Thursday, September 6, 2018
Top 12 things to do in Albany and
the Great Southern
Beneath you are powerful waves from the deep blue Southern Ocean that crash against the rocky cavern floor 40 metres below, swirling and shifting until they have had enough and drag themselves back out to sea again. The wind whipping through your hair, the smell of salt in the air, and the powerful ocean sprays shooting up – it’s an exhilarating experience.
Where are we? This is Albany’s Natural Bridge and The Gap, in Western Australia’s Great Southern. Devastatingly beautiful, the Great Southern region is overflowing with natural riches. And while we often hear the word “unspoilt” thrown around in travel articles, this region truly is.
A little about Albany and the Great Southern
- Albany is a 400km drive south-east from Perth. Roughly a four-a-half-hour drive.
- Albany is the oldest European-settled city in Western Australia. However, Indigenous people have called the area home for many, many millennia.
- This is the land of the giant Karri forests. These are some of the tallest trees in the world, closely rivalling Californian Redwoods.
- It’s an ancient landscape. The weathered mountain range in Porongurup National Park is more than 1.2 billion years old.
- Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges is one of the few places in WA to welcome snow.
- The most southerly tip of Western Australia is at West Cape Howe National Park. From here, there’s nothing but open ocean between you and Antarctica.
When to go
Summer is magnificent for beaches and swimming, but winter also has a certain atmosphere about it. Think charming forests, limitless ocean views, warm fires, and raindrops pattering onto lush greenery – winter is unquestionably magical in its own right. And for the cherry on top, winter is prime whale watching season. Expect average summer lows of 15C and highs of 22C, with winter average lows of 8C and highs of 16C.
Top 12 must-dos in Albany
This wild and remote region of Australia is a true outdoor adventure. Throw in a rich history, an abundance of diverse flora and fauna, plus excellent food and wine, and you have yourself a perfect holiday destination.
1. The Gap, Natural Bridge and The Blowholes
Equally breathtaking and notoriously perilous, this area was once connected to Antarctica as part of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The jaw-dropping spectacle that is The Gap and Natural Bridge can be found in Torndirrup National Park. A short distance away are The Blowholes – ocean surges being forced up through cracks in the rocks. They’re loud, powerful, and impressive when they’re showing off. You can get close but exercise caution and wear good shoes.
2. Whale watchingAlbany is one of the best locations in the world to see whales. Migrating from Antarctica to the warmer waters up along the Western Australian coast, these majestic animals can be seen from late May to early October. Look out for Humpbacks and Southern Rights, frequently seen in Albany’s waters mating and calving. Plus, you may even see the elusive blue whale, the largest animal to have ever existed (the tongue alone weighs as much as an elephant!).
3. King George Sound
This is a stunning, enormous harbour that picturesque Albany is built around. In 1791, George Vancouver declared Kind George Sound (and its two neighbouring harbours) one of the best natural harbours in the world. There are multiple vantage points to watch visiting whales and dolphins enter the protected waters; you can launch your own boat from here; fish for salmon, snapper, tuna and herring; dive the multiple wrecks on the sea floor; or just spend the day photographing the sights.
4. The ANZAC legacy
If you are interested in Australian history and culture, be sure to make a pilgrimage here. More than 40,000 young Australians and New Zealanders departed our shores for Gallipoli in World War I from here so there is a special significance about this town. Albany is also considered the birthplace of the Dawn Service. ANZAC-related attractions include the award-winning National Anzac Centre, Princess Royal Fortress, Desert Mounted Corps Memorial and the Padre White Lookout.
5. Sample great food and wine
The world is slowly realising the exceptional quality produce this area has to offer. The gourmet event highlight of the region is Taste Great Southern, which takes place throughout March and April. Keep up to date here. And for wine-lovers, the shiraz, riesling and pinot noir varieties are all world-class. Wineries to add to your itinerary include West Cape Howe, Castelli Estate, Singlefile, Castle Rock Estate, and Howard Park.
6. Explore shipwrecks
Deep beneath the dark blue waters of King George Sound lie several shipwrecks that are spectacular dive sites. The HMAS Perth, a former Australian Navy guided missile destroyer, lies at a depth of 38 metres, and prized dive site Cheynes III can be found 30 metres below on the sea floor. Many other ships met their demise around Albany too, including the Fanny Nicholson which was lost in 1872 and Runnymede which was driven ashore in 1881 in a storm.
7. Dive and snorkel with the local wildlife
Explore the region’s rich and beautiful underwater world – either on your own or with a professional charter that will take you to all the best locations. Make sure you visit Seal Island, 12km south-east of Albany, and get up close and personal with the curious fur seals and sea lions that live here. King George Sound also regularly welcomes playful dolphins, as well as whales and their (big) babies in winter.
8. Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi Trail
One of the world’s longest walking trails, the Bibbulmun Track stretches more than 1000km from Perth to Albany. The section between Denmark and Albany is spectacular. You’ll be treated to secluded bays with crystal clear waters, through West Cape Howe National Park which is carpeted with wildflowers in spring, and past the brig Amity – a replica of the ship that brought the first European settlers to the area. To travel by mountain bike instead, head over to the Munda Biddi Trail.
9. Explore some of the most spectacular beaches in the world
Forget busy beaches with throngs of people; these postcard-perfect beaches are where it’s at. First stop, the sheltered bay of Little Beach, which is a slice of paradise and was rightly named one of Australia’s best beaches of 2018. Visit Goode Beach with its sparkling, impossibly-white sand and where you’ll feel like Robinson Crusoe. Or try Albany’s main beach, Middleton Beach, which is a favourite with families, swimmers and picnickers.
Sights further afield in Great Southern (but mustn’t be missed)
10. Porongurup National Park and Stirling Range National Park
A 1.2-billion-year-old weathered mountain range, covered in granite and towering trees, the beautiful “Porongurups” is a 40km drive north of Albany. It’s exceptionally diverse in landscape, plant and animal species – bird watchers, botanists, photographers, trail walkers and climbers are in their element here. And 25km further north is the Stirling Range. The two parks are worlds apart geologically, so both are well worth visiting. Bluff Knoll, one of WA’s highest peaks is in the Stirling Range, too.
11. Be dwarfed in the Valley of the Giants
Rivalling the monster Redwood Forests in California, Walpole’s Karri forests are a sight to behold. Trees in this area can be up to 400 years old and reach heights of 40 metres. There is a well-constructed treetop walk through this beautiful serene forest that is worth the entry fee. And also take the opportunity to visit the Giant Tingle Tree, a eucalypt with a hollowed out centre and an impressive 22m circumference. Stand inside and prepare to feel tiny.
12. Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks
Close to Denmark is stunning Greens Pool, a protected beach famous for its tranquil green waters. Bring your snorkel to view beautiful schools of fish and stingrays from under the gentle waves. Nearby is Elephant Rocks and Elephant Cove, with the same pristine water and white sand but with the added element of enormous ancient smooth rocks that rise abruptly from the white sand and resemble a herd of elephants.
Why wouldn’t you want to visit extraordinary Albany and the Great Southern? Browse our list to find your dream holiday home today.
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