The southwestern part of Western Australia is a scenic corner with windswept coastline and enticing beaches. Inland lies lush forests with tall tree trunks and rolling hills. The air is cooler and easier to breathe. From Perth, it is a four-, five-hour long journey along the highway to get here. And during the trip, your body will adjust from the big city’s hustle and bustle to the slower pace of the southwest. Albany is the main city in the region, surrounded by Mount Melville in the west and Mount Clarence in the east. As the first city in the state built in 1826 by Europeans, it is a city full of history. Many buildings are well-preserved, and there are interesting museums to visit. Over the years, Albany has undergone a series of changes. Previously, the port of the city was one of the most important goods ports in the country. But as Fremantle grew, the city shifted focus and timber, cattle, and fishing became important. Today, Albany is more focused on tourism. The area’s powder-white sandy beaches and the proximity to national parks have made Albany an interesting destination for travellers. Especially many divers will find their way here. In 2001, the former warship HMAS Perth was intentionally sunk just off the coast of King George Sound to create an artificial reef. This is a fantastic place to dive at now, with colourful coral and a great variety of fish species.
Denmark is a short drive west. It is a small town with about 5,000 inhabitants and it is a popular resort in Western Australia. There are many summer cottages in Denmark, and most of them certainly belong to families that otherwise are housed in Perth. The climate is mild and sunny and well suited for vineyards. Vines pop up a bit here and there, and more and more locals learn to turn grapes into wine. The wind blowing in from the sea makes many surfers thrive in Denmark. It is especially common to go to Ocean Beach for surfing. This is also a good place for fishing. But it is not just small fish that live in these waters. Bottlenose dolphins and seals are often visible, and in the right season also whales that move between their different feeding areas. There are a variety of local products to try in Denmark, and many have settled in this quiet little town. A great time to choose from local products is at the large market that is organized in the city four times a year.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
For some exercise, lace up your hiking boots! The most famous hiking trail in southwest Australia is the Bibbulmun Track (bibbulmuntrack.org.au). The track is over 1,000 km and runs from Kalamunda near Perth to Albany, through the heart of the region. Dedicated hikers set out on an eight-week adventure to walk all the way, but it is equally good to choose shorter distances as the trail is divided into sections. A short drive east from Albany is The Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/two-peoples-bay). You will find excellent hiking trails in the nature reserve. The Heritage Trail runs through the forest and along the beach. This distance takes about two hours and includes nice vantage points along the way. Otherwise, you can make a detour and walk to Little Beach, a beautiful beach with white grainy sand. The hike takes up to four hours. About 14 km west from Denmark lies William Bay National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/william-bay), yet another scenic national park in the area with turquoise waters washing up on granite rocks. Go to the protected Elephant Cove, where the stone formations look like elephants. At the Green’s Pool you can swim and snorkel.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, Denmark Arts Markets is held four times a year (denmarkarts.com.au/markets). Artists and enthusiasts gather at Berridge Park. Entertainment and music are on the schedule. Look for unique designs and souvenirs and try the exotic dishes served. During the autumn, a major food festival called Taste Great Southern (greatsoutherntastewa.com) is being held in the region. The festival is held in a variety of places and is organized in Albany, Denmark and Mount Barker. Try new dishes, taste local wines and learn to prepare meals with world-famous chefs. The festival attracts lots of people and lasts for several weeks in one stretch. Southwest Australia is famous for its good wines. The climate is perfect for vineyards. Singlefile Wines (singlefilewines.com) at 90 Walter Road in Denmark is a small vineyard that is well worth a visit. Located in beautiful surroundings with green hills around it. Try different kinds of wine and buy a few bottles to bring home.
Winter is the season when to look for whales. In Albany you have the chance to see southern right whales and dolphins. So why not book in a sea trip. Albany Whale Tours (albanywhaletours.com.au) go out twice a day. Do not miss to explore life beneath the surface while you are out at sea. You can dive together with South Coast Diving Supplies that will take you to the ship HMAS Perth (divealbany.com.au/htdocs). If you prefer to have both feet on land, it might be better to visit Albany’s Historic Whaling Station (wotif.com/things-to-do/albanys-historic-whaling-station-admission.a460480.activity-details).
There are a lot of interesting nightlife places around Albany and Denmark. Mead and honey come in abundance at Bartholomew’s Meadery at 2620 South Coast Highway, Denmark (honeywine.com.au). The family-owned company has its own beekeeping and manufactures products with sweet honey as a base. The ice cream is a must. For a coffee break, visit Ravens Coffee at 1/7 South Coast Highway in Denmark (ravenscoffee.com) who serves large cups of steaming coffee at a good price. There are also light lunches and cakes. In Albany, the restaurant called Joop Thai at 130 Lockyer Ave is a good option for vegans. They serve fresh Thai food that is simple and tasty.
