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Touchdown : Devonport & Latrobe

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We rolled off the Spirit of Tasmania and has a very brief stop in Devonport for coffee and breakfast before continuing on to more exciting ventures.

 

Devonport

Devonport is a simple city of just over 25,000 people. It started off as two settlements on either side of the Mersey River – Formby and Torquay. As the shipping industry grew and the Bluff lighthouse was built, regular services to and from Melbourne began and in 1890, a public vote united the two settlements and they became the town of Devonport. It was declared a city in 1981.

There isn’t that much to do in Devonport so after you’ve grabbed a coffee and done your grocery shopping, it’s time to move on.

 

The Ferry Terminal

The first place we touched down onto Tasmanian soil. It’s amazing to watch the Spirit of Tasmania come and go, with a big bellow of its horn. The Spirit’s presence in Devonport would be a safe and familiar thing for the locals.

 

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The Rectory Cafe

We met up with Scott after disembarking and had a coffee here. The place is totally cute but the coffee was not quite up to scratch.

 

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The Laneway

This place was on our radar for breakfast because it’s the highest rated cafe in Devonport. We can declare that the coffee is great, and while the prices are a little high, the meals are good too. Dave got the Laneway Breakfast with mushroom, spinach, hash browns, bacon, eggs, local chipolatas and sourdough bread. Juz was craving some smashed avo, broad beans and feta, with crispy pancetta and sourdough toast. The cafe also sells local produce like eggs and deli meats.

 

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Spirit of the Sea statue

At the entrance of the Mersey River is a fountain of nude Poseidon, named the Spirit of the Sea. While it may not have any significant connection with the Devonport community, its perch offers great views of the coastline around Devonport. There’s a great walking track on the foreshore that follows the coast all the way to Mersey Bluff.

 

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Mersey Bluff Lookout

The Mersey Bluff is the home of the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, which stands 37 metres tall and was built in 1889 just before Devonport was established as one town instead of two settlements.   There’s a path that goes around the base of the bluff to a lookout over the Bass Strait.

 

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Latrobe

This small town is located just 8km south of Devonport along the Mersey River. The area was first settled in 1826 and in 1973, the town was officially named after Charles Joseph Latrobe – the administrator for the colony of Tasmania.

Even though the town is small, it’s alive and has its own personality. There are trash and treasure markets every Sunday, and just alongside the variety store is the best display of photo ops we have seen in a while.

 

 

The Australian Axemans Hall of Fame

There are a few reasons to stop off at this location. This tourist information and function centre is a great place to stop for maps and info on the local area, learn about the achievements of Australia’s sporting wood choppers, and see one of Australia’s big things – the Big Platypus.

 

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Explore : The Illawarra Coast

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Illawarra is the coastal region south of Sydney and includes Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama.  There’s plenty to see along the coast, including great beaches, lighthouses and blowholes.  If you venture up onto the escarpment, there are some wonderful lookouts.

 

On our way to Wollongong, we did an unplanned visit to the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple.  It was a strange experience.  You have to remove your shoes before entering and no cameras or food are allowed inside.  The temple is beautifully ornate on the outside, with scores of sculptures decorating the sides of the building.  Inside, the temple was cold and eerie, with beams of sunlight combining with smoke from shrines to make bright columns within the gaping chamber.  There were statues everywhere, some decorated and clothed, and there were two men chanting with fabric wrapped around their waists.  We didn’t understand any of it and felt too uncomfortable to ask anyone about it so we left.

 

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The next stop was Bald Hill Lookout, with awesome view of the coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge in the distance.  It seemed to be a popular spot for bikies taking their chopper out for a coastal ride.

 

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We followed the road down the coast and drove over the Sea Cliff Bridge, a 665m balanced cantilever bridge that hugs the cliffs and was opened in 2005.  With two lanes of traffic, a cycle path and walkway, it gives travellers an opportunity to get out of the car to soak up in the view.

 

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Wollongong

The 3rd largest city in NSW after Sydney and Newcastle, Wollongong is an aboriginal term for ‘seas of the south’.  George Bass and Matthew Flinders were the first to visit the area in 1796 and since then, it has grown to become a major commercial hub for the region with a busy port and an active fishing industry.

