An ancient land and one of the oldest living cultures on Earth.
Billions of years in the making, Western Australia is one of the most ancient lands on the planet.
That’s a lot of history to explore – from 3.5 billion-year-old living fossils, to more than 40,000 years of Aboriginal history and four centuries of European influence.
Mother Nature went to work on Western Australia’s landscape billions of years ago, forming the reef and the rock formations that now offer some of nature’s most incredible adventure playgrounds, including World Heritage listed Bungle Bungle Ranges, Karijini National Park and the magnificent cave formations of Tunnel Creek and Margaret River.
Venture to Shark Bay and you can also gaze in awe at some of the earliest forms of life on Earth – the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites. Dating back more than 3.5 billion years, these are the oldest and largest living marine fossils on the planet.
Australian Aboriginal culture is widely regarded as one of the oldest known living cultures on Earth.
Over tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal people adapted, diversified and lived a nomadic lifestyle in perfect harmony with this ancient land, surviving harsh climatic and environmental conditions.
Forming more than 700 traditional societies with over 200 languages, Aboriginal Australians shared knowledge through stories and rock art.
Much of this ancient art remains today, including one of the richest prehistoric art galleries on Earth, the Burrup Peninsula, and the oldest known artwork, the world-famous Gyorn Gyorn (or Bradshaw) paintings in the Kimberley.
While it’s widely believed that Portuguese sailors plied the waters of WA as early as the 1500s, the first recorded European landing was made by a captain of the Dutch East India Company in 1616, at what is now known as Dirk Hartog Island.
Discover the legacy of those who followed in his tracks at Cape Vlamingh, the Abrolhos Islands, Rottnest Island, Cape Leeuwin, Point D'Entrecasteaux, the wreck of the Batavia, and more than 100 known shipwrecks off the coast.
Pioneering and Colonial history
As one of the few Australian states to be settled as a free colony, Western Australia’s colonial history and culture is unique.
European settlement officially began in the port of Albany when a military outpost was established in 1826. However this was soon moved to the fertile Swan River valley, which is now the site of Perth and Fremantle.
Take a walk through Fremantle today and you’ll see much of its original splendour in the best preserved 19th century port streetscapes in the world.
In the hills, valleys and vast plains beyond Perth, many agricultural towns were established throughout the 1800’s. Among the oldest and grandest are York and New Norcia – home to the State's only Benedictine Monastery.
Although Western Australia was not settled as a penal colony, its convict era marks a significant chapter in its history.
With few hands to expand the first settlements, convict labour offered the ideal solution for the building of infrastructure, and one of their first tasks was to build the very prison in which they’d be held – Fremantle Prison.
In operation for a staggering 140 years, the prison is now World Heritage listed and one of WA’s most visited attractions.
Other sites revealing gruesome chapters in the State’s convict era include Rottnest Island, Roebourne and the Boab Prison Tree near Derby.
Gold rush history
In 1893, Irish prospector Paddy Hannan hit a significant alluvial gold deposit at the base of Mount Charlotte near Kalgoorlie. His discovery sparked Australia’s largest gold rush, luring people from all corners of the world to seek their fortune.
Learn of the hardships and highlights following the Golden Quest Discovery Trail through Coolgardie, Menzies, Kalgoorlie and many eerie gold rush ghost towns.
Or hit the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail and marvel at WA’s greatest engineering feat that brought fresh water to the parched goldfields.
Today, the gold rush legacy lives on at Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit – one of the world’s largest open-cut mines, producing 900,000oz of gold every year.
World War history
WA's strategic location made it hugely important during the two World Wars, which is why you’ll find many coastal locations, such as Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Albany, Geraldton and Broome, are steeped in wartime history.
King George Sound in Albany is where the first convoy of ANZACs departed for the battlegrounds of the First World War. Today, you can follow their extraordinary stories through the National Anzac Centre's state-of-the-art interactive displays.
Guided and self-guided history tours are a great way to discover WA’s war heroes and long-abandoned bunkers, airstrips and barracks.