The Longest Timber-piled Jetty in the Southern Hemisphere
Busselton is a very popular tourist destination in Western Australia’s fabulous South West.
This is evident by the large number of caravan parks, holiday homes, and holiday resorts in the area. But what a place to spend the holidays.
Busselton lies on the shores of Geographe Bay, a wide curve of coastline that extends from Cape Naturaliste to the west, sweeping past Dunsborough and Busselton, and ends eastwards, just south of the city of Bunbury. Click here to see the bay see on Google Maps.
The natural curve of Geographe Bay provides an area protected from the rough seas of the Indian Ocean. Because the bay is extremely shallow (and full of soft reef coral) preventing the entrance of large ships, the construction of the Busselton Jetty began in 1865 to easily facilitate transporting goods to and from ships docked out in deeper water.
That original jetty was a mere 161 metres (528.2 feet), and drifting sands resulted in an additional 131 metres (429.9 feet) being added in 1875. Over the course of the next 90 years, additional extensions were made until it reached the remarkable length it is today.
Government maintenance ceased after the jetty officially closed in 1973 and, combined with the devastating effects of Cyclone Alby in 1978*, a community group formed to raise much-needed restoration and maintenance funds. The fact that the Busselton Jetty Environment and Conservation Association raised enough funds to replace 50% of the jetty structure, establish a train service along the length of the jetty, AND construct the Underwater Observatory as well as an Interpretive Centre is an absolutely incredible achievement.** (Both styled like boat sheds.)
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The Busselton Jetty is 1.841 kilometres in length (1.25 miles), making the return walk just over 3½ kilometres and I found it to be a very pleasant walk indeed. Not content with walking it once, I walked it a second time, but in all fairness, the first time was overcast and a little dreary and I chose the walk it again on a lovely sunny day, to really appreciate walking above the crystal clear shallow waters, and to get better photos.
With the sun out and the clouds gone, the view from anywhere along the jetty was, and is, amazing. To the west you can see Cape Naturaliste, across to the east the northern shores of Geographe Bay (perhaps as far north as Bunbury), and to the north, the unimpeded view out across the Indian Ocean with blue skies and blue water reaching as far as the eye can see. I stood there drinking it in for quite some time.
As you walk along the jetty you can find art works to look at, creative writing pieces to read, and one entire section of railing containing memorial plaques dedicated to lost loved ones.
At the end of the jetty, besides the uninterrupted view of the Indian Ocean, you can also see how far you are from home.
The Busselton Jetty is a proud piece of Busselton history, recognised as an icon of Western Australia, and stands as an incredible monument to the spirit and dedication of the local community, without whom the jetty would have fallen into disrepair and not be the centre point of life in Busselton that it is today.
I thought a $3 day pass entry to walk the jetty was rather reasonable as the jetty and attractions are run by volunteers and all money raised is used to maintain the jetty. Children under 15 can walk the jetty free of charge. Entry into the Underwater Observatory and the accompanying train ride attract an additional fee and are so popular that booking ahead is recommended.
* Severe Tropical Cyclone Alby was regarded as the most devastating tropical cyclone to impact the south west region of Western Australia on record. You can read more about it here.
** In 2011 a $27 million refurbishment of the jetty structure was completed. $24 million was contributed by the Western Australian State Government with the balance contributed by the Shire of Busselton and the Busselton Jetty Environment and Conservation Association.