Just 90 minutes from Perth, Bunbury is one of the state’s largest regional cities, and the central hub of the Geographe region. Although the city oozes a cosmopolitan atmosphere, with street art and funky cafes dominating the CBD, it’s the stunning coastline, waterways and resident dolphins that will take you by surprise.
Bunbury is a great place to take a break from your journey through Australia’s South West. There are great accommodation options and plenty of unique things to do.
Surrounded on three sides by water, it’s the land side that gives Bunbury its little bit of country charm.
To the north, sitting in the foothills en route from Perth, is Harvey. The scenery is lovely here, dotted with orchards, dairy farms, natural bush and a couple of huge dams.
One of the most amazing towns of the Geographe region is Collie. A mining town with loads of history, it’s near Wellington National Park, where stunning waterways, natural swimming pools, white-water rafting, walking
and mountain biking trails draw outdoor enthusiasts.
The historic Dardanup sits to the east of Bunbury. A quaint small town with fifteen heritage sites, it acts as the gateway of the Ferguson Valley, a sub-region of the Geographe Wine Region that is fast becoming known for its food and wine, ranging from great to superb.
Further south is Donnybrook, another idyllic little town situated in the midst of orchard and wine country. Capel is found to the south of Bunbury, on the way to Busselton. A farming community, this town has a great cafe and bakery. On the seaside is one of the South West’s pioneering wineries, and the stunning Peppermint Grove Beach, full of holiday houses.
1. Wade knee-deep in the calm waters, take an eco-cruise, or swim with the wild (yet curious) bottlenose dolphins in Koombana Bay.
2. Harvey Dam, Honeymoon Pool and Wellington National Park offer great picnic spots, with amazing scenery, great walks and free barbecues.
3. Discover the growing range of galleries, wineries and breweries in the Ferguson Valley. Time your visit for an art, wine and beer event.
4. Hire a kayak and explore the Leschenault Inlet in Australind. Teeming with bird life, dolphins and native animals, it is a nature lover’s ideal outing.
5. Try your hand at water sports, with water-skiing at Lake Stockton, stand-up paddleboarding at Koombana Bay, kitesurfing, white-water rafting and more.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/Geographe.
Gnomesville (photography Elements).
DO AND SEE
Rest with a roo
Get up close to the animals at the Bunbury Wildlife Park. It more than lives up to its billing, the kangaroo experience is one of its best attractions, with a shady lawn paddock where you can feed, pat and just laze around with them.
Feast on art
Make your own art trail – enjoy a walk through Bunbury’s art gallery, take in street art in the CBD, then venture out into the surrounding region to private galleries, studios and winery exhibitions. A purpose-built gallery has just opened in Collie, and features a diverse range of artists.
If you like driving, you’re in the right region to go for a spin. Becoming known as the ‘Harvest Highway’, the South Western Highway winds its way through small country towns, past orchards with farmgate stalls, vineyards, and forests.
Take a trip to Gnomesville
Whether you have little people in tow or not, a visit to Gnomesville in Dardanup is a must (and often hilarious!). Something like 3000 gnomes have gathered at the junction of Ferguson and Wellington Mill roads. A perfect stop after wine- and beer-tasting in the Ferguson Valley.
Take a dip
Bordered on the west side by the Indian Ocean, the Geographe Region’s long, white sandy beaches are a trademark. Koombana Bay has calm waters for swimming, while the Indian Ocean is ideal for surfing and fishing, and the Leschenault Inlet is home to mangroves and waterbirds.
Let the little ones (and the not-so-little ones) run wild at the Donnybrook Apple Fun Park. It’s Australia’s largest free entry playground, with hours of fun, plus free barbecues and cafes either side.
The perfect day trip is to take a walk through the jarrah forest on trails by picturesque waterways, complete with rapids and natural swimming pools. Enjoy that picnic you packed, sizzle a sausage on the free barbecues or, better still, reward yourself with a nearby winery lunch, ranging from ploughman’s to a five-course degustation.
