The city attracts a large number of tourists, including many international visitors. The city centre foreshore is home to a variety of wildlife including dolphins, pelicans, shags, and an abundance of marine life including the blue manna crab which has become synonymous with the area. The city is also known for its protected waterways, beaches and boating and fishing activities.
The Noongar (or Bibbulmun) people, who inhabited the southwest of Western Australia, named the area Mandjar ("meeting place"). After European settlement the name changed, possibly due to mispronunciation, to Mandurah.
In December 1829, Thomas Peel arrived in Western Australia from the United Kingdom with workmen, equipment and stores on the ship Gilmore. He had financed the trip in exchange for a grant of land in the Swan River Colony, however his contract stipulated that he was to arrive by no later than 1 November 1829 and so his original land grant was forfeited. Undaunted, Peel built a small settlement named Clarence south of the Swan River colony at what is known today as Woodman Point. Many problems with the settlement along with Peel's own ill-health led him to lead the remaining Clarence settlers to the area known today as Mandurah. Thomas Peel died in 1865 but Mandurah continued to grow, albeit very slowly, over the years leading to the 20th century.
The population of the town was 160 (95 males and 65 females) in 1898.
A mining boom in nearby Pinjarra, Jarrahdale and Wagerup and an industrial boom in Kwinana combined with an idyllic lifestyle by the coast saw Mandurah grow rapidly, and on 1 July 1987 it was upgraded to the Town of Mandurah. Three years later, on 14 April 1990, Mandurah became the fifth non-metropolitan settlement in Western Australia to become a city.