Discovery Centre, Marlston Hill Lookout,
Big Swamp, King Cottage, Koombana Bay,
Buildings of note
Old railway station 1904, Leschenault
Homestead, King Cottage Museum
Lighthouse, Former Boys School - Stephen and Arthur Sts. 1885.
Residency - Stirling & Moore Sts. 1896, Rose Hotel
- Victoria & Wellington
Sts. 1865. Old Police Station - Stephen & 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.
Rocky Point lighthouse (featured on an Australia Post
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.’
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, al
things silent and neglected.'
James Stirling's huge land grant in the area which stifled
'...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 Geographe. 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
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
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
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
Despite the rise in crime, the area benefited from the increase in public
works that accompanied the convicts arrival.
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
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 lawful activities.
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
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
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. 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.
The port facilities continued to grow and in 1903 the breakwater was
developed. Bunbury became a city in 1979.
The Old Railway Station
Many people start their exploration of the area from the old railway station
which now houses the Tourist Bureau 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 turn on the last century.
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 & Moore Sts. 1904. Rose Hotel, Victoria & Wellington
Sts. 1865. Old Police Station, Stephen & 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Self drive day tours from Bunbury
Bunbury is a good place to base yourself and take time to
have a good look at the surrounding area. The following day trips can be
done easily starting and finishing at Bunbury or Australind.