At four and a half hours from Perth; a drive to Albany is just long enough to get through that epic road trip soundtrack lined up, and still arrive in time for a cracking sunset and some salty fresh air before dinner.
Many West Aussies are surprised to learn that long before Perth made a mark on the European settlers map, Albany (Kinjarling in Noongar language) was the epi-centre. It’s actually the oldest colonial settlement in WA, and was home to the Menang Noongar people during the summer season, with Kinjarling translating to “place of rain”. There’s plenty of history to take in alongside the sweeping views, delicious local produce and surrounding wineries to indulge at.
If you aren’t quite ready to bare that lockdown bod (yes, we too survived on banana bread for several months), then set your compass south. It’s time to get your best woolly jumper out for cosy evenings by the fireside and to soak up some of the most stunning scenery in the state.
Get set to clock off work early, here's how to spend a weekend in Albany.
First things first, it’s time to settle into home for the next two nights. There are heaps of accommodation options to choose from, but there are a few standouts. The Beach House at Bayside is perfect for a romantic stay, with personal touches like home-baked afternoon tea, a scrumptious breakfast and even a complimentary evening port nightcap. There’s also room service if you decide that the bed is just too comfy to get out of. Alternatively, at Ace Accommodation Albany along with a warm welcome from the family-run hotel, you’ll also be able to enjoy the freshest of seafood at the resultant. John, the owner, even catches the fish from his boat for a real produce to plate experience. Dunmoylen House is a gorgeous heritage option with harbour views. Built in the 1890s it’s full of old-world charm and a great spot to explore the townsite of Albany from. Of course, if you are looking for something luxe for a small group or the whole fam, you can’t go past Private Properties selection of holiday houses.
An afternoon on the road is bound to work up an appetite, so tonight it’s straight down to business. Take a stroll into the main hub of the town centre and head to the faded French chic of Liberte bar and restaurant. Set inside the historic London Hotel, culinary superstar Amy Hamilton heads the kitchen and packs a punch with her French Vietnamese smash-up of a menu. Be sure to sample a few cocktails in the lounge before (and after) dinner, as the drinks list is one to envy the hippest of bars back in the big smoke.
It’s time to stroll (or taxi) home for a nightcap, but be sure to stop and take in the sweeping night views of the harbour on the way. The fabulous art silo artworks are just as striking lit up after nightfall, and the twinkling of the bay’s surrounding lights reflect the evening’s starry skies above.
Start the day nice and early and get the blood pumping before breakfast with a walk up either Mount Melville or Mount Clarence, two the highest points in the town. Yes, it’s a bit of a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with 180-degree views from across the bay, over the town and on towards the surrounding farmland.
Head into the heart of town and grab a bite for breakfast from the cutest cafe in town. You won’t be able to miss Gourmandise & Co with its bright yellow vintage car out the front. Be sure to leave some room, however, as next stop is the Albany Famers Markets for a stroll around stalls filled with local produce: think fruit and veg, handmade cheese, heritage chickens, venison, honey, olive oil…You get the picture. Be sure to gather supplies for a picnic lunch down the track.
The rest of the morning is a time to get your bearings in the town before catching up on some 21st century history. Head up to Mount Adelaide and visit the National Anzac Centre, an award-winning experience which is set over-looking the actual harbour where over 41,000 men and women set sail for the Great War. It’s an immersive experience that could easily take the best part of a day, but there is plenty to squeeze into a single weekend in Albany.
By now tummies should be rumbling, so head next door for a bite with a view at Garrison restaurant. The menu changes daily, and is full of globally influenced share plates such as the house special of fried okra, hand made labneh, and loaded hummus with spiced beef.
It’s time to get a bit closer to the ocean swell, drive out towards Albany’s Historic Whaling Station. Stop off at Frenchman Bay on the way if you are game to stop for a winter paddle. The Whaling Station was the last operating station in Australia and provides a fascinating history of the industry, and Albany. It’s also a great viewing point to catch the majestic animals in the surrounding waters throughout the winter months.
Note: the whaling centre will be reopening on 1 July.
Take a loop back to town from the Torndirrup National Park via the awe-inspiring natural rock formations nearby. The Gap unleashes the full force of the ocean onto rocks 24 metres below, while the viewing platform is safely out of reach. Nearby the Natural Bridge is a rock formation arching over the water below and crafted over years from the elements of water, waves and wind.
With all that salt air and rugged windswept energy, now’s the ideal time to pop into the Great Southern Distilling Company to taste some of their award-winning Single Malt Whiskey and grab a bite.
Take your pick from one of the eateries in town for dinner, or chill out and enjoy a relaxed evening dining in at the hotel. Tomorrow is full of adventure, so it’s the ideal excuse to curl up for an early night.
Enjoy a leisurely start and a home-cooked breakfast at your accommodation to fill up before hitting the road. This morning you’ll want to lace up your boots, as there is some serious vertical action in store. Pack a snack and some water in a backpack, as it will be a few hours before mealtime.
Arrive at Bluff Knoll after a scenic drive and get cracking. The Stirling Ranges was heavily damaged in the summer fires, and it’s begun to burst into life again. If you luck out you might even catch snow at the second highest peak in WA! For a relatively fit person, it’s worth setting aside up to three hours to comfortably enjoy the route up and down.
You’ve seriously earned your lunch today. It’s time to unpack a picnic lunch of goodies stocked up from the Farmers Markets yesterday. If you need a coffee for the road, you can pick one up from the best coffee shop in town (the only coffee shop in town), Bluff Knoll Cafe.
With the energy reserves back up to 100 per cent, it’s now an afternoon of slowly pottering between one or two of the 26 cellar doors in the region for some wine-tasting. As with most experiences post-lockdown, be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Just south Plantagenent Winery is located in the town of Mount Barker—be sure to ask the cellar door team about the interesting history behind their label. You can grab a pizza here if still hungry after the morning hike. Other options a short drive away include Ironwood Estate or Zarephath Wines, both with a lovely cafe at the cellar door. Heading back to Albany for the night? Stop in to Oranje Tractor Wines, where you’ll be greeted warmly at this sustainable and organic winery and farm.
Your 48 hours is now officially up, but never fear there are plenty more opportunities to explore if you have a few more days up your sleeve.
No need to rush home? Why not try…
- More beach time? Two Peoples Bay nature reserve is full of secluded beaches such as Little Beach. Middleton Beach is a favourite of many and very close to town.
- Head to Emu Point cafe for another option for breakfast with a view. Emu Beach is right next door.
- There are so many award-winning wineries nearby. Check out the full gamut over on the Great Southern Wine website.
- Walkers with an eye for heights will enjoy visiting some of the other great spots nearby. Try The Valley of the Giants Treetop walk or the Granite Skywalk.
- If you realise you aren’t quite ready to end the long and you’ve already hit the road, you can always stop at Katanning for a cheeky extra night away and enjoy a luxe stay at the Premier Mill Hotel.
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Image credit: Tourism Western Australia, Amazing Albany