Features

Albany Is The Incredible Aussie Getaway You’ve Been Searching For

It was once the punch line in a John West tuna commercial, but Albany today is a whole different kettle of fish. Jutting into the ocean, at the southernmost tip of Western Australia, the former colonial city is booming with award-winning bars and restaurants, world-class art and wineries.

There are endless empty white sand beaches to get lost in and incredible nature at every turn. A few hours drive south east of Margaret River; have your own adventure in this laidback beachside town.

#1 Get ready for field of lights

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lauren Bath | Australia (@laurenepbath) on

It made headlines when it lit up Uluru, and now Bruce Munro’s Field of Lights is dazzling Albany. Until April next year, visitors can walk a path through thousands of yellow, white and gold solar lights planted along the Avenue of Honour at Mount Clarence to commemorate the centenary of World War I ending.

To gain a local perspective, visit the Avenue of Honour by day. Planted in 1956, each of the gum trees along the path is dedicated to a fallen soldier. Nearby, the National ANZAC Centre has an interactive wartime exhibit that takes visitors on one digger’s life. At sunset, claim a spot at the summit of Mount Clarence and sparkling views over King George Sound. This calm harbour was where the Anzac warships left for Gallipoli and it’s a poignant start to Field of Lights: Avenue of Honour.

#2 Be blown away by The Gap

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lauren Bath | Australia (@laurenepbath) on

Albany and the surrounding Great Southern coastline is nothing short of epic. Nowhere is this more evident than The Gap at Torndirrup National Park. Thirty million years ago, this part of WA was connected to Antarctica, and one look at the jagged granite coastline, it’s easy to imagine the supercontinent Gondwanaland that separated from here.

Get a bird’s eye view at The Gap. Thanks to a new cantilevered platform opened last year, thrill-seekers can step out 40m directly above the surging sea as it swells and crashes into the rocky chasm below. Or walk to the nearby Natural Bridge, a breath-taking span of granite worn away by the sea, with views of the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean.

#3 Have a whale of a time

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by King George Sound Safari (@king_george_sound_safari) on

Like much of Australia, Albany was built on the bones of whaling trade. It’s a dark and bloody past worth exploring at the Historic Whaling Station – Australia’s last operating station when it closed forty years ago, and the only one in the world restored to its original glory. Here you can join a free tour of the cavernous whale processing factory, visit the converted whale oil tanks or jump aboard the planet’s only surviving whale chaser ship.

For a whale adventure of a different kind, get up close to migrating humpbacks and southern right whales on a cruise of the Southern Ocean. May to October is when these gentle giants pass through town and you can see them breach the water or wave a fin in the air. Even landlubbers can share in the excitement for free on a stroll of the boardwalk that runs alongside Middleton Beach, as well as look-out points at King George Sound and the Ataturk Channel.

#4 Chase rainbows, and other reasons to hit the road

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @philmarfarm on

Nature is at Albany’s doorstep – from the dramatic Bibbulmun Track (the amazing walking trail that links Albany to Perth via Karri forests, beaches and the coast), to the much-photographed Elephant Rocks near Denmark. Part of the Great Southern region, this rugged coastline inspires free-wheeling road trips filled with dips in the translucent blue sea.

It’s a landscape that inspired Tim Winton’s novel Breath and where scenes for the movie were also filmed. From here, it takes about seven hours to reach Cape Le Grand National Park, but the reward at the end is knowing that you’ve stepped foot on what is officially (and scientifically proven) the whitest sand in Australia – Lucky Bay.

#5 Where to drink up (and chow down)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Liberté (@libertealbany) on

Upstairs of the historic London Hotel is Liberté, an achingly cool Parisienne bar that took out Gourmet Traveller Bar of the Year. You’ll find handcrafted cocktails and inspired French-fusion cuisine. On Princess Royal Harbour is Due South. It might look like a tavern, but inside is a menu of dry-aged meats, house-made salami and sausage, and whole fish and seafood fresh off the boat. For serious grazing, hit up the Sunday Albany Boatshed Grower’s Markets.

Whisky-lovers should make a beeline to Limeburners. The waterside distillery kicked off WA’s craft spirit scene more than a decade ago – and for $25, you can join a behind-the-scenes tour and whisky tasting. Just outside Albany is Wilson Brewery, a small, family run beer door with paddles of craft brews and seasonal beers. A short drive away in Mount Barker, wine lovers can indulge in a tipple or three at a handful of cellar doors that include Arcadia Wines, West Cape Howe Wines and Plantagenet Wines.

(Lead image: Tom Callaghan / Amazing Albany)