January: Australia Day, March: Rotary
charity ball, April: ANZAC Day, May: Welcome to Hedland
night, June: Black Rock stakes. August: Spinifex
spree festival. Hedland Cup. September: Pilbara music festival, Art
awards, Nindji Nindji festival.
October: yacht club events, November: Turtle nesting season,
December: Carols by candle light.
Ore loading facility
distances from Perth shown on the left depend on whether
you take the more scenic coastal route or the quicker inland route.
The coastline near Port Hedland was first explored by Europeans in the
seventeenth century when a number of Dutch vessels bound for Batavia sailed
too far south and found the Australian coast instead. In 1616 Dirk Hartog
passed through the area and in 1628 the Vyanen, commanded by Gerrit
Frederikssoon De Witt, ran aground just west of the present site of Port
During the 1860s a number of explorers including
F.T. Gregory explored the
In April 1863 Captain Peter Hedland anchored his cutter Mystery in a huge
natural harbour which he named Mangrove Harbour. Captain Hedland was
searching for a place to land stock being carried by the barque Tien Tsin
for the De Grey station further east. However due to severe tides and lack
of fresh water Hedland returned south to a smaller harbour which became
known as Tien Tsin (later renamed
Peter Hedland operated his small ship along the north west coast and made
frequent journeys to Fremantle to collect supplies for the pastoralists. He
was a vital lifeline for the early settlers and it is fitting that his name
is now associated with one of the largest centres on the north west coast.
Mystery surrounds his death, but it is thought that he was speared to death
by Aborigines near the Nichol (today it is spelled Nikol) River. His body was never found. He
was survived by his wife and 11 children. It is often claimed that he was of
Dutch origin but his living relatives in Western Australia say he was
Three years after Peter Hedland discovered it, Mangrove Harbour was
investigated as a possible town site and port but surveyor Charles Wedge
concluded that there was a difficulty of access which, when combined with a
lack of good natural water, made settlement difficult.
Charles Nairn arrived in 1863 to establish the De Grey River Station after
travelling 260 kilometres from Cossack.
In the late 1870s Port Hedland, like
further to the north east, gained a reputation as a wild frontier settlement
as pearling luggers began using it as a stopover point. At one time the port
was home to over 150 luggers and their crews.
At this time the town was serving the surrounding pastoral interests.
Interest in the Port Hedland area was rekindled in 1891 when exports from
Bar goldfields (south east of Port Hedland) became too much for the
The Port Hedland town site was gazetted in October 1896 and a jetty and an 8
Km causeway over the marshes into the town were completed by 1899. First
shipment of gold bullion was exported in 1900 and Port Hedland rapidly
emerged as the Pilbaraís major port.
The Aboriginal name for the areas was Marrapikurrinya (place of good water).
This is interesting as early explorers had a lot of trouble finding water
and water shortages persisted until 1953. Other names suggested for the town
were; Mandarinah, Moorcunah and Withnell.
Transportation from Marble Bar to the coast was difficult and in 1911 the
government built a railway from the coast to the gold mining town. The line
operated until October 1951 and lost over 1,144,000 pounds during its
Hedland overshadowed itís nearby neighbour at Condon (near the mouth of the
De Grey River) and as Hedland expanded, so Condon dwindled. In the end
Condon ceased to exist at all.
From the end of World War 1 until the development of the regionís iron ore
industry in the mid≠1960s, Port Hedland operated as a typical remote port
exporting wool, livestock, gold, pearl shells and importing supplies for the
small and isolated communities in the hinterland.
The mangrove flats
cut off the
town from the hinterland and at high tide it was sometimes impossible to
though a causeway had been constructed.
The town was bombed by the Japanese during World War II but the loss of life
was much lighter than either Broome or Darwin.
Although the town site was gazetted in 1896, it wasnít until the 1960s with
the discovery of iron ore that the port facility really grew rapidly.
On the 27th on May 1966 the first bulk ore carrier berthed at Port Hedland
and the modern era of ore shipments had begun. It does seem a little sad
though that Australia digs up its resources, sends them overseas to be
turned into product and then buys them back at ten times the price. If
governments had been more far sighted and really did care about this country
then our raw materials would be processed here instead.
Port Hedland is now a major deep water port and is supported by the
satellite town of South Hedland. There is a large modern shopping centre and
all the normal facilities available on large towns.
In 2004-5 Port Hedland became the
first port in Australia to export more than 100 million tonnes of ore. It is
envisaged that this will ore than double in the next few years.
Sadly South Hedland is an unattractive town, it seems to have been developed
as a dormitory to house workers with little thought to making it attractive.
Thankfully the old town on the coast is much more attractive and is worth a
visit. Friday or Saturday night fish and chips down at the Yacht Club is one
of the favourite past times of the locals and tourists alike.