From Shipwrecks to the Pearling Capital

Marine History Across Western Australia
Large upper deck of a shipwreck protruding from the ocean.

Western Australia's rich marine history is beautifully preserved and showcased in a collection of captivating museums and collections. From tales of exploration to the evolution of maritime trade, these places offer visitors an immersive journey through time. Let's set sail and discover the top destinations unearthing Western Australia’s marine history. 

Who knows what fascinating stories and hidden gems you’ll uncover along the way? Pack your sense of adventure, and get ready for a journey through time you won’t soon forget! 

Coral Coast 

Cervantes Historical Society

Nestled in the coastal town of Cervantes, awaits hidden gems and stories to be unearthed which will deepen your appreciation of the area and its heritage. Dive into Cervantes’ rich shipwreck and community past at Cervantes Historical Society. With its rich collection of artefacts, you can immerse yourself in its fishing past and the community that rolled up their sleeves and shaped the coastal township through hard work, good times and vibrant community spirit.  While here, you can check out the adjoining second-hand shop and craft store, sales from which support Cervantes Historical Society activities. 

Carnarvon Heritage Precinct

The first port in Western Australia, Carnarvon was a prime location that loaded livestock on ships for transport to markets. A visit to the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct will transport you through Carnarvon’s development, from its pastoral and transport history to its role as a port.

In the area, you’ll find several museums - the Railway Museum and Shearing Hall of Fame, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage and the One Mile Jetty Centre, which leaves plenty of rich stories to uncover. Be sure to check out the One Mile Jetty Centre which features interactive displays showcasing the devastating events that occurred back in 1941. This includes one of the lifeboats in which 46 German survivors came ashore north of Carnarvon. 

Ningaloo Centre

The Ningaloo Centre is more than just a regular visitor centre - it’s a hub of underwater discovery and exploration. Inside, you’ll find the region’s cultural and natural history brought to life. Dive into the natural processes that formed the region’s wonderworld of marine life and helped it earn World Heritage status. 

While here, be sure to check out the iconic giant whale shark wire artwork which hangs from the ceiling in the Ningaloo Discovery Centre. This artwork honours ‘Stumpy’, the first whale shark officially recorded for study at Ningaloo Reef in 1994, which makes him one of the longest-studied sharks in the world. 

Giant whale shark wire artwork hanging from a ceiling.
'Stumpy' the whale shark

Museum of Geraldton 

Step through the colourful past of Geraldton - from its rich Indigenous heritage of the sea, land and people of the Mid-West region. The Museum of Geraldton paints a rich assortment of artefacts from various Dutch shipwrecks, including the infamous Batavia, whose demise sparked one of the most gruesome tales in maritime history. 

While here, be sure to experience the wrecks of HMAS Sydney (II) and HSK Kormoran as they currently lie, 2,500 metres deep on the ocean floor, in From Great Depths, a moving exhibit and 3D film.

A biplane model suspended over an expansive museum gallery and giftshop
Museum of Geraldton

Golden Outback 

Esperance Museum

This list wouldn’t be complete without this iconic museum by the ocean - Esperance Museum. Boasting a unique collection of memorabilia dating back to the 1800s. Visitors can explore the displays covering the region’s early pioneering history, maritime exhibits and farm machinery. 

From exploring the extensive range of historical photographs, a circa 1820 piano, or an assortment of gear and lifeboat from the ship ‘Sanko Harvest’ which is the largest wreck off the Australian coast.  Visitors will be treated to a hub of discovery and exploration that delves into the captivating history of Esperance and how the region has grown over the years. 

North West

Broome Museum 

Dubbed the pearling capital of the world, Broome in the North West has an enthralling local history that shouldn’t be forgotten. A visit to the Broome Museum will allow you to deep dive into the town’s interesting pearling history which has developed into a world-class export industry today.  Visitors can also discover the tales of shipwrecks and missing diamonds which takes you on a journey of discovery into the development of a culture that has melded from a diversity of origins. 

Be sure to check out the witty and hard-hitting displays that showcase the extraordinary history of pearling masters in their colonial whites, divers and their primitive suits, the allure of pearl shell buttons and pearls, and many more. 

An old diving suit and machinery in a museum gallery with information panels and showcases
Broome Museum

Cygnet Bay Pearls

Have you ever wondered how pearls are made? At Cygnet Bay Pearls, you can dive into the history of pearling in Broome and the mysteries of how pearls are made.  With films, impressive displays and live tours, visitors are taken step-by-step through the process of seeding and harvesting pearls. This includes selecting your own loose pearl to create some jewellery to take home! 

As the pearling heritage of Broome is in danger of disappearing, the pearl shops have become a prominent tourist feature, bringing new life back to Broome’s pearling story. Be sure to experience the operations of a pearl farm and harvesting of pearls at Cygnet Bay Farms. 

4 wire panels containing rows of pearl shells

South West

Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre

Housed in the heritage-listed Paisley Centre, the Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre unravels the city’s development with interactive displays of local stories. From exploring pre-European settlement Noongar culture, visiting whalers, shipwrecks, explorers and early settlers. All ages can enjoy learning about the region from pre-colonial times to today. 

Bunches of coloured reeds
Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre

Albany’s Historic Whaling Station

Would you visit the only complete whaling station tourism attraction in the world? Albany’s Historic Whaling Station was the last operating station in Australia and allows you to dive into Albany’s colourful past. 

Perfect for all ages to enjoy, this state-heritage-listed site allows you to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the whaling industry. From climbing aboard the Cheynes IV, the world’s only preserved Whalechaser ship; seeing a giant blue whale skeleton; enjoying world-renowned and precious scrimshaw art. And lastly, the museum, which houses authentic, whaling artefacts and memorabilia to get a glimpse of the stories of the men who worked on the whaling ships and brought the place to life. 

Augusta Historical Museum

Step back into the 1800s at one of the best small museums in the region - Augusta Historical Museum. Here, you’ll get to learn about the rich history of Augusta and its districts since European settlement in 1830. Through its displays, the Museum shares stories of the original settlers, its maritime history, the timber industry, Group Settlement, and the more recent history of the community efforts to save whales that have beached themselves along the coast.
Whether you're a history buff, a maritime enthusiast, or simply curious about Western Australia's seafaring past, these top museums and collections offer an unforgettable voyage of discovery. So, set sail for adventure and embark on a journey through the marine heritage of Western Australia. Fair winds and following seas await!

Save hours of planning with the WAnderland Itinerary Planner. Create a journey with all your favourite marine attractions and more for an unforgettable holiday adventure tailored to your preferences.

Coral Coast
Galleries, Museums and Collections
Golden Outback
Historical Sites and Heritage Locations
North West
South West