Rich in history, Busselton is the largest town – and one of the prettiest – in the Margaret River region. Plenty have made the seachange here from Perth and you’ll be tempted, too. Loved by all who visit, it’s a beautiful place, you’ll return to time and again.
A resort town with every amenity one could require – hospital included – Busselton retains a coastal-country charm. The wonderful shoreline is peaceful for those seeking some solitude; during the off season, you may even find you have the beautiful clean beach to yourself.
Whether its walking, basking in the sun, swimming, fishing, snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, diving, kayaking or sailing, the crystal-clear waters of sheltered Geographe Bay lend themselves to every kind of calm activity. At sunset, you can often spot dolphins chasing schools of fish along the foreshore.
But there’s also plenty of action, if that’s your craving. Known as the event capital of the southwest, Busselton hosts weekend markets, film and music festivals, ocean swims, triathlons, a car rally and more.
1. Try the region’s finest cabernet, shiraz, chardonnay, sauv blanc and semillon on a wine tour of the cellar doors.
2. Take a whale- or dolphin-watching cruise at Geographe Bay and experience the humpback whale song from September to December.
3. ONLY IN WA The Ludlow Tuart Forest is the largest tuart forest in the world, an awe-inspiring place for a shady walk.
4. Pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, plus plants,jams, preserves, books and more at the Saturday Vasse Markets on Karloop Road.
5. Step back in time at the ArtGeo Cultural Precinct and Old Post Office Tearooms, within walking distance of the Busselton Jetty.
6. Mountain bike along Secret Witcher, a fantastic network
of bike trails. Then try the Burns Track, The Loop to Nowhere, Straun’s Trail and
the Coca-Cola Track.
7. Stroll about the grounds of Wonnerup House, a magnificently restored homestead with lawns and gardens set on several acres of farmland.
8. Get wet – try deep-sea fishing, swimming, snorkelling, diving and beach fishing in the calm waters of Geographe Bay.
9. Devour a delicious gelato on the heritage-listed Busselton Jetty. It’s pretty as a picture and perfect for a long, quiet stroll.
10. Catch the train along the Busselton Jetty to the Underwater Observatory,
to see up to 300 species of colourful fish.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
As well as the Margaret River Region’s biggest major resorts, which line the foreshore, Busselton offers holidaymakers all manner of accommodation, from camping and quaint bed-and-breakfasts, to boutique hotels, holiday rental homes and self-catering apartments. Book your accommodation well in advance of the SunSmart Ironman WA and SunSmart Festival of Triathlon, and also if you plan on staying over school holidays and long weekends.
TIP Busselton is usually overrun with teenagers during Leavers’ Week in November. If that’s not your thing, best to avoid visiting then.
Visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver for accommodation details.
An example of the fish at the Underwater Observatory.
THE BUSSELTON JETTY UNDERWATER OBSERVATORY
The undersea wonderland at the end of Busselton Jetty is not to be missed – and it’s all down to a wonderful combination of natural circumstance and man-made convenience.
The Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. Built more than 150 years ago, it extends 1841m out to sea, making it the perfect construction to meet one of Australia’s most incredible natural phenomena.
Named after the Dutch merchant ship Leeuwin (which explored the WA coast in 1622), and stretching for 5500km, the Leeuwin Current is the world’s longest continuous coastal current. The amazing thing about it is that it shouldn’t even be there. According to scientists, because it’s a surface current running along a western coast in the southern hemisphere, it should flow north to the equator. Instead, by a lucky anomaly, the Leeuwin Current flows south, from the North West Cape, over the Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay coasts, before curling eastward around Cape Leeuwin and heading all the way down to Tasmania.
As the current flows south, it brings with it all sorts of marine life, a fact that has had a massive impact on Australia’s marine ecosystems, affecting climate, fisheries and the lifecycles of undersea species.
In the shallow Geographe Bay, the tropical water carried by the current stays warm enough for fish and corals to survive all year round, and that’s a fact that the Underwater Observatory at the end of Busselton Jetty takes full advantage of, providing the ideal place to view Australia’s greatest artificial reef... without getting wet. Eight metres below the surface of the ocean, in a waterproof chamber, you can view thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish swimming freely around the jetty’s pylons. You might even see a scuba diver or two.
