Area History

Dongara is located on the coast south of Geraldton and north of Perth on the banks of the Irwin River with a port at nearby Port Denison. There is a crayfish fishing fleet operating from the harbour, and during the season (November to June) you can get fresh crayfish from the wharf.

The area was first traversed by explorer George Grey in 1839. In 1840, Augustus Gregory, another explorer of note, discovered a coal seam which led to the rapid development of the town.

Oil and natural gas deposits from Dongara have been piped to Perth since 1970.

There is plenty to see around Dongara-Denison including Ellendale pool, several national parks to visit, a heritage trail, and some historic buildings. Russ Cottage (1870s) was the home of the pioneering Dent family and has been fully restored

Population: 3,500
Highways: Brand Hwy and Indian Ocean Drive
Nearest Capital City: Perth 362 km south and the nearest city is Geraldton 65km north.
Airport, : Light Planes
Coaches: Daily service.

History Overview
Nestled on Arunine Bay are the old historical twin towns of Port Denison and Dongara, the coastal contact for the Shire of Irwin.

In 1839, an expedition led by George Grey left the Swan River colony by ship, bound for the area north of the Murchison River. His boats and supplies destroyed in a cyclone, his only alternative was a gruelling 700km trek south to the colony.

Captain Grey and his party thus became the first Europeans to traverse the Irwin District and note the extent of the lush pastoral country in the Irwin Basin.

The Aboriginal people of this region (the Wattandee) saw the first permanent European settlement of Irwin in 1850. In 1852, a townsite was surveyed and named “Dhungarra” – a name given to the area by local tribal natives to indicate a meeting place of seals.

From this time on, the area gradually became settled. This progress was understandably slow because of the distances involved and the slowness of available means of transport. Unknown dangers played their part in hindering settlement as in the case of the sailing ship Leander. In 1853, she struck the reef which now bears her name. Commander Captain Johnson managed to run in and beach her on the then uninhabited coast. The Captain and crew managed to reach Mr Burges property on the Upper Irwin.

By 1866, the small settlement was beginning to flex its community muscle and a jetty was built at Port Irwin. At the same time an Inn was built, which is still in use today.
Finally, in 1871, the Irwin Road Board was formed. It stretched to the South Australian border and covered 89,000 square miles. In its early years, meetings were held in the Courthouse which was built around the same time, along with a School and Police Station. This progress continued as surely as the gradual growth of the majestic trees lining the main street.