All Around Albany

Sat. 11th May 2019

White sand and turquoise sea at (not so) Little BeachOn maps, we tend to think of the south coast of Australia drawn as a couple of smooth sweeping arcs of the Great Australian Bight. As usual, we are finding that reality is more complex than this and that the coastline is a fractal procession of peninsulas, bays, inlets, lagoons, headlands, harbours (natural and otherwise) and even the odd isthmus. And, more than any of these others, beaches. As we found yesterday, even Elephant Rocks was a beach. Well, there will be more of the same today as we have essentially just one day to see all of the gems that Albany has for us.

Good of the fisherman to pose for us!We start by driving east to Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve and specifically to the adjacent beaches of Little Beach and Waterfall Beach. We’d been told that these were beautiful beaches that had to be on our ‘must see’ list for Albany and they didn’t disappoint. Beautiful fine white sand, a turquoise sea, blue sky with fluffy clouds and orangey-red rounded boulders to add a bit of photographic interest. A shame about the half-a-dozen other people who decided to gate-crash our pristine beach, but you can’t have everything. At least the fishermen added another element for our pictures.

We couldn't get on to Waterfall BeachThere is a small headland dividing the two beaches with a track that snakes around the bushes and the boulders. When we emerge on the other side of the headland, we’re initially delighted that there is nobody on the beach. And then we realise why. The tide is in, and there is no route from the end of the path onto the beach – at least not without getting very wet and with all our camera clobber, that just isn’t going to happen. Instead, we have to content ourselves with more photography along the rocks and into the bay. In any case, we don’t have time to linger on the beach enjoying ourselves. This isn’t a holiday you know.

Cave Point LighthouseThen it is back in the car to drive around to the other side of Albany to Torndirrup National Park where there is a clutch of sights that we want to see. First up is the old Cave Point lighthouse. No longer an active lighthouse it is also a lot smaller than its brother in Cape Leeuwin (though at least it isn’t surrounded by scaffolding like Cape Naturaliste!) Much more touristy are the twin attractions of The Gap and Natural Bridge, both of which are reasonably described by their names.

Viewing platform at The GapThe Gap is a natural channel in the coastal cliffs – as if someone has taken a slice of cake out of the rock. On one wall has been built a cantilevered viewing platform that hangs out over the gap (The Gap). We can’t imagine our friend John enjoying the view down to the boiling sea below, but after the last couple of days tree climbing this is pretty easy stuff. There is no passageway over the Natural Bridge but there is a good view of the sea crashing through the archway formed by the sea eroding the lower set of rocks. A nearby sign explains that as the igneous rock cooled fractures and faults developed in layers with the upper layer having a natural keystone for an arch when the lower layer was washed away.

Looking down The GapThe last Australian whaling boatOther than hospital programmes on TV (just no), I wouldn’t describe myself as a squeamish person. Very much a meat eater, I don’t have a problem with fishing or with the ultimate fate of our bovine neighbours back in Barnby. I’m also cautious about judging actions in the past by today’s moral standards. So, I’m not really sure why I was deeply uncomfortable with the whaling museum. The last active whaling station in Australia was based in Albany, only closing in 1978 and it has now been turned into a museum complete with the last ship beached and explorable; the ramps that the whales would be dragged up; the flensing stations; and the tanks where the oil was stored (now turned into theatres showing short films related to the ocean). Notice boards dotted around gave a fairly frank explanation as to the process – not uncommon for 20 whales to be killed per trip. I think Janet explained my discomfort best – it’s just that this was obviously an unsustainable practice.

The only acceptable form of whaling?Heading back into town along the coast road loving the views and the contortions of the coastline, we pass the replica of the (sailing) Brig Amity and keep going. Too fake and we still have too many other things to do – of which the National Anzac Centre on the top of Mt Clarence that separates the centre of Albany from Middleton where we are staying is top of the list. The centre is a modern building opened to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War and is set in the grounds of the Heritage Park beside the Princess Royal Fortress. So, a lot of history to be covered here.

The Anzac Centre - Opened in 2014One of the things we’ve learnt whilst in Australia, is how seriously they take ANZAC and here we get another reminder and learn a bit more of the story. In 1914, some 41,000 Australian and New Zealand troops left Albany for the Great War. They were carried in two convoys of ships that departed in Sept & Oct of that year. A path, lined with a marker for each ship in each of the convoys, leads from the Anzac Centre to an observation point where two plaques face out to sea and graphically show the formation of each convoy. It must have been an incredible sight all these ships packed so close together.

Imagine these ships stacked in this bay!By now we are losing daylight as the sun sets at just after 5pm, and so we opt for one last piece of sightseeing out past our B&B to Emu Point and hope for a glorious sunset and a photogenic background. The Point is on one side of a narrow channel into an inlet with Mt Martin on the other side. Presumably there is a reasonable tidal current in the channel and that would explain the handful of fishermen most of whom are packing up for the evening. More exciting, even than the sunset pictures – and definitely harder to photograph – is what at first appears to be a patch of seaweed on the seabed. That is, until it starts to move and we work out it is a Ray of some sort and quite a large one too, working its way along the rocky breakwater.

A good end to a great daySo, what a day. We’ve been on the go all day and are now pretty tired. We’ve been all around Albany and given it our best shot. We always say this, but here more than most places we’d really liked to have had more time. We’ve constantly felt on the clock today (and early sunsets don’t help) and we have a 5 – 6hr drive tomorrow so it will be an early start. As a treat, we ask Rachel at our B&B to recommend a restaurant. We think we deserve the taxi out (and back) some good food (Emu chorizo, yum yum!) and some nice wine. We will need a holiday when we get home.

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