IT’S a chill winter wind that crosses King George Sound and penetrates Albany, but that doesn’t mean the traveller cops a cold reception from locals.
Albany people take the cold and the wind in their purposeful strides so tourists arriving in the town out of peak season find welcoming warmth to accompany the famous scenic wonders.
Albany is truly a tourist drawcard with natural attractions far outclassing so-called magic features offered in many parts of the world.
Visiting Europeans, accustomed to chilly climes, soak-up the cool and many move to Albany, presumably with their hearts set on warm, cosy homes plumped with generous fireplaces.
European settlers had few qualms about the weather and were dumbstruck by the awesome, open natural harbour and farming opportunities. They put Albany ahead of Perth, Albany being WA’s first permanently-settled town, on Boxing Day, back in 1826.
Hadn’t considered Albany for a winter getaway? Think again.
Just prepare for the cold, rug-up well and compile a bucket-list of Albany features.
Also prepare for no queues, willing, waiting waiters (who invented the awful waitpersons?), near-empty caravan parks, choice of cabins and hotels, stress-free driving and easy shopping.
The pace is altogether different from every summer when so many thousands escape Perth’s searing heat.
A chill-themed holiday will open the eyes of your kids and grandkids. They’ll be snug in gloves and beanies.
I confess to a soft spot for Albany. With granddad a customs officer there, we spent many family holidays visiting and looking forward to tackling Dog Rock – getting a run-up across the road and launching ourselves up the granite dog head (after checking for the wary traffic inspector).
As a teenager, I got a journalism cadetship on the Albany
Advertiser and became captain of the Albany Surf Club.
I can’t say I loved the cold, especially as a surf lifesaver when we, on club patrol, were the only ones on the beach. And that was in summer.
But today, visitors to the south – and locals – are better prepared with warmer clothing and, mostly, better common sense on the weather.
Albany has so much raw, natural beauty that a fully-occupied, eye-opening holiday can be devoured without spending a dollar in entrance fees.
Make a sandwich, take a thermos and throw in a couple of rugs and picnic chairs. And try the local eatery’s tucker. Walk in and pick a table near the fire. Chances are you’ll be sharing the place with just a few others.
Emu Point has quaintly retained its beachy, country atmosphere with worthwhile fishing (there must be good reason for having the most white pointer sharks in WA. Thankfully with few fatal attacks).
The tougher seasons have taken their toll on the shoreline with rising sea levels and winter storms causing the council to install retaining walls. Residents, considered to be under some threat, were urged to move out until the walls were installed. All escaped the wrath of the water.
They’ve added an extra café to Emu Point and improved the picnic areas but the boat launching ramp and peaceful surrounds (excluding the squawking seagulls during chip-feeding), with inquisitive pelicans and the occasional albatross has increased the point’s appeal.
You can camp in the holiday parks cheek-to-cheek with the coastline, a short stroll to carry your fishing gear and bring back a hefty haul of fresh fish or wrapped fried flake if all fishing fails. Just don’t sacrifice chips to the seagulls.
There’s little need to mention the famous (infamous?) whaling station. I recall the awful heavy smell from whale flensing when the whaling station was operating, permeating into town and harbourside homes.
However, every first visit to the region should include the old whaling station which is bliss in winter (escaping the flood of tourists), the old jail, the many scenic drives around the rolling hills and endless heritage buildings.
Out of the tourist peak, the coast can be raging. The internationally-famous and perilously-dangerous Gap is especially dramatic when it’s rough. And what a magnificent job they’ve done creating the jutting visitor lookout.
But the National Anzac Centre, Australia’s foremost museum dedicated solely to saluting the Anzacs of World War I, takes the cake. I was staggered with the blend of modern-look and respectful approach to the project. A must-see for all Australians, surely.
It’s Albany for the wow-factor: whaling, wool, wheat, wildflowers, wines, wind farms and worms (advertised for sale on the roadside).
Add to that wet winters, wrapped in warm woolies, of course.