With crystal clear waters and a white sandy beach, making you wish you were there right now, Busselton should be an expensive glamour destination. Thankfully it’s not.
Located at pristine Geographe Bay, Busselton is that postcard picture. Its picturesque 30km stretch of foreshore has been snapped for countless landscape photographs – appearing in travel books and personal albums around the world.
The town with a growing population – currently at 27,000 – wasn’t always a getaway dream destination. Home to one of the earliest settlements in Western Australia, little Busselton started its career as a leading port due to its proximity to tall timber country.
Nowadays, the popular holiday destination takes center stage for events like the Ironman Western Australia Triathlon. Over 1000 of the world’s best triathletes took the gruelling challenge in December 2008. If you’d like your piece of the town’s extreme action, you could head to the Busselton Half Ironman Triathlon from April 30 to May 3. But, of course, there’s much more than just sweaty athletes on this month’s postcard from AT.
Things to do and see
Like most beachside locations in Australia, Busselton offers visitors the chance to go scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing. But there’s more than just the usual water sports and activities. Here are some of Busselton’s unique offerings.
Busselton Jetty // Measuring in at 1841 metres in length and 144 years old, it’s the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and one of our country’s most fascinating eco-tourism sites. Enjoy the walk to the end of the jetty before descending eight metres below sea level at the Underwater Observatory to discover an awe-inspiring forest of the underwater world. With over 300 individual marine species sheltering themselves below the jetty, you’ll be able to witness the natural life of tropical and subtropical corals, sponges, fish and invertebrates. www.busseltonjetty.com.au
Tuart Forest National Park // Enjoy the peaceful setting of a forest as you devour your packed picnic before taking a trail walk to explore the only natural tuart forest remaining in the world. The eucalyptus tree variety native to this region is estimated to be 300 to 400 years old and can stand as tall as 33 metres. Take a self-guided tour during the night to spot some rare western ringtail possums amongst the trees. www.nationalparksaccom.com.au/tuart-forest-national-park
Vasse–Wonnerup Wetlands // You don’t have to be a birdwatcher to appreciate the beauty of these wetlands of international importance. For hours and hours of feathered friends, pack mozzie repellant, bring your binoculars and walk to the hide on the Southern side from Layman Road. Up to 33,000 species of birds have been sighted in the area. If you’re up fro some more bird watching, check out one of the largest ibis breeding colonies in the state nearby. www.geographebay.com/pages/nature-lovers
Old Courthouse Art Complex and ArtGeo Art Gallery // Built in 1854, the Old Courthouse Art Complex and ArtGeo Art Gallery is the oldest building in Busselton. The heritage-listed site still has its original jail cells intact as well as original art and craft pieces on display. It also houses artworks by local artists and with an ever-changing art space.
Where to shop
After cooling off and getting in the mood for some shopping after picking up a few local artworks from the ArtGeo Art Gallery, head up Queen Street, before wandering over to Prince and Kent Street. Fig Tree Lane is another local favourite for its boutique-style shopping.
Fusion Jewellers // Ladies, get your hands on a unique design – created daily in-store by local jeweller, Barrie. Or you can watch the master craftsman at work on a creative piece of jewellery. He’ll also be able to repair or remodel a much-loved old treasure at your wishes. Fusion Jewellers also stocks the Allure south sea pearl range of jewellery. Shop 37, 55 Prince Street, Busselton. (08) 9752 2766 www.fusionjewellers.com.au
Hilllzeez Down South Surf Shop // Owned and run by experienced skaters and surfers for the last 20 years, this is the place to hit to find the latest surf and skate gear for adults and kids. It’s also often visited by local and international legends including Taj Burrows who was recently signing autographs in-store. Shop 1/65 Queen Street, Busselton. (08) 9752 3204. www.hillzeez.com.au
Hobsons Furniture & Manchester // Pick up and take home a part of Busselton with you when you wander through Hobsons Furniture and Manchester, with a ladies boutique conveniently attached next door. It offers the latest fashion for all ages, as well as specialising in after 5 wear and lingerie. 69 Queen Street, Busselton. (08) 9752 1546.
The Old Cheddar Cheese Company // Take a few minutes’ drive out of town and get your tastebuds going by sampling locally made cheddar cheese. Consider making a group booking and you’ll be treated to the delights of cheese platters, cake slices and sandwiches. 31 Glendon Road, Ludlow. (08) 9753 2424
Where to eat and drink
AT reckons there’s hardly anything that beats dining with a view. Maybe dinner with a view of Western Australia’s top tourism town? Busselton came first twice.
