Located just a two hour drive south of Perth, Bunbury often gets bypassed, literally, by Perth residents driving straight down the freeway to Dunsborough and Yallingup. Consider putting Bunbury back on the map for your next school holiday, and here’s five good reasons to do so:
- Dolphins on your doorstep
It’s 9am, you’ve already had breakfast, been to the playground, and stopped for a babychino. Dolphin Discovery Centre to the rescue! Every day at 9am volunteers head down to the beach out front to say hello to wild dolphins who like to play in the bay. Anyone can join in, whether you’re heading into the Centre or not. We wade in up to our shins, toddlers next to grown-ups, all in a line. We don’t have to wait long until fins start popping up – today six dolphins lazily swim towards shore, sidling up alongside the volunteers who tell us their names, a little bit about how they eat, sleep and breed in the bay. For a free experience, it’s a real showstopper. There’s no fanfare or performance, but it’s a rare and special chance to see these creatures up close.
- Finding Nemo
The Dolphin Discovery Centre focuses on animal conservation, re-habitation and research; an aquarium meets interactive learning centre, we join their weekly turtle check in, watching the volunteers weigh little turtles rescued during storms, waiting for their chance to be released back into the wild. We also stand back as the octopi playfully squirt water out of their tanks during feeding. There’s a colouring-in station for kids, where their cartoon dolphins are scanned into a digital system that brings them to life on the big screen underwater world. With other interactive stations like a topographic sand pit, this is gold at keeping the kids busy for the morning. Round things out with a muffin fresh out of the oven in the café while the kids burn off some energy on the grass. In summer, teens and big kids can head out into the bay on a dolphin swim, a three hour tour where you’ll hop in the water to see these creatures swim and play. There’s also an eco cruise for those who’d prefer not to get wet.
- Old school sugar hit
What’s a beach holiday without a trip to an old-fashioned candy store? Taffys is perched along the marina waterfront, and you guessed it, they’re famous for brightly coloured batches of traditional salt water taffy. It’s a Willy Wonka treasure trove of lollipops, chocolates, fudge, giant freckles and many, many flavours of Taffy inside. The local teenagers behind the counter are earning their pocket money the old-fashioned way, manning the till, and keeping an eye on the big copper kettle and stretching machines. Take the kids in for a treat or two, and make time to watch the taffy getting stretched out through the glass walled kitchen.
4. Wander through Gnomesville
Yes, that’s right, half an hour’s drive inland into the Ferguson Valley is where you’ll find this fairy glen-esque home to thousands of gnomes. To say it’s an oddity is an understatement, but the crowd-sourced public collection of gnomes is so odd it’s awesome. Kids will love walking through the trees around paths lined by gnomes – big, little, old, new – who knew there were so many types of garden gnome! The collection began in the early 90s, anyone can BYO gnome to add to the community.
- Paddle upstream
While you’re already in the Ferguson Valley, keep driving into Wellington National Park, where you and the kids can jump straight into Honeymoon Pool, a quiet inlet of the Collie River that is perfect for summer swims. There are steps down to the water for easy entry and a railing for big kids to bomb off. Even better, book in for a day with TraaVerse, a tour company by a local mum who will plan a day out for you and the kids that shows off the best of the region and includes a kayak down the river.
Whether you want to hit the beach, head bush or just keep the kids busy, Bunbury has you covered.
Inspired? Find out more about Bunbury here.
Lisa Perkovic was the guest of Australia’s South West.