The Ultimate List of Things to Do in Albany, Western Australia
Albany WA is a sleepy city on the southern coast of Western Australia. It’s a historic place, being the first European settlement in the state and for Australians, it’s remembered as the port from where the first soldiers set sail to fight in the First World War, a defining moment for this young country.
It’s also a place that has yet to fully be introduced to the world. Western Australians know the delights and the beauty of Albany’s coastline in summer, but outside of holidaymakers from Perth and the odd backpacker, few people travel to this remote part of the world.
That was fine by me because it meant that all the quirky charms of Albany and all of the spectacular national parks and epic beaches were still waiting to be discovered when I spent a few months working and living in the region. Armed with this intricate knowledge of the area, I’ve decided to put together this guide on what to do in Albany WA. Here’s the best that this city and the surrounding area have to offer!
The Best Things To Do In Albany WA
There are a lot of things to do in Albany Australia, from exploring the many national parks, to simply chilling on the beach. I’ve narrowed down the best activities and sights to help you decide what to see in Albany WA. Let me know in the comments if you’d add anything else to the list!
Middleton Beach may not be the most beautiful or spectacular of the many, many beaches that are found around the city of Albany, but it’s at the top of this list because it’s a time-tested classic of locals and visitors alike. It’s the closest beach to the city centre, and as such, it’s probably the first beach you will come across when you travel to Albany WA. It’s the best place for swimming because the currents aren’t going to sweep you out to sea, and there’s even a shark net if you’re worried about that sort of thing. It’s a favourite BBQ spot, there are also changing facilities and a few cafes and restaurants nearby. It’s a busy, social beach, and it’s great.
The city’s second most popular spot has to be Emu Point. This is a beautiful area, that’s close to the city, and is part of a sheltered bay, making it great for swimming. There’s a lovely white sand beach and the Emu Point Cafe serve up some of the best thick shakes in town. I used to visit to use the public BBQs and to just chill out, overlooking the coastline and the majestic King George Sound.
Albany to Emu Point Walk
Although you will soon find that like anywhere in Australia, the people of Albany prefer to drive, if you are after a bit of exercise then there’s a picturesque hiking trail which runs all along the coast from the city centre, over the cliffs and down to Middleton Beach, before continuing all the way to Emu Point. It’s about 10 kilometres in total, with old World War II bunkers to be seen on the way, many a monitor lizard, and a few historic info signs too. You can just walk the Middleton Beach to Emu Point section too, which is around 5 kilometres.
Gull Rock National Park
From the vantage of Emu Point, you can actually see the green cliffs and white sands of Gull Rock National Park, but this wild area is separated by the short strait that runs into Oyster Bay. It’s so close, you could probably swim, as long as you didn’t get swept out by the strong currents. The road in takes a circuitous 25-kilometre route around, following the contours of the coastline. It’s always peaceful in Gull Rock National Park, and there’s always a secluded beach to discover.
The long Kalgan River runs all the way from the Stirling Ranges to the north, and empties itself into Oyster Harbour, right by Emu Point and Gull Rock National Park. From Emu Point, it’s possible to take a scenic river cruise along the Kalgan for a few miles, exploring this green riverway and all the wildlife along it.
Two People’s Bay – Little Beach and Waterfall Beach
Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve is found to the east of Albany and it’s a spectacular place of undeniable natural beauty. The main sights here are Little Beach, which is a blue, turquoise bay, surrounded by granite boulders, and Waterfall Beach, which can only be reached by hiking from Little Beach, over the boulders. These two beaches could easily be the most aesthetic in Albany, but as you will see, there is a lot of competition.
Whale Watching in King George Sound
Every year between June and October, mighty Humpback Whales can be seen migrating past Albany on their way to warmer waters. Many of these magnificent creatures return year after year, and their calves use the calm waters of King George Sound in Albany to rest and recuperate. It’s possible to see whales from much of the coastline, but a few companies run dedicated whale watching tours out on the water too.
