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Recreation & tourism

Local history

An impressive local history collection is maintained at the Augusta and Margaret River Libraries.

Council welcomes contributions to the collection by local residents of any historic documents.  The Augusta Historical Museum is also a source of history information.

Augusta Margaret River Historical Timeline

This was compiled from the Oral History report, written records and input from residents.  In constructing the timeline a range of sources was consulted, including oral history participants, the publication “The Light of Leeuwin” by Gail J. Cresswell, members of Historical Societies, community members, and various printed and electronic documents. 


  • 1621 Dutch vessel ‘Leeuwin’ makes first sighting of south west coast of Western Australia


  • 1772 Geographical observations recorded by the ‘Gros Ventre’, anchored in Flinders Bay 1800-1830
  • 1801 the explorer Mathew Flinders was instructed to survey unknown sections of New Holland. Flinders arrived off Cape Leeuwin in the ‘Investigator’ and nominates Cape Leeuwin as the south-western, most projecting part of Australia
  • 1801 Explorer Captain Nicholas Baudin arrived at Hamelin Bay from Isle de France (Mauritius), naming many places along the (now AMR Shire) coast before making landfall at Geographe Bay and continuing the length of the west coast of Australia. Baudin and Flinders later met (1802) at Kangaroo Island SA during the latter part of their separate explorations
  • WA Lieutenant-Governor Stirling sights and sails around Cape Leeuwin 1827


  • A group of white settlers are persuaded by the WA Lieutenant-Governor to settle near Cape Leeuwin, forming the town of Augusta, 1830
  • The advantages of Jarrah is noted in 1832 when the severely damaged hull of HMS Success was repaired using jarrah and successfully sailed back to England
  • The town of Augusta is surveyed by A. Hillman
  • Relationship between Aborigines and settlers deteriorates 1834
  • Whaling off the coast of Augusta had become an established industry by 1839


  • Two of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge caves are discovered north of Augusta
  • Last of the original settling families leaves Augusta 1849. Settlement seen as a failure due to inexperience, the hardwood timber, and lack of government assistance. Area remains relatively dormant for nearly 20 years


  • A party of convicts cuts the first Jarrah timber for export from Augusta. Work takes so long, due to difficulties with Jarrah, that no profit is made and convict party recalled
  • “Ellensbrook” homestead built on site that is to be recognised as the potential (Margaret River) town site, 1857


  • Only four families or individuals left in Augusta district by early 1860’s due to land grant restrictions and difficulties with land clearing
  • Sleeper cutting commences in Augusta area 1961
  • Second wave of Augusta settlers take up land, 1864


  • Timber Industry potential begins to be realised
  • WA Government grants long term leases and “Special Timber Licences” to stimulate timber industry
  • In 1875 Lockville Timber Co is granted 14 year lease to cut timber from 75,000 acreas in Augusta district.
  • Ellensbrook Home Farm for Aborigines established by Church of England, 1879


  • European disease epidemics (venereal, influenza, and measles) cause decline in Aboriginal population
  • Timber industry grows throughout 1880’s, with a depression in 1887
  • Timber industry supports infrastructure and commercial growth in the region: a number of mills (Kudardup, Karridale, Boranup and Jarrahdene), two long jetties (Flinders Bay and Hamelin Bay) and the foundation and growth of the company town of Karridale
  • Karridale School opened in 1888


  • Demand for timber steadily growing in second part of 1890’s, majority of orders from SA
  • Augusta District Road Board was formed in 1891
  • Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse constructed 1895 – 1896


  • Timber industry workers go on strike for 14 weeks, requesting a reduction in working hours from 9 to 8 per day, and increased pay in 1907
  • From 1900 to 1914 approximately 17 million railway sleepers were cut from Augusta-Margaret River region
  • Margaret River officially declared a townsite in 1910 (by 1912 there are still only 3 houses in Margaret River)
  • Forests are decimated from the timber industry push. Remaining forest is not economically viable. By 1913, three of the regions timber mills have closed


  • 1921 marks beginning of group settlements. These occurred at numerous localities in the region including Karridale, Kudardup, Nuralingup, Forest Grove, Cowaramup, Rosa Brook, Witchcliffe and later at Margaret River. The last group settlement to the area was in 1926
  • Commercial and community development in Margaret River grows to support group settlements includes a bakery, fresh food (fruit, vegetable, meat and milk) shop, Post Office, Hospital
  • Population of Augusta-Margaret River increases more than 10-fold in ten years (1919 – 1921) from around 200 to 2400 people
  • A number of schools are established during the 1920’s to support Group Settlements – Forest Grove, Rosa Brook, Rosa Glen, Osmington, Kudarup, Glenarty, McLeod’s Creek School, Nillup
  • The railway line from Busselton to Margaret River is completed in the early 1920’s, Busselton to Flinders Bay railway opened 1925
  • WA Jarrah Forest Ltd forms from two companies (Adelaide Timber Company and JF Pilgrim) tendering for government sawmill contract. Begin operations in 1924 supplying sleepers to South Africa and timber for Group houses (still running today?). Important income supplement for many of the groupies.
  • The first agricultural show is held at Karridale in 1925
  • The Bunbury Butter Company buys 10 acres to build a factory in Margaret River. In 1929 the factory is built by Wesfarmers and in 1933 it is purchased by South West Co-operative Dairy Farmers Ltd.


