Things to do in Albany
I first visited Albany on a dismal day when the sky was grey and a light drizzle was falling. To tell you the truth I didn’t think it was anything to write home about and we retreated to Denmark’s wooded inlets, 50kms away with all due haste.
But on a second visit, perhaps because my eye was more tuned in, I found Albany was amazing, and after 5 days’ exploring still had a To Do list of things I wanted to do or see. I’m not talking just about the town itself, but the area surrounding it, something you have to get out and about to see.
Albany is about 4.5 hours south of Perth, longer if you travel the more scenic way via Bunbury, Walpole and Denmark. Situated on the tip of SW Australia it began to establish itself as an important European settlement after 1826 when The Brig Amity sailed from Sydney under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer who was ordered to establish a settlement at King George Sound. The first settlers comprised, amongst others of convicts (mostly tradesmen), rank and file soldiers, officers, a surgeon and storekeeper.
Albany is a quaint Town
Don’t expect a metropolis because although Albany is the regional centre for other smaller townships in the southern region, it is still easily navigable with a quaint main street that leads down to the sea.
Interesting Heritage Trails wind around the town centre. You’ll find old cottages dating back to the early 1800’s including the Patrick Taylor Cottage, a Wattle and Daub home, apparently the oldest surviving intact dwelling in WA, built in 1832. There’s the Old Gaol that was built in 1852 for wrong doing Imperial convicts, and in the town are some stocks (yes, He Himself put me in them and took a picture).
Many shops and coffee shops and restaurants below the old facades have thick wooden floorboards and timber interiors. The new parts of the town are full of the normal chain stores and shopping malls, but the old part has lots of quirky buildings.
I enjoyed discovering the London Hotel (1909) which has a fabulous lounge, a bit like an old style, saucy, bordello – antique and opulent, full of velvet curtains, chintz and gold. I guess it’s Federation style, anyway it’s really atmospheric, you can almost hear the ghosts.
Attached to the hotel is Liberte, a coffee house cum wine bar cum tapas bar that is more Parisienne than parochial. It’s really cool and run by an American guy called Kester Solomon who came from a life of professional poker playing in Las Vegas.
The new state of the art Entertainment Centre looks a bit like a boat, well at least the sails and the hull of a ship. I suppose it’s Albany’s answer to the Sydney Opera House.
There are steep cliffs and crashing waves and blowholes around the tip of the peninsula, where there’s an old Whaling station which is now defunct and has been converted into a tourist attraction showing the history of whaling. Whaling used to be a big time enterprise in this part of the world. While we were in Albany three activists from the environmental anti-whaling ship The Sea Shepherd boarded a Japanese Whaling ship in the Southern Ocean to protest about Japanese ships being in Australian waters.
Whaling and Whales in Albany
In Albany, November 1978 to be precise, the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company took its last whale from the seas. Nowadays you can visit Whale World which houses displays and information about the whaling days as well as a skeleton of the last whale taken from the sea. You’ll need about 3 hours to do Whale World justice, and if you want to see the real thing then come to Albany between June and October because that’s when the whales migrate and you can spot them from land based viewing spots.
Expect Dramatic Landscapes
What I really like about Albany is its dramatic landscape, ok I know that’s a cliché, but coming from the flatter coastal region around Perth and Bunbury, you really notice its 3 dimensional aspects. It’s part of the region identified as The Great south West Edge which stretches from North of Busselton (and the Tuart forest) all along the coast to Cape Arid in Esperance.
Little Beach, Albany, is like a picture postcard
At Little Beach the vegetated hillside rolls gently down to the water where there are enormous granite boulders and the colour of the sea is the bluest I think I’ve ever seen. Talk about turquoise blue, I’d love a dress that colour! Thank goodness so few people go there. We parked in the car park without any problems even though it was smack bang during the Christmas school holidays.
I love Two People’s Bay; crunchy white sand meets clear blue green sea and you’ll probably want to walk, as we did, the length of the beach and back. Such an amazing and reclusive work-out.
The Torndirrup National Park is a place of rugged scenery. We visited on a wet and wild day when big swells and huge waves lashed the coastline. I can’t tell you how dramatic it was. The Gap and Natural Bridge were immense natural structures, while the Blow Hole, reached by a short, steep walk over the granite thundered and moaned and spat out sea water. At the top of this is a pole with two life saving buoys attached and a sign telling you what to do if someone falls into the sea – ‘don’t panic’ was one of the suggestions. WTF! Take a look at those cliffs and those waves and go figure!
We stayed about 7kms out of town at a caravan/camping park on the Kalgan River, where there were loads of kangaroos hopping around at dawn and dusk. Some of the kangaroos seemed to be trying their luck at golf on the small adjoining 9 hole golf course.
There were loads of Galahs too, they are such pretty parrots but there’s a saying “crazy as a Galah” and when you hear their squawk I think you’ll understand why!
Another place to stay is at Emu Point. Some of the cabins overlook the ocean.
We did some lovely walks, one was from Middleton Beach to Emu Point, which is also a bike trail (you can hire bikes) and had tasty fish and chips and a salad at a café at Emu Point. Another trail loops for 15kms through riverine forest and hugs the banks of the Kalgan River. We saw Osprey, and Pelicans and enjoyed the shade of the trees and listening to the sounds of the forest.
The river was wide in places and then narrowed in to pools and rock formations which are quite ancient because they were formed by the Aboriginees or Noongar people who placed them strategically so as to be able to catch and spear fish when the river was low.
