horse Highway is a stroke of brilliance.
What started as a community marketing campaign to promote the annual Kulin Bush Races has turned into more than 80 decorated tin horses, with the number of new exhibits continuing to grow each year.
We laughed our way along the Tin Horse Highway, a quirky 15km long open air gallery of clever community art to the east of Kulin, stopping at each and every exhibit along the way. Not to be outdone, the West Kulin Tin Horses have also started to appear along a 15km stretch of road to the town’s west.
Here’s a selection of some of our favourites. Enjoy!
Well done, Kulin.
We’ll definitely return to enjoy your hospitality again some day.