Features

The Rotunda Guide to Albany

Words by: Molly Schmidt


So, you’ve got a bit of time on your hands. Maybe it’s uni break, or you’re taking a week off work, or maybe you’ve only got the weekend! Well, chances are this year has been just as crazy busy for you, as it has for me.

So I’m guessing you need a chance to relax. A chance to finish the last chapter of the book you started at Christmas, or to drink a guilt free glass of red wine, whilst happily sighing inside at the thought of a sleep-in the following morning.

But you also want a bit of an adventure, right? You want to come back feeling like you’ve explored, and discovered something worth finding, even if its simply an undiscovered beach or a little English pub.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

Which is why we are heading a bit over four hours south to the pleasantly sleepy town of Albany, to sip tea in cosy cafes and refresh ourselves with the wild ocean air. Don’t think twice—the best adventures are the spontaneous ones!

What you’ll need:

  • Raincoat
  • Camera
  • Boots (keep those little feet warm, dry and comfy whilst exploring)
  • Hat
  • Warm coat
  • Bathers (there’s nothing like a wild winter swim to get the adrenaline pumping)
  • A nice bottle of whisky or something equally as warming (to be consumed after wild winter swimming)
  • Journal (this adventure will be worth remembering!)
  • Tunes for the road

Itinerary: 

1. Hit the road. Begin the trip with something loud and catchy, something that makes you thump the wheel optimistically at the thought of nearly five hours on the road. Maybe Courtney Barnett’s Pickles from the Jar, or something classic like Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock. Whatever floats your boat, man.

2. After like, three hours of eye spy and that stupid shopping list game, you’ll probably need to stop by somewhere to reclaim your sanity. I like stopping at the rose gardens in Kojonup and grabbing a coffee from the Black Cockatoo. After smelling the roses and enjoying that free caramel biscuit they give you with your coffee, you’re sure to feel suitably refreshed. Time to get back on the road. Maybe try something cruisy and scene setting, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Road Trippin’.

3. You’re nearly there. You’ve just driven nearly five hours in the car, and your butts a bit numb, your feet are tingling and you feel half insane from watching one straight road stretch out in front of you for half the day.

So, you are going to start your adventure by heading towards Middleton Beach. Take the scenic route, along Marine Drive. There are lots of great places to pull in and stop to admire the view, pull out your camera or pretend you’re on the Titanic. It’s a bit early for whales, but keep an eye out anyway! Just up Forts Road, off Marine Drive, is the National Anzac Centre, where you can enjoy a bit of history and another beautiful view.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

4. Now! Finally time to get out of the car and use those legs! Park down near Three Anchors, and follow the boardwalk round the headland. Enjoy the salty air and winter freshness—you might need your coat for this one! The people passing you are sure to nod and smile, and if you fancy a bit of solitude off the beaten track, there are plenty of little paths to take here and there. One on the left leads to an old stone cottage, left intact but without a roof. This is a great place to get some groovy photos and explore.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

5. Tired out from the fresh air, you’ll probably need to pop in to Three Anchors as you come back down the boardwalk. Grab a coffee, or even dinner depending on the time. The ‘Pirate Plank’ is a tappas style must-have, and their ‘Perfect Storm’ cocktail is sure to get that fire going in your chest!If you fancy something a little more classy, Hybla is one of Albany’s newest restaurants, just up from Three Anchors. In what used to be a beautiful house opposite the beach, Hybla is now a warm and polished feeling restaurant. Order a wine and admire the view.

6. For the first night, perhaps an early one wouldn’t go astray. You could stay close by, at the Dolphin Lodge for a comfortable stay close to town and other great sites. You’ll be walking distance to cafes and Eyres Park, in a building with sweet gardens and a cosy feel.

Or perhaps try something a little more special, and head 20 minutes out of town towards Denmark, where you will find Albany Luxury Retreat. A beautiful wooden hexagonal building, the chalet sits on a gorgeous property close to Cosy Corner Beach and not too far from Boston Brewery. With ocean views, and the kitchen all set up with homemade bread and other goodies, you will feel peaceful and at home amongst the trees, and wake to the singing frogs.

Or, perhaps you’re more the camping type, and would be happy waking to the sound of the waves (even though it will be so cold you can see your breath). If this is the case, try Cosy Corner, or Shelley beach, or head back towards the town and set up camp at Emu Point or Middleton.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

7. Whether you like to sleep in, or will be up by sunrise, why not take the drive into town and grab brekky at the friendly Kate’s Place or the interesting Gourmandise & Co, which you’ll find on Stirling Terrace.

For good coffee and reasonably priced food, cosy couches and kitsch décor, Kate’s Place will have you feeling at home whilst flicking through a Frankie magazine and getting coffee froth on your upper lip.

