A bumper list of ways families can enjoy WA’s south coast
Albany in Western Australia is not only a childhood favourite destination of my own, it’s the place we call “home” when we are escaping from the Middle East heat.
Set around the stunning King George Sound on the south coast of WA, it has quite the reputation as a popular spot for retirees. However, it is equally an amazing place for kids to explore. Steeped in Australian history with an abundance of ridiculously beautiful beaches and spectacular views, welcome to our home away from home.
In this post we cover
- Stunning coastlines, fabulous beaches and the great outdoors
- Wildlife and animal experiences
- Fresh food, wine & breweries
- Where to eat with kids
- Arts & history experiences
- Where to stay with kids
- How to get to Albany
This post is part of our series Discover Australia – come and see all our Australian adventures with kids
More about Albany, Western Australia
Situated on the south coast of Western Australia, 4.5 hours south of Perth, it is one of Australia’s oldest settlements (pre-dating even Perth and Fremantle!) King George Sound was first settled in the early 19th century as an outpost of New South Wales. It is the second largest regional centre of the south-west, but still has quite a small town feel to it.
One thing that’s immediately apparent about Albany and the surrounding region is the landscape is very undulating and dramatic. The township was settled on the deep water harbour of King George Sound but is now spread over the hills. It’s this series of hills and coves that make the city fascinating and provides so many outdoor exploration opportunities.
If Albany’s fascinating history, geography and architectural marvels aren’t quite enough to entertain your little ones, rest assured there’s enough still going on about town and the surrounding Great Southern region that they will enjoy.
Stunning coastline, fabulous beaches and the great outdoors in Albany
Torndirrup National Park
The Torndirrup National Park on the Vancouver Peninsula is our favourite – rugged and wild in most parts so hold on to the kids! The Gap and the Natural Bridge are normally on everyone’s list, but you really can make a whole day or more down here and explore the entire peninsula.
Salmon Holes has a short but steep downward climb. Facing directly to the Southern Ocean, the waves are too rough for swimming here but we love watching the ocean, very popular with fishermen.
The Blowholes is also another short but manageable track for your 6+ crowd. Winds can be extremely strong so utmost care is needed as you approach the actual blowholes.
For calmer waters, follow the Quaranup Road and look for Whaling Cove of North Goode Beach (Forgotten Island turn off). You are more sheltered here and will experience some amazing blues and gorgeou sandcastle sand!
Middleton Beach & Emu Point
With its line of majestic pine trees, this beach brings back such distinct childhood memories of what a beach should look like and just screams summer holidays! The beautifully picturesque Ellen Cove leads to a coastal trail that snakes the cliff side around to Albany Harbour (and many great whale spotting points, in the right season!) It’s hilly so you may want a stroller for little legs.
Although a little seaweed (and pine needle) covered, the beach has lovely soft sand and the waters are calm. In the warmer months, you will find Surf Life Saving patrols.
Head slightly further down the road for Emu Point. This very calm beach frontage also has a grassy playpark area. Although the waters here and aren’t as vibrant, its a great family beach with plentiful facilities.
The Albany Wind Farm
Another fun location with dramatic views. The mix of amazing machines and great outdoors. Again, winds can be strong but there’s a good path throughout still stroller appropriate (though you will need to lift in parts if you want to do a circuit). It is apparently beautiful at sunset but we haven’t managed to make it at this time of day.
Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve
We cannot talk coastlines and nature in Albany and leave off Two Peoples Bay! Situated 40kms east of Albany city centre in this nature reserve is one of the most utterly beautiful, Instagram perfect beaches, Little Beach. There are great rocks here for climbing too and the sand is luxuriously soft for sandcastle making, but the tides can be strong so take care in the water.
Albany Heritage Park
Situated over Mount Adelaide (Irrerup) and Mount Clarence, Albany Heritage Park is where you come for spectacular city views and a walk back through Albany’s history. The National ANZAC Centre is the highlight (see more below). If you only have time to climb one, Mt Adelaide has the gentler approach from the car park that is stroller friendly and has many information boards, from here you will get breathtaking views of the Vancouver Peninsula through to Middleton Beach, Frenchmans Bay.
