When you’re driving to or from Carnarvon along the Northwest Coastal highway, watch out for a sign that says Gladstone lookout. Not only is it a nice place to grasp the vastness of Australia, there’s something else there that is worth seeing: a collection of colorful gnomes, put together by travelers and passers-by to memorialize loved ones.
The Gladstone viewpoint takes you to a flat tableland, overlooking the raw, dry and entirely treeless landscape. There’s nothing there apart from a seemingly endless dirt road that leads all the way to the big blue ocean in the distance. We park our car, walk towards the edge and there we notice two rock piles. Some of the stones have names, dates and messages of love, hope, peace and joy on them. And a lot of RIP’s. A few meters away there’s a bunch of colorful gnomes with similar writings. The gnomes are all facing the sea as if they’re drifting off into daydreams, their eyes focussed on infinity. A quick search on the internet reveals that putting gnomes on the lookout are a popular thing to do in all of Australia. The gnomes are joined by dolls, figurines, stuffed animals, toys, flipflops, photos … basically anything that can be painted or written on. How it all started is a mystery, but one message, one name, one gnome apparently was enough to get the ball rolling.