Kaya, welcome. I’m Wendy, a mum to twins who moved to Perth over 20 years ago and has travelled extensively within WA since. This is my guide on what to do in Dongara and Port Denison.
Port Denison and Dongara are the kind of places you immediately fall in love with. We’ve visited this laid-back coastal town four times on various road trips and found out all the best places to go and what to do there.
This cray fishing town, which has a population of nearly 2800, is a popular place to holiday in or as a stop on a road trip to Kalbarri, Exmouth, or even Broome. It’s also ideal for a Perth getaway.
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The Top 10 Things To Do in Port Denison & Dongara
1. Thungarra Trails
Six easy walking trails highlight Port Denison and Dongara, ranging from 2.7 km to 9 km. The Dongara Port Denison Tourist Information Centre provides a map detailing the routes and what to see.
Make sure to stop by the boardwalk and climb the lookout. The view is breathtaking, overlooking the Indian Ocean and Irwin River.
Trail 1 – Calico is a 4.6km easy loop that starts at Granny’s Beach and takes you up Point Leander and along Ocean Drive. Climb the lookout opposite the boardwalk on Ocean Drive for spectacular views of the Irwin River and the Indian Ocean.
Calico is an outdoor fitness system app that lets you track your walk via the totem poles every 500m.
Trail 2 – Dongara is a 3km loop trail that begins at the Irwin River Lookout in Church Street, along the beach to Town Beach, and then along the river bank until Hunts Road. Here you will pass the old Police Station and Courthouse, now the museum, and then the Visitor’s Centre. Walk along Church Street back to the lookout.
Trail 3 – Irwin Heritage River is a 4.6 km loop that starts at the Irwin River Lookout and takes you around the river. This walk is good for viewing the local birdlife. Take the stairs to the riverbank path, which leads onto boardwalks and the beach. Be prepared to get wet feet crossing the river mouth.
Further along, you can take the bridge over the river and walk along the boardwalk. Opposite is another spectacular lookout of the ocean and estuary. The boardwalk leads onto Ocean Drive, then follow the path into Retreat Boulevard, and at the end, head down to the river and follow the track.
The first building you see on the banks is Denison House, used by local arts groups but was originally the site of the first flour mill in 1865. Follow the river track to Irwin River Park, then cross the bridge onto the Dongara side and down the stairs back onto the river track to complete the loop.
Trail 4 – Fishermans is a 2km loop taking in the beach and Marina of Port Denison. Starting a Fisherman’s Lookout and Obelisk, a memorial to the many lives lost on this treacherous coastline, you follow the track to South Beach. The Surf Club and StarFish Café are located here, although it was closed when we went past.
The walk takes you back to the Marina via White Tops Road and George Street, where you’ll continue to the Fishermen’s Hall in front of the Old Jetty ruins at the Fishing Boat Harbour.
Trail 5 – Coastal is a 6km trail that starts at Granny’s Beach, where you’ll follow the footpath along the coast until you come to the boardwalk river crossing. Cross the walk bridge and follow the Irwin River.
This part of the beach is known as Nun’s Pool as it was where the Dominican Sisters swam after walking along the river to the beach from their school at the now Priory Lodge Hotel.
Cross the bridge on Point Leander Drive and back down onto the river trail on the Port Denison side. The house at the end of the river trail was the site of the first Flour Mill in 1865 and is now known as Denison House and used by local art groups.
Follow the river around and back onto the footpath on Retreat Boulevard, which will join the Estuary Boardwalk. Here you can see birdlife, including Black Swans, Ibis, and Pelicans. Then, follow the footpath along Ocean Drive back to Granny’s Beach.
Trail 6 – Lookouts, which starts at Fisherman’s Lookout, is the longest trail at 9 km. Head along the Marina foreshore to Grannies Beach and follow the path along Surf Beach, passing Nun’s Pool. If you have time, cross the road and climb the stairs to the lookout, overlooking the Indian Ocean and the Irwin River Estuary.
Cross the river over the boardwalk and follow it onto the Dongara side. When you approach the Irwin River Bridge, take the stairs and cross the river on Point Leander Drive. Then, head back down to the Irwin River Park and follow the river trail, where you’ll see a building on the banks of the river, which was the site of the first Flour Mill in 1865.
Follow the river around, and you will come to a footpath in Retreat Boulevard, which will lead onto the boardwalk and Ocean Drive.