Mt Clarence involves a few sets of short, steep stairs but should equally be explored for more views of the harbour (wheelchair users do have disabled access further up the hill).
Related reading. Want to know more about suitable family and dog-friendly parks in WA? Check out the Parks WA park finder
When all else fails a great all-weather activity is watching the historic port in action. From grain and wood chips to logging, Princess Royal Harbour is still an incredibly active shipping port. You can come to ground level at Albany Harbour and park yourself with a picnic or head to the higher point on Marine Drive and watch the tugs navigate their charges through the narrow Attaturk Channel.
Porongurups & Granite Skywalk
Head north of Albany for bushwalking experiences. We tackled Castle Rock a few times as a family and finally my oldest has made it to the top and the Sky Walk! With eager children and helping hands smaller children can make it, but I would consider it strenuous for those under 7 years old. There is some scrambling at the end too if you want to make it to the Granite Sky Walk so a bit of fitness and confidence needed for adults too.
The village of Porongurup is just that, there is only one small cafe in town, but don’t miss the wineries in the Porongurups, many offering tasting boards and nibbles. More on that below.
The highest mountain peak in the south of Western Australia is Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges On the coldest winter days you can even see snow! The walk to the summit of Bluff Knoll is a 6 hour round trip so you really do need fit and eager legs with you to complete the whole path (if you do only make it as far as the car park though, check out one of the most stunning views from a toilet block you’ll ever see!!)
After a trip to the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges, make your way back to the pleasant country town of Mount Barker. Your quintessential country town, you will find the award-winning Mount Barker Bakery for meals and snack and for families, the Nature Play Park Wilson St is a must for stretching the legs.
The Grocery Cafe on Lowood Road makes a great coffee if you’ve done enough wine tasting! And if you’re a crafter, don’t miss Scrap Shak – one of mine and Miss Z’s favourite little shops in the world.
For another fabulous view of the region, head up to Mount Barker Lookout (just follow the giant TV mast!) and you will find the splendid though rather breezy Rotary lookout point.
Don’t think that Albany should only be visited in the summer. One of the best times to visit is actually the spring when the wildflowers set the countryside alight with their vivid display. You will see them everywhere but the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges are the best viewing spots.
Walpole & the Southern Forests
Many visitors also include a road trip to the Southern Forests as a day trip from Albany, though it is quite a hike further west the forests surrounding Walpole. We will mention them here if you plan to only base yourself in Albany, but you may find yourself on a longer road trip, we have a separate post coming very soon on how to visit the Valley of the Giants Skywalk and many other nature-based attractions in the area.
Related Reading: See our countdown of the Top 5 family-friendly beaches near Albany
Wildlife and Animal Experiences
Did you know??? Southwestern Australia is one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hot spots. These hotspots account for a staggering 90% of species on earth, yet account for only 2.3% of the earth’s surface. You can learn more here.
Whales make a huge part of Albany’s history with several species using the warmer waters of Albany to give birth in the winter months (compared with the cold Antartic winter waters!). Until a mere 40 years ago, there was an active whaling station at Cheyne Beach, Frenchman Bay. It has since been turned into a museum, Albany’s Historic Whaling Station (previously known as Whale World), part of the Discovery Bay tourist attraction.
Attached is the Australian Wildlife Park, an animal sanctuary and Regional Wildflower Garden. It is relatively small and to be honest and not really worth it for the price – but you can get family discounts to see both or school holiday passes to see just the wildlife sanctuary. It is an interesting tour through the whale museum, but based on our past couple of experiences you will find better animal sanctuaries.
If you want to see the real thing though and get up close with the whales, get set to visit from June to October. There are many points from the land you can view whales, some coming into the warmer harbour waters right inside King George Sound. Alternatively, you can catch a boat tour for a closer look – we haven’t got any personal recommendations at this stage but we’d love to hear your suggestions!
Another place well worth a visit if you are prepared to head further afield for a day or two is Bremer Bay. It’s 180km to the east of Albany to Bremer Bay but you will be rewarded here with some of the most spectacular whale watching. Whilst Sperm Whales can be seen from April to May, January through to about March you can witness one of natures wildest experiences as thousands of Ocra (killer whales) descend upon Bremer Canyon for an intense feeding period in this deep Antartic flow.
