Last Updated on 3 December 2023 by Ariana Svenson
If you are looking for a different family get away to somewhere you haven’t been before these things to do in Bunbury will give you food for thought. Long bypassed for those heading down to Margaret River and a reputation as a grimy port city, Bunbury Western Australia has undergone a serious facelift in recent years. Gone is the “Bunno” of my youth, and replaced by a cosmopolitan city.
This incredible re-vitalization has come on various fronts. For art lovers the central Bunbury area is dotted with the bigger than life Mural Project 6230. The BRAG is known for its edgy world class art exhibitions and the BREC high quality live performances. Combine all of this with the charm of the Victoria Street eateries and Bunbury has an arty cosmopolitan feel that is unrecognizable to those who knew Bunbury 30 years ago.
During its history Bunbury was a wonderful seaside resort and considered ‘The Brighton of the Colony’. Later, it became more industrial than touristy as the port boomed. Nowadays the port mostly ships out woodchip and alumina.
Located just 2 hours from Perth, Bunbury for the weekend is an easy, stress free drive on new freeways. There are many things to do in Bunbury for families, including innovative playgrounds, white sand beaches and the world class Dolphin Discovery Centre. Hold on tight as we share in detail these Bunbury activities for your next weekend getaway.
** Who are we? We are Western Australian locals and I estimate we’ve visited Bunbury 6 times since the pandemic started. Last year our pre –Christmas getaway was to Bunbury. We spent 3 glorious days staying at the recently renovated Discovery Parks Bunbury Foreshore. On a foray south in late April 2023 we stayed at the Bunbury Hotel Koombana Bay, chosen for its indoor heated pool. We’ve stayed at the Bunbury Lighthouse before and loved their cute little pool but wanted to try something different this time. Therefore this list of things is one that comes from first hand experience!
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The Top Things to do in Bunbury WA
Meet Dolphins in the Wild (One of the Free Things to do in Bunbury)
Did you know you can see the wild Bunbury dolphins for free? We didn’t know this when we arrived but its free to go and sit on the beach in Koombana Bay and wait for the dolphins to arrive (look for the beach interaction zone). You can have a swim and the kids can build a sandcastle while you wait. There is a lookout platform where red shirted volunteers keep an eagle eye out for dolphins and make announcements to the public. This does not cost any money. The dolphins are wild and do not come to the shore every day. When they do, it is only from November to April.
(For reference we stayed in Bunbury for 3 days in December and did not see any wild dolphins)
Dolphin Discovery Centre
Having visited the Dolphin Discovery Centre pre-refurbishment I thought we would be in and out of the Discovery Centre in an hour or so! How very wrong I was! The brand new interpretive centre is a fully immersive experience with a lot of wonderful interactive displays that help you to learn about the local marine life, as well as the history of the Koombana Bay. This is definitely the main tourist attraction in Bunbury. If you are short of time, don’t miss this one.
The 360-degree Digital Dolphinarium allows you to go underwater without getting wet. For my kids there were a good number of interactive learning exhibits that helped them to learn about the local marine environment. In short, even if you don’t take a dolphin tour and are not lucky enough to see a dolphin in the interaction zone, you will still learn a lot and have a highly memorable experience.
The Dolphin Discovery Center Café has a cosy setting in winter and an open setting in summer to let the breeze in. The cafe is beachside alongside Koombana Bay. With a delicious looking breakfast menu, and a great lunch menu there is sure to be something for you. We were going to grab a mid-morning snack the day we visited the Discovery Centre but it looked pretty full we decided against it.
There is also an upstairs Sunset Bar. Grab your family and friends and come and enjoy the atmosphere of the Sunset Bar. Situated upstairs overlooking beautiful Koombana Bay, it’s a prime location to unwind from your week.
Dolphin Eco Cruise
If you want to see wild Bottlenose Dolphins then the dolphin eco cruise is probably for you. The 90 minute long cruise takes you around Koombana Bay. The guides will locate the local Bottlenose Dolphins and get you up close as possible. Check here for prices and availability.
Dolphin Swim Tour
Departing November to April, the Dolphin Swim Tour is still on our bucket list, as you are able to actually swim with the dolphins, under the watchful eye of experienced guides.
As the dolphins are wild animals, dolphin interaction cannot be guaranteed, but you get a second tour free if there are no dolphin sightings.
Koombana Bay Playground and Foreshore
We have made numerous stops at the Koombana Bay Playground on road trips down through the south west since this playground was built back in 2017. Gosh it feels brand new! It’s definitely a great place to get some beans out before your next leg of the journey. It is also almost directly across the road from the awesome Discovery Parks Koombana Bay where we stayed last year.