 

Our first stop was at the Illawarra Brewery for a quick drink.  We had a great tasting session with a very passionate staff member – Juz loved the Pilsner the best and Dave enjoyed the IPA.  Even Juz liked the IPA.  It had a sweet mango smell with fruity flavours balanced with ballsy bitters.

 

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After a quick visit to Flagstaff Hill Park and Lighthouse, we made our way up the escarpment to Mount Kiera Lookout for an overview of Wollongong and Port Kembla.

 

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As the sun was setting, we checked out Lake Illawarra from the lookout at Wentworth Cottage Park before watching the sun disappear over the horizon at Bass Point Reserve.

 

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Kiama

We arrived in the cute coastal town of Kiama just as it was getting dark so we didn’t get to see much.  We had just enough time to see the Big Blowhole and Kiama Lighthouse before we ran out of light.  Luckily, we have a friend, Craig, who lives in Kiama who put us up for the night.

 

 

In the morning, after dealing with the sudden disappearance of the Troopy’s clutch, we went for a tour of town to see the memorial arch and find Kiama’s Small Blowhole.  This was far more impressive than the Big Blowhole.  As the waves come in, you hear a big WHOMP and then a big spray of water.  Be careful – if the wind is blowing in your direction, you could get wet!

 

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Town Profile : Port Macquarie

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We arrived in the town of Port Macquarie after completing our tour of New England.  It was just before sunset so we settled in at the Port Macquarie YHA for a quiet Saturday night that turned out to be quite a social event.  We met a few people that night, including Brian, a bloke from Louisiana USA who looked very much like Anthony Kedis from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  We ended up hanging out with him the next day at the Black Duck Brewery.

 

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History

Port Macquarie is 390km north of Sydney and is located at the mouth of the Hastings River.  The area was first explored by John Oxley in 1818 and named after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.  It began as a penal settlement in 1821, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts from the UK.  There are two things needed to make a good penal colony – isolation and labour – and Newcastle had lost both of these elements, with farmers moving into the Hunter Valley reducing isolation and the cedar industry winding down and producing less work.

 

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The rugged terrain around Port Macquarie was overgrown, providing a great amount of isolation, and there were plenty of aborigines in the area who were more than happy to return runaway convicts for some tobacco or blankets.  The first man to run the penal colony loved dishing out lashings as punishment, and the penal colony soon earned the reputation of a hellish place to be.  By 1840, the penal colony was closed and Port Macquarie became a town for free settlers.  These days, it’s a popular place for retirement.

 

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Things to Do and See

Hello Koalas Public Art Sculpture Trail

This is the coolest and most colourful thing about Port Macquarie – it was like a treasure hunt to find all the koalas.  Many of the koalas are within the city centre and along the foreshore, but there are some further out past Wauchope and there’s one at Bago Winery too.  While you’re on the hunt, keep an eye out for the genuine Chinese Junk at the marina and the cool graffiti on the rocks of the breakwater.

 

Koala Trail

 

Tacking Point Lighthouse

South of the city centre, on a headland by the coast is Tacking Point Lighthouse.  It’s a great lookout over Lighthouse Beach and a perfect spot for whale watching.  The reason it’s called Tacking Point is because when Matthew Flinders was exploring the area, the headland was a tacking point on his map.  Unfortunately, it took scores of shipwrecks around the headland before the lighthouse was built in 1879.

 

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Koala Hospital and Roto House

Established in 1973, the Koala Hospital treats sick or injured koalas and educates the community about how habitat destruction and disease can affect koalas.  You can visit the koalas during the day or arrive at 3pm for feeding time.

 

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Nearby is the Roto House, a late Victorian house that has recently been bought and restored by NSW National Parks.  It used to be owned by the Flynn family and was built in 1890.  It’s open for display and there’s a retro café onsite.

 

Black Duck Brewery

We visited the Black Duck Brewery with an American guy we met at the Port Macquarie YHA, and were greeted at the entrance by a huge Great Dane called Murphy.  With the big black dog by our side, we met Al the brewer, and passed on a message from Ben at New England Brewery.