Torndirrup National Park
Just a few kilometres to the south of Albany is Torndirrup National Park. This is one of the area’s most famous national parks because it’s home to some of the wildest and most dramatic coastline in the south of WA. The national park has many spectacular places and many unusual features too which can be visited. Albany’s best day hikes are found here, in this weather-beaten land, but they are also some of the toughest hikes in the region.
The Bald Head Hike
The Bald Head Hike is one of the most excellent hikes to be found in Torndirrup National Park, however, it is also the toughest. Bald Head is a dramatic peninsula that’s found at the far southern end of the national park, and the views are unbelievable. The hike takes at least 5 hours return, along exposed ridges and cliffside pathways. There’s not really anywhere else quite like it along the southern coast of Western Australia.
The Gap and Natural Bridge
The Gap is a huge break in the cliffs of Tonrdirrup National Park that has been slowly beaten and destroyed by the powerful waves that rock the coast here. A man-made viewing platform leans over the edge of this huge gap in the rocks, and you can see the powerful surge below. The Natural Bridge is found right next to The Gap, and again it’s proof of the incredible force of the waves in this region, as the water has slowly carved a natural bridge from the rocks, as it undercuts the granite.
The Blowholes are another popular attraction, found close to The Gap and Natural Bridge. This rugged, windswept and ocean-battered part of the coast is again as wild as anywhere else in the national park. Here, the powerful ocean swirls air and water into a series of crevasses and holes in the rocks, before the pressure forces the air and water violently skywards, just like a blowhole. It’s a spectacular scene, but be careful, this dramatic section of coast has claimed many lives!
The Salmon Holes are an excellent stretch of coastline, again found in Torndirrup, the national park which just keeps giving. There’s a steep walk down from the cliff tops to the beach below, where you can witness the tides at work. Be careful, the wrong time of day could see you trapped on the rocks if you venture along the boulders. It’s a popular spot for fishing, as the area here sees the arrival of huge numbers of salmon at certain times in the year.
This sheltered bay just outside of Torndirrup National Park offers a secluded and remote place for you to enjoy the calm and beautiful surroundings. Frenchman Bay is an underrated spot, but the sand is white and the granite boulders here are enormous. It’s a favourite amongst fishermen and you might even see the odd surfer here in the usually calm waters, just practising on what little surf there is.
Albany’s Historic Whaling Station
Near Frenchman Bay, overlooking the equally scenic Cheynes Beach is Albany’s Historic Whaling Station. Although commercial whaling has long since ended along these shores, whaling was an important part of the settlement of Albany, as the earliest Europeans here were whalers. This station closed decades ago, but it’s since been renovated into an educational experience, showcasing not just local history, but the beauty of these huge marine mammals.
Albany Wind Farm
Along the wild and windswept coastline to the west of Torndirrup is the extensive and strangely aesthetic Albany Wind Farm. These wind turbines stretch far along the coast, and they generate power for the local area using the powerful natural forces that have shaped this land for millennia.
West Cape Howe National Park
Halfway between Albany and the nearby town of Denmark, West Cape Howe National Park is home to some more of the great scenery that Albany is famous for. West Cape Howe is known for its high winds, and it’s a firm favourite amongst hang gliders who use the launching pad of Shelley Beach lookout to catch the thermals. Shelley Beach is also possibly the best camping spot in Albany.
Mount Clarence is hard to miss in Albany. It separates the city centre from the eastern suburbs and the popular Emu Point and Middleton Beach, so chances are you’ll drive under at some point during your stay in the city. The small mountain itself though has some of the best lookouts in the area, and some excellent hiking trails. Follow the steep paths to the top, where there’s a circular walk that takes you to many of the spectacular viewpoints.
Desert Mounted Corps Memorial
On Mount Clarence, you may stumble across the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial. This is a monument to the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who left Albany on the first ships that travelled to fight in World War I. It’s an important monument in the town and on ANZAC Day – Memorial Day – it’s the scene of a remembrance ceremony.