There’s a cute, open-sided train that takes passengers to the end of the jetty, or you can take a lovely long walk and enjoy the ocean view.
To learn more about the Leeuwin Current, visit marinewaters.fish.wa.gov.au.
The fastest way to get to the observatory is on the jetty train (photography Busselton Jetty).
DO AND SEE
If you’d like to catch fish rather than look at them, there are plenty off the Busselton Jetty before dawn, but they also bite at dusk. Mulloway, herring, tailor, gardies, King George whiting and samson fish can be hooked halfway down the jetty after the gazebo, while pink snapper, bonito and big sharks can be caught in deeper waters towards the end of the jetty (just before the sanctuary, which sits at the very end). In the evening, grab a torch and go squidding or crabbing. Deep-sea fishing charters are also available, and have excellent catch rates.
TIP A plethora of fish can be caught off the Busselton Jetty and beaches – ask
locals for the best spots.
Busselton Beach (photography Ben Reynolds).
Swimming, snorkelling and diving
Water babies are spoilt here – there’s 20km of snorkel-friendly beach in calm, clear waters, home to sea life such as coral and sponges, schools of yellow fin, teeny porcupine fish, extraordinary pineapple fish, rays, octopi and cuttlefish. Charters run out to Four Mile Reef and Bull Eye (a secret section of Four Mile Reef) and some offer night dives so you can see the coral polyps filter feed. The Coral Gardens, 30 minutes out, have the largest plate corals in the southwest. Depending on the season, annoying stingers are often found in the shallows, so wear a rashie to avoid being stung.
Walk, ride, push
With footpaths stretching from Port Geographe to Point Dalling, the 31km Busselton to Dunsborough bicycle path is almost completely flat, and takes in the awesome views of the coastline. The shared path is great for bikes, prams and wheelchairs. A highlight for the kids is riding across the 45m bridge spanning the Toby Inlet. Pack your walking shoes because this is one path you’ll probably want to do every morning.
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Ellie Faranda, Busselton
I like to go out and about shopping down Fig Tree Lane – home to 25 boutique and speciality shops and cafes – then have a bite to eat at one of our many restaurants down Queen Street.
EAT AND DRINK
Along and off Bussell Highway, you’ll find a mix of cafes, restaurants and bars. For takeaway burgers, pizzas or Asian cuisine, keep heading south.
Queen Street is the main thoroughfare of Busselton, running from the highway down to the Esplanade, with healthy cafes and a gelateria. Wander down Kent Street and Fig Tree Lane for more cafes, a bakery and gourmet deli.
Queen Street, Prince Street and Kent Street are the places to be at night. As well as hotels and pubs, there are wine bars and restaurants, plus cool new bar The Fire Station.
For something special on date night, there are two upmarket eateries on the Esplanade near the jetty, offering stunning views of Geographe Bay. Or, for a cheaper alternative (and a romantic classic), grab some fish ’n’ chips and find
a spot along the Busselton Jetty. The view is breathtaking.
DON’T MISS Whicher Ridge Wines is one of James Halliday’s five-star wineries, a gem hidden in the heart of the Whicher Range. It’s worth the drive south to visit the vineyard, boutique winery, cellar door and wine sensory garden – and, of course, to try the award-winning wines.
Quirky shops and bustling cafes line the main street. (photography Geographe Bay Tourism Association).
Stop in for Devonshire tea or a homemade sausage roll at Wonky Windmill Farm & Eco Park, where you can learn about farm life, and feed an array of friendly animals, including kangaroos.
Climb to the top of the Climbtastic rock wall on the Busselton Foreshore, and try out the air bungee jumpers.
From December to February, look out for Aquatastic, featuring water inflatables and a special kids-only zone area, next to the jetty.
The Busselton Archery & Family Fun Park offers archery under shady trees, with a practice area for novices, plus mini-golf, ozzi bug car rides and a bungee run.
