Albany

A major seaport for WA's the Great Southern region, and the largest centre in Western Australia outside the metropolitan area, Albany is the perfect base from which to explore the many beauty spots - both coastal and inland - of the Great Southern.

The History of Albany

Where is it?

Albany is 409 km south east of Perth on the Albany Highway. Albany is 481 km west of Esperance on Western Australia's south coast.

How to get there

By car, drive south from Perth via Albany Highway, 409 km. By bus, from East Perth Terminal (timetable). By air, via Skywest from Perth Airport (timetable).

Lookouts

The peak of Mt. Clarence (186 metres), behind the town of Albany, offers commanding views of the harbour. Mt Melville domintes the town and the view from the summit is well worth the climb.

Events

January: Woodcraft of the Southern Forest

February: Taste Great Southern

March: Porongurup Wine Festival

June: The Albany Weekender Classic Motor Event

November: Albany Racing Cup

The Best Time To Visit

Albany has a cooler climate to Perth, and because of its location, it can be quite cold in Winter when the winds blow straight off the Southern Ocean. Spring and early summer (September to December) is when the wildflowers are in full bloom; July and October is the best time for whale watching. If you are prepared to risk the chance of bad weather, there are some great accommodation deals on offer during whale watching season. Summer (December to February) is annual vacation time for Western Australians, many of whom travel south to escape the hot Perth summer, so the place can be jumping with visitors in those months.


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Sited on the shores of one of Australia's great natural harbours, Albany has long been a holiday destination for Western Australians, being surrounded by stunning coastal scenery, calm harbour beaches and beautiful mountains ranges in the hinterland with easy access walking tracks.

Albany's main street seems to go straight into the Princess Royal Harbour, as if to warn visitors that this is a place full of surprises. On its shore is Australia's last operating whaling station that is now an excellent museum dedicated to whales and whaling. Humpback and Southern Right whales still come to Albany, and are often seen between July and October in the calm waters off Middleton Beach. They play a while in the surrounding waters before migrating north to the warmer waters to breed. Stunning coastal scenery is just minutes away from the museum on a superb stretch of dramatic coastline weathered by the timeless forces of the Southern Ocean.

With a population of approximately 30,000 people, Albany is one of the larger towns of regional Western Australia and the main service and administrative for the Great Southern region. Unlike anywhere else in southern Western Australia, it rains a lot, 942 mm per year to be exact and in winter it can also get quite cold when the winds from Antarctica blow straight off the ocean. A wind farm that takes full advantage of the locality, welcomes visitors and has good signage to explain this eco-friendly technology.

Things To See And Do

The Old Strawberry Hill Farm

Hidden away in Albany's suburbia is The Old Farm at Strawberry Hill. It is thought that the cottage may be the oldest building in Western Australia. Listed as part of the National Estate it is regarded as one of the most important buildings in the State.

The Old Farm dates from 1827, when the site was used as a vegetable garden and to cultivate maize to supply the small military detachment established at King George Sound. In 1831, Dr Alexander Collie, the first Government Resident, built a 'comparatively comfortable little dwelling house' close to the government gardens. This estate and the adjoining 43 hectares were purchased from the government in 1833 by Sir Richard Spencer. Wattle and daub additions were made to the original dwelling house c. 1834, and sheds and stables were also erected in this period.

In 1889 Francis Bird, a successful architect, purchased 'Strawberry Hill' and extensive renovations were carried out. It was renamed 'The Old Farm' in 1890 in memory of the pioneers who founded it, and again became an important venue for social functions of the time.

In 1956 the Western Australian Government purchased the farm and it was gazetted as an historical monument.


Mt. Clarence

The peak of Mt. Clarence, behind the town of Albany, offers commanding views of the harbour. Mt. Clarence is the site of the Anzac Light Horse Memorial statue to Australia's fallen at Gallipoli. It was from Princess Royal Harbour in November 1914, that the thirty-eight ships of the fleet that carried Australian soldiers to war left Australia's shores.

For the thousands of Australian soldiers who died at Gallipoli, Albany was their last sight of their homeland. The massive and splendid bronze of a rampant horse complete with ANZAC rider was originally erected in Port Said. The base of the statue bears bullet marks from the Suez crisis in which it was damaged and is the reason why the statue was relocated to stand majestically against the sunrise over King George Sound.