Good to know
At the old train station at 55 Proudlove Parade lies the Albany Visitor Information Centre. They are open between 09:00 and 17:00. There is a Visitor Information Centre in Denmark about 500 m from the city centre, at 73 South Coast Highway (denmark.com.au). They are open between 9:00 and 17:00 every day of the week and can help you with tips and bookings. For suggested activities in and around Albany you can also take a look at wotif’s website (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Albany,%20Western%20Australia,%20Australia).
Warnings and preparations
Since Denmark and Albany are so far south in Australia, they have four different seasons. Plan your stay, depending on what you want to do. Winter is mild with temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius, but the nights can be chilly. It is during the winter the right whales swim past off the coast. In the spring the region is in bloom, and it is peak season for hikers who come here to walk the Bibbulmun Track. Summer days are clear and warm, with temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius. Perfect for a day at the beach. Autumn is harvest season, and time to taste everything that ripened during the summer months. The daytime temperatures are still nice but a bit cooler.
It is not difficult to get to the southwestern part of the state. TransWA (transwa.wa.gov.au) drive buses from Perth to both Albany and Denmark. To Denmark, they go twice a day. It is also possible to fly between Perth and Albany (wotif.com/Flights). Renting a car makes it easier to get around in the area (wotif.com/Car-Hire).
Since both Denmark and Albany are holiday resorts, there are plenty of accommodation options, no matter how big your budget is. If you want to camp or if you have a motorhome, you can book a campsite. But there are also rooms and cabins to rent. In Albany lies BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park at 28 Flinders Parade (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/BIG4_Middleton_Beach_Holiday_Park.htm), located on the beach just east of Albany. It is clean and tidy, and they have all the equipment you could possibly need. Other facilities include a TV lounge and a gym. Located in Denmark is Surfside Ocean Beach Denmark Holiday Accommodation at 766 Ocean Beach Road (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Surfside_Ocean_Beach_Denmark_Holiday_Accommodation.htm), eight kilometres from the city but close to the beach.
For those who travel on their own, try 1849 Backpackers at Peels Place in Albany (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/1849_Backpackers_Albany.htm) which is spacious, quiet and homely. They offer free Wi-Fi and have a large patio. A plus is that they serve free pancakes for breakfast every day. Blue Wren Travellers’ Rest YHA at 15 Price Street in Denmark (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Blue_Wren_Travellers_Rest_Yha.htm) is a small hostel with a friendly staff. They only have a few beds so book well in advance.
If you rather have a little more comfort and privacy, you can rent a cottage from William Bay Country Cottages, 65 Rice Road in Denmark (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/William_Bay_Cottages.htm). Their beautiful country-styled stone cottages are located only 15 minutes from the city centre. For a more exotic and intimate experience, check in at HideAway Haven at 21 Yokanup Road, Bayonet Head in Albany (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Hideaway_Haven.htm). You live in the middle of the forest in cottages up among the trees, surrounded by greenery. Here is everything you need to get away from the hustle and bustle. However, it is only available for adults.
A Saturday around Albany and Denmark
08:00 – Quick breakfast in Albany
Start your day with French flavours in Albany. Gourmandise & Co at 56 Stirling Terrace, Albany (gourmandiseandco.com.au) is a small cosy bakery where you can sit and drink coffee or tea and munch on pastries and bread while the area comes alive. Don’t miss out on their croissants. They also have several gluten-free options.
09:30 – Water and whales
Are you here between the end of May and the beginning of October? Then you should book a guided tour with Albany Whale Tours (albanywhaletours.com.au). Join in on a trip out to sea to look for the aquatic giants plunge down in the blue and tumble around in the waves. The guides are more than happy to tell you about everything they can and you’re back on dry land three hours later.
13:00 – Scenic location
Find some swimwear and comfortable shoes and drive 35 km east to Two Peoples Bay (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/two-peoples-bay). Here lives Australia’s most endangered species, Gilbert’s Potoroo, sometimes called a rat-kangaroo, which was previously thought to be extinct, so keep an eye out. Go to the fabulous Little Beach (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/little-beach), either on foot or by driving all the way.
16:00 – Towards Denmark
Get back in the car and head west towards Denmark. It takes about 40 minutes. If you are hungry after your trip and the morning’s adventures, you can always buy something light to eat at Denmark Bakery at 27 Strickland Street (facebook.com/Denmark-Bakery-Bakery-Cafe-197087214941/). It is a popular bakery with tasty and filling pies.
18:00 – Sand between your toes
Relax at Ocean Beach and watch as the local surfers struggle to become one with the forces of nature. Or go to Williams Bay National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/william-bay) to take photos and marvel at the area’s nature. Crawl over sharp rocks and cool off in the pale blue waters. Stay to watch the sun descend.
20:00 – Hearty dinner
It is finally time for a hearty meal. You have booked a table at Pepper & Salt (pepperandsalt.com.au) at 1564 South Coast Highway. Seasonal products are presented as small culinary masterpieces and seasoned with local herbs. The restaurant is located at the Forest Hill vineyard and the wines come from their own vineyard.