Albany (Australia) Cruise Port

Port of Albany (Australia): An Overview

Albany might be Western Australia's oldest settlement, but there's nothing staid about the township. Just make sure you pronounce it correctly -- residents say Al-bany (as in Al Pacino), not Awl-bany.

Located approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) southeast of Perth on the state's southern coast, Albany sits at the northern edge of Princess Royal Harbour, part of the much bigger King George Sound. The main drag, York Street, runs toward the harbour, making for picturesque views as you explore the town.

The surrounding coastal scenery is dramatic, with rugged rocky shores, sweeping white beaches and national park headlands, so if you miss it on arrival, make sure to catch it as your ship departs. Ataturk Entrance to Princess Royal Harbour is very narrow, and locals line the northern foreshore to observe cruise ships closely passing by.

Albany was the first European settlement in Western Australia (WA), founded in December 1826, in part to beat the French colonising the area. Consequently, there are many historic buildings in town, which became a reprovisioning port for ships travelling between England and Australia and later a base for the area's whaling industry. With a population of about 34,000, it is now a tourist destination and service centre for the surrounding agriculture, timber and fishing industries.

Consequently, fresh produce abounds, including seafood, fruits, cheeses and bush foods, many produced organically. Connoisseurs will enjoy sampling the region's award-winning wines or visiting a brewery and distillery.

The area is famous, or infamous, for its whaling industry. The Historic Whaling Station pays tribute to these beautiful creatures while depicting the gruesome trade in its heyday. The National Anzac Centre, opened in 2014, is Australia's foremost museum honouring the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) of World War I. Poignantly, the engaging, interactive museum overlooks Ataturk Entrance through which more than 41,000 Australian and New Zealand troops departed for the Great War, many never to return.

Hanging Around

The working port features grain silos, piles of wood chips or silica and no passenger facilities, so there is nothing to do at the pier itself. But turn left out of the carpark and take the foreshore footpath and in a few minutes you'll come to Haz Beanz Finestkind Coffee (5D Toll Place, Albany Waterfront; open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on the edge of Albany Marina. This cute little waterfront cafe sells Naked Bean Coffee, which is roasted locally, along with hot pies, delicious cakes, ice creams and sweets. Pull up a stool outside for a view of your cruise ship.

Continue along the foreshore to the Entertainment Centre, where you'll find a footbridge spanning the road and railway line. This bridge is the easiest route to walk into town.

Don't Miss

Historic Whaling Station: Whaling predates settlement in this region, and Albany prospered from visiting whaling ships in its early days. The Historic Whaling Station offers a look into the industry and those who worked in it. The location, the site of the last whaling station to close in Australia (in 1978), with its machinery, flensing deck and historic photos is hauntingly evocative, but the mood is uplifted with multimedia presentations celebrating the beauty of whales, shown inside the old whale-oil storage tanks. Step aboard a whale chaser ship and be dwarfed by enormous whale skeletons. Explore on your own or take a free 40-minute guided tour that leaves on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. (Discovery Bay, 81 Whaling Station Road; +61 8 9844 4021; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day)

National Anzac Centre: This is Australia's foremost museum dedicated to the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) of World War I. When it opened on 1 November 2014, the museum marked 100 years since the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops departed from Albany's King George Sound. With panoramic views over narrow Ataturk Entrance, through which the fleet departed from Princess Royal Harbour (from this angle you might wonder how your cruise ship squeezed through), the museum's contemporary design and interactive displays elicit a deeply personal connection with the servicemen and women, their horses, accompanying war correspondents and photographers, through private artefacts, rare images, film and audio recordings. On entry you receive an image of one of 32 Anzacs and can assume his or her identity, following the personal experience from pre- to post-war, for those who returned. (Princess Royal Fortress, Albany Heritage Park, 7 Forts Road; +61 8 9841 9369; open 9 a.m. daily except Christmas Day, last entry 4 p.m.)

