The Great Southern
It is very difficult to spend only a few days in the Great Southern region of W.A. and not feel as though you have only begun to scratch the surface of everything there is to see.
This trip was only 6 nights and was designed to see areas we had never been to before or to re-visit ones we had only been to once or twice.
The weather was partially uncooperative but even on the stormy, rainy day we did get out and visit Denmark.
One place we rarely miss out on visiting when we are in the Denmark area is the cheese factory. Calling it a cheese factory is doing it a dis-service as there are also wines, dried meats, sweets and more to sample.
It isn't for the budget conscious but we usually spend a few dollars there because, well what is a holiday without a bit of luxury?
The main reason for the trip was to find some wildflowers and the first place we started looking was the Porongurup Range.
The range is 40 km north of Albany and apart from a couple of pleasant picnic areas, the main attractions in the park are the many different walks and a 23 km scenic drive around the range.
We stopped at Castle Rock and attempted (foolishly as it turned out) to walk up the 3 km trail to the new Skywalk that has been constructed at the top of the rock.
We found out very quickly just how bad our joints are becoming as we struggled about half way up while little old grannies with walking sticks whizzed past us.
The walk is quite steep but most people with at least a reasonable level of fitness should make it to the top. Sadly we abandoned our feeble attempt and made our way back down to the car-park and picnic area to have lunch.
While there were a lot of wildflowers along the walking trail, there were only a few varieties and most we had photographed before. We also visited 'The Tree in the Rock' and found that even there the variety of wildflowers was limited. Obviously to find the more than 750 plant species that inhabit the park, you have to walk a lot further than we are capable of.
There were a lot of kangaroos in the area and several times they jumped across the path in front of us while we were at 'Tree in the Rock'. This one seemed to be as curious about us as we were about it. There are also a lot of birds in the park so for those who want to get some nice photos, take along your big lens and get snapping.
The following day we went further north to the Stirling Range. Like the Porongurups, this is a National Park and lies about 100 km north east of Albany.
The Stirling Range Drive is a good unsealed road that leads west through the park from Chester Pass Road.
Like the Porongurups, this is an area dedicated to the fit and healthy with many walk trails leading to spectacular views at the summits of very large hills.
Needless to say, we weren't silly enough to try any after the fiasco at Castle Rock the previous day.
Even though we didn't walk any trails, the drive through the park was spectacular and worth doing just for its own sake.
The only real problem with the park is the lack of nice picnic areas. The few that do exist are rather ugly and lack any decent facilities.
Compared to the picnic sites at the Porongurups, the ones along the Stirling Range Drive are quite pathetic.
Again, there were plenty of wildflowers in the park but few we hadn't seen before. We were starting to wonder if we had arrived at the right time to see a good selection of flowers.
On the way back to Albany we dropped in to the Mount Barker museum expecting to be there for just a few minutes before moving on. We have passed by many times but never made the time to have a look at what is there and to say we were surprised would be an under-statement.
There is much more to see than just the old police quarters. Behind the building everyone has seen from the road is a complex of other buildings containing a huge collection of interesting historical memorabilia. It takes about two hours to go through the museum and see everything properly.
By the next day we had recovered enough to attempt another walk. This time it was along the coastal paths at King George's Sound in Albany.
The walk along the coast is spectacular and it runs below Marine Drive from Middleton Beach right round to Albany Port.
The paths are very good and suitable for bikes, gophers and walkers of all ages.
For some time we have been planning to do this walk as there are old military fortifications and the ruins of the lighthouse keeper's quarters at Point King.
The main complex of military fortifications is hidden away behind bushes and rocks and could easily be missed as there is a distinct lack of signage on the walk.
We parked at the lookout and walked down and to the right from there.
To find the buildings turn right off the main trail at the sign board (see the picture above showing the walk trail ) and head up the hill.
Look left along each trail you pass until you see one with buildings at the end. This is the place to explore. There is one building very well hidden, if you go there, see if you can find it.
Back down on the main path keep going toward Point King.
When you reach the new 'lighthouse' follow the path leading down towards the sea. This short but rather steep path takes you down to the rocks where the lighthouse keepers used to live. The building was occupied from 1857 - 1911.
The original 'lighthouse' was a wooden tower and no sign of it remains today.
A couple of other points of interest along this path are statues. One is dedicated to the French Explorer Nicolas Baudin and the other is dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
It may seem odd that the leader of a nation that Australia fought during the First World War is commemorated with a statue overlooking the channel (that also now bears his name) where thousands of Australia soldiers passed through on their way to the bitter fighting at Gallipoli but in a reciprocal agreement, Turkey named the beach where the Australians landed, Anzac Cove and the channel leading to Princess Royal Harbour was named Ataturk Channel.
While we were in Albany we stayed at Moorcraft House. This is a lovely Tudor style home set in 10 acres of quiet bushland and paddocks.
It is only a 5 minute drive from York Street and it was really great value.
Our host, Peter Moorcraft (known as Spider to Albany locals), was terrific. Peter has many interesting stories about his rock-and-roll days and even now he still plays with a band in local Albany hotels.
To book a room at Moorcraft House contact Peter on 0487 900 177 or 08 9847 4883. How much does it cost? Well you will have to call to find out but we are betting you won't find better value in Albany.
Time eventually ran out and we had to head back to Perth but this time we decided to take the long way round and go back via Cranbrook, Tambellup, Katanning and Wagin instead of following the Albany Highway which is our normal route.
At Cranbrook we found a nice wildflower drive very close to town that proved to be the best site of the whole trip.
Luckily for us we arrived at Tambellup on the day the annual show was on and we got to see some lovely old cars displayed in the main street.
Although we hadn't managed to find some of the wildflowers we had been looking for during the trip, we did manage to get to a number of places we had never seen before. The area has so much to offer that we will be going back many more times before we finally get to experience everything there is to see and do.
PLACES TO SEE