History of Margaret River

Margaret River has evolved to become one of the fastest growing tourist regions in Western Australia. With a Mediterranean-style climate, rolling green hills and forests, and located on the Indian Ocean, Margaret River offers everything from wine tasting to whale watching to caving to surfing.

Settlement in 1800s

European migrants to Australia first began settling in the area around 1850. One of the prominent families in the founding of Margaret River was the family of Alfred Bussell, who was an English immigrant and one of the first pioneers to reach the area. The Bussells gave Margaret River its name, which is widely believed to be in honour of a family friend from England.

Early economic development: timber and cows

Timber logging was one of the first major employers in the region, starting around 1870. One of the area’s natural resources was its forests of Jarrah wood, an exceptionally hard wood that is also highly resistant to rot, which made it ideal for shipbuilding, bridges and telegraph poles.

The Western Australian government tried to raise the population of Margaret River and other areas by attracting migrants after World War I with the Group Settlement Scheme of 1921, offering free farmland to anyone who agreed to move to the area and help clear the dense forests for farming.

Life was difficult during the 1920s, with few roads or amenities, and little contact with the outside world. Many of the early group settlers abandoned their farms or struggled to make a living – but the ones who stayed succeeded in establishing a thriving dairy industry.

The first hotel in Margaret River was not built until 1910. Even in 1912, when Margaret River was first officially designated as a town, there were only three houses. The region was slow to be discovered as a tourist destination. One of the biggest changes happened when local farmers looked to diversify away from dairy farming, and started growing grapes…

Birth of the wine industry – and surfing!

Margaret River is home to Western Australia’s largest wine producing region, and although it produces only 3 percent of all the wine in Australia, it produces 20 percent of Australia’s premium wines. Although it is increasingly renowned worldwide for its fine wines, most people are surprised to learn that Margaret River’s wine industry started so recently – it wasn’t until 1966 that the first grape vines were planted there.

Around the same time, Margaret River was discovered by the growing surfing subculture as a prime destination to ride the waves. With consistent surf and a wide variety of breaks, Margaret River has something to offer for expert surfers or beginners.

Margaret River today

Margaret River has evolved into one of Australia’s most charming and up-and-coming tourist destinations. Long cherished by locals and Australians, it is now being discovered as a global tourist spot offering premium wines, pristine beaches and unspoiled natural beauty.