It has a nautical theme with two big red funnels like the funnels of a ship, with climbing apparatus and slides. There is also a great flying fox, toilets and picnic area.
In addition, this is a beautiful safe, sheltered beach so pack your bathers! Plan to make a morning of it with alternating swims in the ocean and plays at the playground. There are also shade sails which can make welcome relief in summer when temperatures can soar *almost* as high as Perth! This is a great place for water sports and a popular spot for Bunbury folk to enjoy the sun.
You can’t go past the incredible Wardandi Boodja artwork, which is located at the Koombana Bay Foreshore. Depicting a Noongar face, Wardandi Boodja is a five-and-half-metre steel bust sculpture representing South West families. Apparently the artists used studied historical and contemporary photos of Noongar people to create an image that recognized all the families of the region.
Spend some time to soak in the wisdom in the gaze. Wardandi Boodja seems to move with the landscape, and changes at different times of the day.
Sykes Foreshore Splash Park
It was pictures on Instagram of the Sykes Foreshore Splash Park that actually caused us to book our pre-xmas getaway to Bunbury. Opened in 2022 and has 40 water features with the giant tipping bucket at the centre of the action.
I originally thought that this Splash Park was part of the nearby Discovery Parks Koombana Bay, but this is not correct. It is a free facility for everyone. That said, we could actually see the playground from the verandah of our villa. So it goes without saying that we were regulars!
Sykes Foreshore Reserve Playground
This is another fabulous Bunbury playground! Located on the banks of the Leschenault Inlet with views of Bunbury city. This is a lovely spot for a sunset walk.
In addition to the Splash Park there’s a pirate boat with climbing apparatus, fireman’s pole, a small flying fox and slides. My youngest adored the whale tail swing. We loved the vibe of this whole area with small children splashing in the shallows of the inlet, and others fishing.
The facilities at the Sykes Foreshore Reserve Playground Splash Park include BBQs, toilets, picnic shelters and seating. All are modern and well maintained.
Mangrove Cove Playground
Considering that there are two AMAZING playgrounds within a kilometre of the new Mangrove Cove Playground, I could hardly believe this place. I’d estimate both Koombana Bay Foreshore Playground and the Sykes Foreshore Playground are less than a kilometre away!
Done in two stages, we have only visited the first part with a lookout area, informative signs and outdoor classroom done in 2020. We are looking forward to returning for the all abilities nature play area inspired by the mangrove system of the Leschenault Inlet. Featuring root-inspired climbing frames, slides, rope nets, ladders, and rope bridges.
In addition to a wheelchair-accessible sand pit and tunnels, cubbies there will also be toilet, picnic, and barbeque facilities.
While the total distance of the Mangrove Walk circuit around the Leschenault Inlet is 5.3km, you can also join it for a short distance and then turn back. The walkway at the Sykes Foreshore Reserve is part of the circuit. If you access the Mangrove Walk at the Mangrove Cove Playground you can easily see the southernmost occurrence of the white mangrove in Western Australia. The grove of white mangroves are quite relaxing, amidst the busyness of Bunbury.
Koolambidi Woola – Bunbury Skate Park/ Youth Precinct
My kids nearly fell out of the car as we drove past this huge parkour park just over the funky whalebone bridge, and into the centre of Bunbury. This amazing teens/ tweens space for kids aged 12-18 is named Koolambidi Woola Youth Precinct (Noongar for ‘celebrating young people’). There is definitely plenty to do.
My kids are not skaters but there is a huge skate park, basketball courts, the parkour section, as well as a really challenging (difficult1) climbing net. We headed over to the mini golf to discover it was BYO clubs. However, still a great idea should you have some golf clubs hanging around!
ReDiscover Street Art Trail / 6230 Mural Project
I remember first seeing the Bunbury Murals back when there weren’t murals on every corner of every street. I still feel like these examples of public art are some of the best around. It is now known as the ReDiscover Street Art Trail. The trail includes over 30 artworks from an international collection of artists. You’ll roam back alleys (which feel very safe in Bunbury), around Victoria and Wittenoom Street, and most of the heart of Bunbury’s CBD to discover these real gems. Don’t miss the area at the back of the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre.
This art trail initially started as the Six Two Three Zero. An independent, Bunbury-based initiative commissioned a number of artists, including Kyle Hughes-Odgers, and Anya Brock (famous as the painter of the Zebras at Ootong and Lincoln in Freo). My kids love the Kyle Hughes-Odgers kids’ books. We were all thrilled to see one of his murals in Caloundra on a recent holiday!
