In 1826, three years before the establishment of the Swan River Colony, the British sent Major Lockyer and a team of hopeful colonists from Sydney to settle Albany’s strategic harbour where they built the Princess Royal Fortress. It was a hasty pre-emptive response to French exploration of Australia’s Southwest, and the small colony, originally called Frederickstown, was allowed to grow at a natural pace. Prior to the establishment of Fremantle Harbour in the 1890s, ALBANY’s huge natural harbour was a key port on the route between England and Botany Bay: a coaling station in the age of steamers. It was also the last of Australia that many Anzacs saw on their way to Gallipoli in 1914.
Now serving the southern farming belt, Albany has also become one of the Southwest’s main holiday areas. Its attractions are spread between the Foreshore – where the original settlers set up camp – the calm white-sand beaches around Middleton Beach, the town’s central beach, and Emu Point on the still waters of Oyster Harbour. To get a good view on things, climb up to one of Albany’s two lookouts. The curious tower on top of Mount Melville Lookout, off Serpentine Road, is colloquially known as “the spark plug” and offers good seaward vistas, while Mount Clarence Lookout, up Marine Drive, has an Anzac memorial, from which, on a clear day, you can see the Stirling Ranges, 80km north. Middleton Beach is best first thing, when you may even have the sweeping sands to yourself. This is a decent spot for a swim, though Torndirrup National Park is far superior.