History and Heritage 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture 

Nyoongar people believe that their ancestors have lived in the South West of Western Australia since time began, with evidence confirming their occupation for at least 45,000 years. Within the Town of Cottesloe, two places of significance for First Nations’ peoples have been registered on the Department of Indigenous Affairs Aboriginal Sites database, being Mudurup and Rocky Bay.  

‘Mudurup’ or Moonderup (pronounced ‘Moordoorup’ or ‘Murdarup’) is a ceremonial site located at Mudurup Rocks, south of the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club. Mudurup Rocks is considered one of the most important spiritual coastal sites on the Swan Coastal Plain. ‘Mudurup’ means ‘place of the whiting’. Before European settlement in Cottesloe, Nyoongar peoples fished at Mudurup during mid to late summer, the seasons of Birak (December to January) and Bunuru (February to March).  

‘Rocky Bay’ is the second registered significant site, and identifies the narrow crossing point between Rocky Bay on the Swan River in Mosman Park and the Indian Ocean at the south end of Cottesloe. A further two unregistered sites where artefacts have been recorded are at Victoria Street Station and Macarthur Street. These sites reflect camps along the route taken by Aboriginal peoples as they moved between the ‘Derbarl Yerrigan’ (Swan River) and the coast, according to the seasons and food sources. 

Mudurup Rocks features in Series 1, Episode 5 Beaches of the ABC produced docuseries Great Southern Landscapes.

View via ABC iView


Cottesloe boasts an impressive mix of architecture over time since its colonial settlement late in the 1800’s to contemporary its masterpieces of today. The prominent heritage style displayed in Cottesloe is Federation houses, which were the Australian version of the English Edwardian houses. The period from 1890-1912 marked the start of the Gold Boom in Western Australia, with the growth in affluence enabling architects to indulge their creativity. Within this style emerged variations merging Queen Anne and Georgian together with elements taken from Filigree, Italianate and Arts and Crafts. The trend shifted from 1912 to more simplistic colonial styles. 

Federation/ Edwardian 

  • 42 John Street (Pine Lodge) 1896 
  • 66 Forrest Street (Timaru) c.1898 
  • 62 Forrest Street (Donard Lodge) c.1898 
  • 109 Broome Street (Cottesloe Civic Centre) c.1899 
  • 17 Loma Street (Taylor’s House) c.1899 
  • 8 Loma Street c.1901 
  • 56 John Street (Jolimont) c.1903 
  • 61-67 John Street (Worker’s Cottages) c.1904 
  • 52 Forrest Street (Oceania) c.1909 
  • 53 John Street (Montefiore) c.1913 
  • 15 Barsden Street (Trafalgar House) c.1914 

There are also many examples of the inter-war period, where many eclectic styles begun to emerge. During this time European and American styles such as Spanish Mission and Californian Bungalow became popular, influenced by advances in technology and access to the world.  


  • 3 Barsden Street c.1922 
  • 16 Loma Street c.1925 
  • 51 John Street c.1930 
  • 58 Forrest Street 1934 
  • 8 Barsden Street c.1940 

Visit the Cottesloe Heritage Trail to download the App and experience 20 stops on the 1.5km tour  

To find out more, the Grove Library maintains a local history collection about places and people that have shaped Cottesloe. 

Council Membership 

The first meeting of the Cottesloe Roads Board was held on 20 December 1895 with several iterations over time to the name of the governing group for what we know today as the Council for the Town of Cottesloe.  

View the historical list of Council Membership

History Chronology


Nyoongar people believe that their ancestors have lived in the South West of Western Australia since time began, with evidence confirming their occupation for at least 45,000 years. 


The first recorded visit by Europeans to the Cottesloe district occurred with the arrival in January 1697 of three Dutch ships under the command of Captain Willem de Vlamingh. 


Under the command of Captain James Stirling, the first British group to settle in Cottesloe was John Butler on 250 acres with river frontage, now named Peppermint Grove. Butler built a house for his family beside the rough track between Perth and Fremantle. The house soon gained a reputation for the excellent hospitality provided to travellers of the track and became known as the 'Bush Inn' or 'Halfway Hous


Convicts, transported from the United Kingdom, were put to work on the Perth to Fremantle track and in 1858 the road was completed. In 1872 the road was declared a public highway. The Perth to Fremantle railway line was completed in 1881 and a siding was constructed, which became known as 'Bullen's Siding'. 


The district was named Cottesloe on 21st September by Sir Frederick Napier Broome, Western Australia's governor from 1883 to 1890. The name Cottesloe was chosen in honour of the brother of Captain C.H. Fremantle who became Baron Cottesloe in 1874. 


The first 4-acre lots were sold in the mid-1890s, with a rush to take up land and a number of houses were erected. The first permanent residence to be built near Cottesloe Beach was 'The Summit' in Avonmore Terrace for Mr and Mrs J.C.G. Foulkes.  

The beginning of local government in Cottesloe dates back to the first meeting of the Cottesloe Roads Board held in December 1895. Rates were levied for the first time in 1896. With sea breezes being considered good for one's personal constitution, Cottesloe beach began to attract residents and day visitors and also led to the establishment of the Ministering Children's League Convalescent Home. 


The first school opened in St Columba's Presbyterian Hall, with an initial enrolment of 30 students. With an increase in numbers a larger premise was constructed in 1898 to house the 208 students. A private school was also operated by Miss Annie Nisbet. 


