Garden Island is in Western Australia. The Royal Australian Navy's largest fleet base, also known as "Fleet Base West", is located on the shores of Careening Bay, on the southeastern section of Garden Island, facing Cockburn Sound.
Garden Island is about 5km offshore and is a slender island about 10 km long and 1.5 km wide. At the end of the last ice age, the sea level rose, cutting the island off from the mainland. For the last 7 thousand years the island has existed in relative isolation.
The island was marked but not named on Dutch maps in 1658, even though there were three Dutch ships in the area that year: the Waekende Boey under Captain S. Volckertszoon, the Elburg under Captain J. Peereboom and the Emeloort under Captain A. Joncke. However, it was outlined on the charts of the 'Southland'', which were published after Willem de Vlamingh visited the region in 1697.
Jacques Felix Emmanuel, Baron Hamelin was the Captain of the Naturaliste one of three French ships that visited in 1801 to 1803. He named the island Ile Buache after Jean Nicolas Buache, a marine cartographer in Paris.
Captain Stirling returned the same year to take up his grant of 100,000 acres plus any livestock remaining from his previous visit. He renamed it Garden Island and the first settlement of 450 people was named Sulpher Town. Sulpher Bay and Careening Bay were important anchorage and cargo disembarkation points for ships until 1897 when Fremantle inner harbour was completed.
In 1907 Peet & Co subdivided 83 blocks in Careening Bay. After World War I it became a holiday resort with wooden cottages erected in the bay. During World War II gun batteries were located on Garden Island and the secret unit (Z-Force) operated and trained there for their clandestine raids against the Japanese. Following the war it became a holiday resort again and the home of the RAN Reserve Fleet.
In 1966 a feasibility study was began into establishment of a naval support facility on the island, and in 1969 it was endorsed by the Federal Government. Construction of the 4.3 km causeway began in 1971 and completed in 1973. The Naval Support Facility was completed in 1978 and HMAS Stirling formally commissioned in the same year. HMAS Stirling is at present home to six frigates and all submarines of the Australian Submarine Squadron which has its headquarters located at the base. A Clearance Diving Team is another of the units based at HMAS Stirling, which also has substantial training facilities.
Since completion of the facility, public access to the island has been restricted to daylight hours, and those areas open to the public are only accessible by sea via private boat under curfew conditions.