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How Koombana Bay shaped Bunbury

By Kevin Kelly

The Koombana Bay foreshore revitalisation project is underway and Bunbury residents will have noticed some significant progress has already been made. In anticipation of the gorgeous new oceanfront development, let's take a look back at how Koombana Bay led to the establishment of Bunbury.

Earliest European exploration

In 1803, the area that would eventually become Bunbury was investigated by a group of French explorers led by Captains Baudin and de Freycinet. The expedition had left Le Havre, France two years earlier on their ships the Geographe and the Casuarina, for which the respective bay and point were named.

The Geographe's botanist, Jean Baptiste Louis Claude Theodore Leschenault de la Tour, was among the first of the sailors to venture to shore for the investigation and mapping of the area. Thankfully, the Leschenault Inlet didn't take the botanist's full name.

Becoming Bunbury

Though explored further by a Dr Collie and Lt Preston in 1829 (you'll no doubt be seeing a trend here – these are the Collie and Preston for whom the rivers were named), it was Lt Henry Bunbury who mapped the arduous and difficult inland route to the area from Pinjarra. The settlement was named Bunbury in honour of the lieutenant's work forging the route. 

Central Bunbury was officially surveyed in 1840 and the first magistrate was appointed in George Elliot, later replaced by William Pearce Clifton. It was Clifton who built the iconic Leschenault Homestead on the inlet, using predominantly timber, wattle lathes and mud.

First settlers and smooth sailing

Historians believe that the first European Bunbury residents were John and Helen Scott, arriving at the new settlement in 1838. John was a farmer, who managed the Eelup Farm (the town's very first, situated on the site of the Eelup Rotary) while Helen was the burgeoning town's district nurse and midwife.

By 1842, Bunbury had 16 buildings and an inn. The town prospered as whalers would anchor along the foreshore. As the port grew, the area would develop its own industries, one of the more prominent early ventures being the export of hardwood timber to South Africa.

Over the next sixty years, the town would grow even more. Railway lines were constructed to Perth and Boyanup in the 1890s, which increased the port's already significant operations. In 1903, the breakwater was built to protect the bay from dangerous weather conditions. The town grew and changed shape until it became the Bunbury we know today.

The Koombana foreshore was instrumental in Bunbury's development, and now Bunbury returns the favour by redeveloping the foreshore. Looking forward to seeing the new waterfront? So are we! There's never been a better time to invest in real estate in Bunbury, so why not contact our team of property experts today?

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