The area surrounding Albany is rich in natural beauty. The majestic Stirling Ranges and the Mt Barker wine region to the north, the dramatic Southern Ocean coastline and the many gorgeous small rural towns such as Denmark, all go to make the area a treat to explore. Albany is set on the beautiful King George sound and Princess Royal Harbour. It is the oldest town on the west coast. Whale and dolphin spotting from the coastal cliffs is an exhilarating pastime.
Albany, dubbed the Heart of the Great Southern, is a bustling town on the rugged southern coast of Western Australia, 409km from Perth. The site of the first European settlement in Western Australia, Albany is steeped in early Western Australian maritime history:
The ANZACS left from Albany, sailing away to World War One to show the world that Australia, the owild colonial boy, had come of age. Later, it was high on the hill overlooking the charming streets and elegant colonial architecture of Albany that the first ANZAC Day ceremony was held to remember the glorious youth from all over Australia who did not return. Thus began the proud tradition of Australias day of remembrance, celebrated now throughout the length and breadth of the country as ANZAC Day.
Albany is surrounded by excellent views, from the spectacular coastal scenery and rugged cliff-top beauty of Torndirrup National Park to the calm and beautiful island strewn swimming bays. And the waters of Albany, which are now again, the annual nursery grounds for pods of whales.Wildflowers, wineries, arts and craft, spectacular distant mountain peaks, that are sometimes snow capped, elegant restaurants, the world class Whaling Museum, historic military barracks and many other unique attractions make Albany a definite must-see for anyone exploring the region of Australias South West.
The first European sighting was in 1629 by Dutch explorers on their way to Jakarta Batavia. During the spring of 1791, Captain George Vancouver was the first to sail into the protected waters of one very excellent port that he named King George Sound. He spent two weeks in the area and named many of the prominent features, including Princess Royal Harbour, one of the worlds largest natural harbours.
However, it wasnt until 1826 that Major Edmund Lockyer sailed into King George Sound on the Brig Amity with soldiers, cattle, supplies and the intention of establishing Western Australias first penal colony. The British flag was raised the next year and the town officially named Fredericks Town in honour of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Albany never became a penal colony; instead it remained a military outpost for New South Wales and by the early 1830s, everyone was calling the settlement Albany.
Whalers were quick to capitalise on this ever-growing port; its location on the southwest coast a boon for hunters from the United States, France and the other colonies in the east. The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company was established and became the towns leading industry; killing up to 850 whales each season.
The whaling ships returned to Cheynes Beach;, towing their catch behind them. Often the whales were brought in with massive chunks of flesh taken from the great bodies by the sharks that followed the ships right to the shore. The processing of the whale was done immediately the creature was bought to shore, with flensing being performed on the slipway.
In the later part of the 20th century, science was able to replicate, or better, the by-products of whaling. People also became increasingly aware of the senseless killing of these gentle giants of the deep. Whaling was prohibited and became illegal in the waters of the Southern Ocean off Albany. The whaling industry in Albany ended and the factory was closed in 1978.
Nature is forgiving. The beautiful whales, predominantly southern right whales, have returned in large numbers and can be seen during whale season, usually late July to October.Bays around Albany are again annual nursery grounds for pods of whales that may be sighted in season from the boardwalk at Ellens Cove or on a cruise from Albany into the King George Sound.
Albany celebrates its heritage with the Whaleworld Museum. The Albany Whaleworld is the only whale museum created from an actual whaling station with the old whaling ship, Cheynes IV, restored as the centrepiece and a symbol of Albanys past.
Today, Fremantle has taken over as the main port for the southwest and Albanys business is concentrated in forestry, fishing and a thriving tourism industry that is growing stronger each year.
World-class wineries surround Albany, including Goundrey Estate. With its surprisingly English feel, Albany is an important business centre and port for the southwest of Western Australia. The main street, York Street, is lined with specialty stores, cafes, and restaurants and runs all the way down to Princess Royal Harbour.
There is no shortage of interesting attractions around the town. Visit the Brig Amity Replica, a full-scale reproduction created by local craftsmen. Just a short distance from Albany, the Old Farm on Strawberry Hill is the site of the original cottage built in 1831 for the first Government resident. Though it has been partially destroyed and renovated, it is one of the earliest buildings in Western Australia. The beautiful gardens are believed to contain some of the original fruit trees.
St. Johns Anglican Church, Albany, was constructed in the 1840s from local stone and was the first church consecrated in Western Australia. The Mount Romance Emu Oil and Sandalwood Factory tour highlights the history and uses of these oils. Sandalwood has been used as a perfumed balm and natural medicine for 5000 years and Western Australia has the largest natural reserves of sandalwood in the world.
Albany is cooled by breezes from the south and has a summer climate reaching approximately 27C during the day; in winter around 18C. The Albany Doctor is the colloquial name for the cold wind that chops up the Southern Ocean and lashes the rugged coastal areas surrounding Albany. However, Albany itself is sheltered by King George Sound and visitors can enjoy its cool, temperate climate and clear blue skies for most of the year.
Albany has a real wealth of natural coastal attractions and vistas, magnificent National Parks and an abundance of animals and wildflowers, some unique only to this area. There are many different styles of accommodation available to suit families, couples, friends or lone adventurers. Albany is a favoured destination for holidaymakers and also makes a great base for exploring the Australias southwest.
Stirling Range National Park
The Stirling Range National Park is 80km north of Albany. The jagged peaks of the Stirling Range National Park rise abruptly more than 1000 metres above sea level and stretch east west for over 65km. The sea winds and low-lying cloud create humid conditions within Stirling Range National Park, making it one of the most important botanic environments in the world. Western Australias isolation from the rest of the world ensures that many of the species in Western Australia are unique.
Known predominantly for its wildflowers that spring to life between August and November, the Stirling Ranges are home to at least 1500 species of plants, 90 of which are found nowhere else. Whether its on the slopes, flat paddocks or higher up in the ranges themselves, beautiful and delicate species can be found in abundance. The Stirling Range National park also contains Bluff Knoll, Western Australias highest peak that rises to 1095m above sea level and makes for an excellent vantage point for those skilled enough to climb it.
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