Torndirrup National Park

No visit to Albany could ever be complete without some hours spent in the Torndirrup National Park gazing in awe at the Natural Bridge, The Gap, the Blowholes, the Gorge, and Newles Inlet and visiting Whale World. Torndirrup National Park is renowned for its rugged coastal features such as the Gap and Natural Bridge.

There are many walking paths to the various natural features within the National Park which, in the main, are easy, relatively short walks. Be aware that this coastline has a notorious record for accidents due to people slipping and being washed into the ocean by unexpected freak waves or large swells, so take care and avoid going too close to the edge of cliffs.

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The Gap

The Gap is sheer and dramatic, the Natural Bridge is fascinating, the views along the coast from the Natural Bridge are extraordinarily pretty and the view across Cable Beach (to the east of the Gap) is dramatic. The walk to the Blowholes can be disappointing if the sea is not running however the views from the coast are well worth the walk.

Jimmy Newell's Harbour

Nearby is Jimmy Newell's Harbour, a quiet little inlet which was named after a local fisherman who, caught by a sudden storm, was driven into the harbour where he found protection and safety.

Surrounding Area

Whaleworld

Whaling was Albany's (and indeed Australia's) oldest industry, so it is appropriate that the town's most popular museum is dedicated to the history of whaling in Australia. Whale World is housed in the former Cheynes Beach Whaling Station, located on the picturesque southern coast of King George Sound.看 The station ceased whaling operations and was de-commissioned in 1978.看 Whale World takes visitors on an interactive journey through the site, which was the看last operating whaling station in Australia,看supported by看a series of audio visual displays, artefacts and whaling history. 看There are over 20 different exhibits including 續Giants of the Sea蘗, the jaw dropping skeleton display. Outside visitors can climb aboard the Cheynes IV, a whale chaser that operated out of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station, to experience a whale chase through audio re-enactment.


West Cape Howe National Park

About half an hour蘗s drive south-west of Albany, West Cape Howe National Park contains the most southern point in Western Australia, Torbay Head. Almost completely covered in heathland and forest and bearing the force of the Great Southern Ocean, this National Park is worth a visit. At the Shelley Beach Lookout, platforms have been built into the side of the hilltop for hang gliders and paragliders to launch. Scenic bushwalking trails along the coast lead you through virgin bush and offer commanding views. Some of the best and remote walk trails are in the Torbay area 瓖 most are four or five hour return treks. Good sturdy footwear is recommended when hiking through this rugged wilderness area. Further east from West Cape Howe and shadowed by the giant trees of the south-west region are the towns of Denmark and Walpole.


Stirling Range

This rugged mountain range rises spectacularly out of the surrounding plains. Located some 80km north of Albany, the Stirling Range National Park offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to explore an entire mountain range still in its natural state. World renowned for plant diversity, there are over 1,500 different flowers and plants including 125 orchids and 9 endemic mountain bells here in spring. Over 160 different birds have been sighted, including rare and endangered species. This rugged mountain range has something for everyone. The beautiful, ever changing scenery provides wonderful photographic and painting opportunities, and the mountain rock faces challenge the most experienced abseilers and rock climbers. The most climbed mountain in the Stirling Ranges is the chiselled mass of Bluff Knoll.

At 1,095 metres above sea level, Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the south-west of Western Australia. It takes three to four hours to complete the six-kilometre return walk/climb but it is worth it. It's a gruelling trek for those not used to mountain climbing, but achievable nonetheless. The views from the summit stretch across the craggy Stirling Range and south towards the Albany coast, and make every step worthwhile. Bluff Knoll is one of the few spots in the state to actually see some snow fall.


Porongurup Range

Although only 12 kilometres long and 670 metres at its highest point, the Porongurup Range is renowned for its beauty. It is clothed in a luxuriant forest of giant karri trees and the understorey puts on a brilliant display of wildflowers during spring and early summer. Pathway allow visitors to wander through the shade of ancient forests, discover fossils underfoot, see a rainbow of wildflowers, sit and listen to a symphony of bird songs, all with the magnificent views of the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges as your backdrop. 40 km north of Albany.

