The port of Bunbury is the third largest city in Western Australia after Perth, the state capital, and Mandurah. It is situated 175 km south of Perth’s central business district (CBD). Bunbury is situated near the mouth of the Collie River at the southern end of the Leschenault Inlet, which opens to Koombana Bay and the larger Geographe Bay which extends southwards to Cape Naturaliste.
The first registered sighting of Bunbury was by French explorer Captain Louis de Freycinet from his ship the Casuarina in 1803. He named the area ‘Port Leschenault’ after the expedition’s botanist, Leschenault de la Tour. The bay was named Geographe after another ship in the fleet.
In 1829, Dr Alexander Collie and Lieutenant Preston explored the area of Bunbury on land. Later Lieutenant Governor Sir James Stirling visited the area and a Military post was established. The area was renamed Bunbury by the Governor in recognition of Lieutenant Henry William St. Pierre Bunbury, who developed the very difficult inland route from Pinjarra to Bunbury.
Leschenault Inlet was extensively altered in the 1960s and 1970s by major earthworks to create the Bunbury Inner Harbour that is centre for the large export industries in the region which include 20% of the world’s alumina, timber, dairy and mineral sands. Bunbury was also in the past an important railway terminus. The Railway Station was close to the centre of the city. The Railway Roundhouse was an important servicing centre for the steam engines of the past. The daily passenger service between Perth and Bunbury – the Australind – is the longest-running named service in Western Australian railway history. The railway line connecting Bunbury to the southern towns of Bridgetown and Manjimup was closed in 2005. The local government administering Bunbury was declared a city in 1979. Today, the city is the major centre of the state’s southwest region.