I envisioned Albany in Western Australia as a sleepy little coastal town, not a vibrant city with a fascinating history and thriving local dining scene to explore. There are plenty of great things to do in Albany, with experiences ranging from rediscovering the past to tasting epicurean delights and visiting one of Australia’s most spectacularly wild seaside lookouts. Whether you’re visiting for the day off a cruise ship or staying a little longer, this stunning city offers plenty to keep you entertained.
National Anzac Centre
At the outbreak of World War I, Australians and New Zealanders signed up in their thousands to support Britain. It was in Albany that a fleet of troop transports, warships, and support vessels gathered in King George Sound and set sail towards the battlefields of the First World War.
At the National Anzac Centre which overlooks King George Sound, you get to experience this event using an engaging mix of multimedia, interactive technology and historical artefacts. On entering the museum, visitors are given a card with a black and white photo of ‘their’ soldier or nurse. It’s a moving journey as you follow this real person’s WWI experience until it ends either during or after the war.
This museum dedicated to the men and women of the ANZAC force is worth a visit for travellers of all ages and should not be missed. Allow enough time to explore the various outdoor attractions at the National Anzac Centre as well, such as the Convoy Lookout, the restored gun emplacements, and Princess Royal Fortress Military museum. This award winning museum leaves a lasting memory that stays with you long after you return home.
Albany Town Centre
Albany was created in 1826 as the first settlement for new arrivals from across the seas in Europe. Established as a convict settlement and the first port of call for ships taking the long journey from Britain, Albany played a vital role in determining the early settlement of Western Australia.
The town went from strength to strength, originally due to a gold rush and now thanks to mining and tourism. Dotted throughout the town centre are restored early era buildings, with many having their own captivating story of Albany’s early settlement. Taking pride of place along the harbour front is the Brig ‘Amity’, a replica of the ship which brought the first convicts and settlers to Albany.
Other early settlement structures include the Old Gaol, Albany’s fist convict jail, Patrick Taylor’s Cottage which is said to be the oldest surviving dwelling in Western Australia, and many of Albany’s goldrush buildings such as the Courthouse and the Royal George Hotel. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to gain an insight into Albany’s indigenous culture, the town’s first European settlers, and modern-day residents.
The Gap and Natural Bridge
The southern coast of Western Australia has plenty of natural beauty, from its pristine beaches with crystal clear water to the beautiful yet unforgiving rocky coastline. The Torndirrup National Park is renowned for its spectacular rugged coastal features known as The Gap and Natural Bridge. As part of an upgrade to the viewing area of The Gap and Natural Bridge, an ingenious ramp and metal mesh walkway has been installed, allowing visitors to look straight down the 25-meter sheer cliff face of The Gap to the churning waters below.
This area is incredibly impressive for both its rock formations and native fauna and flora. Even if it’s a warm day, you might like to bring along a jumper as the winds here often come straight off the Southern Ocean. Don’t miss the interpretative panel which tells the incredible story of the night time rescue of a man who fell in at The Gap and was saved by a whaleboat.
If you want a perfect picture-postcard beach photo, Middleton Beach is the spot for you. Located four kilometres from Albany’s town center, Middleton Beach is sheltered from large waves by the islands and headlands of King George Sound, making it the perfect spot for both swimming and snorkeling.
It’s only a short walk to the southern end of Middleton Beach where you will find Ellen Cove. There is a jetty and floating pontoon perfect for a summer swim or you can take a pleasant stroll along the Ellen Cove Boardwalk Trail. Middleton Beach also has plenty of great cafés and restaurants.
Albany’s Historic Whaling Station
Albany’s Historic Whaling Station was the last operating whaling station in Australia and is the world’s only complete whaling station which is open for tourism. Here you can dive into the history of whaling and board Australia’s last whale chasing ship, the Cheynes IV. All of the buildings and equipment remain intact from the day the last workers left the building.
The historic whaling station has been thoughtfully redesigned to combine the old and mix it with the new with installations, such as turning the whaling station’s oil tanks into theatres. These theatres show footage of what the whaling station was like when it was operating and why whales are now a protected and treasured marine species in Australia. There is also a small wildlife park featuring native animals and regional wildflowers.
Great Southern Distilling Company
If you enjoy high quality ‘adult beverages’, the Great Southern Distilling Company is your piece of gold in Albany. Located in Albany to access the region’s abundant supply of high-quality grains and water, the distillery produces multi-award-winning spirits including Tiger Snake Whiskey, Limeburners Whisky, and Giniversity Gin. And, yes, you can go to Giniversity here and drink (ahem, I mean study) gin at a two hour blending class.
Don’t miss the sampling session available at the tasting room on the edge of Princess Royal Harbour. There is also a distillery tour that takes you through the delicate process of producing highly refined spirits. From the traditional copper pot stills and small-batch techniques used to create their liquid gold to tasting the final product, you can discover the art of whiskey distilling. If you don’t drink spirits (or are the designated driver) the coffee here is excellent too.
Disclosure: The writer visited Albany as a guest of Tourism Western Australia and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
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