Sharna Kearney, Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association
DRIVE ALONG AN
Wonnerup Beach has kilometres
of sand and clear waters – great for fishing in the cooler months and swimming in the warmer ones. It’s one of the few beaches
in the region you can drive along (4WD only), so take a set of Maxtrax and a packed lunch!
You can’t come to Busselton without having a picnic or a shady barbecue under the magnificent pine trees on the lush lawns of foreshore, overlooking the jetty
and Geographe Bay.
BUSSELTON - DUNSBOROUGH CYCLE PATH
There is nothing more invigorating than an earlymorning stroll (or jog!) along
the cycle path. All roads lead to great coffee – try the Goose or Equinox at the Foreshore end, or Stilts at the Broadwater end. Accommodation along
Busselton’s ‘resort strip’ has direct access to the path, which is just as nice in the evenings as the sun sets over the ocean. Stop in for a local vino or craft beer
along the way.
The ArtGeo Cultural Complex on Queen Street is a hidden gem, where you can lose yourself for hours. Originally built in 1856, it is one of the oldest buildings
in WA. Dotted among the gaol cells, stables, sergeants’ quarters and courtroom is a treasure trove of locally produced art, including turned wood, jewellery,
glass, paintings, sculptures and porcelain. With two studios on site, you can see artists at work, or stop for a coffee and bite at the Old Post Office Tearooms.
THE FIRE STATION
One of my favourite places to head out in Busselton is The Fire Station. Built in 1936, it actually functioned as a fire station right up until 1990. Reincarnated as
a small bar, you’ll find local and rare seasonal brews on tap, and organic and natural wines by the glass. The cider-braised mussels and pulled pork sliders are pretty special, or, for a good value midweek meal, Tuesday night’s pizza and pint is pretty hard to top.
Southbound Festival (photography Court McAllister).
THE FESTIVAL OF BUSSELTON
A highlight of the summer season, this two-week event has plenty of free activities for people all ages to enjoy. A deckchair-cinema screening starts the festivities, with a fireworks display and concert wrapping things up. Jan.
There are festivals, and then there’s Southbound, the legendary way to kickstart the new year. With headline acts, comedy, markets and food stalls, Southbound is the one music festival not to miss. Camp onsite for the full festival experience. Jan.
THE BUSSELTON JETTY SWIM
Solo swimmers and relay teams take to the water for the 3.6km swim around Busselton Jetty, with two days of entertainment, activities and family-friendly fun. Feb.
Plane spotters will be soaring with delight as more than 100 aircraft, including 30 rare planes, take to the skies. There are also vintage and classic car displays, restored military vehicles, aviation-related stalls and hangar displays, plus entertainment for the kids. Mar.
QUIT FOREST RALLY
Barnard Park hosts the best rally drivers in the country during the Quit Forest Rally, WA’s high-octane round of the Australian Rally Championship. Stages take place around Busselton and Nannup and it’s free to attend. Mar/Apr.
BUSSELTON FESTIVAL OF TRIATHLON
Witness a gruelling three days of competition, including the challenging Busselton IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon featuring a 1.9km swim, 90.1km bike ride and 21.1km run; plus the SunSmart Kids Triathlon for seven to 15-year-olds. May.
Busselton Jetty Swim.
Busselton hosts CinéfestOZ, a film festival that showcases and celebrates Australian and French films over five dazzling days, with premieres, screenings and gala events. Aug.
BUSSELTON WILDFLOWER EXHIBITION
No need to go bush – the Uniting Church Busselton’s annual Wildflower Exhibition is a 90-year tradition, featuring some of the most beautiful flowers growing wild in the southwest corner of WA. Oct.
SUNSMART IRONMAN WESTERN AUSTRALIA BUSSELTON
The SunSmart Ironman WA has forged a reputation as the place to achieve a personal best, thanks to the flat and fast course comprising a 3.8km swim around the iconic Busselton Jetty, a 180km ride through Ludlow Tuart Forest, and a 42.2km run to finish things off. Dec.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
Busselton is an easy drive south of Perth that takes little more than two hours.
South West Coachlines and TransWA offer bus transfers from Perth to the southwest.