We dropped into the Bunbury Visitor Centre to get a paper map (call us old fashioned). However, you can also download it if you prefer to use your phone for guidance! This is one of the top things to do in Bunbury WA.
Leaving the City of Bunbury Offices, we stumbled upon the beautifully tranquil Centenary Gardens, with beautiful lawns and trees. We particularly loved the striking stone sculpture and water feature. It is a large granite ball that can rotate in any direction at the slight touch of a hand thanks to a small amount of water passing underneath.
Also in the gardens is some interesting historical information.
BRAG / Bunbury Regional Art Gallery
Known as one of the best art galleries in regional Western Australia, the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries goes by the rather cool acronym, BRAG. Located in a rather eye catching pink, former convent. BRAG is open to the public from 10am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday (including public holidays). We unfortunately were there on the wrong day. So we will have to go back another time.
This gallery features regularly changing exhibits of local artwork. My daughter visited as part of a school camp and was clearly left quite changed as the experience! There is also free entry.
Bunbury Visitor Centre
We dropped into the Bunbury Visitor Centre located at the City of Bunbury Offices to get a map of the murals. They had very friendly staff. In writing this article, it appears that the Visitor Centre may have moved to the Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre. You can also get the Heritage Trail Map at the Visitor Centre, and free overnight stay permits for fully self-contained RVs and caravans (conditions apply).
In younger years the Bunbury Visitor Centre was located in the beaut Old Railway Station in Bunbury. This is a gorgeous building and you can imagine when this was a busy railway station. While Bunbury is connected by two daily services to Perth (the Australind Train), it unfortunately arrives at the slightly uninspiring Transwa Bunbury Rail Station.
Bunbury Heritage Building Trail
One of the earlier settlements in Western Australia. The CBD of Bunbury is not only filled with cute eateries and awe inspiring buildings, it’s also home to some gorgeous historical buildings. This includes some great old pubs (hotels). You can pick up a map at the Visitor Centre or download the Bunbury Heritage Building Trail.
Also on my radar for our next Bunbury visit is the Leschenault Homestead. It comprises the original wattle and daub weatherboard clad cottage (c.1846) and two further cottages.
Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre
For a unique introduction to Bunbury’s history make sure you visit the Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre. Hear stories of shipwrecks, the struggles of early settlers, convicts, and the Bunbury port.
These stories are innovatively told through audio visual presentations, so you can choose the stories you want to hear. Also special is that for the first time you can hear voices of Noongar people speaking their language and reflecting on their lives.
Boulters Heights Lookout
For spectacular scenic views across Bunbury, the Port, Leschenault Estuary and the coastline then we highly recommend the workout (ha! I meant walk) up the stairs to the Boulters Heights Lookout. It is located opposite Bunbury High School and really helps orient you to the city.
We parked on Wittenoom St where you get 2 hours free parking. We then took the Arthur Dunn Stairs up. These wooden stairs will certainly get you puffing. You can also drive to the top and access the lookout from Withers Crescent. There is a small park with a gazebo. That said, Marlston Hill Lookout is better!
Marlston Hill Lookout Tower
For the very best views of Bunbury City, head to the top of Marlston Hill Lookout. Here you can get a 360-degree views, especially across the Bunbury Harbour and Koombana Bay. There are a few parking bays near the tower, then it’s a 25 metre climb to the top. The whole visit didn’t take us more than 30 minutes and it was great to get oriented on our first day in Bunbury.
I will say, it wasn’t particularly windy down in the town but we certainly nearly got blown away as we walked up. Not recommended in wet, windy or hazy conditions.
Bunbury Lighthouse is popular with Instagrammers and photographers with its distinctive black and white checkered pattern. Built in 1971, the Bunbury lighthouse is 37m high and visible from most places in Bunbury City, as well as 20km out to see.
This is Bunbury’s 5th lighthouse, with the first lighthouse a beacon placed on a keg! The first wooden lighthouse was built in 1870. It was later replaced with a skeletal structure, and finally this more permanent iteration. While the Bunbury Lighthouse is not open to the public it is easily viewed from Back Beach, and the paths that weave around the coastline.
The Bunbury Lighthouse is special to us as Papa flew his drone around it and got some of the shots that we have shared here. That was late 2017. Sadly on that weekend getaway, he had some of the symptoms that we were part of his terminal Pancreatic Cancer.
Marlston Waterfront Historic Walk
For an enjoyable waterfront walk, it’s nice to head down to the Marlston Waterfront. There are a range of great restaurants and you can really feel the vibe of a seaside getaway.