Alternatively, Gourmandise & Co is a French café with a rustic authenticity, offering bowls of hot chocolate, croissants and pastries to be enjoyed at the one, huge, solid wood table in the centre of the room. Allow yourself to indulge a little, open that belt buckle and forget the skinny latte – you’re on holiday, full cream all the way!

Image credit: Molly Shmidt
Image credit: Molly Schmidt
Image Credit: Molly Shmidt
Image Credit: Molly Schmidt

8. Seeing as you’re on holiday, we all know food is a biggie. Wherever you are, you’re going to need to have your fair share of goodies to get excited about. This is where Mt Melville Fresh has got your back.

You’ll find them in a bright lime green building on Albany Highway, and they will have your treats for the day sorted. Stocking organic and local fruit and vegetables, plus making all manner of delicious home-made style meals, whether you want a spiced lentil soup in a takeaway cup, an organic banana or a chunk of wickedly dark, German chocolate, trust me, your picnic is sorted.

If the cakes on the counter don’t get you drooling, the gourmet toasties certainly will. This little gem caters for all types of dietary requirements too!

Image credit: Molly Shmidt
Image credit: Molly Schmidt

9. Now it’s time to get the adventure started! Wind down the windows and head out of town towards the Albany Windfarm. If you want a real taste of the country vibe, switch over to 100.9 and listen to the community radio; It’s sure to get you smiling—and secretly toe-tapping. Park up near the wind turbines, grab your jacket and your camera and get ready to enjoy the view!

The trail around the wind turbines hugs some of the most incredible coastline in the Great Southern, and connects to the Bibbulmum track. This beautiful walk amongst the native Australian bush, underneath the hum of the wind turbines and music of the waves crashing below, will give you time to ponder and enjoy your gorgeous surroundings.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

10. Perhaps it’s time for a picnic looking out over the cliffs at one of the Windfarm lookouts, where you can almost convince yourself to quit your job/study/previous life and become a full time explorer/traveller/wanderer. Or maybe you’d like to head back into the town, and wander the shops, which vary from designer clothing, to surf shops, bookstores, woodturning, gourmet food, the “hippy shop”, and even an African shop.

11. If you’re in search of more adventure for the afternoon, head out of town again towards the magnificent Blow Holes where you can be amazed by the power of the ocean, as with each wave, the holes in massive rocks blow air and water up the channel and out the top creating a burst of spray and a loud droning whoosh! Close by you’ll find The Gap, the Luke Pen Walk and the Marron Farm—all of which are sure to delight you and leave you feeling depressed at the thought of returning to real life again, EVER.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

12. This evening is time for a peak at the Albany nightlife, which is kinda sweet, really. You might like to start at Due South, offering an incredible view of the foreshore and fantastic food. If it’s a weekend, chances are most people are headed to the White Star, often just called “The Pub” which is small town talk for “one of the only places that fits all my friends and has live bands whilst also serving good beer on tap”.

It’s cosy, comfortable and sometimes really loud (which is refreshing in such a sleepy town), with rock bands swinging their heads or folk groups plucking strings. Get a bottle of local wine, or a beer from the bar and swing those hips to whatever local music Albany has to offer tonight.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards

13. If you’re not ready for bed yet, head in to Liberte, at the Old London Hotel, for an exciting cocktail in a warm bar. With antique style furniture, flickering candles and eclectic décor, sitting in Liberte you could easily be in London. If it’s a Thursday night you’ll be in for a treat with the local Irish band sitting in the corner playing little ditties and tunes that make the bar feel alive and nostalgic.

Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards
Image credit: Jake Edwards
IMG_4390
Image credit: Jake Edwards

14. If you really want the night to end with a bang, here is where I recommend the spontaneous night swimming (to be done with or without bathers). Make sure you have a few swigs from the aforementioned whisky for afterwards, and throw yourself into the icy water. This technique is sure to get your adrenaline pumping, and your heart will be warm even if your butt really isn’t! If you’re concerned about sharks, please move this step to around number 11, when the sun is still in the sky.

15. Now it is really time for bed! Please be sure to call a taxi or a friend, as you’ve surely had too many bevvies now!

16. Assuming you only had the weekend and you’re heading back to Perth now, there is one more crucial step. You’ve had a big few days. Hopefully you found time to finish that chapter whilst sipping coffee in the cafes you visited, or in the evening whilst you weren’t throwing yourself in the winter sea. Now it’s time to stop by Mt Romance for a gonging session.

Ponder the lovely sandalwood products, before heading in to the teepee style building to have one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. Lie beneath the velvet, starry sky and allow your mind to be still as the cone shaped room is filled with the vibrations of the gong. This is a relaxing and very special experience, one that is sure to complete your little getaway, and leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed. Just don’t drift off behind the wheel.

17. Try to remain positive at the thought of returning to real life. Play Simon & Garfunkle’s Homeward Bound and be sure to place those shells you collected somewhere nice when you get home.

Image credit: Molly Schmidt
Image credit: Molly Schmidt