Things to do in Port Hedland

Plan your historical visit: view and see the history of port hedland

Uncover the rich tapestry of Port Hedland's history, from indigenous heritage to colonial beginnings and modern mining, through museums, art galleries, and ancient rock art.

Port Hedland is typically known for its industry. And while this is a big part of the town’s story, it has a long and rich history that goes back far beyond its current reputation.

The traditional owners of the land, the Kariyarra people, have lived here for thousands of years. Known as Marapikurrinya in their language, Port Hedland remained untouched by European settlers until 1628, when it was first sighted by Dutch seafarers. 

But it wasn’t until 1863 that it was colonised, by Captain Peter Hedland and his crew. They saw great potential in the site as a port, and it quickly became a thriving pearling town, and a gateway for the pastoral industry to access the Pilbara.

The town of Port Hedland itself was gazetted in 1896, and has grown into the mining town that we know today.

So if you’re interested in history, here are our top things to do to get you out and about, and exploring the historical sites of Port Hedland.

Dalgety House Museum

Location: Lot 462 Anderson Street, Port Hedland Dalgety House Museum | WAnderland | Western Australian Museum Image credit: WAnderland

Port Hedland was originally established, as its name suggests, as a port for the pearling and fast-moving pastoral trade. Dalgety and Co was one of the pastoral businesses at the time who had a large presence in the town.

The Dalgety House Museum showcases what was the company manager’s residence, located at what used to be the centre of town. Built in 1903, the original building still survives today, and is a quaint look back at the original types of housing found in Port Hedland.

Now a museum, Dalgety House shows you a different side of Port Hedland. Inside, you’ll find information covering the history of the Kariyarra people, and on to European settlement, with artifacts and documentation telling stories throughout the years. A particularly interesting feature are the audio installations, where you can listen to conversations that would have been held at the time about the weather, pearling fleet movements, and wool sales. 

Managed by the Port Hedland Historical Society, it’s a vital look at the recent history of our town.

The Courthouse Gallery

Location: 16 Edgar Street, Port HedlandGALLERY+STUDIO - The Junction Co

Image credit: The Junction Co

The Courthouse Gallery is a community art space, and Port Hedland’s cultural hub. Located in the heart of Port Hedland, it supports the rich heritage of the local art community. 

Inside, you’ll find exhibitions and work from local and regional emerging and established artists, across a range of mediums from painting and photography, to ceramics and more.

While it’s a bustling art space, as the name suggests, it hasn’t always been used for arts and culture. The building was home to the second Port Hedland Courthouse, built in the 1970s, which replaced the original courthouse building on Wedge Street, constructed in 1905. 

The current building has a nice symmetrical history to it. The very first jury trial was presided over by Sir Lawrence Jackson, former Chief Justice of Western Australia. The final jury trial prior to its decommissioning in 1999 was presided over by Judge L.A. Jackson, Sir Lawrence Jackson’s son.

In 2000, the building was purchased and converted into the community arts space it’s known as today. 

Now, you’ll find a gorgeously curated art space that’s managed by The Junction Co. You can browse the exhibits, or try your hand at making your own art, with one of their regular arts workshops. It’s a beautiful venue that shows a more colourful and creative side of town.

Don Rhodes Mining Museum

Location: Wilson Street, Port HedlandDon Rhodes Mining Museum | BlackRockTouristPark

Image credit: Black Rock Tourist Park

While the site isn’t historical, the equipment you’ll find inside definitely is. Don Rhodes Mining Museum tells the story of Port Hedland’s mining heritage, right up to the present day.

A free open-air museum, it features a range of decommissioned mining equipment, all fully restored and available to look at and explore. From mining locomotives to digging equipment, it pays tribute to the pastoral, railway, and iron ore industries of the town.

Indigenous rock art sitesThe Best Place To See Aboriginal Rock Art In Australia

Image credit: Australian Traveller

Indigenous petroglyphs in the Pilbara are known as some of the most significant in Australia.

The rock art that can be found around Port Hedland is over 7,000 years old, and features engravings that record what life was like at the time for the Kariyarra people. Depicting water sources, animals around the area, and teaching information for future generations to learn, it’s a fascinating connection to the land.

The best way to discover these petroglyphs and come face to face with ancient rock art is through a guided tour. Learn about the Kariyarra people, their land, and the artwork they created, from a traditional custodian of the area.  Head to the Port Hedland Visitor Centre for more information.

Book a hotel that’s near to Port Hedland’s historical sites

This isn’t an exhaustive list of Port Hedland historical sites. There are many, many more scattered around the town; small sites that you might otherwise walk by, featuring nothing more than a memorial plaque or interpretive signage. So be sure to check out the Port Hedland Visitor Centre for more information on the historical sites located around town.

So when you’re looking at diving into the history of Port Hedland, book your stay at the Hedland 

Hotel. We’re centrally located, making it easy to get around and walk through the layered history of our town.

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Our top things to do in Port Hedland

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