History and Heritage
Learn about the rich history and heritage of the Margaret River Wine Region and how this place developed into what it is today. Visitors will get the chance to walk across the coastline which was first discovered by the Dutch far back in 1622 but was never explored until the British arrived in 1801 – 1803. This is a brilliant opportunity to gain deep insights into the culture of the indigenous people as well as the settlers while you will also visit the different historical sites in the region.
The first disruptive interaction between settlers and the indigenous people living in the Margaret River Region was in 1830 when a small group of settlers from England disembarked from the place known as the Emily Taylor. Their arrival marked the first disruption to the tribal life of the Wadandi people who occupied the region. Most of the early settlers did not stay in the Augusta settlement as they sought for more fertile lands and better prospects along the north.
Early settlers in Augusta moved to Wonnerup, Vasse and other areas where the white man’s rule was imposed on the land and indigenous people who had no idea of what that meant. Needless to say, this wasn’t easy at first for many reasons. It was challenging to establish the herds and crops on the land due to the absence of trace elements in the soil, something that was unknown at that time. The severity of the winter and scarcity of water during the summer months made it difficult. This irregular supply made it difficult for the land to flourish as it should.
The human factor also played a major role as the white settlers had mixed experiences with the natives. There were suspicions, puzzlement, helpfulness, outright aggression, and tentative friendship in some cases. In response to this, the settlers adopted brutal methods in most cases and failed to consider the fact that they were supplanting an existing culture. Within the settlers themselves, there were frictions. Some of the personal tensions among them thrived for many generations before it was finally settled.
However, the collective desire to succeed was what ensured the survival of this settlement despite the harshness of the new world.
As time went on, settlers moved from the first settlement in Augusta to new areas with better potential. One of the last settlers to leave was Captain Molloy and his wife, Georgiana. Before they moved to Vasse, Georgiana has shown her skills as an amateur botanist with detailed drawings, seeds, and samples of the flora in this part of Australia which she sent to England. Her works were used in calendars and published books even though there wasn’t any acknowledgement at that time. In 1849, James Turner became the last original settler to leave Augusta. After this, the area was abandoned until the 1860s when new settlers arrived.
One of the factors that allowed the settlement to thrive was the Timber Industry. As the timber industry overcame its initial challenges and started to flourish, Augusta too thrived with it. The mode of transportation changed as railway lines were built and other facilities such as rails, jetties and ports started springing up in the area. With these facilities, more people came to the region and the population gradually increased.
Later on, in 1896, the Leeuwin Lighthouse was erected and opened while the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse was opened in 1904. Through these two events, the south-west coast became safer for shipping, and the area continued to open up. One of the most influential families in the history of this area was the Bussell family as they give the name Margaret River to the townsite. The region continued to expand as more people settled within, and by the 1920s, it was already a bustling town with a lot to offer any visitor.
In 1936, the first modern building in town – the Margaret River Hotel, was opened. According to historians, this marked the beginning of the tourism industry in the area. With the emergence of winemaking much later, the town finally secured its place as one of the prime destinations in Australia.
Visiting Margaret River gives you the chance to explore the heritage of this great region and see for yourselves, all the significant points in its history. There are many heritage sites that a visitor can go to. This includes the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, Ellensbrook, Margaret River Old Settlement, St Mary’s Church Busselton, Wonnerup House, Busselton Jetty, Waljin Aboriginal Gardens, Augusta Historical Museum, Augusta War Memorial, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Pioneer Cemetery, Old Court House, etc.
This heritage sites give you the chance to experience the region at its most natural and historical origins.