A little place called Albany is where the Amazing Aussie Adventure all started.
Albany has the distinguished honour of not just being where I lived for the first few months on arriving down under. Albany us also the first place in Australia that I visited: Perth airport doesn’t count.
Right on the south west coast, Albany is the edge of Australia where it once joined to Antarctica — and parts of it still look like it.
Albany feels more like a town than a city, to me — maybe because of the preserved old colonial architecture, and a lack of highrise office buildings. It also has a population roughly equivalent to my home town in the UK, although here — like all of Australia — it’s on a much bigger scale.
Something in the water in Albany
Because it’s right on the Southern ocean, the water in Albany can be colder than swimming in Perth, where you’re swimming in the warm currents of the Indian ocean.
There’s lots of good beaches in Albany. Duh, it’s Western Australia — of course it’s going to be awesome. But they aren’t just good for swimming, they’re also good for whales. Albany is known around Australia as a place for whale watching: the humpback whales migrate in from June, and when the humpbacks leave, the southern right whales come for a few months. Sometimes, I’m told, there are even blue whales.
At the right time of year, you can stand on the beach in the early evening sunshine and watch whales happily splashing their tails in the water a short way off the shore.
The edge of the earth
In Albany, you can stand on a rock, stare out to sea, and the next landmass out there is the endlessness of the Antarctic continent.
The pounding southern ocean has formed the coast into vast cliffs, and in one place a huge, granite natural bridge — where the waves crash underneath.
You shouldn’t ever try and walk across the natural bridge (maybe it should be renamed the natural bridge of death), other than the risk of a gust of wind blowing you over the side, or slipping on a wet rock, there is also the danger from king waves knocking you off.
It’s much more interesting to look at than climb on, anyway.
Albany: scenic city
Other than the rocky outcrops of Antarctica, and the marine visitors, and the beaches (of course, the beaches, always the beaches), Albany is just plain scenic.
The boardwalk at Middleton Beach on a fine day is a favourite walk for me.
Even if there are no whales to spot off the shore (though you’ll often see cars parked on the hill in the lookout spots, with people staring out, just in case) there’s lots to stop to take in.
If you’re feeling energetic you can also take a walk at the Albany windfarm, taking in as much or as little of the Bibbulmum track as you’re comfortable doing — where there’s hills and lookout points and wooden steps leading down to the water’s edge.
Albany is one of those places that’s a must-see in Western Australia.
As a footnote, a little piece of trivia I recently picked up is that Albany is apparently one of the best places in Australia for viewing the southern lights, the Aurora Australis. For someone that loves space like I do this is quite exciting, and promises many more trips on the future.