Dongara and Port Denison are two adjacent small towns on the Batavia Coast of Western Australia. Dongara lies north and Port Denison south of the outlet of the River Irwin, but for practical purposes they can be regarded as a single settlement. Lying 351 km / 210 miles north of Perth, their main interest to travellers is as an overnight stop on the Brand Highway north towards Monkey Mia, Exmouth and Broome.
"Dongara" derives from the Wattandee aboriginal name "Thung-arra" for the river estuary, meaning "sea-lion place". The area became settled by European cattle farmers in the mid 19th C, and in 1890 it was connected by rail to Perth. Today the main industries are tourism, lobster & crayfishing, and support for the Dongara Gas Field.
You'll need your own light aircraft to fly into Dongara DOX airfield. The nearest airport with scheduled services is Geraldton, 65 km away.
By road, simply follow the main highway north from Perth - either Brand Highway 1 via Eneabba, or Coastal Highway 60 via Jurien Bay which merges into Highway 1 some 30 km south of Dongara. The entrance to town is next to the (kinda creepy) statue of a lobster, just as the highway sweeps round from west to north.
By bus: TransWA coach N1 runs Mon-Sat along Highway 1 via Eneabba. They leave Perth around 8.30 am, passing Dongara at 1.40 pm to reach Geraldton for 2.30 pm; Mon Weds & Fri this service continues to Kalbarri. Southbound coaches leave Geraldton around 9 am, passing Dongara around 10 am, to reach Perth for 3 pm.
TransWA coach N2 is a slower route via Moora but is a good option on Sunday, when they leave Perth towards noon to pass Dongara at 6 pm and reach Geraldton by 7 pm. Southbound they leave Geraldton at 11.45 am, Dongara 12.30 am and reach Perth before 7 pm. They also run Tues, Thurs and Sats about 2 hours earlier.
TransWA coach N5 is the weekend getaway vehicle, running between Perth and Geraldton Friday afternoon and Sundays via Coastal Highway 60.
Integrity Coaches run twice a week between Perth and Broome via Coastal Highway 60. Northbound they leave Perth around 9 pm Tues and Thurs, travelling overnight and passing Dongara around 2.30 am Weds and Fridays. The southbound coach passes around 2 am Saturdays and Mondays, to reach Perth at 7 am. You'd probably only use these coaches to reach northern towns such as Carnarvon, Port Hedland and Broome, as the TransWA coaches don't go north of Geraldton / Kalbarri.
The crucial word above is "passing": all drop-offs & pick-ups at Dongara must be booked in advance, otherwise the coach will just fly on past down the highway.
There's no passenger service along the railway here.
The central area is walkable. But if it's damned hot and you've brought a car anyway . . .
- Irwin District Museum, 5 Waldeck St Dongara, ☏ . 10 am - noon Mon-Sat. Small museum set in 19th C courthouse, police station & jail.
- Dongara Nature Reserve, part of the larger Yardalonga Reserve, is a duneland area at the north edge of town.
There's a dozen easy walking itineraries listed in the local tourist brochure Walk Dongara Denison.
The safest swimming is off Harbour Beach, Port Denison, sheltered by breakwaters and seldom bothered by sharks, but stay clear of the boat launching area.
The best surf is on South Beach, at the far south end of Port Denison - you'll have a bit of a walk if you don't have 4WD.
Fill up on fuel. Going north on Highway 1, the filing station near the town turn-off has decent prices, as has the "S-bend" station 30 km north. Then prices will jump 10% as you approach Geraldton. Going south, there's reasonable choice on Highway 1, but fuel on Coastal Highway 60 is sparse, pricey and harder to locate - it may involve a long turn-off diversion to a village pump that's not always open.
Centrally in Dongara are a pizzeria, the Season Tree cafe, a bakery, and the hotel restaurants (see "sleep" listings) of Dongara Hotel Motel and The Priory just across the creek in Port D.
On Port Denison seafront are Southerlys Harbour View Restaurant, and the Starfish Cafe at the southern edge of town.
The Priory Hotel bar has a great atmosphere, see "Sleep" listing.
- Port Denison Holiday Units, 14 Carnarvon Street Port Denison (follow Point Leander Dv SW almost to its end; Carnarvon St is two blocks back), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean and cosy self contained units just a few yards from Port D shore
- Priory Hotel, 11 St Dominics Rd Port Denison, ☏ . Hotel, restaurant & bar in a former priory & ladies college, built 1881. Very atmospheric, some parts of the building are dilapidated but the rooms and halls in use are of a decent standard.
- Dongara Old Mill Motel, 58 Waldeck St Dongara, ☏ . Centrally located, the mill is very prominent. Has swimming pool.
- Dongara Hotel Motel, 12 Moreton Terrace Dongara, ☏ . motel with good fish & oriental restaurant
The road north brings you by Geraldton, Kalbarri with its National Park, the Monkey Mia beach area and Dirk Hartog Island, and on towards Ningaloo, Exmouth and Broome.
The road east inland joins Highway 123 from Geraldton to Mt Magnet on the Great Northern Highway.
The road south towards Perth divides: recommended for cars and for tourist sights is the Coastal Highway 60. Highway 1 further inland is the trucking route and has less to see.
Westwards, the small islands 50 km or so out to sea are noted for wildlife and scuba, but you need to go to Geraldton to access them.