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Keep an eye out for the well-established and
well-awarded wineries in the region as well.
Albany and its surrounding area is a place of firsts.
It's the site of the first consecrated church in WA --
St Johns, built of local stone in the 1840s.
It was also the location, high on a hill, of
the first ANZAC ceremony. It remembered the
thousands of Australian soldiers whose ships all
gathered in Albany before sailing in convoy from
here to the bloody battlefields of World War I. For
the thousands that died, the bays and islands of
Albany's coast were their last sight of Australia.
ON THE HOOF
To get a good look around Albany's other historic
sites, there is the 30-minute Amity Trail, which
takes in all the historical buildings of note, is easy
to follow, with signs leading to each new site and
full of information to absorb.
If you fancy a longer trek -- well, 1000km to
be exact -- then Albany is the southern terminus
of the Bibbulmun Track, which finds its northern
end in Kalamunda. So if you've six weeks or so to
spare, then this is the walk for you!
Like other communities founded on the
seashore, Albany's wealth and success has always
inextricably been tied to the ocean. Whalers were
drawn to Albany's rich seas for hundreds of years,
slaughtering some 850 whales each season until
the industry was wound down in the 1970s.
Nowadays, The Whaling Station (the last
operating station in the Southern Hemisphere
when it closed in 1979) is a museum to this
controversial industry, with Cheyne IV,
an original whale chaser ship, the star exhibit.
Thankfully, it's still possible too to see in
the flesh what was once hunted so assiduously.
Southern Right and humpback whales make their
annual pilgrimage around the coast of WA from
September and Albany has many terrific spots
from which to see these majestic animals pass
gracefully by. There are also whale-watching tours
available (you can sail yourself on a catamaran
too). So a new industry has been created, harmless
this time, yet built around the same creature.
The rugged coastline that wraps around Albany
is also a rich source of delight for visitors. Nature
has been particularly creative here, carving out
extraordinary sea stacks, like the Gap with its
dramatic 24m ocean drop, and the Natural Bridge, a
lump of granite shaped like, you guessed it, a bridge.
Take care here though, the waves of the
Southern Ocean are unpredictable and several
people have lost their lives off these rocks.
One of the most endearing geological features
of Albany is Dog Rock, shaped like a spaniel's
head. Aboriginal legends say that it is the blueprint
used by the Dreamtime spirits for all dogs, while
others say it was so called because it mysteriously
appeared the morning after a spaniel saved the life
of a little girl called Betty.
The fact that a massive dog-shaped piece of
granite clearly did not spring up overnight doesn't
matter to the residents of Albany one jot -- they
love their Dog Rock and have resisted numerous
attempts by successive councils to move it from its
present, admittedly inconvenient, position in the
middle of a road.
The people who have made Albany their home
are drawn to the laidback lifestyle, the big blue
skies and island-dappled coastline, eschewing the
attractions of the big city with its rat race and
crowded suburbs up north.
But it's not like they are really giving anything
up. There are also plenty of entertainment options,
a few really good restaurants, an excellent
providore and some really great old atmospheric
pubs serving good food and wine. They offer a
range of beers and a microbrewery there even brews
its own. Several regularly have excellent live music.
There is a thriving art, theatre and writing
scene and several festivals are scheduled
throughout the year.
With so much on offer in this town, it is evident
that the crock of gold at the end of this rainbow
just so happens to be Albany itself.
ON THE FOOD AND WINE TRAIL IN
Located almost equi-distant between Albany,
Walpole and Mt Barker, Denmark is not only
an ideal base from which to explore the Great
Southern, but arguably its prettiest town.
Surrounded by hills and karri forest, it sits
on the banks of the tranquil Denmark River and
wraps itself around the scenic Wilson Inlet.
With river, bush, verdant farmland and ocean
all at such close hand, there is such a variety
of activity and entertainment options -- and of
course the other very tempting option of finding
a comfortable and scenic spot from which to do
nothing much at all.
Except eat. Denmark's preoccupation with
gourmet produce, and its growing reputation as a
producer of premium quality wines, makes it very
popular with foodies.
Its cool climate is ideally suited to chardonnay,
sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and merlot grape
varieties, and with each succeeding vintage more
accolades and medals are being stacked up in the
cupboards of local winemakers.
Along with art and craft galleries, these
vineyards can be found scattered throughout the
remnant forest on some of the Denmark area's
most stunning drives.
Perhaps the best known, and really, one not to
be missed, is the Scottsdale tourist drive, which
begins not far from the town's centre. Renowned
for its spectacular valley, forest and ocean views,
it winds through hills lined with tall karris and
scenes of bucolic splendour, straight from a
children's picture book.
It is also lined with world-class wineries. Some
of the state's best cellar doors and winery function
centres are here, many of whom also offer great
food in truly spectacular locations of rolling
farmlands, lakes and mature karris.
There are also places offering farmhouse
cheeses and home made icecreams along the way
and if that doesn't keep the kids quiet, Scottsdale
drive takes you right past a charming animal farm.
South Coast Highway -- on the way back
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