Many people start their exploration of the area from the old railway station which now houses the Visitor Centre and the bus depot. Although the original building was burned down,
the current structure dates from 1904 and is an excellent example of architecture of the period.
As with many places, Bunbury's heritage architecture is being spoiled by the development of modern buildings (monuments to official stupidity), but the Stirling Street Heritage
Precinct remains largely intact. Little has changed here since the early 1900s.
Leschenault Homestead is one of the oldest houses in Bunbury and was constructed over a period of years from 1844 to 1874. Early construction consisted of wattle, newspapers and
whitewash with pit sawn timber. Despite the importance of this structure it remains in private hands and is not open to the public.
There are many historically (if not architecturally) significant buildings in the area including King Cottage Museum and the rather striking lighthouse which guards the basalt
rocks near Rocky Point. The lighthouse dates from 1959 but a join about 10 meters up indicates where new construction work was done on 1971. The light sits 25 meters above the
ground and has a range of 27 kilometres. Other buildings of historic interest are: Former Boys School, Stephen and Arthur Sts. 1885. Residency, Stirling and Moore Sts. 1904. Rose
Hotel, Victoria and Wellington Sts. 1865. Old Police Station, Stephen and Wittenoom Sts. 1905.
One of the most unusual features of the state's entire south west are the mangroves which sit very close to the centre of Bunbury. The mangrove stand is quite large and is the
only one you will find south of Shark Bay many miles to the north.
Bunbury has some, what can only be described as, unfortunate architecture. It is not a pretty place and the coast is dominated by commercial wharves and ugly buildings.
There are few attractive heritage buildings in the town which is strewn with unimaginative box like shops and commercial premises. The streets are congested with traffic
and parking in the town centre is difficult at best.
Self drive day tours from Bunbury
1. Bunbury - Australind - Brunswick - Harvey -
Yarloop - Harvey - Myalup Beach -
Binningup Beach - return to Bunbury.
2. Bunbury - Dardanup - Wellington Mills - Forest Discovery Centre - King Jarrah - return to Bunbury.
3. Bunbury - Wellington Dam - Collie - Harris Dam - return to Bunbury.
4. Bunbury - Boyanup - Donnybrook - Balingup - Donnybrook - Capel - return to Bunbury.
'Bunbury is, in many respects, one of the most favoured spots in Western Australia. A charming and easily reached health resort, not merely for the denizens of the
capital, but for the toilers on the goldfields, wearied of the dust and drought of the parched plains of the interior.'
Twentieth Century Impressions of W.A. 1901
Just 49 years earlier Rev. Wollaston had written very differently:
'The whole aspect of the place to me most melancholy. My former house neglected and rapidly falling into disrepair. Garden, flowers, all done away with - tenanted by
C. Ommaney alone - who keeps a daily school but in such a way that the government, I am sure, will not long continue to employ him, all things silent and neglected.'
Wollaston also wrote of James Stirling's
huge land grant in the area which stifled development:
'...and so the government in its wisdom allowed all the good land at the back to an insensible extent to be monopolized by a single grant. How can this town rise and be supported?'
The area was first sighted in 1803 by the French explorer
aboard the ship Casuarina. Freycinet named the area after Leschenault de la Tour, a botanist on the expedition.
A British party from the Swan River Colony (Perth), led by
Dr. Collie, explored the area in 1829 and a town plan was first drawn up in
1836 with Thomas Watson starting to survey the site in 1838. The town was named after
Lt. Henry William St Pierre Bunbury.
Bunbury described the area in his journal as follows:
'...we soon got into a more open flat country lightly timbered with Tooats, with abundance of grass and not many bushes, and saw a thick Tea tree swamp about half a mile on our right
forming the head of the estuary, upon which we soon arrived ourselves by a well beaten path through a most rich and luxuriant crop of grass and sow-thistles'.
A military outpost was established at the entrance to the Leschenault Inlet to protect settlers from attack by Aboriginal groups. As no settlers arrived the post was abandoned and the men
transferred to Augusta.
In 1838 John Scott was engaged by James Stirling to establish and manage a farm on Stirling's grant just south of the town site. 3 years later there were at least 400 settlers
living in the district.
One of the first industries in the area was whaling, as the migration path of large groups of whales ran right down the West Australian coast.
The Americans had a well established whaling fleet and often visited West Australian waters between December and March. Although they competed with the local whaling industry they were
mostly made welcome and are known to have traded quite extensively with the local population including some smuggling of alcohol to avoid local duties. The Americans are known to have
visited the coast between 1792 and the late 1870s when they slowly petered out.
