I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published August 8th 2013
A Coastal Icon
I guess everyone has a list of 'must see' places in their travels and, with Western Australia in mind one such place for me was Busselton Jetty. I'd read about it frequently and seen it on so many TV travelogues that to come to WA and not get to the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere was just unthinkable.
Busselton Jetty is often described as Australia's greatest artificial reef
Sadly, when I eventually got there my initial reaction was dismay at being charged a fee to walk along a small part of my national heritage. That was until I did some research and found that those same entry fees and some government funding were all that ensured the jetty's future and gave us the attraction we have today.
At 1.8 Kms in length this is the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere
Completed in late 1865 the jetty became the principal point of departure for locally produced livestock, wheat & grain and supported a rapidly expanding timber industry. Whalers were also active in the area and used Busselton as a base for re-supply and to drop off their cargoes of whale oil. It was also a key feature to Busselton becoming a tourist attraction, going back to 1906 when passenger vessels began calling regularly, and by 1910 it had become a prominent holiday and health resort.
There's some conjecture about how long the original jetty was, some say 161 metres, others 176 metres. Whichever, it was just a shadow of the 1.8 kilometre structure extending into Geographe Bay today following numerous extensions over a 90 year period.
The jetty is a well known fishing hot-spot
The jetty was also a key feature to Busselton becoming a tourist attraction, going back to 1906 when passenger vessels began calling regularly, and by 1910 it had become a prominent holiday and health resort.
But times and the needs of industry change. Throughout the 1960's Bunbury became the preferred port and in 1973, after more than a century servicing an estimated 5000 ships, the Port of Busselton and its jetty closed.
Access to the jetty proper is via the Interpretive Centre
In 1978 Tropical Cyclone Alby decimated sections of WA's south-west coast and left the jetty badly damaged.
After 90% of the town's rate-payers voted to restore the jetty the Busselton Jetty Preservation Committee was formed and set about raising the necessary funds. State and Federal funding was sought and a caravan and later a kiosk were used to collect entry fees to the jetty between 9 AM and 9 PM.
By 1990 sufficient funds were available to allow the first stage of reconstruction to be undertaken and by 1995 the first tourist train was in operation.
The Busselton Jetty Tourist Train commenced operations in 1995
Rebuilding suffered a major setback in 1999 when fire destroyed a section of the jetty, totally isolating the last 150 metres, and delaying the proposed construction of an underwater observatory.
Work continued and by 2001 the Interpretive Centre had opened at the shore end of the jetty and construction of the Underwater Observatory began in 2002 and opened to the public in December 2003.
In 2008 the WA Government allocated $24 million to a complete rebuild of the jetty and by 2009 a total of $27.1 million was available for the refurbishment project.
Closed throughout 2010 the restoration was complete and the jetty reopened to the public on Sunday 6th February 2011.
Today visitors to the Underwater Observatory descend 8 metres to the ocean floor and can observe some of the 300 species of marine life which call the jetty home, including sub-tropical corals which are very rare at these southern latitudes.
At the Underwater Observatory visitors descend 8 metres to the ocean floor amid some 300 species of marine life
The 50 seat Busselton Jetty Train runs throughout the day and can accommodate wheel chairs, prams and pushers.
Much of the jetty's history is on display in the Interpretive Centre along with a variety of souvenirs and local arts and craft including pieces in timber salvaged from the jetty.
Busselton Jetty is often described as Australia's greatest artificial reef and is one of the country's top 10 dive sites.
It's certainly worthy of inclusion on any 'must see' list, even with an entry fee. That's just a small price to pay for such an iconic attraction.
Busselton Jetty is a must see attraction on Western Australia's south-west coast
It's really pretty. When I lived in the UK I was walking distance to the Southend pier for a while. Apparently, it is the world's longest pleasure pier. They had a train down it too. But on a nice day it was lovely to walk and people watch :)