Western Australia’s first settlement was established in 1826 on a safe anchorage away from the desolate Southern Ocean.
Albany is located in a perfect natural harbour, discovered by Captain George Vancouver in 1791, and rests in the arms of the Torndirrup Peninsula.
For seven months of the year, humpback, southern right and blue whales migrate over Albany, which has fueled the lucrative whaling industry in the past.
For many soldiers and nurses heading to World War I, Albany was also the last sight on the Australian mainland, while the thought-provoking Anzac Centre opened a century after the conflict began.
The Albany coast is full of jaw-dropping ocean views, with granite formations battered by waves.
1. Whale watching
The place where whales were once hunted is now a major attraction in Albany.
The Great Southern region enjoys Australia’s longest whale migration season.
This lasts from May to December, during which time southern right, humpback and blue whales travel from the Southern Ocean along the coast of Western Australia to their breeding grounds on the northern Kimberley coast.
As we will discover, southern right and humpback whales are often seen from shore.
However, if you crave up close and expert insights, the tour is a must.
Check out the eco-certified King George Sound Whale Watching Tour on GetYourGuide.com, which takes you on a 2.5-hour tour.
You’ll usually see whales within 7 minutes of leaving the pier, and it’s so close that you don’t need binoculars.
2. National Anzac Centre
The elevated Royal Prince’s Fort in Albany is an exciting modern museum commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) in World War I.
In this conflict, Albany was the last port of call to the front and thus has a special place in Anzac lore.
Opened in 2014, the museum is housed in a panoramic building and tells the story of 32 people, from nurses to infantry.
Invoking footage, audio recordings, photographs, diary entries and extensive documentation, the in-depth presentation takes you on a journey from prewar life to WWI recruitment, engagement on the Western Front, the Middle East and Gallipoli, and then publishes- war life.
3. Albany Historic Whaling Station
The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, which was only recently in business, caught its last whale in 1978. Their whaling station on the Torndirrup Peninsula was built in the 1950s and handled 14,695 sperm whales and 1,136 humpback whales over the next 25 years.
With the industry now happily a thing of the past, you can visit the last full whaling station in the country, and the only one in the world.
An enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide will give you a 40-minute tour of the processing plant and converted whale oil tank, explaining the day-to-day work at the station.
You’ll then be free to read historical footage, marine animal art, and various whaling artifacts and skeletons to get a clear idea of how big these creatures were.
You’ll also board the whaler Cheynes IV and visit the regional wildflower gardens and Australian Wildlife Park, where you can keep a handful of native animals.
4. Middleton Beach
Albany’s favourite swimming spot is a 5km stretch of white sandy beach with the low dunes of Middleton Reserve and some low-key getaways along the way.
Middleton Beach is on a very gentle slope and the waves break for a long distance.
Lying on the sand, you’ll enjoy stunning views across King George’s Bay, back to Gull Rock and Tonderup National Park, and the islands of Frenchman’s Bay.
At the more sheltered southern end is Allen Bay, complete with a jetty and pontoon for swimmers.
On the edge of this part of the beach is a tiered meadow for a picnic in the shade.
It is also a useful spot to observe humpback and southern right whales during their migration, sometimes reaching within 20 meters of the beach.
5. Emu Point
King George Sounds is located in the large enclosed bay of Oyster Harbour, at Emu Point.
Emu Point is both the suburb’s name and a small promontory that eventually forms a rocky breakwater, beloved by families for its sheltered beaches and grassy foreshores.
These can be found at Oyster Harbor on the north side, where the clear water resembles a lagoon, perfect for young swimmers.
There is a pontoon not far away with ropes marking the lanes if you want to run a few laps.
The shore is a crescent of white sand, trimmed by a sandy terrace where you can relax in the shade.
There are picnic tables and cafes nearby, while the Emu Point boat shed to the west can accommodate boats up to 20 meters long.
Emu Point also has a number of resident pelicans that you can see wading along and diving for fish.
6. Fjords and Natural Bridges
On the vibrant ocean side of the Torndirrup peninsula, there are two striking granite formations almost side by side, accessible via lookouts and walkways.
The Natural Bridge is a massive arch, hollowed out by the relentless force of the waves of the Southern Ocean, pounding the promontory and rumbling into the recess.
Then take a few steps south to The Gap, where there is a granite passage with smooth, transparent walls that have been milled from the rock.
From the lookout you can see the ocean boiling below, and if the sun is in the right position, the mist can form a rainbow.
Water is as dangerous as it looks, so keep an eye out for warning signs.
7. Albany Wind Farm
About three-quarters of Albany’s electricity is renewable, thanks to 12 giant turbines facing the Southern Ocean 80 meters above the Torndirrup Peninsula.
Measuring 100 meters from top to bottom, the turbines have become a tourist attraction, not least because of their scenic location on the edge of a wind-swept cliff with the thunderous sounds of the Southern Ocean below.
