History and culture

The history of Western Australia’s Coral Coast dates back millions of years, beginning with the formation of the region’s unique natural attractions. This ancient land has been home to Indigenous people for over 45,000 years, and the region boasts a fascinating and at times brutal maritime history, both before and after Europeans settled on Western Australia’s Coral Coast in the 1830s.

Natural history

Western Australia’s Coral Coast has some amazing and unique natural history. Its beautifully rugged landscapes and natural attractions were formed over millions of years, from the world’s oldest living life forms, the stromatolites, and the amazing Ningaloo Reef, to the region’s stunning river gorges and caves.

Check out some of the region's most famed natural landmarks:

Indigenous history

The Indigenous history of Western Australia’s Coral Coast is unique and rich in Dreamtime stories, legends and art. One of the oldest cultures in the world, dating back over 45,000 years, the word Aborigine means ‘from the beginning’ or ‘origin’. ‘Indigenous’ is used to describe both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and means ‘native to place’.

Indigenous cultural tours are offered in the Coral Coast. Alternatively, you can find out more about local tour operators by contacting the region’s visitor centres or visiting the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators website.

For further information about Indigenous history and culture on Western Australia’s Coral Coast, visit the Department of Indigenous Affairs and Yamatji Land and Sea Council website.

Maritime history

The Coral Coast of Western Australia (WA) has a fascinating and at times brutal maritime history. Dating back as early as the 16th century, it includes the famously bloody mutiny of the Batavia, one of many shipwrecks in the region.

European discovery, colonisation and shipwrecks

The Portuguese are believed to have been the first to set eyes on Western Australia’s Coral Coast during the 1520s, marking the beginning of the region’s eventful maritime history. Between the arrival of Dirk Hartog in 1616 and the voyages of Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642 and 1644, the outline of WA’s coast was mapped, but the region remained a hazard to shipping.

A number of sites throughout Western Australia’s Coral Coast recount incidents of that significant day in maritime history and pay homage to Australia’s largest loss of life in a naval battle. The HMAS Sydney II Memorial is beautifully designed, sitting high on a hill overlooking the Geraldton

waterfront and has become the country’s premier site for honouring Australia’s lost soldiers. The WA Museum Geraldton displays artefacts and information on the maritime history of the region. 

Explorers, pioneers and settlers

Western Australia's Coral Coast is a region rich in history and heritage, influenced by many explorers, pioneers and settlers, the most notable of which include Dirk Hartog and Monsignor Hawes.

Dirk Hartog
The Dutch explorer landed the Eendracht on Dirk Hartog Island, off the coast of Shark Bay on Western Australia’s Coral Coast, in October 1616. The explorer and his crew stayed on the island for two days and left a pewter plate engraved with his name and the date, making it the first recorded European landing on Australian soil.

Monsignor Hawes
English architect and priest John Hawes moved to Western Australia in 1915 to work as a country pastor in Geraldton. He is responsible for designing and building 16 churches in the State’s Mid West region including the Spanish mission style St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St Peter and St Paul in Mullewa and the Sacred Heart Convent and Our Lady in Ara Coeli Church in Northampton. The Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail celebrates the enormous contribution he made to the region.

Other museums
There are also many museums and historic sites throughout Western Australia’s Coral Coast which pay tribute to the region’s early pioneers and settlers. These include the character stone buildings of Central Greenough Historic Settlement, Carnarvon Historical Precinct and the National Trust-listed Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage Museum.

For a real outback experience, take one of the Outback Pathways and follow in the tracks of the early pioneers and settlers.

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