Australia’s South West
Head south for spectacular scenery and state-of-the-art facilities.
Two hours from Perth, Bunbury, the third largest city in Western Australia, is a port town that used to be described as ‘industrial’. But it has reclaimed railway land, wheat silos, and some of the port for a new accommodation and restaurant precinct.
Now it is set to become an important business events destination with another major new infrastructure development. Since 1990 the city’s had a tiered 810-seat Regional Entertainment Centre, but with no other spaces it could really only host plenary sessions then send delegates off to a range of smaller venues.
Currently under construction is an impressive addition next door, which includes a flexible 250-seat cube theatre with retractable seating that can also host 250 (banquet) or 300 (cocktail). Adjacent to the theatre the new Wellington Suite, comprising three naturally lit rooms for 90, 75 and 60, offers a total capacity of 240 (theatre), or 150 (banquet) with operable walls retracted.
There’s a commercial kitchen that caters for canapes and full banquet, as well as a sky bar foyer which holds 300 (cocktail). The original theatre foyer suits 400 (cocktails), and a new glass sided lounge holds 100 (cocktails).
With panoramic views across Leschenault Inlet, where 100 or more bottlenose dolphins regularly come to frolic at the Dolphin Discovery Centre, the new development includes a paved waterfront forecourt area that will make it a popular gathering place when it opens next July.
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre (BCEC) conference and events coordinator, Susie Heyworth, says the new development will allow the centre to handle the largest events Bunbury has hosted for a complete day conference program in one venue. And she says, “within a five minute walk we have over 330 beds in the three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half star range”.
Among the most unusual accommodation is four white historic grain silos, which have been developed into private waterfront apartments. But adjacent are Mantra’s 67 studios, two and three bedroom apartment-style rooms overlooking the water. Mantra has a highly rated restaurant, Silo’s, an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and direct access to the beach and the popular waterside bars and eateries.
A stage one redevelopment of Lighthouse Beach Resort includes a magnificent event space overlooking the city’s old clifftop lighthouse. The resort’s Laurelle Anderson provided a hard-hat tour of the space that will cater for 320 (banquet) and 420 (cocktails), and the newly renovated rooms that sit high on a hill overlooking both the Indian Ocean and the city.
Quest Bunbury, 500 metres from BREC, has 52 four-star apartments, some with full kitchens, but the property also has a charge back arrangement with some local restaurants.
As the gateway to the south west, Bunbury is well serviced by transport with three or four coaches a day from Perth airport, a train service four times daily from central Perth, regional jet aircraft (Skywest) to Busselton 30 minutes away, plus private charters (up to 12 pax) into Bunbury’s own airstrip. It is also a stop on the growing cruise-ship itinerary.
At the southern end of the region lies the historic town of Albany, with its rugged coastline and a reputation for world-class walking tracks. Albany local Cheryl Griffiths has turned bushwalking into a business for both the leisure and corporate markets. Albany Walking Holidays features a corporate team-building program for up to 30, which starts as a half-day or full-day walk, either self-guided or led by Cheryl and her team.
She says the essential skills businesses need to develop within their teams can be achieved on the walking tracks which include forest walks, mountains, rivers and the Flinders Peninsula which juts out into the Southern Ocean. The program can be expanded to a longer walk and can also include accommodation. Albany is a one hour flight from Perth or four-and-a-half hours by road.
Mandurah Convention and Exhibition Centre is a new event space 70 km south of Perth. Run by Brian Robeson, who is experienced in the local meetings sector, the MCEC was originally a yachting museum and features a circular auditorium capable of holding 1200 (theatre), 700 (banquet), or 1400 (cocktail). A separate meeting room holds 120 (theatre).
Brian is promising a spectacular setting for business events – he‘s employing new 360 degree technologies that will completely theme the room using 24 video projectors.
Closer to Perth is the 70-room Joondalup Resort, which has just added a purpose-built event space catering for up to 500 and featuring the latest in LED lighting technology, plus motorised screens six metres wide. It supplements the resort’s six other event spaces that can be used for small board meetings of 18, medium-sized meetings up to 60, or a ballroom for 50 (U-shape) or 140 (banquet).