History and Heritage

The Rockingham

Rockingham features significantly in Western Australia’s white settlement heritage. The first Europeans to visit the area are believed to have been led by the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh who arrived over 300 years ago in 1696. Over a century later a French scientific expedition undertook further exploration of the region, naming many of the features along the coast including Cape Peron.

In 1827 Captain James Stirling explored the Swan River and two years later returned, landing at Garden Island, with the new colony’s first settlers. It was the third colony established in Australia and the first established without convicts.

In 1830, during a severe gale, the ship “Rockingham” anchored in Cockburn Sound, broke it’s capstan and was driven aground just to the north of the town that now bears its name. All settlers and crew were saved, however the ship could not be repaired and was later broken up. A number of attempts were made at establishing settlements in the area but it was not until the early 1850’s that families took up land to the East of the Rockingham townsite and started farming. Opening up the inland Jarrah forests at Jarrahdale in 1871 enabled overseas timber shipping and this quickly became the principal industry for the area. A saw mill was established, a jetty built at Rockingham port to load the timber onto ships and a rail line linking the two was developed. Rockingham flourished and in 1897 the township of Rockingham was formally recognised with it’s own local government - the Rockingham Road Board.

As Rockingham became more accessible it soon became a popular seaside resort for holiday makers and by the 1920’s was well recognised for it’s beaches, bathing, sailing, fishing and hotels. A reputation it still maintains some 80 years later.

More historical information can be obtained from the Rockingham Historical Society Museum http://www.rockinghammuseum.org.au