Most boat trips of this nature are recommended for children of 10+ so this one remains on our bucket list. Check out some of this amazing footage though.
Sanctuaries and farms
We love Uralla Wildlife Sanctuary in the inland town of Perrilup, a bit of a drive into the forest from Albany but an opportunity to get up close and personal with kangaroos. Kids can join in feeding times and meet whatever resident wildlife is currently taking shelter – all entirely run by volunteers who live on site. The Globetrotters have been visiting for years to see their favourite kangaroos grow, but unfortunately, we understand in the past year one of the owners has had ill health and operations are winding up.
You can see a full review of our experiences visiting Uralla here – check beforehand if they are still accepting visitors, entry is free but donations strongly appreciated.
Further afield, Denmark Animal Farm & Alpaca Stud (Previously called Pentland Alpaca Farm) is where kids can go for some hands-on animal experiences. It leans more towards domestic animals though they do have plenty of kangaroos too! They used to have a koala as well for occasional holding experiences but I believe he has now gone (more on Denmark to come in a future post!)
Related reading: Australia’s best animal encounters with kids
Fresh Food and Wine in Great Southern
The region might not be as famous as neighbouring Margaret River, but equally amazing fresh food and produce can be found.
Favourite Family Wineries around Albany
There are many sub-regions for wineries around Great Southern, though the most intense offering is around Denmark and the Scotsdale Road tourist drive. We will cover these shortly in a separate Denmark post – and you can see our Top 5 Wineries in the region for family friendliness here.
Near to Albany, Wignalls Wines is highly acclaimed, and Mount Barker also has some favourites that should be checked out; West Cape Howe (pictured above) has a phenomenal range to choose from and Plantagenent Wines on the Albany Highway has some premium selections, along with great value meals and an outside playground and picnic areas.
I will honestly offend or miss out a favourite if I try and list them all! Do check out Great Southern Wine for a full guide. Not all wineries offer a daily cellar door particularly early in the week and some only offer meals at weekends.
Breweries and Distilleries
The award-winning Limeburners Distillery on Frenchman Bay Road is well worth a stop for mum and dad – they produce single malt whisky, vodka, gin and brandy.
A newcomer to Albany is Wilson Brewing Company, an unassuming building found on the South Coast Highway just outside of Albany. They are still quite new so don’t have much more than a bucket of toys for kids entertainment but their craft beer is already winning awards and well worth the stop if beer is your thing – something that is surely but slowly starting to dominate in the south west!
Our top recommendation though is Boston Brewing Co which is just a few kms outside Denmark on Highway 1. Here you will find not only the craft brewery but wine tasting, a restaurant serving fabulous gourmet pub food both indoors and a large outdoor area, with live entertainment and importantly a big play park – it seems to grow every year! It’s definitely a family winner in the region for a wonderful afternoon out.
Other fresh food and market options
If your trip coincides with a weekend the Farmers Market in central Albany on a Saturday is a must. Mount Barker runs a monthly market on the first Saturday of every month and there’s also a weekend market at the Albany Boatshed.
Popular festivals that you may want to align your trip down south for (and book accommodation in advance) include the Porongurup Wine Festival and Graze Mount Barker in early March (WA Labour Day long weekend).
Where to eat with kids in Albany
Other than the wineries and brewery mentioned above, there are plentiful options when it comes to dining out in Albany. Full-scale hotel restaurants, bars and cafes through to easy takeaways are available both in the centre of town and spotted in locations across the region and at popular tourist spots (though you can be pretty sure you’re paying tourist prices).
Three Anchors Cafe at Middleton Beach is the perfect lunch stop with full dining option as well as take away kiosk on weekends and in the warmer weather (booking ahead during weekends and holidays is strongly recommended). It’s proximity to the Middleton Park Beach playpark is ideal.
Emu Point Cafe is another great choice to combine play park accessibility with great Aussie cafe style food, breakfast and full-scale lunches to snacks, cakes and great coffee. They are also the founders of Cup Exchange a brilliant initiative to reduce single-use cups.