 

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“So busy that his customers can’t find a park, aye?” Al said. “Tell him it’s standing room only here…”

 

We settled at the bar with a huge line of tasting paddles for the ten beers they had on offer.  A paddle of four beers was $5 so it’s around $10 for the full range, including two special beers.  Juz’s favourite was the Summer Swallow, an easy drinking session ale with apple and banana on yeasty bread and a refreshing finish.  Dave’s favourite was the Heron’s Craic, an Irish red ale with a delicious apple pie smell and a creamy caramel flavour.

 

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Black Duck Brewery has been operational for 5 years.  It’s the perfect place to sit down for a Sunday session, have a beer and a delicious pizza, or take a tour of the brewery.

 

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http://www.blackduckbrewery.com.au/

 

Bago Vinyard and Maze

Bago Vinyard is located about 25 minutes south west of Port Macquarie, and is worth the visit, whether you’re interested in the wine or the maze.  The wines are great, and include a few varieties we hadn’t heard of, like Chambourcin and Savagnin.  Once you’ve done a wine tasting and swooned at how delicious the mulled wine is, go check out the biggest maze in NSW.

 

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http://www.bago.com.au/

 

Tuncurry-Forster

On our way to the Hunter Valley, we deviated from the highway to pass through Tuncurry and Forster.  Regardless of which side of the bridge you are, the little parks on either end offer a great view of the bridge that spans the Coolongolook River.

 

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Just as the sun was setting, we made it to Cape Hawke Lookout, a platform on top of a hill that offers great views of the coast and town below.  Before we ran out of light, we drove past Lake Wallis and watched the sky change colour and reflect on the still water.

 

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Information & Accommodation

The public transport system around Port Macquarie is operated by Busways and the network covers the city and outer suburbs.  However, if you stay at the Port Macquarie YHA, you will be within walking distance of the city centre.  If you need to travel further, there are buses that travel on nearby Park Street and Gordon Street.

 

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City Profile : Mackay

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Our visit to Mackay was unfortunately brief but we believe we managed to see most of what the city had to offer, as well as the surrounding attractions.  We spent the morning to the west, exploring Eungella National Park before seeing the sights in Mackay and admiring their beautiful art deco buildings.  We then ventured south to Sarina to check out the Big Cane Toad before heading inland towards the Central Highlands.

 

Mackay sits on the Pioneer River about 970km north of Brisbane.  It’s considered to be the sugar capital of Australia because the region produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane, but the same can be said for the Burdekin Shire.  The city was named after John Mackay, who led an expedition through the valley in 1860.  Since then, Mackay has been hit with destructive cyclones, the deadly Bubonic plague, and severe flooding.  These days, its economy is based on coal mining, sugar cane and tourism, as it’s close to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and Eungella National Park.

 

Things To See And Do

Bluewater Lagoon

This was our first stop in Mackay.  A free, three tiered swimming pool with a slide, BBQ facilities and no jelly fish.  It’s also the perfect opportunity to have a shower and clean up.

 

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Queens Park

We had a quick stroll through Queens Park, and watched a few kookaburras terrorise a sun bird.  Because it was the weekend, their Orchid House was closed, but we managed to peep through the cracks.

 

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Mackay Marina Village

Just north of the city is the Marina Village, a district with residential blocks, restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as the Pine Islet Lighthouse.  This little kerosene lighthouse was constructed in 1885 and was operational for a hundred years in the Pine Isles. It was the last kerosene lighthouse to operate in Australia.

 

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Sarina

About 30 minutes south of Mackay is Sarina, a small town with a sugar mill and the Big Cane Toad.  This is one of the ugliest Big Things we have come across, and it sits right in the middle of the main street.

 

Eungella National Park & Finch Hatton Gorge

West from Mackay, the road passes through Marian and Mirani.  The Melba House in Marian is home to the visitor information centre, and was also the home of acclaimed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (for one year in 1883).  We drove through on a Sunday and both towns were holding markets.  We stopped to see the local wares and scored a few fishing lures for cheap.