The boardwalk and Sand Patch Coastal Platform give you clear ocean views, magical sunsets, and a good chance of whale sightings between May and December.
8. Green Pool
Route this beach about 45 minutes west of Albany.
At Greens Pool, the Southern Ocean is blocked by a granite boulder wall, forming a large pool of transparent water about 550 meters long and 300 meters wide.
The beach is on a smooth slope, so less-confident swimmers won’t have any trouble.
In fact, the water at Greens Pool is so safe that there is a swimming school every summer, which is remarkable when you witness the might of the Southern Ocean at neighbouring Mazzoletti Beach.
Bring a snorkel as wonderful marine life can be seen among the rocks.
9. Little Beach
About 35 kilometers east of Albany, within two People’s Bay Nature Reserves, there’s an immeasurable amount of beauty.
Between the two headlands, without any sign of civilization, is a crescent of glowing white sand, interrupted by a pair of large granite boulders.
While not completely immune to the waves, the small beach, with its low waves and stunning turquoise waters, beckons you.
This incredible location is on the 4km Two Nation Bay Heritage Trail, which starts at the reserve’s visitor centre and offers stunning views across the North Point of the magnificent Two Nation Bay.
10. Brig Amity copy
Port Royal at Peace Park is a replica of the famous 148-ton brig that was vital to European exploration and settlement of Australia in the first half of the 19th century.
The original Brig Amity was launched in New Brunswick, Canada in 1816, helping to bring men (including criminals), livestock and supplies to the colony from the 1820s, before wrecking in Tasmania in 1845. The ship arrived in what is now Albany in 1826, after a grueling six-week voyage from Sydney, bringing a small contingent of soldiers and convicted businessmen of all kinds here.
Within a few years, they had established a port, known as Albany in 1831. The replica was built in the 1970s using details studied by local historians, and almost the same techniques and materials as the shipyard that built the first Amity.
For a small fee, you can get on board and explore the deck with an audio guide and get a feel for how people endure these endless journeys.
11. Great Southern Museum
On the site of the first settlement in Puerto Princesa, there is a museum that showcases the area’s indigenous history, natural history and European settlements.
Here you will learn the stories of the Menang and Noongar people, learn about traditional life and learn where they fish and cook.
This also happens to be where Western Australia was first declared in 1826. There are fascinating insights into the past 200 years of sailing and the incredible biodiversity of the southern seas.
The grounds of the museum are also level with nature and are home to many birds, skinks and various frogs.
12. Albany Prison and Museum
You can learn more about early life in Albany at the well-preserved prison built in 1852 for convicts brought to Albany as skilled laborers.
Many convicts convicted in England between 1850 and 1868 spent time here.
Rehabilitation is a key ethos, and once offenders get their leave tickets, they are often recruited to work on projects such as the construction of town piers and roads to Perth.
The prison became a public prison in 1873, and a few years later expanded into women’s cells and a larger warden’s quarters.
By the 1940s, the facility, then a police custody facility, was declared unfit for prisoners, but it would take another half a century before it was restored and opened as a museum.
You can look around any day of the week and see fascinating details such as Aboriginal cell art carved from wood as far back as the 1870s.
13. Princess Royal Fortress Military Museum
In the 19th century, Port Royal was a strategic asset, so it was decided to fortify it to help protect intercontinental trade routes.
On top of the Adelaide Hills, the fort was completed in 1893 and remained armed until 1956. The fort is now home to the National Anzac Centre, but there’s more to absorb.
You can explore pre-Federal heritage and military buildings such as underground magazines, caretaker huts, barracks, batteries and storage depots, and a collection of artillery and torpedoes.
The Ellam-Innes Collection has a large collection of items related to the 11th Battalion and the 10th Hussars.
Within the grounds, you’ll enjoy stunning views of Princess Royal, Oyster Harbour, Middleton Beach and King George’s Bay.
14. Chainsaw Sculpture Drive
A few minutes later, you can squeeze into an even fancier spot into the Albany hinterland on the outskirts of Walmsley.
There, near Mercer Road, resident Darrel Radcliffe created a drive-through sculpture park filled with intricate pieces carved with chainsaws.
The material Radcliffe chose was jarrah wood, a dense, durable wood commonly used for floors and cabinets.
Among the many works are wooden chainsaws embedded in trees, dragonflies, grandfather clocks, violins, pouring buckets, a family of turtles, bears, octopuses and numerous figures.
A donation box can be found along the driveway.
15. Dog Rock
On Middleton Road, which connects Albany to Middleton Beach, is a bizarre-looking granite boulder.
Viewed from the west, on St Werberghs Lane, this looks like a dog’s head profile, sloping upwards, reminiscent of some sort of scent hound.
As an endorsement, a collar was drawn around the “neck” at the bottom.
The rock has long-standing significance and may be an ancient boundary marker known among the Nuga as “Yacka” (tamed wild dog). Plans to remove the rock to widen the road in the 1920s were met with fierce protests and angry exchanges at a council meeting.
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