Granny’s Beach is great for families, swimming, and snorkeling. The grassed area is shaded and perfect for a picnic and a lovely spot to watch the sunset.
The consistently strong southerly sea breeze makes it a good choice for windsurfing.
This was our favourite beach here and handy if you stay at the Big 4 Port Denison, as it is right outside. The beach cabins are right on the front, with ocean views from the lounge area and decking.
Northshore Beach is excellent for surfing and also has a grassed area.
Nun’s Pool is the perfect beach for snorkeling as the reef provides a sheltered pool.
Seaspray Beach Café is open for breakfast and lunch. This beach has toilets and showers, but be careful of strong rips.
South Beach is popular with windsurfers, kite surfers, surfers, and sand boarders. Windsurfing is best from November to January, when shore winds and rolling waves make this area perfect for downwinders.
You can drive 2WD and 4WD cars on the sand here, as long as you know what you are doing!
Swim only at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags, and read the safety warnings on the beach signs.
Australia’s sun is very strong, so apply sunscreen and wear sun-smart clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.
There are plenty of options for fishing in Port Denison. Bring your dinghy and try to catch tailor, snapper, whiting, dhufish, and Western Rock Lobster. Launch from the boat ramp in Port Denison.
You can also try catching blue manner crabs, tailor, silver bream, whiting and mulloway at one of the three jetties on the marina.
This area is famous for its Western Rock Lobster. Watch the catch being unloaded from the fishing boats each day.
If you don’t have any luck, you can always buy fresh fish from Seaz Denison Seafood at the jetty. We bought oysters and Exmouth Prawns, which were both fresh and delicious.
4. Dongara Historic Walk
The best way to see Dongara’s historic buildings is on the Heritage Walk, a 4km walk highlighting 28 heritage buildings. You can buy a booklet from the Visitor Centre, in the Old Police Station. Focal points include the Royal Flour Mill, built in 1894, Priory Lodge, the Old Police Station, built in 1870, and Russ Cottage.
5. Russ Cottage
Titus Russ arrived in the colony in 1853, aged 12, with his family. He moved to Dongara around 1860 and later married Caroline Smith Wintle. He squatted on land owned by his employer, Edward Hamersley, a partner in The Cattle Company. Russ built the cottage between 1868 and 1870, and it is believed that limestone weighing over 50 tonnes was carted by a wheelbarrow from 500m away. The house was home to three generations of the Russ family until 1960.
Russ Cottage has been beautifully restored and provides an opportunity to appreciate the unique lifestyles of the early settlers in the 1860s. You can take a guided tour of the cottage and see how the early farming families lived from 10.15 am to 12 pm Mon, Tues, Weds, Fri and Sat.
6. The Big Red Western Rock Lobster
The Big Western Rock Lobster is situated on the Brand Highway & Moreton Terrace corner and is worth a photo when passing or walking by.
7. Illegal Tender Rum Co
The Illegal Tender Rum Co is an award-winning craft distillery in Dongara. You can book a facility tour with a personal guide taking you through the distilling process and offering tastings. Unfortunately, we could not do this as we had under-18s with us.
You can visit Illegal Tender Rum Co’s cellar door to purchase their spirits.
8. Dongara Denison Drive-In Cinemas
Opened in 1967, this is one of two Drive-In cinemas still operating in Western Australia and is open from Spring through to late Summer (September to early May).
The Dongara-Denison Surf Life Saving Club Dongara operates the Dongara Denison drive-in, a non-profit cinema with a digital projection showing first-run movies.
Take your camp chairs or sit in the bag of your car and watch a movie under the stars.
It is located on Port Leander Drive at the corner of Ridley Street.
Port Denison to Geraldton will take around 45 minutes.
If you haven’t been before, it’s worth exploring. Some of the best things to do are:
Take a walk along the stunning Foreshore
Visit the HMAS Sydney II Memorial at 10.30 for a free daily tour
Learn about life in this region at the Museum of Geraldton
Drive up to the Point Moore Lighthouse, the oldest surviving Commonwealth lighthouse in the state
Wander around Marine Terrace with boutique shops, street art, and cafes.
Read more on this guide on the best things to do in Geraldton.
I hope you found this guied on things to do in Dongara and Port Denison helpful. If you have any questions, please join our Facebook group to ask them there.
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