Princess Royal Fortress
The Princess Royal Fortress was constructed in the 19th century to watch over and protect Albany and the natural Harbour of King George Sound. While it never saw action, the fortifications, bunkers and barracks are still found atop Mount Clarence, the most commanding point in the area. The fortress is now a museum waiting to be explored by those with an interest in local history.
The National ANZAC Centre
The ANZAC Centre is found within the boundaries of the old Princess Royal Fortress, at the summit of Mount Clarence. It tells the story of the soldiers who left their homes in Australia and New Zealand to fight for the Empire. It’s a moving but interesting exhibit to visit.
Museum of the Great Southern
This intriguing museum is located on the first European settlement in Albany, and by extension, the entirety of Western Australia. Located just a short walk from the modern city centre, the museum has a selection of exhibits focusing on not only Europen, colonial life, but also on the local Noongar people, who called this land home long before the British arrived. There’s a replica of the Brig Amity here too, the ship which actually brought the first settlers to Albany.
Mount Melville Lookout
The Mount Melville Lookout is found just outside of the city centre, and after a twisting drive to the top, offers unparalleled views of the city of Albany below. The views are great, but equally awesome are the granite, boulder-strewn cliffs that can be walked along up at the top.
Dog Rock is one of the more bizarre things to see in Albany WA, but it’s a bit of a local legend. You’ll notice plenty of place names in the city carry the title ‘Dog Rock’, and you’ll notice plenty of mention of this weird phrase, but what exactly is ‘Dog Rock’? Well, it’s quite literally a rock, that is vaguely shaped like the head of a dog if you look at it in the right way that is. It’s found by a roundabout, on the road out of the centre towards Bayonet Head.
Wilson Brewing Company
After chasing all of the best things to do in Albany Western Australia and exploring all that this beautiful place has to offer, you may fancy a nice, refreshing, cold pint of beer. Wilson Brewing Company is the place to go! This small, locally owned craft beer brewery hasn’t been running long, and they operate out of what looks like a tin shed from the outside. Inside, however, is the friendliest pub in Albany, where all the beers are brewed on sight and the range of tasters available is most excellent indeed.
If you are looking for something a little bit stronger than beer though, head to the Limeburners Distillery, which is found on the road to Frenchmans Bay, outside of the city. Limeburners offer a unique selection of locally crafted and distilled whiskeys and gins, for which they’ve won many awards across the region. You can join a tour to see where the magic happens, or you can just sit back and enjoy a drink.
Greens Pool, Elephant Rocks and Denmark
If you have seen all there is to see in Albany and you are looking for a new adventure, then head 50 kilometres down the road to the west, to Denmark. This quaint little town is slightly rustic, with a very local feel. There are a few quirky shops and lovely restaurants to enjoy, but the real attraction lies on the coast here, where you can visit the spectacular Greens Pool and the bizarre Elephant Rocks. Both are part of the William Bay National Park, and both are incredible pieces of natural scenery. Greens Pool is an area of clear water and beautiful boulders, while Elephant Rocks is a cliff face that slightly resembles an elephant, but in absolutely marvellous surroundings.
The Bluff Knoll Hike
Even further afield, the Stirling Range National Park, an hour’s drive to the north of Albany, is the site of the regions only real mountains. The tallest of these mountains is Bluff Knoll, a legendary peak in local circles, and one of the best walks in the country. The steep ascent isn’t so difficult, but at 1099 metres high, in an otherwise flat landscape, there are few better vantage points around. The summit of Bluff Knoll is also one of the few places – possibly the only place in fact – in Western Australia that has ever experienced snowfall.
Porongurup National Park is just next to the Stirling Range, and the enormous, granite boulders here are quite literally otherworldly. These boulders are the size of mountains, and they are arranged in precarious, balancing positions in certain cases. It’s an epic place and an epic place to end a trip to Albany!
All Words and Photos by Richard Collett