Bucket-list adventure: swim with dolphins
The Dolphin Discovery Centre in Koombana Bay, Bunbury is the only place in Australia where you can swim with wild dolphins. It’s an experience you will never forget. Not only can you wade, cruise or swim with the dolphins, you can also learn how to do your bit to conserve the population. Dolphin swim tours operate daily from October to April.
TIP In winter, fewer dolphins visit the centre’s interaction zone. Your best bet is early mornings in summer time.
Photography Troy Mayne.
Bunbury is known as the City of Three Waters with good reason – you’ll usually be on the beachfront or close to the beach when you stay in town. Out in the surrounding region, fresh country air and stunning views are plentiful. Lovely bed and breakfasts, bush retreats, cosy chalets and cottages blend well with the whole wine-region experience. The adventure camps and farm stays are awesome, especially if you are travelling in a group, or have kids in tow.
Marlston Waterfront, Bunbury.
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Carmel O’Brien, destination marketing officer, City of Bunbury
“Bunbury’s dining scene is slowly transforming. Once considered a small country town, it has an eclectic variety of food and wine options. From waterfront restaurants, to quirky cafes, the main street now offers tapas and wine bars, too. From Japanese to French, there is a flavour to suit everyone.”
EAT AND DRINK
Bunbury’s main street is pumping with new wines bars, restaurants and cafes. Victoria Street, also known by the locals as the Cappuccino Strip, is dotted with establishments which are cosy in the winter, and alfresco in warmer months.
When the fairy lights come on each night, restaurants, wine bars, pubs and nightclubs create a lively scene.
Other small eating precincts are at the Marlston Waterfront, Jetty Baths and Austral Parade, East Bunbury.
Venture out into the Geographe Wine Region and enjoy the fantastic food and drink. This region has a boutique feel, and more often than not the person behind the counter is the person behind the wine.
Treat yourself to a boutique food- and wine-lovers’ paradise out in the Ferguson Valley, with amazing home-style rustic winery food, wood-fired pizza, traditional French cuisine, and food matched perfectly with microbrewed beer. Hackersley’s five-course degustation menu will completely delight you.
Further south in the wine region is Donnybrook, with a few cellar doors. Just off the Bussell Highway on the way to Busselton, there are a number of cellar doors, including wine pioneer Capel Vale.
DON'T LEAVE TOWN WITHOUT... making sure you have a pocket full of coins, or a few fivers. There are so many farm gate stalls you’ll be filling the fruit bowl and vegie basket with the freshest of produce.
DISCOVER STREET ART FESTIVAL
Artists paint murals in Bunbury, culminating in an afterparty at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries. Jan.
HARVEY HARVEST FESTIVAL
Celebrate Harvey’s farming roots and Italian heritage. In true Italian style, the festival is themed around food, wine, markets and art. Mar.
COLLIE TO DONNYBROOK AND RETURN CYCLE
The state’s only handicap race, run since 1925. Spectators line the 104km course to cheer riders. Aug.
DARDANUP BULL AND BARREL FESTIVAL
Want to get some unique country exposure? You can’t go past this free event, with animals, entertainment and plenty of quirky things for the kids. Food and wine from the region is showcased, and don’t miss the goat racing and the giant bull, which ends the day going up in flames. Oct.
DONNYBROOK FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
Immerse yourself in food and wine, with celebrity chefs, wine and food tastings, licensed tent area, entertainment and activities for the kids. Entry is free. Nov.
A food and wine festival showcasing the fantastic produce from growing regions near Bunbury. Nov.
Bonking Frog (photography Elements).
BEFORE YOU GO
Many of the smaller wineries have varying opening days, so if you are planning on going out to the Ferguson Valley for wine tasting and lunch, phone ahead to avoid disappointment.
The Forrest Highway will get you to Bunbury the quickest – it is 172km, or a one-hour-and-45-minute drive – but it certainly isn’t as pretty (or as interesting) as the picturesque South Western Highway, which is 186km or about a two-hour-and-ten-minute drive. Coaches run five times per day and there are two rail services from Perth to Bunbury.