 

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By the time we completed the steep climb to Eungella, it was midday and we knew there was no chance of spotting a platypus, but we made the most of our time anyway.  Markets were on in Eungella town and after sampling some bliss balls and visiting the lookout, we went to check out the national park.

 

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Camping is available there, which is great if you want to catch the platypussies frolicking in the calm waters of the Broken River in the early hours of dawn or in the late afternoon.

 

On our way back to Mackay, we stopped by Finch-Hatton Gorge for a refreshing swim.  Unfortuantely, after the 1.4km walk to Araluen Falls, we discovered that the water was a little too refreshing.  Nobody likes getting their eyes poked out…

 

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Cooktown

Town Profile : Cooktown

Cooktown

 

We were expecting to linger around Cooktown for two nights before heading to Cairns for work, but just as we were making plans, a fantastic opportunity presented itself.  The owner of a local farm needed some help for the week, and it was just the kind of experience we were looking for.  Now that we were locked in to stay in Cooktown for a week, we had a little more time to get to know the town and the locals.

 

Fast Facts

  • Cooktown is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia
  • It sits at the mouth of the Endeavour River, named by Captain James Cook after his ship
  • There are two seasons – the wet during December to April, and the dry from May to November.
  • The region is very rich in biodiversity because it covers three major ecozones, and therefore is a place of interest for botanists.

 

History

The traditional owners call the region Gan gaar, which means place of the rock crystals because of all the quartz crystals.

 

In 1770, Captain James Cook arrived and moored the Endeavour at the mouth of the Endeavour River for shelter and repairs after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef.  As the repairs were underway, botanist Joseph Banks and naturalist Daniel Solander explored the area and collected over 200 species of plants for documentation, and they also learnt words from the local people, like ganguru (kangaroo).  There was an artist on board, Sydney Parkinson, who was the first British person to draw Aboriginal people from direct observation.

 

Cooktown

 

In 1872, gold was discovered on the Palmer River southwest of Cooktown and the site was populated by many diggers from all over the world.  Cooktown was selected as the port through which the gold was exported and supplies were imported.  Two years later, Cooktown’s population grew to approximately 4,000 people and it was established as a town.

 

These days, Cooktown’s population is less than 2,000.  It has reached the status of a tourist destination because of its relaxed atmosphere and proximity to Cape York, the Great Barrier Reef, Lakefield National Park and the rainforest.

 

Cooktown

 

Points of Interest

The James Cook Museum

Whether you’re interested in the landing of James Cook in 1770 or not, a stroll through this fantastic museum is a must.  See the original anchor of the Endeavour, learn about Cooktown’s Chinese history and local aboriginal culture, and discover the original use of the museum building.  Fascinating stuff…

 

Cooktown

 

Nature’s Powerhouse & Botanic Gardens

Essentially, Nature’s Powerhouse is Cooktown’s Visitor Information Centre.  Get a map, stroll through the neighbouring Botanic Gardens or have a toasted sanga and a coffee on the deck.

 

The gallery and museum are also worth checking out if you’re interested in flora and fauna.  The Charles Tanner Gallery is a great exhibit of local animals such as snakes, bats, lizards and butterflies.  The displays were both interesting and educational.  The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery pays tribute to an artist and botanist.  While we were there, they were showing the ‘Botanical Endeavour’ – Sir Joseph Banks’ Florilegium Exhibition from 1770.

 

 

Grassy Hill

OMG – one of the best lookouts we have come across on our journey.  Stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the Endeavour River and Cooktown.  Amazing.

 

Finch Bay

Follow Finch Bay Road all the way to the end, past the Botanic Gardens, and you’ll arrive at Finch Bay.  It’s is a great little beach with an estuary.  We saw a big crab in the shallows and wished that we’d had a net with us to scoop him up!

 

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Black Mountain

About 25km south of Cooktown is Black Mountain National Park.  It is a massive pile of granite rocks that has developed over the last 260 million years.  Due to an unusual joining patter in the granite, fracturing and exposure to water has caused erosion and weathering of the boulders, but while the surface is just a mess of boulders, the solid granite core is underneath.  There are three animals that are completely unique to the park – the Black Mountain boulderfrog, skink and gecko – making Black Mountain one of the most restricted habitats in Australia.