The Equinox // Overlook the waters of Geographe Bay like you’re onboard a small cruise liner at The Equinox. Dining under a heritage fig tree, you’ll get to sample lots of Spanish tapas-style dishes with hints of Mediterranean flavours only recently added to the list. On the foreshore Jetty end of Queen Street, Busselton. (08) 9752 4641 or www.theequinox.com.au
The Goose Restaurant // Located opposite the Busselton Jetty, the iconic Goose Restaurant uses locally produced ingredients for dishes like their award-winning seafood chowder, confit duck legs served with coconut rice, steamed bok choy and a chilli plum jam. Unforgettable panoramic views of Geographe Bay included. Geographe Bay Road, Busselton. (08) 9754 7700 or www.thegoose.com.au
The Esplanade Hotel // Known as ‘the Nard’, it’s where locals and visitors alike head for authentic pub grub. Make sure you’ve got a big appetite when you visit, as portions are huge. Better yet, they won’t burn a hole into your pocket either. While you’re there, grab a beer or two and enjoy the beach views. Marine Terrace, Busselton. (08) 9752 1078. www.theesplanadeporthedland.com.au
Where to sleep
Busselton doesn’t fall short in terms of accommodation, offering plenty of places to stay during your visit with all thinkable forms of accommodation to cater for your every need (and budget). Check out an ample selection of resorts, hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, caravan parks and camping sites.
Mandalay Holiday Resort and Tourist Park // This family-friendly spot’s accommodation caters to your every need in the one place. If it’s a family getaway try the two-storey apartments but if you’re looking for a romantic getaway without blowing the budget then hide out in one of their en-suite cabins. Or drive your own campervan into town. From $32. Mandaly Entrance off Lockhart Street, Broadwater, Busselton. (08) 9752 1328. www.mandalayresort.com.au
Broadwater Beach Resort // If you have a little more to spend, then why not treat yourself to a stay at the Broadwater Beach Resort. Choose from nine different rooms all fully equipped with their own kitchens, so you’ll be able to stay in and cook yourself a meal. From $137. Corner of Busselton Highway & Holgate Road, Busselton. (08) 9754 1633. www.broadwaters.com.au
Equal Balance – Bed & Breakfast // The moment you step into Equal Balance, you’ll instantly feel relaxed. The owners, Carolyn and Robyn have created an old-style B&B. The walls have been beautifully decorated with Perth artist Sally King’s fine contemporary abstract art. The place is all about friendly service and they’ll go as far as taking in your dog as well. From $90. Corner Clydebank Avenue & Lancester Drive, West Busselton. (08) 9754 6557 www.equalbalance.com.au
Where to go nearby
Nature’s beauty doesn’t stop at the picture-perfect town of Busselton, there’s plenty more near Geographe Bay from Dunsborough up to Cape Naturaliste. Bring your camera! Of course, Busselton is also a great stepping off point for the Margaret River Wine Region.
HMAS Swan Dive Wreck // In 1997, the 113 metres naval destroyer HMAS Swan was decommissioned. It has since become one of the largest diving wrecks in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ll be able to swim and discover plenty of marine life and take a 15 minute boat ride out to sea from Meelup Beach. www.diveadventures.com.au/pages/destinations/Australia/dunsborough.htm
Christian Fletcher Photo Images // Perth boy Christian Fletcher first moved to Dunsborough to pursue his career as a photographer and has been taking stunning images of landscapes from around the world ever since. Check out his showcase of the Capes and the Margaret River wine region as you wander through his hometown gallery. Shop 4, 27 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough. (08) 9759 1555 or www.christianfletcher.com.au
Dunsborough Bakery // Since 1941 the Dunsborough Bakery has been baking away. The local icon of the Southwest is best known for its gourmet pies. There’s nothing quite like a good Aussie meat pie, says AT. www.dunsboroughbakery.com
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse & Discovery Centre // Take a scenic 13km drive down from Dunsborough for uninterrupted breathtaking views. From the top of the lighthouse, you’ll get panoramic 360-degree views across Geographe Bay, the Indian Ocean and Cape Naturaliste. In season, you’ll also be able to watch the whales migrate pass the Cape. Entry tickets from $5.50. Cape Naturaliste Road, Dunsborough. (08) 9755 3955 or email@example.com
Ngilgi Cave // Take on one of the six new adventure tours exploring Ngilgi Cave (formerly known as Yallingup Cave). Witness the magic of a natural sanctuary in complete darkness with the ‘Ancient River Bed’ trail, descending 45 metres below the Earth’s surface. Alternatively, be stunned by stalagmite, stalactites, shawls and column formations on the ‘Crystal Crawl Tour’. For bookings or more details call (08) 9755 2152
Events not to miss
As you would expect from a region blessed with natural beauty and some of the Earth’s finest wines, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found in and around Busselton. From farmyard concerts over twilight movies, seafood weekends through to crazy ironmen converging on the small town, you’ll find it all. Since the calendar was bursting to the rafters this month, below you’ll find just a taster of sporting events to come. For a full calendar of events, check out www.geographebay.com/events_monthly.asp.
Busselton Half Marathon // This inaugural race on February 7 takes runners along 21.1km of spectacular ocean views but newcomers can take part in the less strenuous 5km fun run. And if you’re game, you’ll jump off the pier afterwards to train for the next day’s jetty swim.
Busselton Jetty Swim // After exploring the jetty from underneath and making sure there are no sharks, you might want to take the plunge for the annual 3.6km swim on February 7 and 8. That’s if 1,000 other swimmers don’t scare you off just as much as great whites. Stampede anyone?
Geographe Bay Race Week // Witness Western Australia’s largest annual yachting regatta. In its sixth year, the race week kicks off at Port Geographe Marina on February 20 and is expected to attract some 150 yachts to compete. www.geographebayraceweek.org.au
Check out all our Margaret River posts.