‘There was nowhere to go but everywhere so just keep on rolling under the stars.’ – John Kerouac
If you have a weekend free and feel like just getting in your car and driving, I’d suggest putting Bunbury or Mandurah on your to visit list- even if you are a local.
Bunbury is a small town situated 2/2.5 hours away from Perth in the South West Region. With coastal vibes and the amenities of a suburb closer to suburbia and city living, this is a great place to spend a weekend (or a day in my case).
If, like me, you’re a person who enjoys scenic drives and a brief break away from the daily grind, a weekend getaway may be the remedy. If you aren’t in a rush, there are multiple places to stop and admire the view and stretch your legs. On the drive, I made a detour down Buffalo Road which led me to Buffalo Beach. It’s a hidden gem, the water is clean and the shore is lined with seashells. Just be sure to pack some insect repellent as there are mosquitoes around the area.
Once I was back on Forest Hwy, I turned right onto Old Coast Road to go on the scenic drive via Australind. I pulled over at Ridley’s Place to breath in the fresh air and see the coast from another perspective. Along the boat dock, you’ll encounter an flock of seagulls who are more than happy to let you take their photograph too.
Around 12:30pm I found myself driving in to the heart of Bunbury via Koombana Drive. There is paid parking located around town and the main streets (such as Victoria Street) but you can park for the first three hours for free at the shopping centre. The town centre is small enough that you can walk around if you’d rather take a stroll down the streets and gaze into the shop windows than drive and park.
I walked up to Victoria Street and found myself staring at the menu supplied by my favourite place to dine in Bunbury- Cafe Benesse. The food cannot be faulted, the coffee is well made and the staff are friendly.
I decided to go for a walk down to Koombana Beach via the foreshore to listen to the waves crash along the shore. Along the way I saw walls decorated with street art, it adds charm to the town and makes walking down the streets an adventure in itself.
The Beach Club at Koombana Beach comes alive on the weekend with families enjoying the food, bouncy castle and atmosphere. The beach club is for members only but if you walk further down, the beach is accessible to the public with a beachfront cafe on the foreshore.
The Rotary Lookout on Marlston Hill provides a 360 degree view overlooking Koombana Beach, Back Beach and the town centre. It does get quite windy up there but it would be a wonderful vantage point for lovers of dusk and dawn.
I spent my night at the YHA Dolphin Retreat. Located about 4 minutes away from Back Beach and 10 minutes away from the shopping centre, it is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a small and afordable place to sleep. The staff are friendly, the location is clean, the carpark is locked between the hours of 9pm and 8am each day and it’s a nice way to meet new people.
Once I checked in, I walked around the hostel, met some new people before gearing up for a walk along Back Beach. The beach is only a short walk away and could possibly be my favourite place in WA (that I’ve visited so far) to watch a sunset. If you enjoy taking photos to capture the moment, you won’t be disappointed. The waves, rocks and setting sun will leave you in awe and some beautiful images- I promise.
Along came Sunday morning and after checking out of the hostel, it was time to drive back to Mandurah. The drive takes an hour or so (depending on which route you take, if you stop for a break ect.) Once I arrived in Mandurah, I parked and explored the markets and indulged in a sweet brunch meal at Simmo’s Icecreamery.
Tours depart from the jetty situated in front of the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. You can park close by at the car park on Mandurah Terrace (which is limited to 3 hours on Monday-Saturday’s) with no time limit on Sunday’s.
If you decide to embark on a Sunday cruise, there are markets on the Mandurah Boardwalk between 8am-12pm. The stalls offer a selection of organic produce, home made arts and crafts and there’s a food van too.
If you book for the 12pm or 1pm cruise with the Mandurah Cruise Company, you’ll find yourself on the Lunch ‘Fish and Chips’ cruise. The boat stops at a local fish and chip place to collect the food which you can eat on board whilst taking in the sights. There are also small snacks and soft drinks available for purchase on board. This extends the cruise to 1.5 hours from the usual 1 hour and costs $40 per adult (compared to $28 per adult for a standard 1 hour cruise).
The cruise goes through the canals before entering the main area and picking up speed. On a sunny winters day, the view is beautiful, you see clouds in the sky, colorful houses with boats lining the canals all whilst breathing in the fresh sea air. If you don’t cope well with boats or you suffer from motion sickness, the cruises are quite smooth due to the low speeds permitted around the canals and main area.
Whilst the cruise companies cannot guarantee dolphin sightings, our cruise was fortunate to see the Dolphins 5 times throughout the tour. The skipper informs the passengers which side the Dolphins are on and stops so you can take photos, they may even do a short drive by to get the Dolphins to swim next to the boat so make sure you bring a camera or phone with you because it makes for a brilliant photo opportunity. During the cruise, there are Australian songs and commentary playing quietly in the background so you can learn more about the history of the area and listen to some Aussie classics all at once.
After the cruise, the afternoon is at your disposal- you can talk along the waters’ edge, go for a drive around the town centre or make you way back to the next destination.