The beautiful Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound surround the City of Albany in the Great Southern, a historically significant region of Western Australia. The King George Sound was the site of Western Australia’s first European settlement, settled several years before the Swan River Colony in Perth. Albany’s safe anchorages attracted many sailing ships in the early years of exploration of the Australian coastline. European settlement began in 1826 and Albany grew into a thriving port during the 19th and 20th centuries. It served as a gateway to the Eastern Goldfields and, for many years, it was the colony's only deep-water port and a place of importance for shipping services between Britain and its Australian colonies.
The waterways around Albany have continued to be significant to the town’s trade, with whaling being an important industry in the early 20th century, and Albany now being a prominent spot to watch migrating humpback and southern right whales along the dramatic coastline. Tours depart from the harbour between June and August.
Historic Albany Sights
Albany plays a central role in the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) legend, being the last port of call for troopships departing Australia in the First World War. In many cases, it was the last time troops stepped on Australian soil and is, therefore, a prominent memorial. The first ever recorded Dawn Service was conducted by Anglican Chaplain Padre White (44th Battalion AIF) on 25 April 1923 atop Mount Clarence, and has been held ever since with several thousand people participating each year. November 1, 2014 marked 100 years since the largest detachment of ANZAC troops departed Australia, many never to return.
The impressive ship on the Albany foreshore is a full-scale replica of the Brig Amity, which brought the first settlers and convicts to Albany in 1826 on Christmas Day. Climb aboard and go below the decks to follow the story of the Amity’s journey from Sydney to King George Sound.
The old whaling station at Discovery Bay is now a fascinating museum and is well worth a visit to discover the region’s recent history. Climb aboard the Cheynes IV whaling vessel or visit the Giants of the Sea exhibit. It is not uncommon to see the protected whales breaching and playing close to the station, where they once were hunted.
Things to do in Albany and surrounds
1. Head to the Albany Farmers Market on a Saturday morning
Local producers sell fresh fruit and vegetables together with organic meats, ostrich, venison, yoghurt cheeses, olive oils and flowers. Musical entertainment adds to the lively atmosphere.
2. Spend the day at Middleton Beach and Ellen Cove
Go swimming, picnicking or enjoying the playground facilities. Relax under the Norfolk pine trees or in one of the cafés, soaking in the village atmosphere. The Ellen Cove Boardwalk meanders around the coast to the port and is the perfect viewing location for whales between June and October.
3. Sample Oysters near Emu Point
The calm, shallow waters of Emu Point are ideal for children and popular for fishing. Nearby Oyster Harbour is used for oyster and mussel farming and is home to the Albany Rock Oyster, which you can purchase direct from the farms.
4. Check out Albany Wind Farm
Check out its twelve wind turbines along a great walk trail just six kilometres from town, perched on some spectacularly rugged coastline.
5. Take a drive to Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve
Well-known for its small colony of noisy scrub birds, visitors can explore the interpretive centre or take a leisurely stroll along the squeaky white sands of the beautiful Little Beach or Waterfall Beach.
6. Dive the former HMAS Perth II Dive Wreck
Scuttled in 2001, it provides a prolific wonderland for divers and snorkellers to explore different species of fish and marine life.
7. Explore Torndirrup National Park
Here you will find some of Albany’s most famous attractions. Natural Bridge is a rock formation sculptured into a bridge, shaped by the powerful swells of the Southern Ocean. Nearby is The Gap, a 24 metre drop where the ocean rushes into a large cavern in the rocks. Wildflowers form a colourful blanket along the cliffs and seals can often be seen playing in the waters below.