If you want more easy going dining we’ve always loved the fish and chips from Squid Shack at Emu Point harbour. If you take your meal down to the beach just beware the pelicans though!
Arts and history experiences in Albany
The Albany Entertainment Centre on Albany Harbour is a real winner for this regional city. Over the years we’ve seen several plays aimed specifically at the junior audience and they will frequently run school holiday specials so look out for their programs. Advance booking tickets to popular shows may be required.
Museum of the Great Southern, a brand of WA Museum is a great rainy day option. They run a rotating program of arts and regular display changes. (usually, free but donations in the wishing well appreciated; some crafting projects may carry additional charges). We have designed aboriginal art to stained glass windows and filled countless hours here over the years.
Nearby you will find Brig Amity. Children will enjoy clambering the decks and playing captain (entry charges apply) on this replica of the first ship to arrive into King George Sound and start the settlement of Western Australia – a convict ship, of course!
One of the newer additions to Albany is the National ANZAC Centre. Perched on Mount Adelaide it not only has one of the best views in the city, you can take a virtual journey from King George Sound to the battlefields of World War I. The story inside follows the first convoy that departed from Australian shores in 1914.
There is a cafe here as well as gift shop, bar and toilets with change table for families.
Lovers of street art will be drawn to the beautiful Seadragon mural that now adorns the city’s port silos on the historic waterfront. Part of the PUBLIC silo trail which has been adorning silos across southern WA’s Wheatbelt, its a stunning addition to the cityscape. The work was completed in March 2018 by street artists The Yok and Sheryo.
Keep your eyes peeled too for Western Power transmission boxes and substations – not normally a tourist attraction but colourful street art has transformed these many eyesores into an amazing adventure trail across the city!
Related reading: Things to do in Denmark with Kids [coming soon!]
Albany WA Accommodation – Where to stay with kids
There’s a huge range of family accommodation choices in Albany. Middleton Beach is popular, as is Emu Point with its calm waters and large holiday park.
We would recommend the Big 4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park or Big4 Emu Beach Holiday Park a fabulous family cabin experience right on the waterfront, or Emu Point Motel includes reasonably priced family-sized suites.
There are several motel-style options that might be more budget-friendly on the Albany Highway walking distance to the centre of town, but our preference is always to be walking distance to the beach. There are also many farm stay and B&B options available too in all directions from the city – you can search all available Albany options here.
Related Reading: Our favourite family accommodation around the world reviewed!
How to get to Albany WA
Situated 4.5 hours south of Perth, your choices are:
By private car: If you are not coming from Perth with your own vehicle, you can compare car hire prices here with our prefered provider RentalCars.Com we use this comparison service every year to hire our car as it searches all the major providers for you to get the best price.
By Bus: TransWA run a daily service, via Williams (more direct but still with stops takes 6 hours), or the coastal route via Bunbury, timetable can be found here.
By plane: There is a small regional airport 11kms north of the city. At the time of writing it is serviced by Rex, but do check current timetables. It may be the quickest way, but can also be the most costly! Bear in mind it’s a light aircraft too so expect severe luggage restrictions if connecting to domestic or international flights.
Related Reading: How to Road Trip Around Western Australia and How to Road Trip the SW in 9 days
Further Resources on Albany WA
Amazing Albany is the local tourism body, though they have recently rebranded to The Amazing South Coast capturing more regional areas around as far as Bremer Bay.
A great resource to accompany your Western Australia adventure is the trusty [easyazon_link identifier=”1786572389″ locale=”US” tag=”babyglob-20″]Lonely Planet West Coast Australia[/easyazon_link], along with [easyazon_link identifier=”1786572370″ locale=”US” tag=”babyglob-20″]Lonely Planet Australia[/easyazon_link]
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Have you visited Albany in Western Australia? Are there any other great family gems that you think we are missing?
Disclosures: This is not a sponsored post, all the establishments mentioned are based on our own experience. This page does contain affiliate links that if you make a purchase through may earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read our full disclosure policy here.