If you call by the Visitor Centre, you can pick up a copy of Dongara’s Heritage Trail. The walk is around 1.6km long and will take you pass some 28 heritage listed buildings. This includes the Old Police Station, Russ Cottage, Royal Steam Roller Mill, Priory Lodge and the Church of St John the Baptist to name but a few.
The Irwin River which meanders inland from the Indian Ocean was named after Major Frederick Chidley Irwin who was a commandant of the Swan River Settlement. The river flows between Pt Denison and Dongara and was the local stop off for the grain ships. Apparently many sunk along with their cargo of wheat.
There are some 11 different walks you can take which travel between Dongara and Pt Denison. Along the way there are areas for picnicking and swimming. During the wildflower season, there are splashes of colour everywhere.
There is plenty of wildlife to see along the banks of the Irwin River including Pelicans and Black Swans
The old mill was built in 1894 by Francis Pearse and is next to a new railway which connected the Dongara area to Perth. For its time, the mill was the most up-to-date in Western Australia. The flour which was ground by a steam-driven wheat grinder, was then sent away via rail to the Goldfields and northern towns of WA. The mill was closed in 1935 and is now owned by the National Trust of WA.
A landmark in Dongara, this Victorian Gothic styled church was built in 1884 from local limestone. One significant feature is the church bell which is said to have come from the Fremantle Gaol. Its original use was to call ‘ticket-of-leave’ or curfew men to return to the gaol at night. The original pews of the church are supposed to be made from driftwood which washed up from shipwrecks.
The church was built in 1884 and has always been for church uses. It has been classified by the National Trust as well as being entered into the Register of the National Estate. It was constructed of simple stone with a high pitched roof which was styled in Victorian Gothic Revival style.
Russ Cottage is on the Heritage Walk. It was built in 1868 by Titus Russ out of local limestone. He was the son of immigrants Absolom and Clementina and moved to Dongara and married Caroline Wintle in 1864. He is said to have transported the limestone by wheelbarrow from the Irwin River which was some 400ms away where it was quarried
The cottage is supposed to be typical of a late 19th century yeoman’s cottage. Inside is a display of household implements and furnishings which have been donated by local residents of the area. The house is owned by the Shire of Irwin and is open on Sundays from 10.00am to 2.00pm. There is a small admission. There is no problem however walking around the grounds at any other time.
Just along from Russ Cottage on the heritage trail is this small cottage numbered as ‘6’. It was built as a temporary home by a local blacksmith, James Delmage for his family, while a bigger house was being built next door. It has been restored to its original condition
This cute old building was once the Road Board Office which was built in 1910 of local stone. The single roomed office served the Road Board until 1958 when new offices were built. The Roads Board were formed in 1871 and local meetings were originally held in the courthouse. It served as their office until 1958 and is part of the heritage trail in Dongara. Today Ray White Real Estate uses the building for its office.
In the main street of Dongara you will see large Moreton Bay Fig trees lining either side of the road. The Fig trees were planted in 1906 in line with the town’s philosophy of ‘City Beautiful’ which was a time when the gold boom of the 1890’s was generating wealth in the area. In 2006 the town held a festival to celebrate a 100 years of these wonderful trees which have been classified by the National Trust.
The museum is located inside the old Police Station. Inside there are displays of local photos and memorabilia which depict early history of the area including shipwrecks off the coast. There are also records which go back to the Gregory brothers days in the area. There is also the old courtroom to take a look at. You can view the original cells which were in use up until 1981.
The old Police Station was the first in Dongara and was built in 1890 from local limestone. The building incorporated the courthouse, residence and gaol with walls 600mm thick and jarrah floors. The first case to be heard in the courtroom was in 1871 and the accused was fined 5 shillings for using foul language at a Dongara cricket ground.
In the police residence, there were two separate apartments, each with two rooms. There was a communal kitchen and courtyard. Out the back was stables which have since been demolished and toilets.
The cells of the old gaol were condemned in 1981 and the prisoners were transported to Geraldton. You can still view the old cells.
Dongara is known as the Rock Lobster Capital because of the amount of lobsters caught in season. The season runs between November and the end of June. As you enter the t own, you will find this Rock Lobster Sculpture.
Next to the Irwin Roads Boards Office is a Well. This was part of Dongara's first public water supply which was established in 1906.