Albany is an amazing place in South Western Australia that not many international travellers have in their itinerary. The reason is likely to be its remote location. Situated on the south-western coast, it's 420 km drive from Perth – on the main inland-highway – or 300 km drive from Margaret River.
It had been on my radar for a long time but a trip didn't work out until this year in April when I visited on a solo road trip from Perth. And I must say that I quite fell in love with Albany, as it's one of the prettiest and most picturesque coastal towns that I have seen in Australia.
How to get there and around Albany
While there are flights from Perth, they don't come cheap. When you get there, you will have to rent a car to explore the town and its surrounding. Therefore self-driving is the best way to visit Albany.
This is what I did. I hired a car in Perth at Keddy's by Europcar and went off on a solo road adventure!
Besides hiring a car or flying, if you are an active traveller and love adventure, there are a few more interesting options to get to Albany:
- Ride the Mundi Bidda trail from the Perth Hills to Albany
- Walk the Bibbulmun track for 963 km down to Albany
As in town there are many information boards pointing to the Bibbelmuntrack and Mundi Bidda Trail, you will be able to hire a bike or walk some parts of the trails too.
Where to stay in Albany
In Albany there are many hotels and motels but I find them quite pricey for the solo traveller. As I visited on a long weekend, on Anzac Day I preferred staying at the YHA for 70 dollars/night in a private room. Its ideal location – 5 minutes walk from the main street – makes of the YHA a clean, quite and friendly budget accommodation in Albany.
First stop at the Albany Visitor Centre
First of all I visited the Albany Visitor Centre where I got the Albany free maps. After taking a look at the map I realised that my 3-day-trip was not going to do justice to the place. Albany spreads over a huge area encompassing 5 national parks, 3 natural reserves, many natural attractions and historic heritage sites.
Only to travel from the west end side – the Torrndirrup National Park – to the east end side – the Two People's Bay – it takes nearly 50 minutes by car.
Albany Attractions – The King George Sound
The King George Sound is one of the top striking landmarks of Albany. With its inlets and small islands and the two harbours it forms a scenic and photogenic landscape. While the best way to explore it is on a scenic cruise, you can also drive to the west-end side of the peninsula along the Frenchman Road to Whaling Cove and walk to Possession Point. From there you can enjoy a majestic view of the Princess Royal Harbour and the King George Sound. I was lucky enough to book myself into a Cruise of the Princess Royal Harbour a free event of the Anzac Day celebrations.
Albany National Anzac Centre on Mt. Adelaide
Albany is not only Western Australia's first European settlement, it has also the best Anzac Centre of Australia. This was opened in 2014 by the prime minister for the centenary of the first Australian and New Zealand convoy's with over 40 thousands soldiers who left to the IWW.
The Albany Anzac Centre is an interesting place to visit, with state-of-the-art interactive multi-media displays. I visited on Anzac Day and loved my time there listening to the audio-commentary about individual stories and browsing through the displays.
The Anzac centre is set in the Albany Heritage Park – overlooking the King George Sound – which offers beautiful views of the harbour and the town. I spent time strolling around the park to see the Royal Princess Fortress as well as driving up to Mt Clarence Desert Corps Memorial and Padre White Lookout. This is a top place of Albany and the most scenic lookout in town where you enjoy a beautiful view of the King George Sound and Royal Princess Harbour.
The Gap and the Natural Bridge
The Gap and the Natural Bridge are two iconic natural attractions in Albany. South Western Australia is known for its ancient rock formation and forests. And Albany has some of the best spots where you can witness the most ancient and impressive granite and rock formations in the world.
This platform has been completed and opened in April 2016 to the public. So when I visited it was only 3 weeks old. This is an ultra-modern grated see-through platform placed nearly 40m above the ocean and extends for 10 meters out from the cliff, with 4 of which are exposed directly over the ocean. You can actually stand on these part too and see through into the ocean. While I found this platform spectacular on the other hand it was a bit scary to stand on it and watch down.
The Natural Bridge
The whole area between the gap and the bridge is covered with boulders that form a stunning rocky landscape. You walk across a vast expanse of rock formations to the Natural Bridge, a span of granite where you can see heavy swells running through. There is now a fee of 12 dollars to visit both attractions, tickets are available at the car park or at the visitor centre.
More things to see in Albany
At the end of the peninsula in the Torndirrup National Park you can visit the Discovery Bay, and learn about the Albany historic whaling station. You can either join a guided-tour or walk around by yourself. Moreover there is a beautiful botanic garden and Australian wildlife enclosures. Within the park there is a boardwalk that offers great whale watching spots in the winter months of June-October. Albany is one of the few places in Australia where you can see the blue whales, next to Humpbacks and Southern Right whales.
Walking Trails, Beaches and Lookouts
I was impressed with the diversity of hiking trails that you can do in Albany, you can easily spend weeks there hiking the region. Possession Point walking trail is a 6 km walking trail from the Quarantine station to Point Possession. This is the most popular and beautiful hike with white-sand beaches on both sides and a granite hill at the end. From the summit you can enjoy panorama views of King George Sound with the channels and Princess Royal Harbour.
Salmon Holes Beach – the good and the bad
There are many more walking trails including the 16 km Bald Head trail on Flinders Peninsula, shorter walks to Salmon Holes, one of the most famous beach for rock fishing in Australia. Next to being a very beautiful beach, it's very popular for fishing the great south-western salmon. However this coastline and especially this spot has a notorious records for deaths and accidents occurring when people stand on the black rocks and are washed into the ocean by large swells. Be careful.
While there are huge hazard and warning signage everywhere, it is advisable to wear a life west, bring floating devices, as well as tie yourself up with a rope and wear proper footwear with special grip. There were dozens of fishers standing on the black rocks. The beach is definitely a safe place for fishing, with lots of families with kids having fun fishing a salmon or two from the shore. 😉
The best Albany sunsets
The marina is a great place to witness the sun go down over the magnificent Princess Royal Harbour. There are many vantage points in Albany hills. Another top place for sunsets is spark plug lookout, a tower with two viewing levels on Mt. Melville. Only 5 minutes by car from town it is a must for an amazing 360° view of Albany. I managed to get there just before sunset and loved the place.
Get a taste of Food & Wine in Albany
Albany is not only a popular destination for its natural attractions, its excellent wines, handcrafted beers and locally grown food makes of Albany a food destination. I had superb fish in the local pubs and eateries!
More things worth seeing in Albany surroundings
If you are travelling by car and have one week or more, then there are some more great spots in Albany's surroundings that you must check out, as they are unique places that are really worth visiting.
- Visit Two People's Bay which is home to Little Beach, known as one of WA's best beaches.
- Go on a 4WD tour to West Cape Howe National Park to see the southernmost point of Western Australia and stand on the cliffs with breathtaking views.
- Do the 3km return Castle-Rock Granite skywalk in the Porongurup region.
- If you are more adventurous and fit, the Bluff Knoll climb at the Stirling Ranges is a must. This is the highest peak in South Western Australia.
- Go on a Wildflower Tour to spot some kangaroo paws, pea plants and an impressive range of orchids. The Stirling Ranges national Park and Porongurup Range National Park offer spectacular granite rock formations and giant Karri forest too.
If you are planning a trip in South Western Australia and have time, it's really a good idea to add Albany to your itinerary trip. Do plan 4-5 days, at least. If you can one week is ideal to make the most of this region.
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