The Margaret River mouth

Curious to learn more about the region’s historical tapestry and landmarks, but not quite sure where to start?

Let’s explore three captivating landmarks in the Margaret River Region. Caves House Hotel, originally built in 1901, hosted early visitors to Ngilgi Cave. Wonnerup House, founded in 1837, holds tales and tragedy of indigenous peoples and early settlers. Darnells General Store, since 1932, preserves an old-world charm with vintage treasures.

Each site tells a unique story of the region’s past.

Caves House Hotel


Caves House Hotel is one landmark that has made a name for itself in the region. Owners Neil and Elizabeth Jilley say the original hotel was built by the Government in 1901, to house tourists who came to see Ngilgi Cave. Visitors would travel by train from Perth to Pinjarra, and then take a horse and cart to ‘Caves Accommodation House’, as it was called back then.

During peak times it would sleep eighty inside and sixty on verandas.

Elizabeth says that the current hotel was eventually built by the Government in 1938 and took only ten months to build. The same builders, who were father and son, built both hotels. The rebuild happened ten years later after the original wing of the hotel was partially destroyed by fire. The fire also destroyed the front façade, which overlooked the now heritage listed gardens.

The gardens of Caves House Hotel are known for being incredibly beautiful, but they weren’t always that way. Back in the day a local gentleman helped to clean up and manicure the ‘scrubby’ grounds, which today set the scene for elegant weddings, high teas and relaxing afternoon strolls. The hotel’s beauty is probably why it continues to be a popular honeymoon spot, and Bob and Hazel Hawke (Bob Hawke was the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia) even stayed at the hotel after their wedding in 1956.

Caves House has been carefully restored. Photo: Caves House Hotel

Wonnerup House


Head forty minutes up the coast from Caves House Hotel, just past Busselton, and you’ll find another incredible property steeped in history. Wonnerup House is a heritage listed farm precinct in Wadandi Country. It was originally built in 1837 by George Layman Senior, who immigrated from England to Tasmania.

Layman bailed out of Tasmania after being attacked and robbed by escaped convicts. He found his way to Augusta, which failed as a settlement, so he exchanged his land grant in Augusta for a parcel in the Vasse Region.

The Wonnerup homestead’s namesake is a Nyungar term: wanna means woman’s digging stick and up means water. George Layman Senior lived on the farm with his wife, Mary Ann Bayliss, and his five children. But tensions between the European settlers and the Wadandi people resulted in the tragic death of many Aboriginals, as well as Layman himself.

In 1841, Layman and a Wadandi Elder named Gaywal got into an argument over a debt. Witnesses say Layman pulled Gaywal’s beard and shook him. Gaywal retaliated by killing Layman with a spear, and a large manhunt was launched.

Gaywal was eventually caught and killed, and two of his sons were sent to the Rottnest Island Aboriginal Prison. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly how many Aboriginals were killed in the manhunt, although in 1897, historian Warren Bert Kimberly called the massacre, ‘one of the most bloodthirsty deeds ever committed by Englishmen.’

The National Trust has worked with Traditional Custodians and the Layman family to install a ‘…simple but provocative presentation to encourage visitors to question their knowledge of the past and to consider how we understand truth.’

Visitors are invited to visit the house and discover more about its history.

Image of the historical Wonnerup House, located in Busselton.
A property steep in history, Wonnerup House. Photo: Bo Wong

Darnells General Store

Rosa Brook

About 40 minutes South West of Wonnerup House is another historical landmark worth exploring. Darnells General Store is a grocery and farm supply shop, which doubles as a post office and small country kitchen. The store itself has been operating just like this since 1932, when original owner, Bill Darnell Senior, opened shop.

The Rosa Brook store exudes a rustic kind of charm, perhaps because it hasn’t changed a whole lot over the decades. Inside is a trove of old-world treasures; a wireless radio, model planes, and a beautiful piano made in London in the late 1800s. There’s even an office desk and chair that was purchased by Bill Darnell Senior in 1949, which is still used by staff daily.

Bill was only 20 when he first opened the store and was known for extending generous credit to locals who were going through tough times. Over the years, the little store has been something of a hub for people in the community, especially during the Great Depression (~1929-1939) when people were more isolated.

Bill sadly passed away in 2002 at 93 years of age. His late son Bill Darnell Junior began working in the store at 15 years of age, and Bill Junior’s wife Kitty continues to work at the store after 60 years. Kitty’s granddaughter can also be found behind the counter, and the pair are known for cooking incredible preserves and chocolates, which are much loved by those who stop in to fill up on fuel, and good conversation.

Darnells General Store in Rosa Brook has been operating since 1932. Photo: Ryan Murphy

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