Beaches: Many people come to vacation at Albany's beaches. From calm, protected, harbour beaches safe for swimming to rugged ocean beaches lashed by ferocious waves, all feature fine, white sand. Choose from tiny isolated coves to long, curving stretches of sand with picnic grounds and cafes nearby.

Hike to Middleton Beach: Put on your walking shoes and take a hike along Ellen Cove to Albany Port Boardwalk for panoramic views of Princess Royal Harbour, Vancouver Peninsula, King George Sound and Middleton Beach. From the pier, turn right and follow Princess Royal Drive to the start of the path, a mix of bitumen and wooden boardwalk, which follows the headland around to Ellen Cove. This moderate walk takes about an hour one way and features lookouts, historic buildings and interpretive signs to see en route. Be sure to keep an eye out to sea for whales in season.

Albany Wind Farm: Visit the largest wind turbines in the southern hemisphere at the Albany Wind Farm. At 65 metres (213 feet) tall, 18 turbines stand sentinel atop a cliff facing the Southern Ocean. With 35-metre-long (115-foot) blades cutting the air, they make a dramatic silhouette against the skyline 12 kilometres (seven miles) southwest of town. Boardwalks and information panels make for easy self-guided visits. (Princess Avenue; open all day, every day.)

Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk: Hire a car and drive west to Walpole-Nornalup National Park (about 1.5 hours), and take the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk among 400-year-old tingle trees, found nowhere else in the world. The 40-metre high walkway through the treetops is suitable for children, strollers and wheelchairs. Take your time on the drive back, stopping in Denmark and visiting wineries and fresh produce markets. (Valley of the Giants Road, Nornalup; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Christmas Day and during hazardous conditions)

Getting Around

On Foot: The pier is about a 20-minute walk from the bottom of town. Turn left out of the pier carpark and follow the foreshore footpath to the Entertainment Centre, then take the footbridge that spans the railway line. Turn left on Stirling Terrace, which intersects with York Street. You'll spot many historic buildings around town, so pick up a heritage walking trail brochure from the Albany Visitor Centre, housed in the old railway station (55 Proudlove Parade; +61 8 9841 9290), or from their information van located near the free shuttle bus stop on York Street.

By Shuttle Bus: Complimentary shuttle bus service is provided by Southern Ports Authority on days when cruise ships are in port. It operates a circuit between the port and the centre of town. Each circuit to town and back takes about 20 minutes. Albany volunteers, wearing bright blue tops with a yellow "i" (for information) hand out maps of town -- with shuttle bus stops clearly marked -- and can help with directions.

By Taxi or Minibus: Several taxi and minibus companies operate in Albany, including Albany City Cabs (61 8 9841 7000), Eclipse Taxi & Minibus Service (+61 8 9841 3037), Albany Transit Taxis, Maxis & Way To Go Charters (+61 8 9844 4444) and Busy Blue Bus (+61 8 9846 4757).

By Hire Car: Drive yourself around this scenic coastal area with a hire car. Try Avis (+61 8 9842 2833), Albany Car Rentals (+61 8 9841 7077) or Albany Truck & Car Hire (+61 8 9841 8150).

By Motorcycle: Roar around town on the back of a Harley Davidson bike or trike, with Down Under Motorcycle Tours (+61 8 9842 2468). Tours range from one hour to a full day and include free pickup and return from the pier or shuttle bus stop on York Street.

By Classic Car: Turn heads as you do a "yorkie," cruising the town sightseeing in a classic cream 1950s Jaguar via Albany Wedding Cars (+61 8 9841 4939).

Beaches

Best for Families: Middleton Beach is Albany's main swimming beach and the closest to town and Albany Port (a six-minute drive). It's a beautiful long stretch of white, squeaky sand bordered by grassy picnic areas under shady Norfolk pines. The southern end of the beach, Ellen Cove, is the most sheltered and the best spot for calmer waters for swimming with a jetty and swimming pontoon. The beach offers a playground, picnic tables, change rooms and toilets.