 

The early settlers and local indigenous folks both have stories and rumours about quite a few people (often criminals) venturing into the caves among the giant black boulders and getting lost.  Whilst the people have never been seen again, the locals reckon you sometimes still hear them…

 

Cooktown

 

Food & Drink

Cooktown Hotel

This was the first pub we visited, and for a Saturday afternoon, it was fairly busy.  Then we remembered – AFL Grand Final weekend.  We sat outside in the beer garden and had a lovely lunch of pizza and parma before getting on with the rest of the day.

 

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Cooktown Café

More like cranky-pants café!  The owner of the store had a serious attitude problem, but the coffee was good, which is why people keep coming back.  We found out later that the owner had had a tiff with his partner the night before and was therefore in a particularly cranky-pants mood that day.

 

The Italian (aka De Wogs)

Opposite the road from the Top Pub is a popular Cooktown institution that dishes out mountains of risotto and pasta, tasty pizzas made with fresh ingredients, as well as Chinese food at a dearer than average price.  While Juz’s soggy but yummy parma lacked ham and chips, Dave’s capricciosa pizza was perfection, but to be perfectly honest, neither seemed to justify the price.

 

Cooktown

 

The Lions Den Hotel

About 30km south of Cooktown is an old pub called the Lions Den.  It’s named after a mine in the area, which got its name when a stowaway named Daniel was working at the mines and while standing at the entrance of one of the tunnels, the mine’s owner said, “Daniel in the Lions Den”.

 

The pub has plenty of character, with scribbles, business cards and stickers all over the walls, as well as old hats, thongs, license plates and stubbie holders.

 

Cooktown

 

Information & Accommodation

Nature’s Powerhouse is on Finch Bay Road and is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm.  Contact them for information about Cooktown by emailing info@naturespowerhouse.com.au

 

Pam’s Place YHA – on the corner of Boundary and Charlotte Street.  To make a reservation, call 4069 5166 or email cooktown@yha.com.au http://www.yha.com.au/Hostels/QLD/Cairns-and-Far-North-Queensland/Cooktown/

 

Archer Point

About 15km south of Cooktown is the turnoff for Archer Point.  Continue along the dirt road until you get to the end. It’s a great place to camp provided you don’t set up right on a headland.  The wind is strong and constant, but the views at sunset are breathtaking.

 

Cooktown

 

Excape Backpackers YHA

Excape Backpackers YHA, Exmouth

A great option for budget accommodation is located conveniently within the Potshot Hotel Resort.  Enjoy the laid back, social atmosphere in the common outdoor area or head to the pub for a beer.

 

Exmouth is the perfect place to base yourself as you explore the Ningaloo Reef.  Book a tour to swim with whale sharks and manta rays, go snorkelling or head west and explore the gorges of Cape Range National Park.

 

 

FACILITIES

Dorm rooms, twin, double and single rooms available, all with an ensuite bathroom and air conditioning. The common areas include an undercover outdoor BBQ area, a spacious kitchen, laundry, and lounge with internet facilities.  All of this is next to the pub, which has a swimming pool and great Asian-style beer garden.

 

THINGS NEARBY

A quick 5 minute walk will bring you to the town centre, with two supermarkets, a pharmacy, bottle shop and more. Also, if you’re looking for a cheap dinner, Planet Burgers parks their food van behind the pub in the evenings.

 

 

Ningaloo Reef

A short drive north will bring you to the Ningaloo Marine Park boundary.  Learn about the turtles that come here to lay their eggs before you explore the beautiful sanctuary zones and go snorkelling at Lakeside or Turquoise Bay.  You will see the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station and Vlamingh Head Lighthouse on the way.  Make sure you head up to the lighthouse – the view is fantastic.

 

Cape Range National Park

If you want a change of scenery, check out Cape Range National Park.  Walking trails and lookouts allow you to appreciate the mangroves, gorges and rock formations.

 

 

THE ESSENTIALS

The Excape Backpackers YHA is located in the Potshort Resort complex on Murat Road, right next to the Potshot Hotel.