Eventually there was a need to protect settlers from attacks by local Aborigines, but if the transmission of disease, that was unavoidable, is not included in Aboriginal deaths caused
by Europeans, then far more Aborigines died at the hands of other Aborigines than died at the hands of the new settlers.
In 1851 convict labourers arrived in the district and there was a corresponding rise in the crime rate, especially in regard to theft. Several convicts tried to escape but all were
re-captured and placed in irons. By 1854 almost 30% of the areas population were convicts. If ticket of leave men are included in these figures then the total would have been more than 40%.
Law and order became a real issue as even the T.O.L. men were prone to re-offend and some 50+ % of then did just that. In some years during the introduction of convict labour almost 90%
of the crime was related to the newcomers.
Despite the rise in crime, the area benefited from the increase in public works that accompanied the convicts arrival.
Early Bunbury has been described as 'a place of grog selling, tobacco dumps and watered down spirits. Fines for drunken behaviour, shooting unbranded cattle, death be misadventure,
a priest who performed marriages who had no license to do so, the odd murder and even one man who sold his wife to another for ten pounds.'
This was the strange environment that was to produce a young John Forrest.
Bunbury was dominated by a social elite in its early years and the anointed few attempted to run the small town like a private kingdom. Whenever there was some opposition to their 'rule'
it was easy to quash it as members of the family were magistrates who could make some very questionable rulings over various disputes. Eventually there was a full scale enquiry, but as
is usually the case, little was done besides a verbal rebuke.
Clifton, Eliot and Lovegrove continued to run the town with a very heavy handed approach making sure others obeyed the letter of the law while being very lax about their own less than
By the 1890s Bunbury was still very much a backwater. The old guard of the town had either died out or moved on to other places and changes in the political scene were soon to be followed
by a change in the whole nature of the town.
In 1842 St. Marks Church was constructed from timber salvaged from a wrecked American whaling ship (it remains as the oldest church in W.A.) and by 1893 there were already rail links to
Boyanup and Perth. The town grew steadily with assistance from gold miners who liked to come down and vacation on the coast. As a result
many hotels and guest houses were constructed.
By the turn of the century the shire had a population of almost 3000. With the opening of the railway in 1894, Bunbury would see a dramatic period of change and development.
In the years before the Great War, Bunbury's progress was steady with a number of public projects being completed and the railway and port being upgraded.
WWI brought about an inevitable fall in population and a stagnation of development. The end of the war saw new optimism and a boom period with the export of timber, wool coal
and fresh produce bringing a level of prosperity to the town.
Then came the 1930s depression, WWII and another period of boom after the second war. Much of this was reflected in other areas through out the state.
Bunbury was once a major grain handling port but shipments these days are mostly alumina and woodchips.
Much of the town's success came from its location and port facilities. The port facilities continued to grow from the early construction of a breakwater in 1903.
Bunbury became a city in 1979.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
On April 23rd 1903 the Norwegian ship Langard dropped anchor off Bunbury and it was discovered that she was carrying bubonic plague. A quarantine station was eventually
set up but reports indicate that several people died before the disease had run its course.
Terrorism comes to sleepy Bunbury
On July 19th 1976 two masked armed intruders crept in to the port area in the dark of night. They took the security guard captive and began planting explosives.
What had prompted this act' It turned out that these two rather disturbed individuals were protesting about wood chipping and the export of wood chips from the port.
Three separate charges were planted but thankfully only one went off. Even so it was enough to send debris hurtling through the air as much as 3 kilometres.
The two men were eventually tracked down and were sentenced to eight years in prison.
Mangroves, Dolphin Discovery Centre, Marlston Hill Lookout, Basaltic Rock, Big Swamp, King Cottage, Koombana Bay, Bunbury Show.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Old railway station 1904, Leschenault Homestead, King Cottage Museum 1867, Lighthouse, Former Boys School - Stephen and Arthur Sts. 1885. Residency - Stirling and Moore Sts. 1896, Rose Hotel - Victoria and Wellington Sts. 1865. Old Police Station - Stephen and Wittenoom Sts. 1905, Prince of Wales hotel 1882, Burlington hotel 1900, Convent of mercy 1897, Morgan's Inn 1852, St. Marks Anglican church 1842..
Tuart Walk, Maiden's Walk, Manea Park, Big Swamp Walk, Mangrove Walk, Eaton Foreshore, Leschenault Peninsula, Crooked Brook, Bibbulmun Track.
FAMOUS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
State : Bunbury / Collie-Preston / Murray-Wellington
Federal : Forrest
Postcode : 6084
Local Government : City of Bunbury