Rockingham is a city and primary centre in Western Australia south-west of the Perth city centre and south of Fremantle. It has a beachside location at Mangles Bay, the southern extremity of Cockburn Sound. To its north stretches the maritime and resource-industry installations of Kwinana and Henderson. Offshore to the north-west is Australia's largest naval fleet and submarine base, Garden Island, connected to the mainland by an all-weather causeway. To the west and south lies the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
Rockingham received its name from the sailing ship Rockingham, one of the three vessels bought by Thomas Peel to carry settlers to Western Australia (the others being the Gilmore and the Hooghly), arriving in May 1830. The Rockingham was blown ashore and eventually abandoned after failed attempts to refloat her. She eventually broke up, having sunk in shallow waters. Settlers supposedly camped near the wreck used the name "Rockingham Town" as their address.
The region had been inhabited for several thousand years by tribes of the Noongar people whose leader at that time was Galyute.
Rockingham was first surveyed and lots offered for sale in 1847. However, few lots were sold until the development of a railway and jetty in 1872 to transport jarrah timber and sandalwood from Jarrahdale overseas. Rockingham prospered until the construction of the Inner Harbour of Fremantle in 1897, which caused Rockingham as a timber port to steadily decline.
Now, as a satellite city in Perth's southwest, together with Mandurah, it is among Australia's fastest-growing residential districts. The maritime tradition has been strengthened by steady growth of the Royal Australian Navy's main fleet base HMAS Stirling and by the development of major shipbuilding and marine support services at nearby Henderson.
Since the nineteenth century, abundant sightseeing and recreational attributes have been the basis of a tourism industry. Visitors can launch small boats or board ferries to view dolphins, seals, pelicans and penguins in the adjacent Marine Park. The coast at nearby Safety Bay is ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Rockingham Shopping Centre is the regional centre which attracts significant non-local business, having a licence to trade on Sundays during public and school holidays.
On 7 May 2009, a boundary realignment of Cooloongup and Hillman approved by the Minister for Lands incorporated the Rockingham Train Station into Rockingham.
Rockingham is topographically flat, has sandy soils and coastal vegetation. It has a northern aspect to Cockburn Sound, from Rockingham Beach and Palm Beach.
Rockingham is serviced by the Rockingham Train Station on the Mandurah Line. The "Rockingham Shuttle Bus 555" is a frequent service which connects the train station with the Rockingham Beach foreshore. Frequent services connect Rockingham with Fremantle via the bus service 549 (via Kwinana, Spearwood) running at 15-minute intervals Monday to Friday and the 548 (via. Coogee). All three of these routes service the Primary Centre (including the Rockingham Shopping Centre via dedicated bus lanes.
National Highway 1 (Patterson Road and Ennis Avenue) connects Rockingham with Perth, Fremantle and Mandurah by road.
Perth Bicycle Network route SW38 links Rockingham Beach with Waikiki Beach in Safety Bay.
Rockingham Beach Primary School was founded in 1895 and is supplemented by Bungaree, Charthouse, East Waikiki, Hillman, Safety Bay and Waikiki primary schools. Public secondary schools are Rockingham Senior High School and Safety Bay Senior High School. Private schools in the district include the Roman Catholic Star of the Sea Primary School, Kolbe Catholic College (High School), Rockingham Montessori School, South Coast Baptist College (formerly Maranatha Christian College), and Living Waters Lutheran College.
The Rockingham campus of Murdoch University, located on Dixon Road, comprises buildings for engineering studies, arts and commerce, administration and a library which is also accessible to the local community, being one of the largest public libraries in the state. It is linked with the Rockingham Information and Library Services group which includes Warnbro Community Library, Safety Bay Public Library and Mary Davies Public Library. The campus can be accessed by bus services from Fremantle via Kwinana, and from the Rockingham train station on the Mandurah line.
Rockingham is served by two substantial shopping districts, an extensive precinct near the local-government offices; and the older Rockingham Beach "high-street" shops. The former includes several fast-food outlets, a petrol station, the Rockingham City shopping mall, medical practices, restaurants and two multi-screen cinema complexes. Many of the older beachside shops have either switched to catering for tourism and recreational visitors, or have been redeveloped in a blend of high-rise residential units and associated services such as restaurants. Other shopping centres, located at nearby Waikiki, Warnbro and Port Kennedy add to available variety and choice.
Residents also benefit from the proximity of large light-industrial, warehouse and showroom developments, including major vehicle dealers, all types of trade and professional services, discount electrical appliances, building and landscaping materials, household and mechanical maintenance services. A further abundance of similar competitive services is available in the adjoining suburbs mentioned above. The district's classification as a special tourist venue enables many of Rockingham's retailers to operate on designated Sundays and holidays when many other metropolitan traders are prohibited under state law from doing so. In addition, two Bunnings Warehouses trade for 14 hours each weekday and 12 hours on every Saturday and Sunday.
On 9 September 2005, a memorial was unveiled at Rockingham beach to commemorate the Catalpa rescue, the famous escape of six Irish Fenian convicts from Fremantle Prison on 17–18 April 1876. After journeying south from Fremantle by horse-drawn cart, the escapees were rowed from Rockingham beach to the Catalpa, an American whaler. The perilous flight succeeded in the face of an overnight storm and naval interception at dawn. The memorial is a statue depicting six wild geese in flight, the design of which was initiated by an Irish-Australian Perth citizen, the late Francis Conlan, whose name is also recorded on the memorial.
Naval Memorial Park
To the north of Rockingham lies the Rockingham Naval Memorial Park, opposite HMAS Stirling. It contains a number of commemorative plaques, a 110 mm (4.5 in) gun turret of HMAS Derwent (DE 49) and a submarine fin from HMAS Orion, added in 2009.