Dolphin centre revamp makes big impression

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
VideoDolphin Discovery Centre

A multi-million-dollar makeover of Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre is all but complete with the facility’s restaurant doors set to open tonight.

The popular tourist destination has been closed since May when contractors moved in to transform the centre as part of a $13 million redevelopment project.

The finishing touches at the centre’s interpretive zone are under way with the public expected to get its first glimpse during its opening on Saturday.

The new-look Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Camera IconThe new-look Dolphin Discovery Centre. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

General manager David Kerr said the centre’s redevelopment had been a long and exhausting journey, but the region would be proud of the results.

“It has been a major journey, really we’ve had disruption over the last two years and it’s only been possible because of the fantastic efforts of a lot of people to actually realise something which I hope our region will be proud of,” Mr Kerr said.

Modern exhibits, including 13 aquariums, along with a cafe and function areas are among the new features housed in an impressive landmark building designed by Bunbury-based MCG Architects.

Bunbury contractor Perkins Builders delivered the massive redevelopment.

Dolphin Discovery Centre’s new cafe.
Camera IconDolphin Discovery Centre’s new cafe. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

Mr Kerr said the centre’s addition of a restaurant enhanced its “professionalism”.

“It’s certainly a significant step up in terms of the professionalism of our visitor attraction,” he said.

“That’s the key thing and a big part of what we’re trying to do is to make sure that our tourism presentation is such that it will attract people down from Perth and into the region.”

“We need to have it a standard that’s going to do that and that’s a standard also of an international standard because not only are our Western Australian people travelling so much more and have high expectations, similarly we have quite a lot of international visitors to the centre – we want to make sure we are able to cater for them in a way that reflects well on the wider region.

The restaurant is taking only pre-bookings and is BYO alcohol.

The new-look Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Camera IconThe new-look Dolphin Discovery Centre. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Bunbury MLA Don Punch were given a sneak preview tour through the facility on Thursday.

Mr Punch said the community was going to be “amazed” by the now year-round tourist attraction.

“We needed something that was really going to take Bunbury into the 21st century from a tourism experience point of view,” Mr Punch said.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan were given a sneak preview tour through the facility on Thursday.
Camera IconBunbury MLA Don Punch and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan were given a sneak preview tour through the facility on Thursday. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

“It’s more than just a swim with the dolphins, the interactive experience is inside the building.

“If we think about the potential numbers that will flow from a year-round attraction, it’s pretty significant.”

Mr Kerr said it was “absolutely critical” the centre was a year-round tourism destination.

“One of the great challenges for tourism of course is what do you do on rainy days, particularly if it’s an outside experience,” he said.

“What we will have now is a significantly enhanced option and the sort of the thing that they could spend all day here.

“We’re very keen to see how that runs through this winter, but I think it’s going to be a significant plus for our region to have a facility that people can visit during winter as a part of their journey in our area, but also down south,” he said.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan was given a sneak preview tour through the facility on Thursday.
Camera IconRegional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan was given a sneak preview tour through the facility on Thursday. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

He said he was looking forward to getting in and running the centre into the future and the feedback had already been positive.

“The feedback has been very good, so people are surprised by the quality of the building when they come in, the standard of the finish and the interpretive elements of it,” he said.

“There’s been nothing but compliments in terms of the facilities but also the food and the staffing to this point.

“The best thing to do is open and give people a look at what is a facility I’m sure they’re going to be proud of and start running it.

“Particularly as we’re leading into the peak season, traditionally January is the peak season for tourism for us and so we wanted to make sure we had those facilities in place and we’d had a chance to road test them before then.”

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