Best for Surfing and Fishing: Facing south, Nanarup Beach feels far more wild and remote than Middleton Beach, yet is only 20 kilometres (12 miles) from town (about a 30-minute drive). If you don't feel safe swimming in the bigger surf, head to Islet Point at the western end of the beach where a large rocky outcrop protects tiny Nanarup Beach Lagoon, which is much calmer.

Best for Photographers: Often regarded as one of Australia's top beaches, Little Beach at Two Peoples Bay offers clear turquoise water, bright white sand, ochre-tinted boulders, scrubby green bush and granite outcrops. Located in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Albany (about a 50-minute drive), there is enough to keep you photographing all day.

Lunching

You'll find plenty of lunch spots around town in York Street and Stirling Terrace and at Middleton Beach, with both inside and alfresco seating. Many cafes and restaurant highlight fresh produce from the region, including seafood.

York Street Cafe: This bistro-style restaurant offers a varied lunch menu -- from an antipasto platter of local produce to New York-style burgers and local whiting. (184 York Street; +61 8 9842 1666; open every day for breakfast and lunch, with lunch served 11.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Three Anchors: Right on Middleton Beach at Ellen Cove, the Three Anchors restaurant and kiosk combines fully licenced dining with a water view. (2 Flinders Parade, Middleton Beach; +61 8 9841 1600; open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Kate's Place: For a light lunch in atmospheric surroundings, head to Kate's Place, which offers cosy sofas and books to read (42 Stirling Terrace; +61 8 9842 9696; open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.), or sit at a huge communal timber table with locals and have the plate de jour at Gourmandise & Co (56 Stirling Terrace; +61 8 9847 4005; open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday).

Black Duck Gourmet Pantry: If you want to buy edibles to take back to the ship for lunch or as a souvenir, head to the Black Duck Gourmet Pantry, which is stocked to the brim with smoked meats, pickles, marinated olives, dried fruits, chocolates and toffees. It has a small alfresco dining area serving award-winning Denmark Bakery pies and pasties as well as gourmet cakes and muffins. (34 Peels Place; +61 8 9842 1433; open 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday)

Where You're Docked

Ships dock at the Port of Albany, but they sometimes anchor and tender passengers ashore. As a utilitarian working port, there are no passenger facilities at the pier, which can be busy with trucks coming and going. However, all ships are welcomed alongside by a lone bagpiper, so head to the pier side of the ship as it ties up. The pier is about a 20-minute walk from the centre of Albany.

Watch Out For

The beaches here are stunning, but they can be dangerous. If you are not used to surf or are not a strong swimmer, chose more sheltered beaches and swim in the patrolled areas.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Australian dollar is the currency. Visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for exchange rates. ATMs can be found on York Street. Two ATMs are located close to the shuttle bus dropoff point, on the opposite side of the road. ATM locations are marked on the shuttle bus map distributed when you board.

Language

English is the official language. Local terms you might hear include "yorkie," meaning going for a drive up and down the main street, York Street, and "beachie," taking a drive past the port and Middleton Beach.

Best Souvenir

Western Australia is known for its timber industry, and beautiful handcrafted timber items are available at South Coast WoodWorks Gallery, which represents more than 20 artists, including renowned designer Dean Malcolm. Visit the shop in town (upstairs, 220 York Street) or the main gallery (50750 South Coast Highway, Youngs Siding 35 kilometres, or 21 miles, west of Albany).

A range of fragrances and beauty products made from ethically produced, organic-certified WA sandalwood oil are available at The Sandalwood Factory. (2 Down Road 15 kilometres, or nine miles, north of Albany)

If you're looking for historical books on whaling or the Anzacs, head to Paperbark Merchants. (240 York Street)

For More Information

On the Web: Albany Visitor Centre or Tourism Western Australia

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Australia and New Zealand

IndependentTraveler.com: Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Travel Guide

--By Briar Jensen, Cruise Critic contributor

--Photo: David Steele/Shutterstock

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