The name Gwelup comes from an Aboriginal word meaning "to shift position", referring to the lake. It was used mainly for market gardens until the 1970s, when it was transformed into a residential suburb.
Referring to a small swamp located within the southern portion of the suburb, the name Gwelup has been derived from the Aboriginal word "Gwelgannow" meaning "to shift position." Lake Gwelup is referred to as the lake that shifts position.
The land near the lake was first granted to Thomas Mews in 1831, passing through several owners before being acquired by Henry Bull, of Sydney, in 1891. Bull subdivided Gwelup in 1898 and 1899 but development was relatively slow and the land was mainly used for market gardens in the early years.
From the 1970s, Gwelup transformed from a rural area to a modern residential suburb and only a few market gardens along North Beach Road remain as a reminder of earlier times.
The type and style of residential dwellings within Gwelup varies considerably, ranging from early market garden cottages to recently designed two-storey developments. New subdivisions, including Karrinyup Waters and Settlers Green, contain modern, architecturally-designed homes while along North Beach Road there are remnants of older, rural-style housing, which is gradually being renovated or replaced by new developments.
Gwelup has significant areas of public open space scattered throughout the residential area, offering meeting places and recreational opportunities for the local and wider community.
Lake Gwelup preserves a significant part of the natural environment and its position was first recorded by the Land Department in 1878 where, on early surveys, it was marked as a swamp. The lake allows for passive recreation and there are also tennis courts and cycle paths located on the Lake Gwelup Reserve.
The Gwelup Neighbourhood Shopping Centre provides for daily shopping needs and local students are catered for at Lake Gwelup Primary School.
In addition to Lake Gwelup itself, another significant landmark is the Careniup Swamp, first recorded as part of a survey in 1844. The name Karrinyup appears to have been derived from this swamp, located on the northern boundary of Gwelup.