Heritage Trails

It is reasonable to suggest that a visitor wanting to see all the attractions of Albany should really spend a minimum of two days (and possibly a week) in the town. There are numerous guides to the sights but the best is the First Settlement Heritage Trail: Settlement and Development of the Albany District. A Bicentennial Heritage Trail brochure which is 55 pages long and divides the town and environs in five separate Heritage Trails.

Albany Historic Town Trail

The major walks (there are two of them) are the Albany Historic Town Trails which recognise 39 places of significant historical interest within a 2 km radius of central business district.

The first walk starts at the Old Gaol which was built in the 1850s as a convict hiring depot. Although Albany was not a penal colony at this time it continued to accept convicts as farm labourers and hired hands until 1868. In 1872 the hiring depot became the local gaol with separate sections for white men, white women and Aborigines. Today it is the town's main museum with extensive historic presentations of the local area including maps, photographs, interesting Aboriginal artifacts, and relics from the penal colony. It is open from 10.30 am - 4.30 pm daily.

Nearby is the charming Residency Museum which was originally built as a store in the 1850s but converted into the Government Residency from 1873-1953. It was near this point that Major Lockyer landed and decided to site Albany. The Museum is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm from Monday to Saturday and 2.00 pm - 5.00 pm on Sundays. Among the museum's extensive displays are the jaws of a white pointer shark and the huge rotating lens from the old Eclipse Lighthouse.

Across the beautiful green lawns which now surround the Residency is the remarkable replica of the Amity which is open for inspection from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.

The walk then moves up the hill past some interesting old cottages to the Victoria Arts Centre (formerly the Old Albany Hospital built in 1885) and beyond to inspect some delightful late nineteenth century houses (all privately owned and not open to the public) in Grey Street West. The residence at 198 Grey Street West is reputed to be on the site where Wylie was buried and the house at 184 Grey Street West was built in the mid-1880s by Albany's first Mayor.

At 5 Hotchin Street is Melville House which was built around 1871 by J. F. T. Hassell (see Kendenup for more details). Members of the Hassell family continued to live in the house until it was sold in the 1950s.

The walk then moves across to York Street with its late Victorian, Classical Revival Town Hall (1886), Scots Presbyterian Church (1891) and delightful church complex of Church of St John the Evangelist (1848), which includes the Hall (1889), and the Rectory (1849). The church, which can claim to be the first consecrated church in Western Australia, is a fine example of the severe, square Anglo Saxon style which is commonplace in rural England.

In Duke Street the Wesley Church (1863) stands next to the elaborate and ornate manse which was given to the church by a local merchant in 1903. Further down Duke Street is Patrick Taylor's Cottage one of the few buildings in Albany which dates from the town's penal colony days. A wattle and daub cottage it was probably built as early as 1832. Certainly it was sold to Patrick Taylor for 派200 in 1834 and he lived in it until his death in 1877. It is now used as a folk museum by the Albany Historical Society and is open from 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm daily.

Town Walk Heritage Trail

The second town walk starts in Stirling Terrace, that remarkable, almost other-worldly street which runs from the Museums along to Old Post Office. The graciousness and old world charm of this area of town can be directly attributed to the goldrushes of the 1890s which saw thousands of prospectors pouring into Western Australia through Albany and making their way north and west to the rich fields of the Kalgoorlie region. There was a time when miners sailed to Albany, caught the coach to York and then the train to the goldfields. Albany was used as an entry point because Fremantle lacked good deep water port facilities. The result of the goldrushes was that Albany prospered and most of the elegant buildings in Stirling Terrace were constructed.

The highlight of Stirling Terrace is undoubtedly the Penny Post Restaurant and the Old Post Office. Construction of this historic post office building commenced in 1869 and it was opened in 1870. It is recognised as the oldest Post Office in Western Australia. At the time of construction it housed a number of colonial authorities including the District Customs, the Mail Room, the Customs Office and the Bond Store. It was substantially altered in 1895 with the turrets and towers being added. The best view of the building can be had from the harbour. It is huge and gracious. Inside it has an impressive geometric bluestone stairway.

