Coordinates: 34°02′28″S 117°38′31″E
The tiny township of Tambellup is located 317km south-east of Perth and 120km north of Albany on the Great Southern Highway where it crosses the Gordon River. Surveyor General John Septimus Roe passed through the area in 1849 and referred to a sheep station owned by the Morrison family as Tambul-yillup. The town’s main thoroughfare is Norrish Street, named after its first European settler, Josiah Norrish (1841-1884), who in 1872 was attracted to the area by its large supply of sandalwood, which he cut and sold to the oriental market while also breeding sheep. It is believed Norrish was also responsible for the change of name to Tambellelup.
The arrival of the Great Southern Railway line from Perth to Albany in 1889 saw the settlement of the area increase and by 1898 the town had been established and a station built. It seems that the shortened name Tambellup was created then, as an original railway timetable uses this spelling. The origin of the town’s Aboriginal name is unclear. One source claims it to be the place of thunder (from Toombellanup), while another explanation is that Tambellup means the place of many tammars – a tammar is a Noongar word for the small marsupial which used to live in the area.
The Gordon River has flooded several times since Tambellup was established. The first recorded flood was in 1913, then again in 1937. A major flood in 1955 caused the river to rise to 6m, which resulted with in some parts of town being 1metre under water. In January 1982, a decaying tropical cyclone passed over the catchment area feeding the Gordon River causing it to flood the town again. The town of 670 people continues to maintain strong links with its pioneering past. Many descendants of the original settlers still live and farm in the district and in some cases, on the original farm selection.
After more than 150 years, Tambellup’s main industries are still sheep farming and sandalwood cutting, most of which is exported and used in the manufacture of incense sticks. The town has a general store and the Tambellup Historical Society runs a small folk museum which has a display of local memorabilia. There are a number of heritage trails and old buildings of interest in the town, which prides itself by its sense of community, calling itself 'The Town of Friendship'.