The Wanneroo district was first explored by Europeans when John Butler travelled through it in 1834 searching for lost cattle. In 1841 the energetic Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe, travelled through the area and discovered the caves at Yanchep. The name Wanneroo is probably derived from the local Aboriginal word used to describe 'a place where women dig up roots'.
In 1844 the Rev John Smithies arrived in the area and established the Mission Farm House (now long disappeared) on the shores of Lake Goollelal. Smithies plan was to establish a Wesleyan Mission to teach the local Aborigines the rudiments of European farming. The project failed.
In 1850 the area was settled by James Cockman but there was little enthusiasm for any kind of major settlement of the region. Twenty two years later there were only about sixty families spread throughout the district. The first school wasn¹t established until 1874 (it had 17 students in its first year) and the first mail service didn¹t arrive until 1883. The local road board was established in 1903. It wasn¹t until 1932 that the first church, St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, was consecrated. This long delay in religion has been compensated for since the 1970s. The city now boasts 16 mainstream churches and 13 religious schools.
Wanneroo would have remained a sleepy little settlement had the State Government not decided to develop an urban corridor north from Perth in 1970. The result was that by 1975 Wanneroo's population had passed the 50 000 mark and by 1982 it had reached 100 000. In 1985 Wanneroo became a city.
Like many city-suburbs on the edge of state capitals, Wanneroo has a wide variety of tourist attractions designed to lure people out for a day's recreation.