The original village of Toodyay was one of the earliest inland towns in Western Australia. A habitat of the Ballardong Noongar people for thousands of years, the Avon River valley was discovered by Ensign Robert Dale in 1830, leading to exploration by settlers including James Drummond, Captain Francis Whitfield and Alexander Anderson. This is the memorial to botanist James Drummond. in Pelham Reserve, overlooking the Toodyay townsite:
The first village was established in 1836. Drummond established his homestead "Hawthornden" nearby. The original location was subject to flooding which led to its abandonment in the 1850s, and a new townsite was established on higher ground 2 km (1.2 miles) upstream. This was gazetted in 1860 as "Newcastle" and the original settlement came to be referred to as "Old Toodyay". In May 1910, due to confusion with the New South Wales city of Newcastle, a name-change to Toodyay was proposed and the original townsite, which had by this time declined substantially, became "West Toodyay".
In 1861, Western Australia's notorious bushranger Moondyne Joe was imprisoned in Toodyay for stealing a horse, but escaped. After a series of crimes and prison terms he was on the run again, returning to Toodyay in 1865 to steal supplies for an attempt to escape overland to South Australia. The annual Moondyne Festival is a light-hearted celebration of this darker side of Toodyay's history.
The Newcastle Gaol, in Clinton Street, completed in 1864, was in use as a state prison until 1909. It is now preserved as a heritage building and tourist attraction, the Old Gaol Museum. The old gaol:
In 1870, a steam-driven flour mill, Connor's Mill, was built on Stirling Terrace by George Hasell. The mill was also used to generate electricity in the early 20th century. Saved from demolition in the 1970s, and restored to demonstrate the milling process and machinery, the mill now forms the museum section of the Toodyay Visitor Centre.
Some of the buildings are also listed on the Australian Heritage Database. They include the Freemasons Hotel (built 1861), the Victoria Hotel (late 1890s), and Old Unwin's Store on Stirling Terrace, and Butterly's Cottage (ca 1870) on Harper Road. This is the old court house which is now used as Shire of Toodyay offices:
Being an hour's drive from Perth, Toodyay is a popular venue for tourists. A picturesque circuit of Toodyay Road through Gidgegannup, Toodyay, Chittering Valley and Great Northern Highway attracts motorists and motorcyclists. (We have driven around these areas many times over past years and it is always most enjoyable. You can spend a full day just checking out the historical places and enjoying the lovely scenery. Years ago I had a truly great Australian meal of t-bone steak, mushrooms, chips and salad. One of the best meals I've ever eaten). Other destinations include olive oil farms, lavender farms, holiday retreats, hotels, restaurants, caravan parks, an emu farm and an archery park.
A major bushfire, blamed on collapsed power lines, broke out at about noon on 29th December, 2009 after outdoor temperatures had reached 45.4ºC (113.7ºF) and the 'catastrophic' fire risk rating had been used for the first time in Western Australia. Areas to the south, south-west and east of Toodyay were affected, with more than 3,000 hectares (7,410 acres) of forest burnt and 38 homes lost.