The first Europeans to visit the district were Captain Bannister and his exploration party who, in late 1830, explored the hinterland between the settlements of Albany and the Swan River. Other explorations followed.
During the 1850's, the main Perth to Albany road was built by convict labour and the first settlements in the West Arthur Shire were formed along this road, between the Arthur and Beaufort Rivers. The development of the regional settlements followed the establishment of the pastoralists, who were granted grazing leases from as early as 1854.
Arthur River gradually developed into a thriving centre with a police barracks and gaol (1866), the Mount Pleasant Inn (1855), a post office, a blacksmith, a doctor and a trading post.
When the Great Southern Railway opened in 1889, much of the existing trade moved to new railway towns and many of the centres along the old "Coach Road" closed. Two connecting railway lines from Collie to the Great Southern Line brought a new "era of prosperity" to the region.
While for many years only a few farming families had been settlers in the area, the town of Darkan (established 1907), soon became a busy centre. Some pioneering families, who occupied outlying areas of the Shire, grazed sheep while others provided services. Some of the services provided by these local families included the Inn at Tarwonga, trading posts and stores at Moodiarrup, Arthur River and Boolading and telephone exchanges run out of private dwellings.