Before the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, Miri was a very quiet place made up of a few straggling huts by a river. Following the exploratory drilling of a well on a hilltop in 1910, oil was struck. Located on Canada Hill, this was Miri's (and Malaysia's) first oil well - now affectionately dubbed the "Grand Old Lady" - and it remained in production until 1972.
The Miri oil boom was in full swing by 1917, with foreign labour from around the world coming in to support local manpower. And the town gradually developed: in the early 1920s, it already had 40 shop-houses, one English school and one Chinese school. By 1929, Miri had been designated as the administrative centre for the entire Baram region. In the 1960s, oil exploration expanded to encompass offshore operations. When oil production reached 95,000 barrels a day, the national oil company Petronas chose the Lutong area as the hub of Miri¡¯s oil production activities.
The economic boom of the 1980s and early 1990s influenced major changes in Miri: many new suburbs were created; housing construction increased; various public amenities were built; multi-storey commercial complexes and international class hotels were constructed. This period also witnessed a significant growth of the tourism industry, with a rapidly increasing number of tourists from everywhere coming to Miri, which became known as Sarawak's Northern Gateway. In 2005, Miri officially acquired "City" status, hence becoming the second city - after Kuching - in Sarawak.
Miri is the ideal starting point to four of Sarawak¡¯s famous national parks: Niah National Park, Gunung Mulu National Park, Lambir Hills National Park and Similajau National Park. Other interesting destinations such as the Bario Highlands and upper Baram River are also accessible from Miri, as is Loagan Bunut, a unique expanding and contracting lake that is a bird watcher's paradise. Sarawak's ancient rainforests are rich in flora and fauna with a high degree of endemism; in other words, the species are found nowhere else in the world.