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Cossack historical village photo from 1897

Cossack is an abandoned ghost town in Western Australia at the mouth of the Harding River.

In the 1870s, Cossack was a very different place. It was a thriving port in the Pilbara region, filling the need of a port after the establishment of the first town in the North West of Western Australia, Roebourne.

It was first known as Tien Tsin Harbour, named after the barque that carried Walter Padbury where he landed his cattle stock in 1863. The state’s governor, Frederick Weld, arrived in 1871 on the HMS Cossack and the town adopted this name in 1872.

Roebourne was declared as a town in 1866 and Cossack soon after became the start of the pearling industry in Western Australia. The main pearling industry moved to Broome Brown Sign link in 1886 when a parliamentary committee recommended closure of pearling banks due to depletion.

After the move of the pearling industry and the harbour proving to be unsuitable for the larger ships towards the end of the 1800s, Cossack started to decline. A jetty at nearby Point Samson was built around 1904 to better accommodate larger ships and the main port was moved from Cossack to Point Samson in 1910.

The town of Cossack remained for some time, continuing with some pearling industry and a port for pearling. A leprosarium was there for a while until it too moved in the 1930s. The town was finally abandoned in the 1950s.

Cossack Historic Locations

There are several brown sign destinations at Cossack, mainly historical buildings that have withstood the test of weather and time.

School House

The school house Brown Sign link is the second school building of Cossack after the first school constructed of timber was destroyed in a cyclone.

Cossack Museum and Courthouse

The Cossack Museum Brown Sign link is in the old Courthouse built in 1895 and is now the Shakespeare Hall Social History Museum

Settlers Beach

Settlers Beach Brown Sign link is to the north and was used as a drop-off and pick-up point for vessels unable to negotiate the shallow waters of Cossack. Mail was delivered by passing vessels into a mail dig down.


One of two marked cemeteries in Cossack, this one is known as the European cemetery Brown Sign link and includes the pioneer William Shakespear Hall.

Asian Cemetery

The Japanese Cemetery resides next to the European cemetery. While the Japanese were a minority in the Cossack population, they were dominant in the pearling industry. The brown sign is Asian Cemetery suggesting there may be more than one Asian heritage there, however, all of the known graves are Japanese.

Tien Tsin Lookout

Tien Tsin Lookout Brown Sign link sits a short distance from the main street of Cossack giving a great overview of the area and the township.

Pearl Street

Pearl Street Brown Sign link is the main road where the remaining buildings in Cossack are located, running inland from the Wharf.

Reader Head Lookout

Reader Head Lookout Brown Sign link is where the first light beacon was for Cossack port at the end of the river as it opens into Butcher’s Inlet with views across Settlers Beach beside it and across to Jarman Island where the lighthouse was later built.

To get there:

Brown sign for Cossack

From the northern end of Roebourne along North West Coastal Hwy (Cleaverville Rd), turn into Point Samson-Roebourne Rd at the brown sign for Cossack. Follow Point Samson-Roebourne Rd for 8.2km and turn right into Cossack Rd at the brown sign. Follow Cossack Rd for 5.2km to reach the Cossack Historic Town.


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