If you read the signs, you will discover that Koombana Bay was once known as Shipwreck Bay for the number of wrecks. You can also learn other interesting facts like breakwater off Casuarina Point, was designed by the great C.Y. O’Connor, architect of the Kalgoorlie water pipeline. Keep your eye out for bust of french explorer Nicolas Baudin who sailed down the WA coast in 1800.
Bunbury Wildlife Park
Well known locally for their dingoes (who have bred in captivity) the Bunbury Wildlife Park is a small but interactive wildlife park. Kids can hand feed the friendly mob of kangaroos that live on the large paddock and mingle with the bird population in the free-flight aviary.
My daughter was particularly impressed by the dingoes.
Shopping and eating along Victoria Street
If you like a fun urban vibe, then Victoria Street is for you. It has a range of boutiques, restaurants, side walk eating and several gorgeous old pubs. The Rose Hotel is a south west institution and also very pretty. The Prince of Wales hotel also has a nice sidewalk eating areas. Many places have live music on the weekends.
Places to Eat in Bunbury WA
It has taken next to no time for Market Eating House to become synonymous with the coastal city of Bunbury. Since opening in 2015, it has quickly grown into a destination restaurant and a place that those from the big smoke are planning their weekend trips around.
The kitchen features a custom-made charcoal grill and wood-fired oven, allowing Brenton and his team to ‘explore the honest relationship between food and fire’.
Melo Velo is much more than a bike shop or a café, though it’s both of them; it’s cycling culture in Bunbury. They have great coffee and food, as well as a real community that centres on cycling. (Check out their Facebook page for regular events)
Even if you are not into biking their food is wholesome and delicious, the café funky and the kids like that there are bikes everywhere.
You can’t miss Taffy’s in Bunbury if you have a sweet tooth. In a fun pink and purple lolly shop/ factory on the Marlston Waterfront, the smell when you walk into the shop is deliciously overwhelming – downright mouth-watering.
The local Morris family have been making delicious treats for over 20 years; we indulged in some fudge and salt water taffy, but there is a lot more on the to choose from including peanut brittle, and giant freckles.
You can see the taffy making in action between 10am-2pm most days.
Bunbury Farmers Market
You will see the Bunbury Farmer’s Market if coming into Bunbury from Perth; it’s on the left hand side in the corner of Vittoria Road and the Highway. It’s now open 7 days a week and a lot more permanent than the original little market.
However, the philosophy behind the Bunbury Farmers Market remains the same – to provide good value, fresh local growers, farmers and producers.
In recent years they’ve installed a commercial kitchen which offers a wide range of home bake style quiches, soups and pies, sushi, rolls, salads and more.
The Bunbury Farmers Market is perfect place for a stop on your way back home to Perth; stock up on that fresh south west produce, and make your holiday stay with you a little longer.
Other tours in Bunbury
Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours
If the stunning statute of Wardandi Boodja on the Koombana Bay foreshore has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about indigenous culture, then The Ngalang Wongi tours are a great introduction to the local Noongar culture. These hands on tours teach about how the Wardandi made twine from bulrushes, created their own antiseptic from tree sap, and made traditional ochre paint. There are a couple of tours to choose from, depending on your interests.
Bunbury Makes a Great Base for Surrounding Areas
Phew!!! And we have only covered what there is to do in Bunbury so far. You can also use Bunbury as a base to explore neighboring towns. For example, we highly recommend making a day trip out to the Ferguson Valley to drive through the picturesque countryside, lovely vineyards and to see the incredible Mural across Wellington Dam. For families with kids, we’d take a slightly different route, calling into Gnomesville and also Donnybrook with its impressive Apple Fun Park!
If you are new to the region, you might even want to venture as far south as Busselton to visit its world class Busselton Jetty, one of the Busselton Breweries, or zip through the trees at the Forest Adventures.
The Verdict – Things to do in Bunbury WA
We hope that we have adequately covered the best things to do in Bunbury WA. Whether it is roaming the streets of the city centre, enjoying beautiful views from one of the lookouts, or gazing out at the sublime Indian Ocean, there is something for the whole family to do. Even though Bunbury is Western Australia’s biggest regional city, most of the main attractions are within easy walking distance of one another.
We believe that this vibrant city is a good starting point for an exploration of the South West and merits a couple of nights stay at least. If you are on a road trip further south, then make sure you at least visit the Dolphin Discovery Interpretative Centre and admire the waters of Koombana Bay for a few hours at least.
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