No longer simply a pitstop en route from Perth to Margaret River, Bunbury has reinvented itself in recent years and become one of Western Australia's holiday hot spots. Here's a checklist of top things to do in town and the surrounding region.
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 and restaurants, colourful street art, innovative collaborations, and make-overs of longtime favourite attractions. And it’s all less than two hours’ drive from Perth.
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1. Enjoy family fun at the Foreshore and Koolambidi Woola
Bunbury’s already gorgeous location on Koombana Bay has been further enhanced in the last little while by an upgrade to the Koombana Foreshore. Hugging the beachfront is a sweeping walkway, modern public playground (with a zip line!), outdoor kitchens, and a busy cafe. Those travelling with young kids will probably end up at the beach and playground numerous times.
Just a 10-minute walk from the Foreshore towards the CBD (along Koombana Drive) will bring you to the brand spanking new Koolambidi Woola youth precinct. The name means a celebration of young people in the Noongar First People’s language, and there’s plenty here to keep tweens and teens entertained. The precinct features a multi-sports court, skate park, mini golf course (BYO putter and balls), beach climbing net, and dedicated parkour areas. All are free to use — and if you have to ask what that last one is, trust us, you’re far too old to take part!
2. Meet the locals at the Dolphin Discovery Centre
Depending on the time of year there are up to 160 bottlenose dolphins living in Koombana Bay, and the not-for-profit Dolphin Discovery Centre at the far end of the Foreshore has them on speed dial. The centre recently underwent a multi-million dollar revamp of its own, and the result is seriously impressive. Drop in to learn everything there is to know about these adorable marine mammals — and quite probably see them in the flesh. Pods of dolphins regularly come right in to the shoreline in front of the centre. If so, a bell rings and everyone rushes down to the water for a meet and greet.
3. Check out the street art
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.
4. View larger than life art at Wellington Dam
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.
5. Do a tasting at Cuprum Distillery
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.
6. Shake it up with a cocktail
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 garnished with fairy floss!) 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.
7. See what’s cooking at Market Eating House
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.
8. Indulge your sweet tooth at Taffy’s
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.
9. Visit Gnomesville
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.
10. Pick fruit straight off the tree
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.
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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
About the writer
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.