Our leisurely drive from Walpole to Albany (and stopping at a Bakehouse, a Meadery and then a brewery) meant we didn’t get to our chosen campsite until after 7.00pm. We had decided against the caravan parks in the town and instead wanted to be close to one of the beaches that the south coast of WA is famous for. It seems that every second beach claims to have been voted the best beach in Australia (or the world).
So we chose a free campsite at the eastern end of Two People’s Bay, which was about a half hour drive out of Albany. When we arrived just on dark we were disappointed. It wasn’t at all what we had expected from a site that has a 4.6 star rating on WikiCamps. It was mostly just a carpark that was full of campervans. There was one nice camp spot separate from the carpark, but of course it was occupied. However, just as we were turning around to leave the couple in the nice spot came over and told us they’d be leaving very early the next morning. We ended up just putting the tent up on the beach and moved into their spot before breakfast. It turned out to be a lovely campsite and the view at breakfast was pretty nice.P
We ended up staying four nights while we enjoyed the area and some nice relaxation time by the beach, and a nice sunset.
From our campground, the shortest way into Albany was actually to drive along the beach to the other end of the bay and then into town from there. We gave that a go the first day but decided it wasn’t actually much faster than the longer way on the main road.
Driving out that way did take us through the Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve and past a very nice lookout over the ocean.
Bald Head walk
One thing I was keen to do near Albany was the walk to Bald Head in Torndirrup NP. The walk goes about 6km along the Flinders Peninsula which separates King George Sound from the Southern Ocean. We only made it about two-thirds of the way along before turning back, but the walk was amazing. In places the peninsula is very narrow and the track followed a narrow ridge which dropped steeply to the sea on both sides, over 100m below.
The kids had had enough by the time we got to the highest point on the walk, and some dark clouds on the horizon were looking ominous, so we had an early lunch and turned around. Izzy laughed at my completely hopeless musical skills as we tried to play ‘guess the tune’ on the way back and we got into the car just as it started to rain.
Near the walk is also ‘The Gap’, which seems to be Albany’s showpiece tourist attraction. It’s a fairly amazing walkway cantilevered out over a gap between the sea cliffs – about 40m over the water below.
National ANZAC Centre and Field of Lights
One of the main attractions in Albany itself is the National ANZAC Centre. I hadn’t realised this before, but the first ANZACs that left Australia and New Zealand for World War I assembled in Albany and sailed from there to the Middle East. Albany was chosen for its massive and safe harbour, which we had seen from our walk the previous day. Troops and ships from all over Australia and New Zealand assembled in the harbour and on 1 November 1914 the first convoy left with over 30,000 troops on 38 ships. It must have been an incredible sight. Another 10,000 troops left in a second convoy a short time later.
The ANZAC Centre is a museum that tells the story of the two convoys. It is an impressive building set on a hill overlooking the harbour where the ships assembled. The museum itself was very modern, with lots of technology (touch screens, etc) – and the technology actually worked! On entering you are given a card of a soldier and can follow his journey through the war by scanning the card an various points in the museum. Izzy in particular enjoyed this , although Matthew got bored reasonably quickly.
After the museum we had a lovely dinner together while we waited for dark and then headed back to the same area the ANZAC Centre is in for the Field of Light – Avenue of Honour. It’s a massive art installation by Bruce Munro, who did something similar at Uluru. A team of volunteers installed 16,000 light bulbs on both sides of an avenue heading up a slight hill. The lights are supposed to represent a field of wildflowers – in both Australian and New Zealand colours – amongst the trees. As we wondered up and then back down the road we could also listen to various stories from World War I on our phones. It was impressive and Izzy commented on how the work was so clever in its construction but also meaning. She got a lot from the audio commentary and really became quite immersed in the work.