 

Phone: 08 9949 1200

Email: exmouth@yha.com.au

Website:  http://www3.yha.com.au/hostels/wa/pilbara/exmouth/

 

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

 

The Bunbury Lighthouse from the Marlston Hill Lookout Tower

City Profile : Bunbury

In 1803, French explorer Captain de Freycinet sailed past the area but it wasn’t until the 1830s that Governor James Stirling led an expedition from the Collie River to the Darling Range and properly explored the area.  He set up camp at Port Leschenault, which was renamed Bunbury in 1836, and the first European settlers arrived in 1838.

 

Initially, Bunbury grew full of convicts that created a workforce to expand the economy.  By 1900, the timber industry was strong, cutting wood for railways and the gold rush in Donnybrook, and Bunbury soon developed into a town.  The Port of Bunbury became busy with exports of wool, timber and grain, and other industries such as whaling, farming and mining.

 

In the 1980s, the direction of Bunbury shifted to relocate the industry away from the CBD and build a beautiful city around the natural waterways.  The railway was considered an eyesore, so they built a new train station 4km south of town and the old railway station is now the city’s visitor centre and major bus terminal.


The Bunbury Lighthouse started with humble beginnings in 1841 as a storm lantern erected on a wooden keg.  Thirty years later, a square, wooden lighthouse was built but was replaced in 1903 by a steel structure about 9 metres tall.  In 1959, they extended the lighthouse by another 6 metres before adding a flashing light at the top four years later.  It wasn’t until 1971 that the current lighthouse replaced the old structure.  It stands 27.4 metres and has a great black and white chequered pattern to make it highly visible for kilometres.

 

We got a great view of it from the Marlston Hill Lookout Tower that is accessible via a spiral staircase.  The lookout provides 360 degree views of Bunbury, the marina, Leschenault Inlet, the Indian Ocean and Koombana Bay.

 

Koombana Bay Beach

 

Koombana Bay is a great place to spend the day with family and friends.  It has a great beach with safe, calm waters, BBQ facilities and a kiosk.  It’s also a quick 10 minute walk to the Marlston Waterfront, which is a mini version of Melbourne’s Docklands.  There’s a brewery, taffy factory, café and a few restaurants where you can enjoy a nice dinner while overlooking the bay.

 

While we were in Bunbury, we stopped at Cafe 140 for a coffee.  It was a really colourful place, vibrant, dynamic and BUSY!  There was a queue to order but they smashed out the coffees and before we knew it, we had a latte in hand with a little almond biscuit on top.

 

Nearby, there are two cheese factories, and because Juz simply cannot help herself, we visited them both.

 

The Old Cheddar Cheese Company

About 30km south of Bunbury is Ludlow and The Old Cheddar Cheese Company.  They specialise in making rich, creamy cheddar cheese and add different herbs and spices to make a great variety of flavours.  The award winner is the Original Creamy Cheddar, a full flavoured, tangy cheese that’s super creamy and delicious.  The flavoured varieties include garlic and chives, cracked black pepper and chilli.

 

 

Ha Ve Cheese

About 30km north of Bunbury is a small town called Harvey, and at Ha Ve Cheese, they made a whole bunch of different sorts, like soft while mould cheeses, Romano, fetta, blue vein and flavoured savoury cheeses.  All cheeses are suitable for vegetarians and are Halal certified and free cheese tastings are available.

 

  • OMG Triple Cream Brie – gooey and creamy with a hint of chalk in the centre, it was tart and creamy with a wonderful salty tang.
  • Haloumi – squeaky and firm, we got some for our BBQ lunch the next day.
  • Natural Savoury – firm and full of flavour, like a fetta.
  • Romano – creamy, salty, full flavoured and very mature!
  • Harvey Blue – briney and soft with a gently spicy mould.

 

They also offer ice cream, local produce like sauces, pickles and preserves, and if you truly love cheese, you can enrol in their cheese making course.  After our cheese tasting, we went outside to meet their camels.  Juz got a little bit too friendly with one of them.

 

 

Information & Accommodation

Bunbury Visitor Centre – The Old Station, Carmody Place

Dolphin Retreat YHA – 14 Wellington Street, 08 9792 4690