I love Margaret River as much as the next person but the thought of a three hour drive after work on a Friday (not even for a long weekend)? Pass. I desperately wanted an accessible country getaway that ticked my boxes. Family friendly, great food, good coffee, plenty to do without crowds and a huge price tag. So, I settled for the Bunbury-Geographe region. And BOY did it deliver. In spades. With my husband and 16-month-old in tow, I travelled and ate my way through the region’s best…fried Saganaki Cheese, smooth homemade hummus, melt-in-your-mouth donuts, tender fish tacos, and a region-loaded cheese platter overlooking sprawling gumtree-dotted paddocks. Friends PM-d me to ask “where the heck are you!?!?!” because no one would guess that my weekend’s worth of insta pics were taken just two hours from Perth. Next time you’re after a night (or two) away, do yourself a favour and don’t look past the South West’s best kept secret – the Bunbury Geographe region. Your instagram feed (and your taste-buds) will thank you.
Written & photographed (unless specified) by Jade Just – Contributing Travel Editor
WHERE TO EAT
Can there be too much to love about a cafe? From the adult size swings hanging from the rafters (you’re never too old, right?!), chic arrangement of cacti, dog parking space, exposed brickwork and the outdoor sea container adorned with potted greenery…there is SO much to love about Cafe 140. And that’s all before you even look at the menu. Food-wise it’s awesome: modern with a homemade vibe, and guaranteed to induce serious option anxiety. My picks: the poke bowl with salmon or at the other end of the scale there’s ‘One Naughty Cheeseburger’. Drinks wise, the coffee gets a big tick as does the fresh OJ buuuut for something a bit cheeky don’t go past their ‘One Night In Paris’ cocktail. Don’t leave without visiting their wood fire bakery – right next door – for outstanding donuts, fresh bread and butter made onsite. You won’t be disappointed.
140 Victoria St, Bunbury
Green Door Wines
If you’re after a platter and wine tasting with a view, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than Green Door Wines. The interior is a blend of timber and Mediterranean-styling with a beautifully detailed green door as the centrepiece and, beyond the door, the panoramic view is breathtaking. Like the view, the wine is impressive and easy to drink, even easier when accompanied by a tasty mix of the region’s finest cheeses, meats and wares. If you’re travelling with kids there are non-alcoholic drinks and yummy cakes on offer plus a huge grassed area, which makes the most of the vista.
1112 Henty Road, Henty
Market Eating House, Bunbury
As a self-confessed foodie, I’ve eaten at some pretty incredible spots, and Market Eating House is quite honestly right up there with Melbourne’s finest (seriously, go ahead and test me on this). IF you are a cheese lover and have never had Saganaki Cheese…you’re missing out. Big time. Fried halloumi has nothing on Saganaki. From the sensational menu I also tried the hummus, the amazing Victor’s Figs (with gorgonzola, raw honey and fig leaf oil), Rottnest Island Honey Bugs, Wood Roasted Eggplant, BBQ Corn and Wood Roasted Pork. I kept waiting for something I enjoyed but didn’t love, which didn’t happen – I was even raving about the rice. Yes, the rice. Interior wise it’s uber cool. Think: dim lighting, clear glass pendants and dark timbers. Devastatingly I couldn’t fit in dessert but IF I could I would have opted for the Peanut Butter Parfait…with soft chocolate and salted caramel, of course.
Images courtesy of Market Eating House. 9 Victoria Street, Bunbury
Yours or Mine
If I ever see fish tacos on a menu, I’m sold. So, unsurprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed the South American options at Yours or Mine. I grabbed the Curly Fries “for my daughter” (wink, wink), Chicken Poppers, Snapper Tacos, and Brazilian Chargrilled Chicken. With the funky mural and moody lighting it’s the ideal place to have a meal with friends or your partner but there’s also alfresco dining, which was a godsend as our usually smiley Little Miss was rather grumpy because cutting big toothipegs ain’t much fun.
24 Victoria Street, Bunbury
Happy Circle Donuts
If you’re heading to or through Collie, this is a great stop for a scrummy treat. On par with it’s name, the owner is super happy and so lovely, and all of the donuts are baked on site. There are sweet and savoury donuts (or sweet-savoury options like maple bacon) and they are absolutely as good as they look.
