The south west of Australia has plenty to offer the intrepid campervan explorer. Thick, towering forests lie side by side with rugged, rocky coastlines and beautiful beaches, all interspersed with quaint towns steeped in history and culture. In a far flung corner of the south west lies the bustling city of Albany, which at 409 kilometres from Perth is the ideal destination for a motorhome tour. Surrounded by three high mountains and facing the blue waters of the King George III Sound, there are enough natural attractions in and around this city of 30 000 people to fill a thousand holidays, and no visitors leave here disappointed.
The most striking thing about Albany and its surrounds is the scenery. Clear, cloudless skies are the only thing bluer than the azure seas, and the brilliant white of the beach sands adds to the rich kaleidoscope of colour. Middleton beach is a favourite spot for visitors because on the scenic drive there are a number of places you can pull off the road and take in the stunning seascape. The beach is the favourite swimming spot amongst locals, and anglers are often found trying their luck off the shore here. Nearby is Ellen Cove, another safe swimming beach with barbeque and picnic facilities. The waters here are calm, protected from the waves of the Southern Ocean by the King George Sound, which makes them perfect for family-oriented beachside activities.
Albany is an important business centre and port for this part of Western Australia, but in years gone by it was notorious for something else- as a base and a processing plant for the numerous whaling ships that operated in this area. These days the whales are still an attraction, but for all the right reasons! Often they can be seen from the shore between July and October, frolicking in the waters around Albany with their newly born young, passing the time before they migrate north again. There are tours that can be taken out close to the whales, and the old whaling station is now a museum and information centre where a whaling ship has been preserved for visitors to wander through. Often whales can be seen from the museum, breaching in the waters where they used to be killed.
Spectacular coastal scenery lies ten minutes south of Albany, in the Torndirrup National Park. This is a great park to tour in your campervan because sealed roads lead to all the major features. The most well known of these is ‘Natural Bridge’, a large granite formation where the ocean has worn away the rock to leave a large strip of granite crossing the water like a bridge. Another attraction is ‘The Gap’, where the waves have battered a large chasm into the 50 metre high granite walls. Close by there are a series of blowholes which spray water and blow air as the waves crash into the rocky shore.
The town of Albany is a joy in itself. Its long history and heritage is evident in the old (and well preserved) buildings that line its streets, and the cityscape is dominated by the Princess Royal Harbour, which the main street leads directly to. There are a number of interesting historical sites to visit, the most popular being the Old Gaol, wich was built by convicts as their own prison and now is a captivating museum. Another impressive spot to visit is the Brig Amity, a full scale replica of the original ship that brought the first settlers to Albany. You can go on board and below decks and learn of the voyage of this important ship.
Saturday mornings are a busy time in Albany, because Aberdeen Street in the middle of the city turns into a thriving open air market where farmers, artists and entrepreneurs sell their wares. Its a great place to stock up your picnic baskets, and soak up the fun atmosphere which is enhanced by the presence of numerous buskers. Once the baskets are stocked, you could always hop into your camper and head off to the Albany wind farm, where twelve of the largest turbines in the southern hemisphere tower over the coastline- an impressive sight.
The range and diversity of attractions in Albany is what keeps visitors coming back again and again, and is really helping to elevate its status as a tourist destination. For you in your camper it is like the cherry on the cake- a beautiful destination to top off your drive through the magnificent scenery of south west Australia. And if that doesnt tempt you to go on holiday, then nothing will!