Friday, 21 October 2016

7 things to do in Amazing Albany!

Albany
Is Albany on your bucket list? It should be. Even Charles Darwin couldn't resist a brief visit, although by all accounts he wasn't impressed. I put that down to Albany being one of his last stops aboard the Beagle's almost five year journey. He also came by ship across the notoriously rough Great Australian Bight. Like Darwin I suffer from perpetual seasickness. Note to self: Never come to Western Australia by boat.

By the time he arrived in Albany in Australia's far south-western corner Darwin was home sick and fed up - not a great way to get the most out of any destination. If he were to arrive today -  on one of the new 787 Dreamliners, Business Class of course, and know he could be home again in 18 hours he wouldn't want to leave.

History


The Albany region is the traditional home of the Mineng Noongar aboriginal people. 'Noongar' is the name which identifies the indigenous people of the south-west of Western Australia and 'Mineng' is the language group to which those who lived around Albany belonged.

European settlement of Western Australia began at what is now Albany on Christmas Day in 1826 when the Brig Amity arrived. On board were 23 convicts, 21 soldiers, a surgeon, a storekeeper and six months worth of stores. Early relations between the first Europeans and the Mineng Noongar were reasonably cordial. Today Albany is a thriving port and tourist destination with a population of almost 34,000.

Brig Amity, Albany
A replica of the Brig Amity - it is open from 9.30 a.m to 4 pm daily and is abolutely free.

Visiting Albany - what Darwin would see today! 


Whale Watching


The whale-watching season in Western Australia is one of the longest in the world, running from June to October. Humpbacks, southern rights and blue whales all pass Albany on their annual migrations and King George Sound is a favourite spot for them to take a few days' rest. On our first visit to Albany, in September 1998, David and I arrived to discover two of these magnificent creatures had taken up temporary residence in the bay. There was no need for a whale watching tour - we were able to see them easily just standing on the beach.

We returned to Albany in September this year (2016) with great hopes of repeating this magical encounter. This time we had booked a whale watching tour just to be sure. Sadly, the weather was awful, the tour was cancelled and the whales failed to appear. Oh well - there is always next visit!


Turtles crossing
We didn't see turtles either - but I thought the sign was cute!

My tip: -  

  • If there are whales around, head down to the whale watching lookout on the Ellen Cove Boardwalk at Middleton Beach. You might get lucky and see them swim past only a few metres below you.

Kangaroos and emus


Western Australia has to be one of the best parts of the country to see kangaroos and emus, to say nothing of the little known quokka. We didn't have to leave Albany to see mobs of kangaroos. They were literally lying about in people's front yards and we saw more than one large mob of emus on our drive to Albany from Margaret River.

Emus
Emu's are hard to photograph - they tend to run away, but these guys were part of several large flocks we saw.

You don't often see kangaroos sitting in people's front gardens but we did in Albany. Notice how they are looking straight at us - I love the way they do that.

My tip: -

  • Take Frenchman Bay Road south and then east toward Vancouver Peninsula and you are likely to see kangaroos laying around in the front yards of the larger blocks of land. Kangaroos are most active in the early mornings and around dusk but we saw them in the middle of the day.

The National ANZAC Centre


Albany has a special place in the story of the ANZACs. It was the site from which the first convoys of ANZACs set sail on their way to Gallipoli. Later it became the site where Australia's first dawn service was held. Today perched high above the Great Southern Ocean, the ANZACs are remembered and honoured at the National ANZAC Centre. For my review of our visit to the centre click - here.

The National ANZAC Centre
The National ANZAC Centre


The Gap, The Blowholes and The Natural Bridge 



For a close up encounter with the power of the Great Southern Ocean, take a trip out to Torndirrup National Park. A viewing platform allows visitors to stand directly above the ocean as it surges through a natural gap in the granite foreshore. After you have seen The Gap follow the path and signs for about 800 metres to the Natural Bridge and The Blowholes.

The Gap, Albany
The new viewing platform at the Gap. 

The Gap, Albany
Looking down from the viewing platform. This photo doesn't do its 'wow' factor justice. You have to imagine the waves rushing in and exploding upwards like a geyser erupting immediately below you.

