Long before the Margaret River region's meteoric rise to the top of many wine lists, Western Australia's third largest city, Bunbury, was a major centre. It remains an important port for this thriving agricultural region in the southwest of WA.
Just 175 kilometres south of Perth, its multi-water position -- bay, estuary, river and ocean -- makes Bunbury a popular destination. Aside from the cafes and bars, there is the opportunity to take a dip with wild dolphins, cruise the still waters of Koombana Bay, Leschenault Estuary and the Collie River, or learn more about the local flora and fauna at Bunbury Wildlife Park.
One of the most popular options is to head south for the coastal towns of Busselton, Dunsborough and beyond. With enough time in port you can spend the day at world-famous Margaret River wineries, where you'll definitely want to raise a glass to this stunning part of the country.
Like many regional ports in WA, the port of Bunbury handles bulk loading of grain and other materials and is a busy working port. Cruise ships are usually allocated docking at Berth 1.
Because of the security required at commercial cargo ports, passengers going ashore at Bunbury are taken by free shuttle bus into the town.
Have fun noticing local car number plates. Every council area in Western Australia has its own prefix for cars registered in that region. In Bunbury it is BY. Nearby Busselton is BSN, and Margaret River is AU as it is in the shire of Augusta.
Be careful collecting shells in shallow water or on the beach as they might contain live 'occupants'. The blue-ringed octopus is very dangerous. Not all beaches are patrolled or have flags so do watch out for 'rips' (strong currents) when there is a big swell.
Picking wildflowers is prohibited throughout the state. If bushwalking, be alert for snakes, and wear a hat and use sun-protection cream and mosquito repellent.
By bus: The free regular shuttle bus service to and from the town centre of Bunbury takes only a few minutes. A local bus services the city and surrounding suburbs, but taxis are often better for out-of-town destinations.
By car: The Visitor Information Centre in the Old Railway Station has information on places to see and things to do, car hire and other transport, tours and dining.
ATMs and currency exchanges may be found throughout the town at banks. ATMs are also found in some shopping centres as well as many hotels. Withdrawals will be in Australian currency, usually in $50 and $20 notes. For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. US dollars are not acceptable when shopping, but major credit cards are generally welcome.
Bunbury is WA's third largest city so it's no wonder there is a wide variety of food to suit everyone's tastes and budget. Being a coastal region, seafood is popular and, as a family-friendly tourist town, all the well-known fast food chains are represented.
For lunch, or simply a mid-morning or afternoon snack, stroll down Victoria Street's Coffee Strip, around the corner from the Visitor Information Centre, where you'll find plenty of good cafes, many award-winning restaurants and historic pubs to enjoy.
Mojo's Restaurant & Cafe: This cafe is located in the Grand Cinema complex in Victoria Street. Head Chef Dave Dunne's multi-award-winning cuisine makes this one of Bunbury's most popular restaurants while still remaining affordable. Given the proximity to a top wine region, the wine list is extensive. For lunch daily there are sharable 'Bar Bites' such as arancini, steamed buns, cheese churros, or glazed short ribs, while the menu serves up cafe-priced pulled pork rolls, house-smoked Cranbrook bacon and egg sandwich, goat's cheese tart with braised leeks and salad as well as a grass-fed beef sirloin.
(Victoria Street, Bunbury; +61 897 925 900; Open daily, Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Cafe 140: This cafe seems to tick most people's boxes. Whether you're in the mood for a sizeable steak sandwich, a juicy hamburger, fresh juice, or a good coffee with a just-baked orange and poppyseed muffin, there is bound to be something here you will fancy. Our spies tell us the naughty cheeseburger is a must.
(140 Victoria St, Bunbury; +61 897 212 254; Lunch daily until 3 p.m., kitchen closes at 2 p.m.)
Corners on King: Homemade, gluten-free, different -- that's the consensus on what endears this place to its diners. Serving lunch daily until 3 pm, you can expect to find sweet things galore such as a gluten-free lemon syrup cake, homemade pavlova, GF waffles with berries...you get the idea. On the savoury side, you will find huge burgers and sandwiches made on local Yallingup Wood Fired Bread. All served up just across the road from Leschenault Inlet.
(Shop 3, 2 Austral Parade, Bunbury; +61 897 214 030; open daily, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Nicola's Ristorante: If a $20 menu sounds what you need for lunch, then you'll be delighted to see it includes choices such as garlic prawns, Nicola's club wrap, Reuben sandwiches, several salads and fish and chips.
(62-64 Victoria St, Bunbury; +61 897 913 926; open, Monday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.)
Expect to find truly delicious souvenirs in this port. The Bunbury Visitor Centre, at Old Railway Station, Carmody Place, has local produce for sale -- including olive oils -- and you will find regional wines, boutique beers and spirits in many bottle shops. If your shore trip takes you to the Margaret River region then you will be able to choose wines from many top cellar doors.