Busselton is a regional city in the South West region of Western Australia. Founded in 1832 by the Bussell family, Busselton has been one of the fastest growing regions in Australia in the last decade and has a population of approximately 20,000. Busselton is south west of Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Busselton has been voted Western Australia's top tourist town three times in 1995, 1996 and 2005.
The early history of European exploration of the Busselton area focuses on the French expedition of 1801 which brought Nicholas Baudin, with his ships the Géographe and Naturaliste, to the coast of Western Australia. Baudin named Geographe Bay and Cape Naturaliste after his vessels, and named the river Vasse after a sailor, Thomas Vasse, who was lost as he went overboard and believed to have drowned.
Busselton was one of the earliest settlements in Western Australia. It was first settled by the Bussell family, who relocated there from their location on the Blackwood River after John Garrett Bussell discovered superior farm land in the area. The Bussells moved to the area in 1834, establishing a cattle station which they named Cattle Chosen. Cattle Chosen quickly became one of the most prosperous stations in the colony, and as a result nearly all of the settlers at Augusta relocated to the area within a few years. A number of settlers established themselves at Wonnerup, and eventually a contingent of troops were stationed there under Lieutenant Henry Bunbury. It was originally intended to locate the townsite at Wonnerup, but the area was low-lying and marshy, and Bunbury considered it unsuitable for a townsite. The present area was then recommended by the Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe.
The present name of Busselton derives from the Bussell family. It was first officially used in June 1835. The Bussells, who were not consulted about the name, preferred the name Capel after a relative in England, Capel Carter, but the name Busselton was retained. A town named Capel was later established to the north of Busselton.
Being in close proximity to the tall timber country, Busselton soon established itself as a leading port. In 1850, timber was being exported and the small town prospered. Jetties for this purpose were built at Wonnerup, Busselton and Quindalup. Of these, only the Busselton Jetty remains.
During World War II 476 Busselton born men signed up for service; 20 in the Royal Australian Navy, 110 in the Royal Australian Air Force and 346 in the Australian Army. The names of the fallen are displayed on the towns war memorial alongside those of World War I in St Marys Park. During the war Busselton was home to an Air Force training base - remains of the base can still be seen today from the Busselton Bypass Road. A Royal Australian Air Force P-51 Mustang fighter was given the nickname Busselton in honour of the people of Busselton and their support of War Loan fundraising activities.
Western Australia's first railway line was built just north of Busselton at Lockville in 1871, the original engine known as the Ballarat engine is on display near the tourist bureau. The privately owned line was used for the transport of timber to the Wonnerup jetty across the Ballarat bridge which was later converted to a pedestrian bridge and removed in 2004 to allow for the replacement of the nearby Vasse Floodgates.
Following the closure in the 1950s of the Flinders Bay branch, most of the old line formation was changed in ownership. The railway line also connected onto the Busselton Jetty and was not closed on the jetty until the 1970s.
The connection with Bunbury was closed in the late 1980s.