My tips: 

  • If you can, go when it is windy and the sea is rough, to experience the full potency of the waves.
  • There is a $12 fee per vehicle to visit Torndirrup National Park, however if you intend to visit other national parks in Western Australia it is worth paying $44 for a four week all parks holiday pass. Click here for information on entry passes.


Wildflowers


Western Australia has 12,000 species of wildflowers, over 60 percent of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Come to Albany in spring and you can't miss seeing them. For my review of the wildflower festival in Kings Park, Perth click - here.

Wildflowers, Western Australia
We didn't have to go looking for wildflowers, we kept seeing them by the side of the road.

Walking and Cycling


For a leisurely cycle, start at Lawley Park, Brunswick Rd and follow the shared path to Emu Point. The path runs along the cliff tops with a few up and down climbs for about 5 km until it reaches Middleton Beach. From Middleton Beach, it is another 4 km to Emu Point. This section is almost completely flat. Keep an eye out for whales as you ride along!

If you are a serious cyclist, why not cycle all the way to Albany from Perth along the 1,000 km Munda Biddi Trail. David and I intended to cycle a few short sections of the trail but the weather defeated us and we never got past the planning stage.

Cycle path Albany
I put this photo in my last post on Albany but it was such a great section of the cycle path I couldn't resist including it again.

Valley of the Giants


The south-west corner of Western Australia is home to some of the tallest trees in the world. This is karri tree country - giants of the plant world which can grow up to 90 metres high. At the Valley of the Giants, a little over an hour west of Albany, the Tree Top Walk lets you explore the forest canopy up close or marvel at their grandeur from below on one of the many forest trails. Click here for admission prices and opening times for the Tree Top Walk.

In the forests around Pemberton, two and a half hours west of Albany, you will find Pemberton's Climbing Trees. It is a bit far for a day trip but an easy diversion if you are driving to Albany from Perth or Margaret River. The climbing trees were once fire lookouts with metal climbing spikes leading to lookout platforms. Several are open for visitors to climb. It is not for the faint hearted though. David, who has no head for heights, wouldn't even consider it and I got a few feet up the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree just for the fun of it before turning back.

Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree
The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. 

Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree
Me pretending to climb the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. 

Would you climb this tree?


My tip: - Don't - unless you are young, foolish and have a really good head for heights! If you have all three of those then go for. David and I saw two people climb the tree while we were there and it didn't look that hard - from the safety of the ground!


If you are looking for a complete list of attractions in this part of the world, my fellow travel blogger. Jo from ZigaZag Blog has drawn up 23 things to do in Albany.



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40 comments:

  1. I'd have a shot at climbing the tree! Albany looks like it is full of beautiful colours.

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    1. Haha - you are braver than I am. Spring in Western Australia is just magical.

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  2. Plenty of fun things to do in Albany. I would be pretending the climb those trees too, Lyn. I wouldn't dare to go all the way up, but I'm sure it's a lot of fun to see the world from up there. Too bad this place is so far from California. Thank you for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard blog link up.

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    1. It is a long, long way from California but the Karri Trees, with their magnificent height, always remind me of the Californian Redwoods.

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  3. So many great things to see and do in Albany, you have chosen 7 of the best. We've had a great season for wildflowers this year and loved seeing all your photos from your trip here across your social media. Albany has always been one of my favourite places and last time went there on a cruise which was something a little different from always driving there.

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    1. I have a new appreciation for Australian wildflowers after seeing how lovely they are in Western Australia. We hope to see them again when we visit W.A in 2017.

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  4. What a great round up of things to do in Albany! I would love to see the blue whales there. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. I think the humpbacks are the best. I am pretty sure that is the species which breach.

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  5. Whenever I think of Albany, I always think of the city in New York. I was pretty delighted when I realized I'd be reading about Australia. Albany sounds wonderful. I've always wanted to go wale watching. I don't like really high heights but I think I would be able to climb that tree a little ways but not all the way up to the top. #weekendwanderlust

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    1. I'm fairly sure David and I have been to Albany in New York as well but it was quite a while ago. Albany in Western Australia is such a lovely slow-paced town you can't help but like it.

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  6. That photo from the viewing platform is awesome as is the photo of the kangaroos looking straight at the camera. Sounds like there are lots of fun things to do in Albany. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Kangaroos often look straight at the camera. I think they are born extroverts. It makes them great fun to photograph.

