The area of Bunbury was first seen by the French explorer Captain De Freycinet in 1803 and he gave the area the name of Port Leschenault after his biologist on his ship the Casuarina. The land was explored in 1829 by a Lieutenant Preston and a Dr. Andrew Collie, whom the two rivers are named after.

The first settlers to the area came in 1838, the Scott family and a military regiment was sent to protect the settlers. The small outpost became a town when gold was found at Donnybrook. This brought an influx of people all looking to make their fortune. The town didn’t change much in size for over 30 years and Bunbury was named a municipality in 1871.

In 1890 Bunbury started to be the transport point for the area and a rail line was built to Boyanup for timber transport.

The first lighthouse was in the form of a beacon placed on a keg at a point close to the current lighthouse to alert ships.

A timber jetty was built in 1864 using convict labour and was built to be 1400 feet long. It has continued to be lengthened until 1952 when it came to be 4600 feet long or 1.5 kilometres. Before the jetty was built, the large ships anchored in the bay and smaller boats travelled back and forth with imported food, clothing and farm implements and the town exported jarrah timber and sandalwood.

The first wooden lighthouse was built in 1870 and in 1893 the railway was opened to Perth which was a great boost to the area. The jetty was connected to the Perth railway line in 1899.

The breakwater was started in 1897 with local quarried stone and the steel lighthouse was constructed in 1903 and it was heightened by 20 feet in 1959. In 1971 a new lighthouse was built closer to the beach this time and was painted in a checkerboard pattern.

During World War I a substantial dairy industry was established and a butter factory was built. Wheat was also a major crop and in 1937 silos were built near the port. The area was industrialised in the 1950’s with mineral sands mining, chemical plant and storage tanks for fuel.

Since then the area has become a major tourist attraction and starting point for people wanting to discover the delights of the south west of Western Australia.

Historical buildings

Stirling Street Historical area

This is an area that has been left relatively alone from modernisation and contains a number of historic buildings and shows what the area was like all those years ago.

The Rose Hotel on Victoria Street is one of Bunbury’s more notable buildings with its cast iron verandahs built in 1865.

Bunbury Regional Art Gallery was originally a chapel and a convent for the Sisters of mercy and is Wittenoom Street and was built in 1883.

Paisley Centre in Arthur Street was once the Boys school and was built in 1887.

King Cottage was built in 1880 and is Forrest Avenue and the King family lived here from 1880 until 1920. The cottage houses a museum with lots of fascinating memorabilia dating back to the turn of the century.

St Marks Church was built in 1842 and was the Old Picton Church and is the 2nd oldest church in Western Australia.

Upton House was built in 1847 and is an elegant 2 storey house with French windows and most of the house was shipped over from England. It is on the corner of Upton Place and Old Coast Road.

Henton Cottage is now the Tourist information Centre and was built in 1841.

St Nicholas Church was built in 1848 and could possibly be the smallest church in Australia. It was originally a worker’s cottage and services are still held today.

Leschenault Homestead was built on the Old Coat Road in 1844 with additions in 1854 and 1874.