Located 1,557 kilometres north of Perth, Dampier rests on the edge of King Bay overlooking of the islands of the Dampier Archipelago. The area is home to a diverse range of marine life, making it a hub for recreational water sports such as boating, fishing and snorkeling. The area is also rich in indigenous archeological heritage with one of the most extensive collections of rock art in Australia.
The coastal climate is hot and humid, with summer temperatures consistently reaching 34°C. Rainfall is scarce for the majority of the year and heavy during cyclone season. In spite of the extremes in heat and rainfall, the town maintains a pleasant greenness with endemic vegetation retained throughout. The Dampier Archipelago off the coast from Dampier is home to one of the most important collections of indigenous rock art in Australia. It was included in the National Heritage List in 2007.
Since European settlement, the area has been the base for a variety of industries, including pearling in the 1870s-1890s, whaling from 1870 to 1872, and commercial fishing from 1900-1960. In the 1960s, the area was further settled with a pastoral industry.
In 1963, Dampier became one of the first mining towns established in the Pilbara. It was developed by Hamersley Iron (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) as a port facility and to provide housing for the workforce for its iron ore mine at Tom Price. Further industrialisation came in the 1960s and 70s with the discovery of offshore gas and petroleum and, more recently, solar salt production.
Dampier's population grew rapidly with this economic expansion and, by 1968, it had outgrown its original town plan. Karratha, approximately 16 kilometres away, was designed to accommodate the overflow from Dampier and development became focused there. Today, this trend continues with Karratha anticipated to develop into a main regional centre with a population of 50,000 by 2035. Because of this, Dampier has becoming increasingly reliant on Karratha for the majority of its community and commercial amenities.
Currently, Dampier is in the process of being normalised, meaning that services and buildings historically run and owned by Hamersley Iron are increasingly being administered by the Shire of Roebourne and owned privately. Private home ownership is now reflected in well maintained houses and investment in the community.
Because of it's attractive waterfront setting, Dampier's future role is expected to be as a prime residential area with a focus on maritime recreation and tourism. Most of its residents acknowledge this, choosing to stay longer term due to its community atmosphere, beautiful location and recreation opportunities.