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  7. Ok, so I am assuming Darwin didn't have the opportunity to see a quarter of all these. There are so many things I like about this place. I will like to walk close to the ocean and see some of those kangaroos. I am no that excited about emus. I saw them once in a farm and they do not look very friendly. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. Emus are fantastic when you see them in big flocks by the side of the road. i have never been close enough to one to know if they are friendly or not. The funny thing about Darwin is that I have read he went looking for kangaroos when he was near Sydney but had trouble finding one. It's hard to believe because they are just everywhere in the bush at dawn and dusk.

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  8. Wow, I need to get to Australia! I love kangaroos and that tree- I'd love to give it a go! Add in the chance of seeing whales swim by, yes please.

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    1. Let me know if you decide to come and I will help you plan your trip.

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  9. Wow, so much nature. I'd love to see the kangaroos and emus. Whale watching has been something I've wanted to do since I was a kid. Apparently, I need to book a trip to Australia! #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. I have done whale watching in Sydney and it was a fantastic experience. When I was young you just didn't get whales but since they have been protected they are returning to both the east and west coast of Australia in significant numbers.

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  10. Albany loos interesting. I remember reading about its history, way back at school

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    1. I don't think I had heard of it until David and I went there the first time. Maybe I slept through that class in history - lol.

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  11. Ahh, you've captured the beauty, serenity and excitement of the area so well! I climbed The Gloucester Tree in Pemberton once, but that was the only one of the three look-out trees I've climbed. My husband shins up one each time we go down south, but once was enough for me! Thanks so much for adding a link to my post about Albany too. Really appreciate that :)

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    1. I follow your blog and have often found your local's knowledge of Western Australia really handy when we are planning a trip. You have more courage than me in climbing the tree.

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  12. You have found so many things to enjoy in Albany. The weather may not have been great for you, but the scenery is still beautiful.

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    1. We were a bit unlucky with the weather. There was a large cold front across the whole of southern Australia while we were there. I don't think Sydney was much warmer.

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  13. I'd love to visit Albany and Western Australia to see some of the native wildlife and all the amazing scenery. Thx so much for sharing.

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    1. David and I have travelled a lot in Australia and, except for the complete absence of koalas, it is the best state we have been to for seeing wildlife.

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  14. This is such a varied list of activities, you've got some really great options! It seems like there really is heaps to do. Which was your favourite overall?

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    1. Without a doubt the thing we enjoyed most was the cycle path. We always enjoy cycling but riding along next to the see was magical.

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  15. Albany looks like a wonderful place for nature and wildlife. I saw lots of kangaroos in Australia, but I never managed any emus!

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    1. Emus are far more elusive than kangaroos. I don't know if there are more about than there used to be but in the last few years we have seen quite a few.

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  16. Great post on a little known area of Australia. I'm intrigued though: you say 'early relations' between the European settlers and indigenous population was cordial. Any news on later? I take it, if anything like the American Indians, not good? 😒

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    1. When the brig Amity arrived one of the first things the Captain did was rescue groups of Aboriginal women from islands off the coast. They had been stranded there as slaves by sealers who frequented the area. The rescue got European and native relations off to a good start.

      Sadly however, Australia had its fair share of conflict between new arrivals and aborigines. Disease, either smallpox or chickenpox, also took a terrible toll of local populations.

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  17. I can't wait to get to Albany. Unfortunately, it will have to wait for my next trip to Oz.

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    1. It is a lovely place. I am sure you would enjoy it but it is a long, long way from N.Z.

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  18. I got about as far up that tree as you did! It's super scary and I can't believe the people who do climb it. You certainly made your way around to a lot our wonderful destinations. Have you been to penguin island? Sorry about the weather, but we so desperately needed the rain.

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    1. We didn't get to penguin island but we are returning to Perth next year so maybe I will look into it. David and I travel a lot and over the years we have learnt to take the weather in our stride. We still had a great time.

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  19. We have an Albany in New York that seems a world away! I enjoyed reading about all there is to do at the other Albany:-)

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    1. Every time I googled Albany to check something I got the one in New York. David and I have driven through it but I don't think we have ever stopped to look around. It makes me think that on our next trip to the U.S we should go there.

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  20. Hey Lyn, What a great place to have fun! I truly liked Albany, cool & unique place to visit. Thank for sharing such a nice place.

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    1. My pleasure. Albany is a lovely town.

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