  • Large number of CWA’s formed in region – Rosa Glen / Witchcliffe, Rosa Brook, Margaret River, Karridale. Also beginnings of other clubs: Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Red Cross, RSL’s
  • First pines planted in region, 1933. Extensive planting took place till 1941, when wartime restrictions brought about the curtailment of the program
  • Last quokka seen in region
  • Electricity is supplied in Margaret River (1937), although not on a 24hour basis


  • Salmon fishing established at Hamelin Bay during 1940’s
  • The war created an increase in demand for tobacco. In 1940 exploratory crops were established in the AMR Shire from Cowaramup through Rosa Glen, Rosa Brook, Margaret River to Karridale and Warner Glen. By the 1950’s it had become unviable to grow tobacco and farmers diversified to vegetable and fruit growing or dairy farming
  • Italian Prisoners of War worked as farm labourers in and around the district in 1943
  • Following World War II, a number of displaced Europeans, seconded to the Forests Department for the mandatory period of two years bonded to the government, are sent to Margaret River where they hand felled about 300 acres.
  • War Service Land Settlement is established, with new settlers arriving to the Augusta-Margaret River area. This settlement scheme proved more successful than the Group Settlement Scheme allowing for greater areas of cleared pasture and an improved standard of housing


  • Main road from Vasse to Margaret River is sealed in 1950
  • Pine planting resumed in the area in 1951. Planting continued to 1957 when policy change caused the cessation of all soft wood plantations
  • The volunteer fire brigade is formed in Margaret River in 1951 as a separate identity to the volunteer Bush Fire Brigades that were already in operation throughout the area.
  • The butter factory in Margaret River (South West Co-operative Dairy Farmers Ltd) is converted to a cheese factory in 1952. The cheese factory is closed in 1950s
  • Prevelly Caravan Park opens in 1953, marking Augusta-Margaret River as a growing holiday / tourist destination
  • First stage of Sunny West Cooperative Dairies in built in 1953.
  • Margaret River District High School opens 1953. Many children now bus to major centres for school following closures of the small group schools
  • The Augusta-Margaret River tourist bureau incorporated in 1956
  • The Bussleton - Flinders Bay railway is closed in 1957
  • The Jewel Cave is opened to the public on Boxing Day 1959


  • The Commonwealth Development Bank make long-term loans for farm development available
  • Electricity supplied to Augusta
  • Augusta hospital opens
  • The abalone industry begins, based in Augusta
  • Karridale is nearly completely destroyed during the year of devastating bush fires in WA in 1961
  • Gracetown is gazetted in 1962
  • First experimental plots of exotic eucalypts planted in 1965
  • Alexandra Bridge area – electricity switched on in December 1965
  • The Augusta-Margaret River is reported as being eminently suited to commercial viticulture in 1965. The first commercial vines are planted in 1966.


  • Market Milk Quotas introduced
  • 1970’s sees ‘waves’ of people come to the Augusta-Margaret River region, including the “orange people” and “surfies”. Some of these stayed to become long-term residents
  • Molloy Island is purchased for sub-division and development in 1974. Barge starts operating – first vehicle on island in 1977
  • The first pro/am surfing competition is held in Margaret River
  • Main road from Margaret River to Augusta is sealed in 1979


  • Immense growth in the shire: population grows from 3054 to 5331 in the ten years from 1976 to 1986.
  • Farming areas are taken over with vineyards throughout the 1980’s
  • Tourist accommodation & visitor numbers multiply
  • Fish industry, based in Augusta, stabilises
  • Agro-forestry introduced, intensifying use of plantations for grazing
  • Increase in eucalypt plantation in both commercial and private sector, with many farms being planted out with Tasmanian Blue Gums
  • A number of initiatives aimed at aged care and recreation start up in late 1970’s and 1980’s: Leeuwin Frail Aged Home opened 1978; Augusta and Districts Elderly Support Association formed in1987;
  • 1982 – Blackwood River floods Warner Glen Bridge and sweeps away the old Alexandra Bridge
  • “Light of Leeuwin” published 1989
  • Leeuwin Estate winery hosts the London Philharmonic Orchestra for their inaugural outdoor concert in 1985
  • The first professional surfing competition, the Margaret River Thriller, is held in 1985
  • First Augusta Whale Rescue in 1986 received world wide recognition as the most successful on record. Another whale rescue in 1987 and a dolphin rescue in 1989
  • The Margaret River Cheese Company at Cowaramup is the first cheese company in the state to make Brie on a commercial basis in 1986


  • 1990 Beenup Mine opened
  • Population continues to grow –doubled between 1981 and 1996
  • 1993 Cloverdene Dairy become the first sheep milk dairy for cheese and yoghurt in district
  • 1996: Gracetown disaster: 9 people are killed and 1 injured in a cliff collapse
  • Slow decline in fishing industry
  • Opening of Cape to Cape walk trail (1999)
  • Two submissions presented (1998 and 2000) for the secession of Augusta and districts from the Augusta-Margaret River Shire
  • Dissolution of Shire Council (2000) with commissioners appointed by the Minister for 1 year before elections for a full new council in September 2001


  • Movement of vineyard ownership in area from family-owned to Corporate-owned
  • Deregulation of Dairy Industry (2000)
  • New Local Government elections
  • Release of Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge Statement of Planning Policy, statutory document
  • Beenup sand mine closure and legacy of acid sulphate soils
  • New Margaret River Education campus opens 2004
  • Augusta-Margaret River Land Release Plan 200-01 to 2004-05 (December 2000)
  • Masters World Professional Surfing competition conducted in March annually
  • Classic Professional Surfing competition conducted in November annually
  • Margaret River Wine Region Festival conducted annually in October

For more information contact:

Heather Auld, Manager Library Services
Mon - Fri: 9.00am to 5.00pm
9780 5601

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Office Hours

Margaret River

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Phone inquiries: 8am-4:30pm.

Ph: +61 8 9780 5255


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Phone: +61 8 9780 5660