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Albany: Amazing Seascapes
albany waTake some time to discover Australia's south west and you will not be disappointed. Home to thick, towering forests that are intertwined with rugged, rocky coastlines and beautiful beaches, the towns here are steeped in history and culture and are ideal destinations for family holidays.

Nestled in a far off corner of the south west lies the bustling city of Albany, which at 409 kilometres from Perth offers an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Nestled amongst three high mountains and facing the blue waters of the King George III Sound, there are enough natural attractions to sink a ship ensuring that no visitor will leave disappointed.

The most striking thing about Albany and the surrounding country is the undeniable scenery. Clear, cloudless skies match the blue azure seas, and the stunning white of the beach sands adds to the rich kaleidoscope of colour. Middleton beach is popular with tourists, owing largely to the scenic drive you have to take to get there. There are plenty of stop-off points that will allow you to breathe in the fresh air and soak up the scenery. The beach is equally as beautiful and is ideal for swimming and fishing. Nearby is Ellen Cove, another safe swimming beach with ample BBQ and picnic facilities for all the tourists that flock here. The waters here are calm, protected from the waves of the Southern Ocean by the King George Sound, which makes them perfect for family-oriented seaside activities.

Albany acts as an important business centre and port for this part of Western Australia, but it is also a base and a processing plant for the numerous whaling ships that operated in this area. These days the presence of the whales is felt, but purely for the pleasure and enjoyment of watching them. If you visit during the months of July and October, you will see them frolicking in the waters around Albany with their newly born young, passing the time before they migrate north again. Take a tour and get up close to the whales or pay a visit to the whaling station that has how been transformed into a museum and information centre, where a whaling ship has been preserved for visitors to wander through.

The spectacular coastal scenery continues as you travel south of Albany, into the Torndirrup National Park. Discover the 'Natural Bridge', a large granite formation where the ocean has worn away the rock to leave a large strip of granite crossing the water like a bridge. Another attraction here is 'The Gap', where the waves have battered a large chasm into the 50 metre high granite walls. You can also uncover a series of blowholes which spray water and blow air as the waves crash into the rocky shore. But be careful not to fall in as it is rather dangerous!

Return back to the actual township of Albany and you will discover its long history and heritage, which is evident in the old (and well preserved) buildings that line its streets. Dominated by the Princess Royal Harbour, there are also a number of interesting historical sites to visit, the most popular being the Old Gaol, which was built by convicts as their own prison and has now been transformed into a captivating museum. The Brig Amity, a full scale replica of the original ship that brought the first settlers to Albany is another popular spot to visit. You can go on board and below decks and learn of the voyage of this important ship. A truly historical journey back through time.

Saturday mornings become a time of merriment in Albany, because Aberdeen Street, in the middle of the city, turns into a thriving open air market where farmers, artists and entrepreneurs sell their wares. This is a perfect opportunity for you to stock up your picnic baskets, and soak up the fun atmosphere which is enhanced by the presence of numerous buskers. Once your baskets are stocked, head off to the Albany wind farm, where twelve of the largest turbines in the southern hemisphere tower over the coastline. This is an impressive sight and one worthy of your camera.

The range and diversity of attractions in Albany is what draws tourists back time and time again. Fast becoming an extremely popular tourist hot spot, you had better get in quick before all of Albany's best kept secrets are no longer hidden.

Christine Barton

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