Please be mindful, Layman Road and Wonnerup House will be closed Sunday 3 December for the 2023 GWM IRONMAN Western Australia event.
What happens when two worlds collide?
Wonnerup House sits on Wadandi Country, less than 10 kilometres north of Busselton, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South West.
The property’s name, Wonnerup, was adopted by George Layman in 1832 when he took a land grant of 500 acres at this location.
Nestled between the majestic Ludlow Tuart Forest and the spectacular Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands, this peaceful setting belies a 140-year history of perseverance and hardship, as well as mistrust and tragedy, following the colonisation of the greater Busselton area in the 1830s. It is also a powerful reminder of the isolation, danger and struggles faced by the Layman family and others like them in the early days of the colony.
As you turn into the driveway of Wonnerup House you will see things have changed. Updated signage is the first indication of a new approach to storytelling at this important place. Working with Traditional Custodians and members of the Layman family, the National Trust has installed a simple but provocative presentation to encourage visitors to question their knowledge of the past and to consider how we understand truth.
Book your ticket now to explore the grounds and buildings, which includes two historic houses dating from the mid-19th century, a blacksmith’s shop and stables, plus a school room and teacher’s house.
Wonnerup House is included on the State Register of Heritage Places (Place No. 00424) and the City of Busselton Municipal Inventory (Category 1), and is classified by the National Trust of Western Australia.
The area has always been home to the Wadandi Noongar people. The Wonnerup area was used as a camping ground for lore business, and the fertile estuary was an important resource.
The rich lives of the Wadandi people were guided by the change of seasons and the associated access to food sources. They moved in harmony across the land according to a deep understanding that had been built across the millennia.
This way of life changed forever with the arrival of European colonists in the 1830s. Different cultures with different aspirations and different understandings of, and connections to, the world around them led to inevitable clashes and are part of our history.
Wonnerup House has also been home to three generations of the Layman family. Its members shared a range of agricultural, educational, creative, political, professional and social interests.
The moveable heritage collection associated with the place reflects the family’s life at Wonnerup, as well as making connections to other colonial families and the broader social history of the Busselton area.
In 2021 the National Trust completed an extensive project to re-roof the two main houses at Wonnerup House. Having packed away the heritage collections, it also provided an opportunity to begin the transition from an historic house presentation largely unchanged from when it opened to the public in November 1973, to a more contemporary and considered approach.
The current presentation is temporary and the National Trust is seeking funding to undertake a permanent installation to present a more layered and comprehensive interpretation of this important site. This work will be supported by consultation with local Aboriginal cultural custodians, descendants of colonial families and the local community, as well as archival research.
Future works to be carried out include an ethnographic survey of Wonnerup to better consider the Aboriginal heritage values associated with the place and to support future storytelling and engagement with Traditional Owners and the Wadandi Noongar community.
The National Trust will also undertake a comprehensive history inclusive of the role the place has in the colonisation of the state and south-west, and as a representation of the colonial frontier experience and its legacy. And alongside an archaeological survey and conservation plan, cultural landscape planning will identify, assess and manage the cultural landscape values including endemic and introduced species and the environmental significance of its setting.
Why not also pop across Layman Road to visit the Ramsar-listed Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands? You won’t be disappointed, particularly if you’re a bird enthusiast.
This site of state, national and international significance is home to one of the world’s largest populations of migratory waterbird species. Visit the Malbup Bird Hide, explore the trails and boardwalks through the beautiful wetland vegetation or walk the Possum Spotlighting Trail.
Or you can take the beautiful Tuart Tourist Drive through the Tuart Forest National Park, especially if you are on your way to Busselton and want to beat some of the traffic on the main highway. This drive loops through some of the last remnants of this magnificent ancient forest. Some of the largest remaining Tuart trees are 300–400 years old and stand on average 33 metres high with a girth of a massive 10 metres.
And a visit to Busselton isn’t complete without visiting the iconic Busselton Jetty and getting up close and personal with our amazing marine life on a tour of the underwater observatory!
Drive your story
The National Trust is excited to be a part of a new initiative from the Margaret River and Busselton Tourism Association. Five new self-guided drive trails will help you see more of what matters – in your own time.
Plan ahead, then feel free to get a little sidetracked while finding new favourites, slowing down with a swim, or stopping into a hidden gem. Linger a little longer to bask in the glow of sunset then bring home a story that’s all your own.
Wonnerup House at Wonnerup is part of the Busselton Bay and Bounty Trail.
Stripped back and relaxed, classic family memories are made here. Family holiday legacies are made here. The classic elements remain unchanged: the crystalline, protected waters of Geographe Bay. The foreshore lined with the iconic Norfolk Pines. The historic Busselton Jetty, cherished by generations of locals and visitors who have walked along it, jumped off it, snorkelled, dived, fished from it.
The nostalgia here is palpable, harking back to a simpler time – one of free time. Naturally, the bay is front and centre on this trail but scratch a bit deeper into the bountiful hinterland and you’ll find more experiences that hold onto Busselton’s essence and give back even more.
The calm of the coastline is paralleled by the adventures found inland, not to mention the quality beer being crafted locally. Expect genuine grassroots cellar doors, one of West Australia’s top produce and artisan markets, surprising adventures and unforgettable family holiday memories.
Find detailed maps and guides online at Driveyourstory.com