|Posted on October 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM|
By Lena O'Brien Photos (c) Mark Barry & Gail Gillespie
With wineries scattered through the surrounding Great Southern Range, a sandalwood factory and the whaling station now a fascinating museum, Albany Western Australia is a lovely destination and a good base to explore the surrounding countryside; nearby Denmark is a good day trip too.
Albany is situated on the southern coast of Western Australia and is a 4-hour 45-minute drive from Perth. Prepare to be blown away by Albany’s dramatic convict history, set against a backdrop of rugged granite coastline, green seas, and a wild beauty that tugs at the heartstrings. Step back in time and explore convict jails, old taverns, whaling ships and settlers’ cottages, and the Grand National Trust homes in beautifully landscaped grounds.
Captain Vancouver discovered it in 1791 who settled in 1826. There are around 50 colonial buildings that have survived–now housing museums, art and craft galleries and restaurants.
The best way to take it all in is to follow the Amity Trail, a 30-minute self-guided walk that takes you past historical buildings of note. Tour the old whaling station, jump aboard a whaling boat and don’t miss the Brig Amity, a replica of the ship that brought Albany its first settler and convict cargo.
Albany is known for its natural attractions along the rugged coastline of Torndirrup National Park. Get some salty sea air and fantastic photos at the Gap, boasting a dramatic 24-metre ocean drop. Nearby Natural Bridge is a mind-boggling granite formation in the shape of a bridge.
Take a drive past quirky granite Dog Rock, Albany's towering wind farm, and walk the Middleton Beach boardwalk trail, a three-kilometre trail with sensational views of King George Sound. The whaling industry shut up shop in 1978 and whale watching has taken its place. You can take a journey through the site of Australia's last operating whaling station at Whale World.
Watch from the shore or take a whale watching cruise to see magnificent Southern Right and Humpback whales close up. Albany also offers top notch fishing, sailing and hiking. Divers should make a bee-line for HMAS Perth, a prepared wreck which rests on the ocean floor offshore. Named WA's Top Tourism Town 2000 and 2006, there's so much to do you won’t want to leave.
Albany Western Australia is 480 kilometres south of Perth. Once a whaling town and the oldest European settlement in Western Australia, this lovely small city with a population of approximately 33,000 sits on Princess Royal Harbour and has a stunning coastline with the sea, a myriad of merging blues.
Torndirrup National Park
Only a 15-minute drive from central Albany, this beautiful National Park has fascinating rock formations. The Gap and Natural Bridge formed by years of erosion by the sea are particularly impressive. The sea can get very rough here and it is wise to take care and not venture too close. You can do a 40-minute return walk down to see the blowholes! You may see whales along this coast from the cliffs, especially in winter.
My top “must see” Albany WA destination: this was Australia’s last working Whaling Station, which has been converted into a very interesting museum. You will learn the history of Albany Whaling with the audio visual displays. You will view a selection of artifacts and whaling history, wander around the "Cheynes IV Whalechaser" ship, once used for whaling; get a real feel for what life must have been for the crew, and watch movies in the novel three silos converted into theatres.
Be impressed by the whale skeletons, including the state’s largest Pygmy Blue Whale skeleton on display. At 22 metres it is huge! It washed up on a beach in South Albany Western Australia. You, too, can enjoy a meal or snack in the on site café.
Sandalwood Factory, Mt Romance
Whether you drive yourself or take a tour, the sandal wood factory in Albany Western Australia is well worth visiting. You can take a guided tour around the factory and learn abut the processing for distilling the oil and making of other products. Competing with India the more subtle Australian sandalwood oil is used worldwide in perfumes. There is a huge range of cosmetics, lotions, and other sandalwood products for sale. You can also treat yourself to a massage–known as The Cone, the Gong and The Bowl, a combination of healing, scent and sound therapy for an hour of relaxing unique self indulgence.
Brig Amity, the original Amity sailed from Sydney on 9th November 1826, eventually arriving at Princess Royal Harbour on Christmas Day after a difficult voyage. The crew which included convicts was to create a settlement around King George Sound. The Amity operated in Tasmania until wrecked in Bass Strait on an uncharted sandbank in June 1845. This replica built in 1979 is an interesting historical view of these men's journey.
Middleton is a beautiful white sand beach and is a good place to find accommodation with the camping ground which has basic but well equipped cabins on site on the beach front as well as normal camp sites. There is an indoor pool on site.
Denmark is a lovely town with a lot of craft shops, a popular weekend market and the main attraction for us. The Barometer Museum is housed in the Visitors Centre. This has a display of all kinds of barometers, with the world’s tallest “Bert Bollie” barometer as part of the collection. You actually walk up a flight of stairs to watch the actions of this amazing barometer. This wonderful display was gifted to Denmark by a Dutch immigrant who brought his collection with him.
I can recommend the coffee at the “LillyPilly Café” in the main street. And if you love pies, you must try the home made pies from the award winning Denmark Bakery.
Great Southern Wineries
Albany and the surrounding Great Southern Region have over 100 wineries, specialising in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which grows well generally. The five different regions also have their own wines that grow well in their region due to soils and weather. Many of these wineries also have excellent restaurants attached to their winery. A tour in the Great Southern Wineries is a great way of exploring this scenic area.
Many people go to Western Australia especially to see the stunning wildflowers from August through to October. Orchids, kangaroo paws, milkmaids, mountain bells as well as many other native Australian flowers can be seen in the Stirling Ranges, Porongurup and in Fitzgerald River National Parks which are popular wildflower regions.
The Bibbulmun Track is nearly 1000kms and runs between Kalamunda and Albany. Many people come to the area specifically to walk at least part of this track that has several accesses you can drive to. You can get accommodation meals along the way. There are also campsites for walkers that are NOT accessible by car. You must earn the right camp there by walking part of the track.
With 8 maps and 2 guidebooks you can plan to walk the track independently or if you prefer go with an organized tour group where accommodation and meals are included. It is essential to have the necessary maps, and a compass is recommended as while the track is well marked, it is easy to miss markers where you cross roads. You do need to read up on the track information and I recommend you follow the advice to notify your plan to stay overnight.
The Albany climate is Mediterranean. The winds that come off the sea are locally known as the “Albany Doctor” and have a major influence on the weather generally, including the humidity levels.
Albany has a good selection of motels especially on the waterfront and several hotels in the central city. There are more motels and the camping ground at Middleton Beach. There are also 3 backpackers that we come across that are quite central. The Albany Visitors Center based on the Waterfront is the best place to find out about accommodation. They are very helpful and will arrange it for you if you haven’t pre-booked.