Great Southern Region

May 1st, 2001 Features, Scoop Traveller

Things to do

Explore the agricultural history in Katanning and Kojonup, where a drive around the pastures and sparse bushland will de-stress you straight away.

See Albany’s dramatic coastline of granite crags and crashing surf, from the coastal lookouts or in a hire boat. Keep your eyes peeled for whales passing in the winter and early spring.

Go bushwalking around King George Sound and in season, you’ll see oceans of wildflowers. Scale the Stony Hill Lookout from which you can see the area right around you.

Whaling history is a little hard to stomach for some, but it’s on show at Whaleworld along Frenchmans Bay Rd outside town.

Tour the national parks and ranges in the region. Mt Frankland National Park is near Walpole in a pretty location and with good facilities. William Bay has plenty of little sandy coves to explore where the Great Southern Ocean meets the forest and heath.

Climb the Porongurup Range or Stirling Range, or at least do some of the walks around the foothills if you aren’t much of a climber. They lead through towering karri forests and beautiful serene scenery. Up the top of the Porongurups, you can see all the way to the sea on a clear day so take your camera. Find Castle Rock and Balancing Rock, both local natural oddities.

Cruise the wineries throughout the Albany and Denmark areas, which are as good as Margaret River’s famed establishments and where you can have a taste or buy a bottle straight from the cellar.

The fishing is reputed to be excellent at Denmark’s handful of beaches and the cute holiday village of Bremer Bay, a tiny slice of beach life in the forested Great Southern.

Pack your hiking boots and stay in Denmark for a day or two. Fill your lungs with clean, cool air and do some of the bushwalks through the enormous forests and heritage trails that show you the milling history of the area. Face down your fear of heights to do the Tree Top Walk. Your stomach might plunge as you look more than fifty metres down to the ground beneath you on a slender steel bridge, but you’ll never forget the experience.

About the region

WA’s original settlement, the Albany area was a penal colony even before the existence of the Swan River settlement that would become Perth. Both the Dutch and the French sailed and mapped the coast but decided it looked too desolate in some places, too dense with forest in others to be of any use, leaving it to the British to complete their claim over the whole country two hundred and fifty years later.

Settlement moved around the coast to Perth and before long pastoralists were exploring the region for farmland, clearing the land north of the Stirling Ranges.

Amid the varied landscape, industries sprung up that helped develop the region into a strong economy. Apples and dairy cattle were farmed in the north of the region and the timber trade in the forests was a brief burst of activity before giving way to tourism. More recently, the area has become more famous for the fine wineries that operate in the cool, wet climate.

Situated near the geographically lowest point in the state, Albany is a popular holiday spot full of history and restored buildings from the first settlers and penal colony. The coast extends in either direction along granite cliffs, thick karri forest and coastal heath that give way to rolling sand dune-lined beaches.

High rainfall and cool conditions make it perfect for grape, fruit and grazing livestock and also perfect for a getaway where the weather is pleasant and cool and there are so many kinds of accommodation you’ll find it hard to believe it’s in such a small region of the state.

Granite peaks reach out of the forests in several places throughout the region and walking tracks around them offer some amazing views over the surrounds. It’s possible to climb the Porongurup and Stirling Ranges and look over the forest and farmland.

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From sweeping fields of wheat to the thick forest of giants, Albany has almost every landscape we equate with the rest of the state all in one. Vineyards that produce top quality wine nestle up against towering mountains of granite with farms on their opposite sides.

The wild waters of the Great Southern Ocean endlessly pound the south coast of Australia’s mainland against towers of scrub-covered mountain and walls of granite cliff.

Albany’s penal colony days are over and it’s now the holiday and residence of choice for many who love the cool climate, beautiful surroundings and whales passing right outside your front door.

Industries have come and gone throughout the region, some still thriving, others defeated by their own efficiency — the Denmark region logging industry almost wiped out the forests of the area and the issue still raises political and environmental hackles today.

Tiny Bremer Bay is a small pocket of serenity on the brutal coast and shares the reputation of having some of the state’s best fishing with beaches and rivers around Denmark.

The wine industry has taken off in conditions perfect for wine grapes, and local produce rivals the Margaret River in quality.

Come to Albany for a city centre full of history, tourism, accommodation and services surrounded by nature at it’s most untamed, whether it’s the Gap, the karris or the Porongurup Ranges that look over them all.

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