Dongara / Port Denison

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Dongara and Port Denison
The beautiful Irwin River runs between the towns of Dongara and Port Denison. PIC: Tourism WA

The twin towns of Dongara and Port Denison on Western Australia’s magnificent Coral Coast are divided by the Irwin River but united by their shared beauty, history and overwhelming appeal to grey nomads.

Located about 360 kilometres north of Perth and just south of Geraldton, the towns offer plenty to persuade weary travellers to stop for a while. The beaches in the area are stunning, and the enthusiastic angler might easily put tailor, silver bream, whiting or mulloway on the menu for the evening’s meal back at the van.

This, of course, is also the rock lobster capital of Australia, and no trip would be complete without a visit to the iconic giant rock lobster artwork known as the Big Western Rock Lobster.  The Port Denison Marina is home to a rock lobster fishing fleet and the area’s grassy foreshore is the perfect place to relax, and perhaps grab some fish and chips or enjoy a picnic.

While the area’s history is inevitably intertwined with the sea, it was growing wheat that occupied many of the early settlers in the mid 19th century. A flour mill was built soon afterwards, and then a jetty, and a road from Dongara to Mingenew followed as the harvests flourished.

The wealth of the town’s early days can still be seen in its magnificent historic buildings, and the main street is also characterised by lines of superb Moreton Bay fig trees planted back in 1906. The four-kilometre Dongara Heritage Walk guides visitors past the most interesting structures including the Royal Flour Mill, the Church of St John the Baptist, the gracious houses in Hunts Road, the Old Police Station, and Russ Cottage, a rural worker’s home built 150 years ago with a kitchen floor made from crushed ant hill.

To get an in-depth understanding of the area’s rich history, it is well worth a visit to the Irwin District’s Historical Society Museum located in the former Dongara Police Station. It is also well worth a trip up to the Fishermen’s Memorial Lookout which offers spectacular views of the Port Denison Marina.

Opposite the lookout is a collection of 15 metal soldier silhouettes in various poses created as a memorial during the Centenary of Anzac commemorations. Many grey nomads also enjoy a trip to the Illegal Tender Rum Co for a tour and tasting, and the Dongara Markets held on the first Saturday of every month are also popular.

Of course, this is very much wildflower country and, during the spring, the area explodes into colourful life. There are some great bushwalks to enjoy in the area, including the Thungara Trails consisting of six walks ranging from 2.7kms-9kms.

There are at least four good caravan parks nearby and the Shire of Irwin is also keen to accommodate the budget traveller. Free camping is available for up to 72 hours at the coastal nodes of Cliff Head, Knobby Head, Fresh Water Point, and Seven Mile Beach, although only self-contained vehicles are permitted at Seven Mile Beach as there are no facilities. Self-contained vehicles can also stay for one night at the overnight rest area at the Town Oval located in Dongara town centre.

The mixture of natural beauty, historical interest, and warm welcome means that, as far as most grey nomads are concerned, Dongara and Port Denison tick all of the important boxes.

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