Carnarvon History

On the coast, where the region's major river, the Gascoyne, meets the Indian Ocean, stands this region's largest town, CARNARVON.

The traditional owners of the region around Carnarvon are the Inggarda people, other groups in the Gascoyne region were the Baiyunga, Thalanji, Malgana and Thudgarri people. Before European settlement the place now called Carnarvon, located at the mouth of the Gascoyne River was called Kuwinywardu (Kow-win-wordo) which means ‘neck of water’.

Today the Gwoonwardu Mia Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre tells the story of this important part of Gascoyne history.

Photos from Heritage Sites Photo Album. more photos here

Water Tower Lookout Water Tower Lookout
Water Tower Outlook Water Tower Outlook
The Dish The Dish
The Interpretive Centre The Interpretive Centre

Sheep and The Port

In 1876, Aubrey Brown and John Monger, having driven 4000 sheep from York, became the first European settlers at 'The Port'. By 1883, sufficient settlers had been attracted to the port for a town to be gazetted and named after the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Carnarvon. Some of the country's largest stations developed in the Gascoyne. Transport of stock, wool and supplies was by ships in and out of the Port of Carnarvon via the One Mile Jetty which was built in 1898. Carnarvon's forty metre wide main street, which now enhances its appearance, was formed to accommodate the room needed for the camel and bullock teams to turn around with the beginning of European settlement.


In the 1920's, agriculture was developed in Carnarvon as bananas, tropical fruit and vegetables began to appear on plantations on 1000 hectares of the Gascoyne river flats. The sole source of irrigation was the river. Many refer to it as the upside down river, although the surface may appear quite dry, irrigation water is pumped from the aquifers below. The river has a very large catchment area extending to north of Meekatharra, some 764 kms to the east. Large rivers, especially from cyclones, can flood parts of Carnarvon and replenish the aquifers at the same time. Levee banks are now in place to protect inner parts of the town. In 2010, Carnarvon was hit with severe flooding causing widespread damage. Below Carnarvon agricultue in the 1920's and now

Babbage Island Meat Works

Also in 1920 the Babbage Island Meat Works was constructed on Silver City Road no more than 500 metres from the Jetty. Visitors were surprised at the magnitude and excellence of the works designed to butcher and market the Gascoyne’s sheep and cattle. Only afterwards was it realised that the region’s pastoral properties, suffering from drought, could not maintain an adequate supply of stock to justify a permanent operation. Without even opening, the meatworks fell into disuse as an abattoir. It was used as a shark factory for a while but this too eventually failed. The buildings became a refuge during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Whaling Past

During the 1950's, there was a land processing station for Whaling on Babbage Island. The location was 1 km south of the Precinct. Both whale oil and meal were exported from the Jetty. With the international ban on whaling in the early 1960's, the facilities were converted to processing and packaging prawns.

NASA Space Tracking Station

In the 1960's, part of Aubrey Brown's sheep station (Brown’s Range) became the site of a NASA Space Tracking Station, which played a pivotal role in the Apollo space flights and the first moon landing. The station closed in 1975 and has now been demolished. Also to the north of Brown’s Range the satellite earth station operated for twenty years. The 30 metre wide satellite dish tracked satellites, transmitted the first satellite television program in Australia from the UK and was used by nine space agencies around the world before becoming technologically obsolete and closing in 1987. On site at the Overseas Telecommunications Centre (OTC site) there remain two dishes including the 12.6 metre Casshorn Antenna fondly known as the 'Sugar Scoop'. The site is now being interpreted by the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum Inc. which has a display open to the public.

Below Australia from Apollo 17.