The coastal city of Bunbury in South West WA is experiencing a surge; a renaissance, if you will.
Once a largely industrial port town, today you’ll discover a swag of new bars, exciting restaurants, colourful street art, innovative collaborations, and make-overs of longtime favourite places and attractions. And it’s all less than two hours’ drive from Perth.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Bunbury.
Even on a blustery day, Bunbury’s location on Koombana Bay delivers an inviting waterfront. The Koombana Foreshore has had a major make-over and is wowing residents and visitors alike with its upgraded facilities. Hugging the beachfront is a flat walkway, modern playground (with a zip line), outdoor kitchens, cafes, and the Sunset Bar at the Dolphin Discovery Centre — a top spot for sundowners from Friday to Sunday.
If seeing dolphins in the wild is on your bucket list, here’s your chance. Depending on the season there are up to 160 bottlenose dolphins in the bay, and the not-for-profit Dolphin Discovery Centre offers several ways to meet them. To begin, walk through the interpretive centre and learn everything there is to know about these adorable sea creatures. You’ll also get to view other aquatic animals (including one feisty octopus!). You can book a dolphin cruise, but the stars of the show regularly come right in to the shoreline in front of the centre. If so, a bell rings and everyone rushes down to the beach for a glimpse.
Bunbury is a colourful and vibrant place, and its 40+ pieces of public art are the evidence to prove it. Download the ‘Rediscover Street Art’ map from the Visit Bunbury Geographe website and pound the pavement to see murals by Stormie Mills, Fintan Magee, Beastman and many other talented street artists. If this gets you in the mood to see more creativity, head to the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) — just look for the pretty pink building on Wittenoom Street (a former convent). The gallery is open daily and offers free entry.
A love of large-scale murals will make the 45-minute drive east to the town of Collie well worth the effort. It took Australian artist Guido van Helten three months to don the Wellington Dam with an 8,000-square-metre painting called Reflections. The work features images of Collie residents and is thought to be the world’s biggest dam mural. It forms part of the Collie Mural Trail, which includes various street art projects in the small coal-mining centre.
Walking into Cuprum’s giant distillery shed, it’s hard to know which sense to acknowledge first. Visually, the premise is all reclaimed materials and shiny copper (for distilling gin, vodka, and rum, flavoured with local native botanicals), while sweet and boozy on the nose. You won’t find this place on the beaten tourist path, but it’s worth seeking out. There are options to try and buy, and keep tabs on their website for upcoming events like gin masterclasses, ‘yin and gin’ yoga sessions, and evening tastings.
Small bar Lost Bills is another treat to find. Think exposed brick, comfy pillowed seats, neon lighting, a decor that oozes cool, and a chatty bartender. Along with classic cocktails like pina coladas and margaritas, there’s a handful of original concoctions to tempt you (including one that puts fairy floss on your drink!) Another option for a beverage is Bunbury’s first rooftop bar — Brooklyn 32 — which delivers stylish cocktails and a vibe worthy of any major metropolis. Drinks are flavoured with the seasons, so expect a menu change each quarter. Wine lovers, cider sippers, craft beer connoisseurs, and whisky drinkers are also well cared for.
Serving char-grilled and wood-fired fare, Market Eating House is one of the top spots to chow down in Bunbury. Do not leave town without doing dinner at this trendy, share-plate dining room (and if you’re eating alone, they’ll do half portions). Tip: the hummus and flatbread is to die for. You’ll need to book well in advance.
If dining here isn’t enough to satisfy your foodie obsession, book a cooking class with Chef Brenton and learn all his secrets.
Let the sea breeze blow you into Bunbury’s favourite lolly shop at least once during your stay. To ensure you catch Taffy’s candy makers pulling and packaging their famous saltwater taffy, drop by on the weekend (aim for 11am on Sundays). But if you don’t need the demo, any time is a good time to load up on chocolates, lollies, fudge and butter snap.
It may sound odd (or even creepy to some), but the forest of the Ferguson Valley — a 30-minute drive east of Bunbury — is home to more than 10,000 garden gnomes! Gnomesville is world-famous and a must-see-it-to-believe-it magical place. No one really knows how it all began, but the gnomes continue to multiply. You can help the community population grow by bringing a gnome from home or purchasing one from the Ferguson Valley Visitor Centre to release into the wild.
There’s nothing quite like crunching into an apple picked straight off the tree, and March to May is fruit-picking season in the orchards of Donnybrook — 40-or-so kilometres from Bunbury along the South Western Highway. Whether you’re travelling as a couple and looking for a romantic picnic spot, or as a family in search of a healthy activity, put fruit picking high on your holiday to-do list. The countryside is exceptionally photogenic, so be prepared to take lots of pics to share on Instagram.
For more information, visit www.visitbunburygeographe.com.au.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Bunbury? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Tourism Western Australia. Additional images: Bigstock
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding a plane — or jumping out of one.