Our World Secret’s out: Is Bunbury our South West’s hidden gem?

Photo of Grace Millimaci

Perth city folk often overlook Bunbury on their way to more popular South West towns. 

But Bunbury is changing — for the better — which means you no longer need to bypass the port city when you reach its giant roundabout and turn left for Dunsborough and Margaret River.

Forrest Highway is a more enjoyable drive that has slashed travel time from Perth, so visitors can easily get away for a day trip or stay overnight to explore the surrounding area.

1. Dolphin Discovery Centre

Koombana Bay’s public beach has a relatively hidden treasure: it’s one of the best places in the world to interact with wild dolphins.

Its Dolphin Discovery Centre has undergone a nearly $13 million upgrade that will help attract more tourism dollars and inject new life into Bunbury and surrounding areas.

The protected bay means the animals visit all year; reaching 160 dolphins in summer before dropping to about 45 in winter, so your chances of engaging with them is high.

You can stop ignoring Bunbury - it's time to pay the city a visit because there is plenty to see and do and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. Duration: 01m51s

2. Bunbury Farmers Market

This is no ordinary market — it’s like IKEA for fresh produce and attracts 17,500 shoppers a week. 

The retail area of 1500sqm boasts about 7500 products ranging from peas in pods to pies; cherries to cheesecake; and steaks to seafood.

Owners Graham Heath and Kevin Opferkuch have a farming background and know their suppliers. They support more than 150 growers and insist on working with people with integrity, including their nearly 380 employees.

3. On the water

Bunbury is known as the City of Three Waters. There are waterways to suit everyone — from the ocean to the rivers and estuaries — with activities ranging from surfing and snorkelling to fishing, crabbing and paddleboarding.

4. Food scene

Cafe, bar and restaurant owners are putting a lot of thought into their menus, much to the delight of diners who are spoilt for choice. Take a stroll down Victoria Street in the city centre for a top-notch coffee.

5. Street art

From large murals on walls to smaller designs on electrical boxes, the street art adds colour to public spaces. It gives people a chance to admire and reflect on pieces created by local artists as well as those from other countries. It’s like an art gallery that never closes.

6. History

Learn more about Bunbury by digging into its past. Step back in time at Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre, head out on a guided Aboriginal culture tour with Troy Bennell, or just stroll around the city centre as part of a heritage walk and admire old stores and buildings that are being restored to their former glory.

7. Mangrove Boardwalk

The 200m-long boardwalk around Leschenault Inlet features spectacular mangroves and birdlife.

8. Wildlife

Bunbury Wildlife Park and Big Swamp Parkland offer an insight into animals that make this region pretty special.

9. Look up ... and down

Look beyond Marlston Hill Lookout Tower’s unusual shape to check out panoramic views or keep walking to the black-and-white chequered lighthouse.

10. Wineries

The wider Geographe area encompasses seven regions: Bunbury, Harvey, Collie River Valley, Ferguson Valley, Capel, Donnybrook-Balingup and Boyup Brook. Tourists based in Bunbury can easily access award-winning wineries and paddock-to-plate dining. There’s even a Geographe Alternative Wine Trail. Take a gnome and add it to the Gnomesville collection.

(Top image: Bunbury Mangrove Boardwalk. Picture: Grace Millimaci)

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