One of the oldest towns of the north west, Onslow has survived numerous cyclones, rebuilds and changes in its economy.

Since World war II, the declining purchasing power of wool, has, in spite of consistently good rainfall on the inland sheep stations since the late 1960s, led to a change in focus of Onslow's economy from wool to tourism. It is currently the major town of the "Coral Coast", and a base for such activities as scuba diving on the coral reefs offshore from the town.

Around town

The Onslow salt field occupies 90 sq km of salt flats, with seawater pumped by three pumps at a maximum rate of 4,000L/s each for approximately 18 hours per day depending on tides. Onslow Salt Pty Ltd is capable of producing nominally 2.5 million tones of sodium chloride per annum. The project has handling facilities to transport, process, store and load salt into ships for export. The jetty is approximately a 1.3 kilometre steel trestleway and is situated off Sunset Beach.

The Good Shed Museum is a historical building, listed by National Heritage. The building was moved from Old Onslow in 1925. The museum contains historic artefacts from the Onslow region. Onslow has a long and extensive history and the museum is a great place to get some background on the town.

Onslow's Heritage Trail Walk provides some insight into the town's history and is an interesting and educational way to spend some time.

Onslow's Ian Blair Memorial Boardwalk is attracting a lot of interest. It starts at the lookout at Beadon Point and winds through the natural vegetation to it’s destination at Sunset Beach.

Termite Mound Viewing Area: ant hills are prolific in the Onslow region. They can be viewed in their natural state. Quite an amazing sight.

Four Mile Creek

Beaches and Fishing

Onslow is a commercial fishing town and fishing is one of the main attractions in Onslow.

Sunrise beach or front beach is a great place to swim, snorkel, collect shells, fish or just relax in the warm sun. With boat ramp facilities and a shelter on the beach and another on the beachfront it is the perfect place for the family to have fun in the sun.

Sunset beach or back beach offers patrons a shaded picnic area, fish cleaning facilities and the best place in the north to watch the sun go down. Take time to go on the beach at sunset. Also a great beach for fishing, swimming and shell collecting.

Four Mile Creek is a fantastic spot to do some fishing, crabbing and to have a picnic lunch. There is a BBQ area with a shaded shelter.

The beautiful Ashburton River is a must to see whilst in Onslow. Visit three and five mile pools. Camping is allowed along the banks of the river and the setting is idyllic. Swim, fish, picnic, bushwalk and just relax! 

Beadon Creek: Fish off the wharf here or just observe the goings on. Down the creek is where all the action happens.

Old Onslow

The ruins of the old town, abandoned in 1925, can still be seen. They are located 45 km by road from Onslow with the turnoff being 20 km south of Onslow on the main access road to the town. When the old town was re-sited all potentially portable buildings were moved. Only the old stone and cement buildings like the post office, police station, gaol and hospital remain. The fact that the town was moved so recently means that the observant visitor will find many relics of the past scattered around the lonely settlement.

Barrow Island

In 1954, geologists working for West Australian Petroleum (WAPET) recognised the potential for oil fields on the island. After successful test drilling, oil flowed on Barrow Island on 7 July 1964. Within 8 years, WAPET had produced its 100 millionth barrel of oil from Barrow Island. Today, there are over 400 production wells on the island. The Barrow Island field has become Australia's leading producer of oil by the number of barrels per life of the field.


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Where is it?

1,387 km north of Perth, and on the coast 82 km from the main North West Coastal Road.

Monte Bello Islands

Montebello Islands are situated approximately 75 nautical miles, north of Onslow, off the West Australian coast. With over 100 small islands in the group, they are surrounded by magnificent coral reefs, ideal for fishing, snorkeling and swimming. In the 1950s, the British Government used the Monte Bello Islands for nuclear weapons testing. Today the waters around the Monte Bello Islands provide excellent sheltered anchorages for vessels of all sizes and are frequently visited during the winter months by numerous boats. Some islands have been zoned for recreation, while others have been reserved for the protection of nesting seabirds and turtles


Mackerel Islands Group

22 km offshore are the Mackerel Islands which are noted for their sport fishing and bottom fishing. The pristine waters are home to world-class coral reefs that offer a spectacular array of colourful reef fish and coral formations - a diver's / snorkeller's paradise. And the fishing action is up there with some of the worlds best. Whether you like to fish off the beach or out on the ocean, you won't be disappointed with the smorgasbord of five-star species. 



In 1622 on a rocky outcrop to the west of the main Monte Bello Island group, the British vessel Trial was wrecked with the loss of 97 lives. 46 survivors managed to sail a small boat north to Batavia (Jakarta). Barrow Island appeared on Dutch maps in 1628, and was visited by Abel Tasman in 1644.

The first white settlers arrived in the Onslow area in 1880 and established sheep stations. The town was established three years later at the mouth of the Ashburton River. Gold was discovered in the upper reaches of the river in the 1890s but due to the area's remoteness and the limited amount of alluvial gold, a goldrush never eventuated. Large deposits of iron ore were discovered at Deepdale (96 km east).

Mining and pearling were the town's main industries when it was first destroyed by a cyclone in 1926. The town was then transferred to its present site on Beadon Bay. Onslow was actively involved in World War II, the harbour was used as a base for US submarines. Onslow had the dubious honour of being the most southerly town bombed by the Japanese during the war (1942). On the night of May 15 1943 a solo plane dropped three bombs on the airstrip with no casualties or damage to aircraft.

A jetty of some three-quarters of a kilometre in length was constructed to cater for the State Ship and Blue Funnel Line that plied to Singapore. These ships brought in nearly all provisions, building equipment, timber and general merchandise. Exports included wool, pearl shell and minerals. The jetty had to be rebuilt when it was badly damaged by a cyclone in 1934. The jetty continued to serve Onslow until March 1961 when another cyclone demolished more than 300 metres. State Ships were thus prevented from calling at the jetty and were forced to anchor offshore where they loaded and unloaded via a lighter.

The post-war period saw pearling start again, but in a small way. The last lugger was sold in 1965. Today pearling is a small industry with the shells farmed for blister and culture pearls. Onslow became the main depot for the British Government's nuclear tests on the Monte Bello Islands in 1953, then the mainland base and service port for the Barrow Island oil and gas fields, which commenced production in 1967. The town suffered more cyclone damage in 1934, 1961 and 1963.

Origin of name: recalls Sir Alexander Onslow (1842-1908), Chief Justice of Western Australia in 1883 when the town was founded.

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