Explore the Region
Situated on the stunning Coral Coast, in WA, the twin towns of Dongara and Port Denison are divided by the Irwin River, which creates a scenic landmark as it meanders between the two towns. The Dongara – Port Denison region offers some lovely day trips and we highly recommended exploring the coast and inland on your journey here.
If driving up from Perth there are two options. One is the Brand Highway which is very colourful during the Wild Flower season, make sure to call into the Western Flora Caravan Park 60kms south of Dongara. You will discover thousands of species of wild flowers over the Northern Heathlands plus honey eaters, frogs, water birds, kangaroos’ and insects.
The second option is to travel along the Indian Ocean Drive. Call into Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles, take a western rock lobster tour in Cervantes, skydive in Jurien Bay see photo Gabriella.jpg or take a Sea Lion Tour in Greenhead.
You will pass through the Lesueur National Park which in spring time is filled with more than 900 wildflower species on its 26,987 hectares. There are walking trails and is great for bird watching with 122 species of native birds recorded. Also nearby if you have a 4WD be sure to call in and see Stockyard Gully Caves which is about 300 metres long, no animals can enter. If you would like to visit this area and do not have a 4WD you can take a tour from Dongara.
If you are travelling from the north or would like some day trips from Dongara – Port Denison the regional city of Geraldton is only a 45 minute drive. Here you can visit the National Memorial to the HMAS Sydney II see photo Raelene Mariani or the WA Museum Geraldton.
Only a 20 minute drive south of Dongara – Port Denison is the historical village of Greenough. Here you can see the leaning trees, Wildlife Park or tour through the old village buildings.
Also a short journey south east is Ellendale Pool, a stunning water hole naturally formed along the Greenough River.
East of Dongara is the town of Mingenew only a 30 minute drive, here you will find Depot Hill and Coalseam Conservation Park see photo. This is the site of the first mined coal deposit in Western Australia, and exposed bands of coal seams can still be seen, along with the siltstones, claystones and sandstones that stripe the cliff faces and reveal 250 million years of geological history.
If you have brought your boat or yacht with you then there are opportunities for you to discover some idyllic locations such as the Jurien Bay Marine Park.
The Houtman Abrolhos Islands is approximately 80km west of the coastline, the 122 islands are clusters of three main groups – Wallabi, Easter and Pelsaert and spread from north to south across 100 kilometres of ocean. The Islands are among Australia’s most important sites for breeding seabirds and also marks the northern-most habitat of the Australian Sea Lion. Snorkelling and diving is a must. Scenic flights and Ecotours depart from Geraldton.
There have been several ship wrecks off of the islands, due to the vessels hitting the coral. These include the Batavia in 1629 and the Zeewijk in 1727, eighteen other historic wrecks have been discovered in Abrolhos waters and many remain undiscovered. The murderous story of the Batavia can be seen at the WA Museum in Geraldton.
Heritage and Culture
Explore the fascinating history of Dongara – Port Denison and the Shire of Irwin.
Irwin District Museum located at 5 Waldeck Street run by volunteers from the Irwin District Historical Society is part of the Heritage Walk. Built in 1870 it was the former Dongara Police Station, Courthouse and Gaol. Now houses a collection from years gone by, a great place to learn all about the hardship and triumphs of the region’s pioneers. Open Monday – Saturday 10am –12pm and entry is $2.50.
Russ Cottage built in the late 1860’s by Titus Russ located on the corner of Point Leander Drive and St Dominics Road, restored by the Irwin District Historical Society and furnished as a 1870s yeoman’s cottage.
Denison House Dr Bartlett purchased the Smith’s Mill property on the southern bank of the Irwin River in 1897. He used stone from the mill to build the house from which he operated his medical practice. The Benedictine Community of New Norcia bought the land in 1944 – to use as a retreat. The land was sub-divided for housing in 2004 and the Shire of Irwin purchased the building. It is now used by community groups.
The old Dongara Post Office was constructed in 1894, the building incorporated the telegraph office and manual telephone exchange. The building is currently owned by the Shire of Irwin and is used as a library, visitors’ information centre and licencing centre.
The Priory Hotel is a magnificent building rich in history, located at 11 St Dominics Road on the banks of the Irwin River. Original built in 1881 as a colonial inn then later housed the St Dominic’s Priory for seventy years as a private boarding school. Now restored as a hotel with accommodation, restaurant and colonial bar more details can be found here.
Dongara Cemetery located on Church Street contains some interesting headstones dating back to 1874. It also contains a Wall of Remembrance dedicated to the Dominican Nuns of the region. Of special interest are the graves of Sophia Mitchell, nee Dent, believed to be the first white female born in Western Australia. You can learn all about the facts from the Irwin District Historical Society’s ‘Self-Guided Tour of the Dongara Cemetery’ flyer for sale at the Visitor Centre.
The Fishermen’s Lookout Obelisk at Port Denison offers panoramic views of the harbour and surrounds. A plaque depicting local shipwrecks is on display at the Obelisk. A boardwalk surrounds the Obelisk to allow easy viewing. This is the start of Trail 4 on the Thungara Trails.
Moreton Terrace Take a stroll down our main street lined with Moreton Bay and Port Jackson Fig Trees planted in 1906. To learn more about the shops, you can purchase the Irwin Districts Historical Society Moreton Terrace Heritage Walk brochure from the Visitors Centre.
Ship Wrecks In the 19th Century Port Irwin offered a safe natural harbour. There was so much damage done to ships calling into this area that some companies refused to provide insurance cover. Many ships have been wrecked or damaged along this windy coastline. You can learn about them on the Ship Wreck Walk located in the Port Denison Foreshore, pick up a free flyer from the Visitors Centre.
There are six walks ranging from 2.7km up to 9kms. You can pick up your free map from the Visitors Centre or the Irwin Recreation Centre showing the location of each walk.
Walk 1 starts on Point Leander Drive and has the latest in technology Calico (CALories In Calories Out) it’s a unique online, mobile & outdoors fitness system. Just 5 mins to put in your age, weight, body shape, goals etc and this Australian online invention shows how much energy your body needs to consume and burn to achieve your fitness or weight loss goals. Then just use the free GPS Burn&EarnTM smartphone app or the Calico Fitness Totems installed every 500m on our walking tracks to help visualise your activity goals. With your targets set online.
Calico turns public space into your very own private gym and allows you to track activity on the go. Get real-time motivation from friends and take part in programs, on and off the Calico tracks.
Just go to calico to join up for free. Or check out the Burn & Earn app and get rewarded for achieving your daily activity goals with money saving deals from fantastic local businesses that support the healthy lifestyle of the community.