Shop 9-A Jones Arcade, Forrest Street, Collie
The Happy Wife
As per the name, these guys know who to please. It’s the perfect spot for Sunday breakfast…fab coffee with an unassuming front and stunning river views out the back. There’s also plenty of space to park a bike, and it’s also fur-baby and human-baby friendly. Don’t eat too much because you’ll want to stop across the road at Corner On King to grab something from their sweets cabinet. They’ve got the biggest brownies I’ve ever seen including a half brownie half caramel version.
4/98 Stirling St, East Bunbury
But where to have a late night drink? There are more than a few options! I suggest Sala Wine Lounge and Kitchen, Lost Bills (a regional finalist in the Best Small Bar Awards), or those mentioned above.
WHERE TO GO
Black Diamond Lake
The 2017/18 summer has seen Black Diamond Lake emerge as an instagrammers dream location, with mind boggling turquoise water juxtaposed by the bordering gums. Check out #blackdiamondlake for your inspo where you’ll find plenty of bikini clad wanderers perched on floaties (watermelons, unicorns, flamingos…you name it). If you’re keen to stay on dry land a photo from the first carpark is your best bet.
Lot 85, Ferguson Road, Allanson
Wyalup Rocky Point
We had a super relaxing morning checking out the many basalt formations – the result of flowing lava. If your kids get bored at a stock-standard beach then Wyalup Rocky Point is an excellent alternative where they can clamber over the rocks and fossick through the rock pools. At the northern end you can spot Bunbury’s renowned checkerboard lighthouse – good for photo ops with the rocks in the foreground. Handily, there are loads of carparks and there’s even a local honey stall.
352 Ocean Drive, Bunbury
An absolute must-do if you’re in the region, especially ideal for kiddos. There are thousands of gnomes who call Gnomesville home, on the corner of the Wellington Mill Road/Ferguson Road round-about…it’s a seriously impressive collection. There aren’t just your run of the mill garden gnomes either – there’s Elvis gnomes, tubby hockey player gnomes, gnomes of all trades, shapes, sizes and colours. Head there early or later in the day to avoid crowds (note: there’s no toilets or taps here). BYO gnome if you’d like to add one to the family.
Lot 4059 Wellington Mill Rd, Wellington Mill
The prettiest of swimming and canoeing spots – fringed by peppermint trees on the Collie River. The viewing platform and step-in entry thankfully makes it far safer than most river swimming holes. The campground here is one of the most picturesque in the South West but bear in mind it gets busy during school holidays and on long weekends.
Victoria Street, Bunbury
You can’t visit Bunbury without taking a walk down the main street. Be sure to duck into The Green Depot for a huge range of indoor-friendly plants and pots, fashion wise there’s Life and Soul Boutique, and don’t forget to look out for the street art as part of the city’s Re.Discover initiative.
The region is dotted with terrific wineries, and plenty are family friendly. If you’re travelling midweek be sure to check cellar door opening days and hours, and what else they offer besides wine (there’s degustations and St Aidans even hosts outdoor cinema evenings).
WHERE TO STAY
Bunbury Seaview Apartments
With ocean views and self-contained living, this is the perfect place to stay if you’re travelling with your family. The adults can sit on the balcony while the kids can still be seen inside, and although the kitchens boast a microwave and oven the onsite cafe is a great option if don’t fancy cooking (or even just for a late-night dessert!). Don’t forget your swimming gear if you’re travelling during the warmer months so you can make the most of the pool.
Middle & bottom images courtesy of Bunbury Seaview Apartments. 205 Ocean Drive, Bunbury
Peppermint Lane Lodge
This stunning adults-only retreat, nestled among the trees in Wellington Mills is the ultimate country escape. The rooms show obvious and thoughtful attention to detail – luxurious but with the warmth you’d expect from a lodge – each opening onto a private deck where you can spot native blue wrens while enjoying a glass of wine. The owners love cooking so breakfast here is a real treat, and there’s the option to dine indoors or outdoors while overlooking the unique brolga sculptures, pool and gardens.
351 Wellington Mill Rd, Wellington Mill