The port city of Bunbury is the third largest city in Western Australia after the state capital, Perth, and Mandurah. It is situated south of Perth's central business district (CBD). The port services the farming, mining and timber industries of the south west originally connected via an extensive rail network.
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 William St. Pierre Bunbury (1812–75), who developed the very difficult inland route from Pinjarra to Bunbury.
The population of the town was 2,970 (1,700 males and 1,270 females) in 1898.
The Pinjarra to Picton Junction section of the South Western Railway line was completed in 1893, connecting Bunbury to Perth, and also to the coal and mineral deposits and agricultural areas to the north and east of Bunbury.
The railway roundhouse and marshalling yards (located at what is now Bunbury Centrepoint shopping centre) were a vital service centre for the south west railway operations of the day. The railway station served as the terminal for the longest lasting named service in Western Australia – the Australind passenger train between Perth, transporting its first passengers on 24 November 1947 and connecting to a newly established bus network distributing passengers all over the South West.
By 1983, the railway into the city (closely following Blair Street's alignment) was considered an eyesore by the local council and developers, who wished to take advantage of the newly elected Burke Labor government's pledges to make Bunbury an alternative city to Perth.
A new station was constructed at Wollaston 4 km to the southeast, and the last train to use the old station departed Bunbury on 28 May 1985 with the new terminal commencing operations the following day . The railway land was then sold and Blair Street realigned. The Australind passenger service was then substantially upgraded in 1987.
At present there are two departures and two arrivals at Wollaston every day of the week. The former railway station is now the Bunbury Visitor Centre and is the main bus station for Bunbury City Transit services. It is also a stop for Transwa and South West Coach Lines bus services.
Bunbury Historical Society's King Cottage Museum
King Cottage was built around 1880 by Henry King and was owned by his family until 1923 when it was sold to the Carlsn family. In 1966 it was purchased by the City of Bunbury and subsequently leased to the Bunbury Historical Society. The rooms of the cottage are furnished to fit the period from the 1880s to the 1920s. The artefacts displayed are part of the Society's collection reflecting the way of life for a family in Bunbury during that period.
The first Baron Forrest of Bunbury, (Lord Forrest) was to be the title bestowed on Bunbury born John Forrest, who was the first Premier of Western Australia, explorer and surveyor of Western Australia. Leading three expeditions the first in search of Ludwig Leichhardt, two expeditions to Adelaide the first surveying the route of Edward John Eyre across the Nullarbor Plain, the second from Geraldton to the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin in search of pastoral land in the interior of Western Australia.
In 1890 when Western Australia gained rite to self-rule from Britain, Forrest was elected unopposed to the seat of Bunbury in the Legislative Council and was appointed as the first Premier of Western Australia. Forrest government embarked on a large scale public works expansion under the direction of engineer C. Y. O'Connor including the building of Fremantle harbour and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. On 13 February 1901 Forrest resigned as Premier of Western Australia and member for Bunbury so he could contest the seat of Swan in the first federal election. On 29 March 1901 Forrest was elected to the first Australian Parliament where he remained until he resigned due to cancer in March 1918.
On 6 February 1918, Forrest was informed that he was to be raised to the British peerage as Baron Forrest of Bunbury in the Commonwealth of Australia and of Forret in Fife in the United Kingdom. Forrest died on 2 September 1918 while travelling to London, to receive treatment and hoping to take his seat in the House of Lords. However no Letters patent were issued before his death, so the peerage was not officially created. According to Rubinstein (1991), "his peerage is not mentioned or included in Burke's Peerage, The New Extinct Peerage, the Complete Peerage, or any other standard reference work on the subject."