Apart from the Post Office Building, with its distinctive 25 m shingled clock tower, Stirling Terrace also has the old Albany Courthouse (1895-96) with stone arches and an unusual asymmetrical flared arch, the London Hotel (1909), Albany House (the old Union Bank building it was completed in 1878), the Empire Buildings at 146-152 Stirling Terrace which date from 1912, the Western Australian Bank (1885), Dylan's Restaurant (1880s), the Royal George Hotel (1885) and the Argyle Buildings (1890s).

The Mount Clarence Trails

The Mount Clarence Trail, the third of the Heritage trails, is a walk from the War Memorial at the end of Apex Drive around the edges of Mount Clarence. The walk offers superb views of the harbour and the town and is an ideal way of familiarising yourself with the geography of Albany and its surrounds.

The Desert Mounted Corps War Memorial has an extraordinary history. It was originally located at Port Said and was unveiled by W. M.'Billy' Hughes in 1932. Desecrated during the Suez crisis of 1956 it was shipped back to Australia in 1959. It could not be rebuilt so a sculptor was commissioned to remodel the statue which depicted an Australian soldier going to the aid of a New Zealander. Two models were made. One is in Canberra and the other was unveiled by R. G. Menzies in 1964. The 9 metre high statue depicts two mounted horsemen confronted by a bursting shell. The views from the War Memorial are quite magnificent. It is worth recalling that during World War I Albany was a major departure point for many of the soldiers of the AIF who fought and died in the Middle East. For many of those soldiers Albany was their last sight of the Australian coastline.

Mount Adelaide Heritage Trails

The fourth Heritage Trail is a two hour walk around Mount Adelaide and combines a nature trail with excellent views over the harbour.

Princess Royal Fortress Trail

The fifth Heritage Trail is known as the Princess Royal Fortress Trail and is an opportunity to inspect the Princess Royal Fortress which was completed in 1893 and designed to protect Albany (which is the only major port between Perth and Port Lincoln) against the unlikely occurrence of invasion. The fort was continuously manned from 1893-1945. A small staff continued until it was closed down in 1956. Today visitors can inspect the various buildings which make up the fortress. There is the Guard House, the Canteen, the Officer Commanding's Residence, the stables, barracks and married quarters, and the various guns and artillery storage points. The excellent restoration of the old buildings, which had been allowed to fall into disrepair, has returned this unique piece of Australian history to its original condition.

Regional Trails

Quaranup / Point Possession Trail

The last of the walks is the Quaranup / Point Possession Trail, a 1.6 km walk from Albany's old Quarantine Station to Point Possession where George Vancouver claimed the whole of Western Australia for Great Britain. It is located on the far side of Princess Royal Harbour on the way out to Torndirrup National Park with its dramatic coastal formations.

The inability to control infectious diseases during the nineteenth century meant that it was not uncommon for a ship, particularly one which had passed through the Orient, to arrive in Australia carrying passengers who had been struck down by such killer diseases as yellow fever, smallpox, or scarlet fever.

In 1874 work on the Quarantine Station began and by 1880 the original hospital and caretaker's quarters had been expanded to include a doctor's quarters, servant's quarters, isolation wards, a morgue, laundry, wash house, store, dining room and (a wonderful remnant of the nineteenth century) a special area for the first class passengers. The heritage trail starts at the Car Park and passes the morgue, nurse's quarters and graves to continue onto the isthmus and pass across to the outcrop where George Vancouver took possession of the whole region.


Princess Royal Harbour

British sea captain George Vancouver named the harbour after Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda; whose 25th birthday it was on 29th September 1791, the day he sailed into the harbour and claimed the southern part of Western Australia for the British Crown. The site of his proclamation, at Possession Point on Vancouver Peninsula, forms the south-eastern shore of the harbour.

A pleasant bushwalk from the main road to Torndirrup National Park leads to the cairn which records the event. This strategic position led to the Princess Royal Fortress being built on Mt. Adelaide on the opposite shore in 1893, as the first Federal defence in Australia. The guns maintained their role as a deterrent until 1956 when the Forts were closed.The fortress still stands and houses an interesting military museum, complete with many original guns of the fortress.


Two People Bay

Only 35km east of Albany, the reserve is perhaps most important for being home to the critically endangered Gilbert蘗s potoroo and the endangered noisy scrub-bird, both of which were presumed extinct until being rediscovered at Two Peoples Bay.

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