Ironwood Wine Estate
Another day we stopped at Ironwood on Porongurup Road for lunch. There’s an interesting Cellar door, and you can order light lunches, coffee, tea and cakes. Expect spectacular views of the Porongurup range, Twin Peaks and Millinup Pass which form a picturesque backdrop to the winery. We enjoyed a varied tasting platter and a glass of wine while taking in the views over the dam.
Gene and Mary Harma purchased the property in 1991. They named the estate Ironwood because of the ironstone outcrops on some of the hills, and the stands of Jarrah and Redgum – but also because Gene was born in a place with the same name in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness in The States. Gene told me that The Porongurup vineyard was established in 1996, “and vines here thrive in the cooler climate where crisp sunlight and cool summer nights produce a full flavoured premium fruit.”
Other vines in the area were also ripe and looking gorgeous. The picture is of those at Montgomery’s Hill Wines www.montgomeryshill.com.au on the South Coast Highway situated on the banks of the Kalgan River. The cellar door is open 7 days and cheese platters are available if you’re hungry.
23 Things to Do in and around Albany
- Visit Little Beach (surely one of the prettiest beaches in the world?) and Two People’s Bay, and Middleton Beach.
- Visit the WA Museum Albany for historic exhibitions. It’s open from 10am to 4.30pm.
- Buy fresh produce (all grown or reared in the Great Southern Region) at the Farmers’ Market in Collie Street on Saturday mornings. www.albanyfarmersmarket.com.au Tel: 9841 4312 email email@example.com
- Go for a hike into the Pongorup Range, 48 kms from Albany where there are four different walks. Climb to the highest point a round topped peak called Devil’s Slide at 670 metres high – a2.5km walk from the car park. It’s quite a challenging trail in places but the view when you reach the summit is fantastic. The Porongurup is the world’s oldest mountain range and the granite is more than 1,000 million years old.
- There are wineries offering lunches and tea and coffee, places to stay, arts and crafts studios, tea rooms and various events happening regularly in the Progongurup region. Visit www.porongurup.com for more information.
- Look out for gorgeous and delicate wild flowers along the way.
- At the Sandalwood factory at Mount Romance you’ll learn about the healing properties of sandalwood. Here we were sucked into trying the “Gong” experience. You lie in a darkened Indian Teepee (sp?) and they play various gongs and give you scarves infused with sandalwood to sniff. It’s meant to calm you and has various beneficial effects as well as being good for sinusitis. You can read more about it, here … More Things to do in Albany – The Cone, The Gong and the Bowl!
- Whale World is open daily from 9am to 5pm if you’re interested in the history of the whaling industry.
- Drive to Mt Clarence and contemplate your freedom. An avenue of trees line Apex Drive, and at the base of each tree are the names of the soldiers who gave their lives during battle.
- Walk up the steps to the Light Horse Memorial and look at the beautiful views of King George Sound. I tried to imagine the ships departing to Gallipoli with over 30,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers watching Australia fade into the distance; some soldiers watching Aussie land recede for the last time.
- There are lots of King Skinks, large lizards that resemble timid little dragons, on the walk up to the War memorial (above).
- Visit the ANZAC Peace park and nearby Princess Royal Fortress on the top of Mt Adelaide.
- Visit Strawberry Hill farm, purportedly the oldest in Western Australia. Open daily 10am to 4pm, but closed mid July to August.
- Go for a walk along the Kalgan River (about 14kms return) – it’s beautiful, shady, you might spot Ospreys, and look out for the fish traps which are ancient remnants of the Mineng group of the Noongar tribe.
- Grab some brochures from the well stocked Visitors Centre, and make sure to follow the Amity Trail which takes you to historical spots, architecture and museums.
- Go and have a squizz at the Brig Amity on the foreshore. It’s open daily from 9.30am to 4pm.
- Have a Gonging experience at Mount Romance at the Sandalwood Factory – highly recommended. Don’t fall asleep as I did and snore! It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm. www.mtromance.com.au Tel: 9845 6816 (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Jo – Sue-Ellen Mills, tourism & retail manager )
- The Albany Wind Farm is well worth a stop – there’s an interpretive walk and of course those mammoth wind turbines which never cease to amaze.
- Peppermint tress and kangaroos are features of the Little Grove golf Links or you could go to the world class Albany Golf Course.
- Scenic flights, helicopter rides, scenic cruises on the Princess Royal Harbou and King George Sound or take a scenic half day river cruise that meanders the sheltred waters of Oyster Harbour and the ancient Kalgan River on Albany’s Riverboat the Kalgan Queen. www.albanyaustralia.com Tel: 9844 3166
- Go to the Great Southern Distilling Company for locally produced single malt whisky, vodka, gin and brandy.
- Follow the aroma to The Naked Bean for coffee lovers, on Sandford Road (some local cafes use their fresh roasted beans too).
- Walk, Walk Walk – there’s are so many trails in and around Albany from short strolls to long hikes. The information centre has lots of maps and offers friendly advice.
Looking for employment? The Visitor Centre keeps an updated list of employment agencies, but for the time being, these might help you.
ABP Seasonal Solutions, 34 Stirling Tce, Albany. Ph: 9841 8848
ATC Recruitment & Labour Hire, 29 Albany Highway. Ph: 9841 7387
Centrelink, 15 Peels Place. Ph: 13 1021
PVS Workfind, 63 Serpentine road. Ph: 9842 5822 email@example.com
Skill Hire, 291 York Street. Ph: 9892 7444 firstname.lastname@example.org
Southern Recruitment, Office 5, 222 Chesterpass Road, Albany WA 6330. Ph: 9842 9888 email@example.com