Aboriginal Dreaming, Intrepid Pioneers and Contemporary Art
Local blogger and lifestyle writer Johanna Castro shares with us her favourite things to do in Bunbury and the surrounding towns of the Geographe Region from a cultural, histroric and artistic perspective. For more tales from Jo, visit her blog The ZigaZag Mag.
Download this drive trail as a PDF.
When was the last time you visited beautiful Bunbury or the quaint country towns and sylvan countryside areas that border the city with the idea of staying a while to explore them?
Bunbury is less than two hours from Perth which makes it a super-easy getaway for people in the City, and you could be sightseeing in Bunbury within 2 hours or relaxing in the rural Ferguson Valley within 1.5 hours.
What’s exciting about the area?
The region is infused with aboriginal dreaming, ANZAC spirit and intriguing histories of courageous pioneering families. The arts scene is booming and Bunbury is evolving as the cultural hub of the south west.
In fact the city and bordering towns of the Geographe Region, boast a profusion of fascinating museums, galleries, and enthralling historical sites and monuments.
This is the perfect time to visit and take off on an exciting art, culture and history discovery trail. So why not jump in the car, pack your walking shoes, bundle up your camera and curiosity, and set off to uncover the secrets of Bunbury and the surrounding Geographe region?
Bunbury Arts and Heritage Trail
You might be forgiven for thinking that Bunbury’s main attraction is all the water that surrounds it but did you know that Bunbury also boasts 22 important historical sites which you can access via a 12km walking loop, while another 4km walk through the CBD clocks up another 22 noteworthy places?
What to choose? Here’s a taster of what not to miss.
The Wardandi Memorial Park near Bunbury’s Back Beach honours the nomadic lifestyle of indigenous communities and is set on a traditional aboriginal burial ground.
Then there’s the Stirling Street historic precinct, a popular residential area dating back to the 1890’s that’s largely escaped modernization.
Bunbury Regional Art Galleries (BRAG) is housed in the original Convent of Mercy, a heritage building built by the Sisters in 1897 – you can’t miss it - it’s painted bright pink.
Also not to be missed is King Cottage Museum built by Henry King around 1880, which is furnished with household items dating from 1880 to 1920.
On the foreshore opposite the inlet is the newly expanded Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre (BREC). Its origin dates back to 1891, and it now serves as the focal point of the performing arts and hosts a steady stream of Australian and International acts.
Recently a street art awakening has burgeoned in Bunbury and Re.Discover is now taking a slice of Bunbury’s cultural pie. It’s an incredibly colourful street art exhibition showcasing the work of established Australian and International artists. Get walking and you’ll find large scale murals on many of the CBD street corners, in quiet alleyways and unexpected places. Look out for big birds and foxes with saws, and don’t miss the girl in a boat.
Continue the discovery trail and head out on the South West Highway through fields of fruit trees to Donnybrook. Settled by five Irishmen in 1842 it has an interesting gold mining history as well as being noted for its stone.
Several stone quarries were developed circa 1900 when it was realised that the local stone made an excellent building material.
Wander around the small town and you’ll find interesting examples of buildings constructed with this stone, including; The Soldiers Memorial Hall, built around 1919, The All Saints Anglican Church built in 1906, and the historic Post Office built in 1898. You might also like to visit the pop-up museum, located at the Donnybrook Visitors centre which is situated at the old Donnybrook Railway Station.
History and Aboriginal origins
The Waugyl Sculpture Park commemorates the aboriginal origins of the Preston River and land relating to the Noongar nation. Don’t miss the signposted walk with stories, references and information, as well as the Preston River Indigenous Walk Trail that meanders along lush riverbank, over a suspension bridge, and on to the picturesque Amphitheatre which is also constructed from Donnybrook stone.
The Ferguson Valley
Just a short 15 minutes drive from the City of Bunbury, is the Ferguson Valley a scenic landscape of rolling hills, rivers, streams, vineyards and pastures where you’ll find a growing number of independent wineries and one or two beautiful artists galleries’ set in forest enclaves .
The Dardanup Art Spectacular
The heritage township of Dardanup is the jumping off point for the Ferguson Valley. Well known for its annual festivals it also hosts the annual Dardanup Art Spectacular (15th – 17th May 2015) showcasing fabulous art and craft from around the region. Dardanup first saw European settlement in 1838, and a self-guided walking trail around the town will take you past the historic buildings.
It’s all Gnoming on
From Dardanup take the scenic Ferguson Road to Gnomesville, a quirky and free open-air attraction populated by over 3000 garden gnomes donated by locals and tourists from Australia and around the world.
Travel 58km inland from Bunbury and you’ll reach Collie, a country town that has its origin in 1829 shortly before Coal was accidentally discovered by a shepherd on the banks of the Collie River in 1833. The shepherd gathered what he thought were stones for his campfire and was astounded when they caught alight.
Step back in time at the Replica Underground Mine
Visitors can see the original coal discovery site at Allanson, five km west of the town. Underground mining ceased in Collie in 1994 and was replaced by the open cut method, but visitors can step back in time on tours at the Underground Mine.
These tours are conducted by retired miners, many of whom started work as teenagers working in the days when pit ponies were used.
Goods Sheds, Railway, and Old Ladies of Steam
The old goods sheds was where the steam trains of old pulled in and unloaded their cargo and the railway precinct displays restored rolling stock, wagons, a diesel engine and a first class sleeping coach. Then there’s the miniature railway at the Collie Railway station, a scale model of the old Collie township, when rail and coal were king. Located next to the Visitor Centre are three lovingly restored steam locos. These grand old ladies of steam worked hauling coal, timber and passengers until the early 1970s.
Finally, on your discovery tour, pencil a date in your diaries for April, when the new art gallery will open in Collie. This rammed earth building will showcase the Shire of Collie’s Claude Hotchin collection and host a number of exciting displays including the Pinjarra Massacre exhibition and the Arthur Boyd, An Active Witness collection.