The population of Cottesloe was 1,000 residents. 


The first decade of the 1900s saw a change in the status and further development of Cottesloe. With the intention of attracting new residents, the Roads Board developed and promoted the beach front.  

Hotel Cottesloe, now known as the Cottesloe Beach Hotel or CBH, was built. 


After a referendum of residents, government approval was sought for the conversion of the Cottesloe Roads Board to a municipality. The Cottesloe Municipality was approved and gazetted on 20 September 1907. John Stuart was elected as the first mayor and the first Council was formed.  


The Cottesloe Golf Club was formed, with the rise in popularity of sport and leisure activities. 

Concerns arose over beach attire, behaviour including the contentious issue of mixed bathing and safety. This led to the formation of volunteer life-saving patrols and in turn led to the formation of the Cottesloe Life Saving and Athletic Club and the erection of a clubhouse

The first of Cottesloe’s renowned Norfolk Island pines were planted in John Street and Broome Street. Ratepayers applied for these trees from the Forestry Department in an attempt to beautiful the suburb. The trees were meticulously nurtured by local residents William Zimpel and John Dorcas.  

The Ocean Beach Hotel opened in January and remains in this location today. 

Lord Cottesloe gave permission for the municipality to use his coat of arms. 


Mr Claude de Bernales purchased Judge Pennefather's property and renamed it Overton Lodge. Mr de Bernales transformed the Lodge into a Spanish style mansion that has become the principal building of Cottesloe, better known today as the Cottesloe Civic Centre. 


Cottesloe beach continued to draw crowds of people on the weekends, with new guest houses and tea-rooms built, particularly around the John Street area.  


The depression impacted the Cottesloe community, unemployment was rising, businesses closing and families suffering. The Council raised loans to provide work for some of the unemployed and those who fell behind in paying their rates bills. 

The Perth-Fremantle Road became Stirling Highway. 

Swanbourne Terrace was renamed Marine Parade. 


During World War II Cottesloe became a centre of the war effort.  Defence positions were erected, the golf course was taken over by the Americans for an army camp and the Ocean Beach Hotel was used by the US Navy as a recreational leave base.  

Post-war refugees were billeted in many of the larger homes in Cottesloe.  The Lady Lawley Cottage was used from 1944 to 1946 as a convalescent home for women members of the armed services. 


Mr de Bernales was forced to dispose of his assets following the collapse of his companies in 1949 and the Municipality of Cottesloe purchased Overton Lodge in 1950.  After some structural alterations, it was renamed the Cottesloe Memorial Town Hall and Civic Centre and officially opened by WA's Governor, Sir James Mitchell on 30 September 1950. 


The 1960's brought a new affluence into the area and further businesses were developed in Napoleon Street and along Stirling Highway


The early 1970s brought further road extensions and improvements.  


Cecil Leonard Harvey bestowed Freeman of the Town.  


In 1979 the Perth-Fremantle railway closed. Beach erosion became a major concern and much effort was expended in sand control and beachfront improvements. 


The Perth to Fremantle railway line was reopened on 29 July. 


In the 1980s people became increasingly aware of the environment, with new programs starting for reforestation around the streets, beachfront and reserves.   


In January Australia's bicentenary was celebrated at the Civic Centre and a large sundial was erected above Muradup Rocks.  


Maurice Frederick Bridgewood bestowed Freeman of the Town. 

Maurice Hobart McNamara bestowed Freeman of the Town.  


On 15 November, His Royal Highness King Charles and Her Majesty The Queen Consort Camilla, were hosted by the then Premier Colin Barnett to celebrated the then Prince’s 67th Birthday at the Cottesloe Civic Centre, with 600 invited guests.  

Many accomplished and recognised people chosen to live in Cottesloe, including John Curtin (Australia's Prime minister from 1941-45) and pioneering women such as Dr Roberta Jull (Western Australia's first woman doctor) and Elizabeth Clapham (Western Australia's first woman elected to local government). 

Visit the Grove Library for the Cottesloe history collection

Further information on the history of Cottesloe is available from the following references:

Cottesloe - A Town of Distinction, R.M. James (2007)

Heritage of Pines - A History of Cottesloe, R.M James. (1977)

Ten Decades - A Photographic History of the Town of Cottesloe, M & J Laurie. (1995)

[i] West Australian Government (2022), Noongar History, https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/noongar-history

[ii] Cottesloe (2022), Aboriginal Heritage Sites, https://www.cottesloe.wa.gov.au/Profiles/cottesloe/Assets/ClientData/Documents/PageContent/Indigenous_Culture_in_Cottesloe/AboriginalHeritageSitesSearch_Moonderup.pdf

[iii] Macintyre, K & Dobson, B (August, 2014), Indigenous significance of Mudurup Rocks, Cottesloe. Anthropology from the Shed, https://anthropologyfromtheshed.com/project/ethnography-of-mudurup-rocks-in-cottesloe-and-its-connection-to-rottnest-island-wadjemup/

[iv] Department of Indigenous Affairs (2010), Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System, https://www.cottesloe.wa.gov.au/Profiles/cottesloe/Assets/ClientData/Documents/PageContent/Indigenous_Culture_in_Cottesloe/AboriginalHeritageSitesSearch_Moonderup.pdf