A short drive from Perth’s most northern suburbs, Guilderton offers visitors a rich history and an array of activities on the banks of the Moore River and the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Similar to many towns in the area, Guilderton relies on tourism for its main income.
Moore River Cruise owner Phil Cook says the town has a small population for most of the year, but when the summer months come the tourists flock north and the town’s population expands rapidly.
“Guilderton is very much a tourist town,” Mr Cook says.
“There are about 450 houses in town but there are less than 100 people who live here every day – 80 to 90 per cent of the town are holiday homes that are empty for long periods of the year.
“In peak season there would be a thousand people on the grass at the foreshore, all the car parks would be taken and everyone would be fighting to get their boat into the water at the boat ramp.”
Mr Cook says that even though the town has become a popular destination, it has not been found by the masses.
He tells people to “tell your friends but don’t tell too many”.
There is a feeling of familiarity between regular visitors to Guilderton with some staying at the very same site in the caravan park for the Past 35 years.
“People have likened it to what Mandurah used to be like 30 years ago before it became an ‘outer suburb of Perth’,” Mr Cook says.
“The developers have not come in yet.
“We still have all the old fibro cottages.
“It takes a lot of people of my generation back to what it was like to go on holidays with my parents as a kid.”
Local shire councillor Ian Collard moved to the area more than 50 years ago with his family to enjoy the warm weather and clear air.
“The things that make Guilderton so popular are the beautiful, pristine beaches, fishing on the beach or up the river, walks up the river through the bushland and boating in the ocean or the river,” Cr Collard says.
“There are a number of different things you are able to do by the seaside and river here – any family orientated activities you want to do.
“This is the greatest place to do it.”
Once known as Gabbadah, the Aboriginal term meaning ‘mouthful of water’, Guilderton is mainly dubbed ‘Moore River’ by locals and visitors alike.
The history behind the town’s name involves shipwrecks, buried treasure and a skeleton.
In 1656, the Dutch East India Company’s ship Vergulde Draeck, Gilt Dragon, was making its way to Batavia (now Jakarta) to trade for spices.
The Gilt Dragon was carrying a cargo of trade goods valued at 106,400 guilders (AUS$59,092) and chests of silver coins values at $78,600 guilders (AUS$43,653).
The ship never made it to Batavia.
It struck a reef 12 kilometres southwest of Ledge Point, forcing the crew to abandon the ship and its treasure.
The tale of the Gilt Dragon came back to life in 1931 when a young boy uncovered a few Dutch guilders and a skeleton in the sand dunes near Guilderton confirming many people’s suspicions that the wreck of the ship was nearby.
Mr Cook tells the story of the Gilt Dragon to visitors on his river cruise and has his own theories about where the treasure can be found.
“The captain must have been a very experienced man to be trusted with the cargo worth a small fortune,” he says.
“If the ship went down, so did he.
“I think as the ship was going down he got a few trusted men to bury the silver in the sand dunes, because I believe they didn’t find much of the silver at the site of the wreck.”
Many of the artefacts excavated from the site of the wreck are displayed at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle.
Photos: Deanne Blom