Albany was a place that was on the bucket list of places to go, and after 817 days on the road, we finally drove into the stunning town, and we marvelled at the history that surrounded us. The one thing we learnt about Albany was that not much is free or cheap, but the experiences are worth the money.
Here is what we did and experienced and where we stayed.
This is the first stop to make in town, and it is situated in the middle of the main street, so probably a good idea to drop the van off at your chosen accommodation location before venturing in there. They do have long vehicle parking out the front for one or two vans, but who wants to risk not getting a spot with the van attached.
The staff at the centre are very informative, knowledgeable and have a wealth of knowledge about the area, the attractions, and are super friendly. We often ask many left of field questions, and the staff had no problem answering them for us.
You will walk out of there armed with so many choices of how to spend your time, so you have been warned.
Two Peoples Bay
Two Peoples Bay is a suburb, road and national park….a bit confusing isn’t it.
We stayed at Two Peoples Bay Caravan Park – which is a very basic park on some disused farm land. The park is surrounded by paddocks with horses and cattle, so you can often hear the horses running, snickering or the cows calling out. It was cheap too, and with a pay for 5 and stay for 7, it is a great deal.
The park is about 20 minutes into Albany itself as well, and a two-minute drive to Little Beach, in Two Peoples Bay National Park.
A stunning beach, with beautiful fine white sand, the stunning Western Australian crystal clear water and big rocks to climb and whittle away your time in a beautiful bushland setting. A nice place to spend a sunny day.
NATIONAL ANZAC CENTRE
When we learnt about this amazing Museum, and we knew we would be in the area for ANZAC day, we decided that this was where we would be to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War 1.
The day before ANZAC Day, we wondered into the Heritage listed Princess Royal Fortress to where the National ANZAC Centre is located. The moment you walk in the gate, you know that things have been preserved to remind you of the times past.
We entered the centre, where we each received a card with the name of a World War One Solider or Nurse. We could follow their journey from prior to joining, to their service to when they retired from life in the military. This allowed the kids to explore and understand that life was not as nice then as it is now.
We also received personalised, handheld speakers, that you use as you wonder the centre to listen to diary entries and stories about the battles, the sailing of the ships and the capture of the enemy. You hear about life in the trenches, as reported by the men back to their families, and you learn about the medals and the death medallions handed to families of those we lost.
You learn about the importance of the Light Horse Men, and the horses who were sent to battle. A lovely sculpture of a horse and digger is on display, in a large room that allows you to sit and marvel at the conditions that these beasts were sent in to battle at, and you understand why they were so important to the digger.
The rear of the centre overlooks the Albany Harbour, the area where the 41,000 men and women departed Australia to go and serve the King and the sovereign state of Australia, in the Great War.
It is a place that will forever be in our memories, and a place that everyone should take the time to visit and explore.
Within the grounds of the Fortress, there are cannons and guns and other bits of machinery and weapons of war for the kids to climb on, explore and play with.
The kids also enjoyed watching the Navy practice their drills for ANZAC Day, and this was very fitting for such a wonderful place full of history and national pride.
HISTORIC WHALING STATION
To start with, I am going to say that you need to allow at least a minimum of 3 hours to explore, absorb and enjoy this place.
The Historic Whaling Station is the only decommissioned Whaling Station in the world that is still set up as it was when it was a working Whaling Station. The whaling ramp, the saws, the pressure cookers and everything else that was used, is still there.
The Station does run tours, that are part of the entry price, and well worth the effort of attending one, as you learn a lot about the station and some of the exhibits come alive thanks to Tour Guides access to the special effects that have been added to make the experience realistic.
The Whaling Boat – the Cheynes IV – is set up like a working whaling boat, and is great to explore. You can see where the crew slept and ate. You can see where the captain stood charting the boat and gain an understanding for the harpoon and its workings.
While the idea of Whaling sounds cruel and is unnecessary in the modern world, they did attempt to make the process of killing the whales as quick and painless as possible. We must remember that times were different, and how much society relied on the oil back them. I guess we can thank modern technology and our scientists for ensuring that our whales are once again safe to breed and grow in our waters.
There are displays of whale skeletons, and learning that in order to have the skeletons intact and in such good condition, it requires a lot of forethought. The skeletons are buried for years, (usually in the sand) so as the carcass can rot and be absorbed into the ground and eaten by critters, until there is nothing but the bones left.
There is a great 3D movie about our sea creatures, and the changes required to ensure that our oceans can thrive for many centuries. There are two other theatre room with movies about the killing of whales, why they were killed and how their oil was so important for advancement. The oil from Sperm Whales (which were the whale of choice at this whaling station) were used by our Military and domestic markets alike.
The Whaling Station was closed in 1978, and not much has changed, other than the fact that it is clean, and it is only your imagination that allows you to picture the scene when it was a working Whaling Station.
THE GAP AND NATURAL BRIDGE
A drive out to Torndirrup National Park (about 20 minutes from Albany Town Centre) and you will find yourself at The Gap and the Natural Bridge. Further down the road is where you will find the Whaling Station.
A raised pathway will lead you from the Parking area to the viewing platforms at both The Gap and the Natural Bridge. The pathway has been built to allow access to all persons, no matter their abilities, and ensures that you can enjoy the natural granite rock formations without having to clamber over them, or fear slipping into the water. It also ensures that the rocks and the few plants that manage to survive such conditions are safe from human trampling’s.
There is a new “all persons” accessible viewing platform that takes you to the top of The Gap, overlooking the pounding waves, and if you are there at high tide, you might even experience a good dosing of sea spray. Not only did we experience this, but the rainbows formed afterwards were stunning. Being 40 metres directly above the crashing waves and surging waters is just mesmerising.
The walkway also extends across to the Natural Bridge, with the platform allowing you an uninterrupted view of the bridge, allowing you to marvel at the formations of the exposed granite rocks. It will be an amazing site to see when some of the rocks forming the bridge finally give into the harsh conditions and fall into the unforgiving ocean below.
The platform structure has been built with the aim of little intrusion onto the natural environment, and with the foresight that it will last for a long time to come. They have even ensured that the pathway is built to be slip resistant during inclement weather.
Another awesome location within the Torndirrup National Park is the naturally created blowhole. Now, if you are not a fan of walking uphill and climbing stairs, then this is not for you, because walking down there is easy – it is the walking back up that some may find difficult. It does also involve walking up and down some rocks too – including at an angle that leads towards that Southern Ocean.
Once you have made it, and putting aside the thought of the journey back to the carpark, you will find a massive blow hole – right on the edge of the Southern Ocean.
We will let the photos tell the story from here, but it is the closest we have even been to a blow hole.
One of the first things we noticed about the town centre of Albany, its main street and wharf area, was that they have kept many of the original buildings as they should be – just maintained them so as we can appreciate them.
The Patrick Taylor Cottage Museum and the Albany Convict Gaol are just a couple of the buildings you will see as you meander the streets.
The main street is a vibrate street full of boutique shops and cafes as well as a few restaurants. You can spend a bit of time wandering the streets and enjoying the vibe of the town, and for us, it was a town that had a great, friendly vibe.
This is just our snapshot of what Albany has to offer. There is so much more to see and do.