It’s a picturesque south west town that’s only a lazy 3 hour drive from Perth. In the past, Busselton hasn’t had the same allure for me as Dunsborough or Margaret River, and has only been a brief stop off on the way to somewhere else. But recently, we decided to make Busselton our destination for a weekend away with the kids, and we were surprised to find ourselves charmed by this unassuming town. Here’s what we got up to:
Exploring - the jetty:
It’s the 1.841 kilometre icon of Busselton, and the longest timber jetty in the Southern hemisphere.
Allow me the indulgence of a brief history lesson: the original timber jetty was constructed in 1865 and cost 83 pounds to build. Large sections of the jetty were destroyed by a cyclone in 1978 and fell into the ocean, where some parts of it still lie, and are visible on a clear day.
The local community spent years raising money to restore it and the rebuild started in 1990. Over the years, it again fell into ruin until the West Australian government’s Royalties for Regions funding was used to restore and extend it until it finally reopened in 2011 bigger and better than ever.
The jetty now offers endless recreation options: you can walk it, train it, jump off it, swim under it, canoe/kayak/standup paddle board next to it, dive beneath it, fish off it, and now you can even walk on the sea floor UNDERNEATH it!
We tried a few of these options, the first being a walk along it. Naturally we chose a sunny 39 degree day to do this without any hats. But that didn’t detract at all from the absolute perfection of the clear blue sky and the still blue ocean.
It took us less than half an hour to walk the length of the jetty, and there was plenty to look at along the way including manta rays, fish and sea birds.
Once we got to the end, we started a walk of a different kind and took an undersea trek on the ocean floor, 7 metres down (for the full story on our walk, click here). We had massive dive helmets and airtanks fitted to us before going for a little jaunt along the sea floor.
It was a great experience and I’d highly recommend it for anyone, particularly those who haven’t got their dive ticket and want to see what it’s like to breathe underwater. My 12 year old stepson loved it and didn’t have any issues with the equipment despite the fact the helmets weigh about 30kg!
Our next way to explore the jetty was to catch the train, which runs almost to the end of the 1.841km structure. The train first started running in 1995, but had to be stopped at various times when the jetty fell into disrepair.
These days it’s going strong, and there wasn’t a seat left during our rides. It’s especially popular with families with young children, and would certainly be a better option than making them walk all way to the end!
It was especially interesting to see that once the train pulled into the station, the driver simply detached the engine and drove it around to the other end of the train to take it back in the opposite direction. A local tour guide told us they’re in the market for a new solar powered version of the train by the end of 2016.
The train dropped us off at the underwater observatory, where we headed down a spiral staircase and descended under the water.
The observatory was built in 2002 on land and then had to be lowered into position 8 metres below the jetty and anchored to the seabed. There are 11 viewing windows on different levels, which allow you to get up close to the marine life.
I was surprised at the diversity of the eco system surrounding the observatory, and saw heaps of things that I haven’t even seen on a dive before, including anchovies (I’ve only ever seen them when I’m pulling them off a pizza)…
Apparently there are more than 300 individual marine species visible under the jetty, which unfortunately we didn’t have time to count, but I would totally believe it...
The jetty is also good for spotting marine animals above the water, and the kids were really excited to see a pod of dolphins swimming just a couple of hundred metres away.
Busselton is built on Geographe Bay, a beautiful 30 km stretch of coastline. The bay is somewhat protected by Cape Naturaliste and on the day we went, the conditions were perfect.
The calm water makes it really popular with families, and there’s heaps for kids to do including an inflatable waterslide and a swim jetty for them to jump off. The water and sand are clean, and there's a couple of cafes and little kiosks if the kids get hungry.
Eating – the Goose
After walking 1.8 k’s down the jetty, some sustenance is definitely in order, and luckily you don't have to walk much further to find it. The Goose is conveniently situated right at the end of the jetty and has spectacular ocean views.
Owned and run by a local family, the Goose is an institution in Busselton, and serves great food, cold beers and colourful cocktails in a really laid back setting. If the weather is good, there’s heaps of outdoor seating and the doors are all kept open, which makes you feel like you’re almost sitting on the beach (with the added bonus of not getting sand in your pants).
Staying – Jetty Central
We opted for a private rental and chose Jetty Central, which as the name suggests, is really close to the jetty and is very central! It’s only about 200 metres from the centre of town and about 500 metres from the beach. It made life really easy just to be able to leave the car in the driveway and walk wherever we wanted.
The house itself has 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and can accommodate up to 7 people. It’s recently undergone a really nice renovation inside and is really clean, bright and smells amazing.
An added bonus was that the owners had left the pantry and fridge stocked with some of the essentials, including sauces, oil, herbs and spices and milk, which made it easier to make use of the full kitchen.
We felt really at home at Jetty Central and really loved the amount of space we had. The house is on a 1272 sqm block, so there was heaps of room for a backyard cricket match (it was seriously nearly as big as the WACA!)
Busselton is a summer playground, so the best time to visit is from December to March. It's about a 3 hour drive south of Perth, and also has an airport.
The jetty underwater walk is only available between December and April 30.
For more info, see: www.divebusseltonjetty.com.au