What a precious stop!
I learned along the way that Albany is the oldest town in Western Australia, settled even before Perth. There is a lot of European influence here in the cities of Albany and Denmark, and seeing as that’s basically the golden standard for me (I love Europe and it’s varying cultures, foods, architecture) it’s needless to say this was a top spot for me.
My first thought about Albany is that it’s the most “liveable” place we’ve stayed at yet. A small town with lots to offer – close to so many adventures and beautiful scenery, it kind of has it all. And then we went to Denmark, and I liked it even better there, haha but truly both are worth paying a visit.
The old town of Albany boasts tons of pubs, cafes, restaurants and boutiques, many of which are situated on the hillside of the town with views overlooking the water. But the highlight of our time in Albany (for me) was two-fold:
Bluff Knoll Sunrise Hike | guided by the moon and the stars (and our headlamps), we pushed our way over the cloud cover, watching the moon turn orange as is dipped out of sight, the stars faded and the sun worked it’s magic to set the sky on fire. Blue, orange, yellow and then finally a searing bright neon pink reflection was exactly what we came for. We strategically checked the weather of course and waited for a bright clear day, and we definitely got it. It was incredible, and I have to say I think I’ve found a new obsession in these early-rise, high-reward treks.
We got up around 2:00AM for the projected 5:43AM sunrise that day. Albany was just over an hour’s drive away, so factoring that in and giving ourselves an hour and a half to walk up the 1,000m elevation gain (635m from the starting point), we reached the peak just in time.
The clouds were amazing to watch from above as they moved at an impressive pace, rolling over the lower ridge peaks like a blanket of dry ice.
NB – If you wanted not to have to factor in the drive – you can also stay at the base of the Bluff Knoll at the campsite there, only 15 min from the start of the trek.
The beautiful thing about the sunrise hike (out and back) is that you can’t see a thing on the way up, so the trek down is equally met with stunning views of rolling green mountains of the Stirling Range. Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the range, which is why we picked it, but you could do any number of walks and treks in the National Park.
Bald Head Walk | this is part two of what made Albany a stand-out experience for me. It’s at the tip of Torndirrup National Park and brings you to the absolute furthest point you can possibly walk to before edging off the cliff and floating to Antarctica, haha…but seriously.
It’s 12.5km return, up and down on sandy trails which makes it just a touch harder in spots! The literature all says to allow 6 hours but we did it in 4 hours with stops and lunch along the way. Just gauge your own abilities and make sure to bring plenty of snacks, sunscreen and water because it’s hot up there.
The views though. OMG the views. Jutting cliffs, rolling rock formations, sandy knolls, turquoise beaches – it’s phenomenal. The absolute best part of the hike comes early on as you follow the ridge of the Flinders Peninsula with stunning white beaches and turquoise blue waters on both sides of the ridge. It’ll take your breath away with the beauty, but also with the gains and dips of the well-defined path.
Beyong this point you walk in a sheltered area (keep in mind it’s all very low growth so the sun still beats down heavily during this section of the trek. I say this for anyone delicate like me who gets destroyed by the heat and sunburns!). We finally reached an opening of domed granite formations (this has been really common along this area of the coastline – basically looks like the elephant rocks that you’ll see more of below, but MASSIVE by comparison).
We actually thought this was the end, until you keep traversing further and recognize there’s still another steep down-slope before reaching the actual tip of the peninsula. Named Bald Head I imagine because of the barren top of the rocks, be prepared – it gets WINDY. Clearly there is not shelter on either side so hold onto your hats.
We found a spot to tuck in to enjoy a quick bite and break before retracing our steps back to the car-park, which honestly was somehow even more beautiful on the way back.
Obviously (or it should be obvious by now), these types of experiences where you really have to work for your reward are my favourite. Both of these hikes secured Albany a soft spot in my heart. There are many many more hikes and walks to do here if you have more time as well, but make sure these two are on the list.
Let’s see, if Central Europe and Canada had a baby, Denmark it would be haha. Quiet, quaint, humble but with stunning architecture, a beautiful town centre, amazing cafes, bistros and bakeries – there’s a charm here that I’ve yet to feel from anywhere else.
It also boasts some of the most incredible views and beaches that I’ve seen thus far with the likes of the Elephant Rocks and Green’s Pool.
But let me take you through our full day in Denmark because I loved every minute of it.
We started with a tour in the Valley of the Giant Trees. The trees are giant not necessarily because of their height (though they are massively tall). It’s mainly because if their incredible width. Some will reach 20-30m ACROSS and 70m TALL anchored only by a very shallow root system that somehow keeps these giants standing.
The tingle trees are also unique in that their centre wood is actually superfluous to the tree, so they don’t need it at all to survive. This becomes helpful when fire strikes because the entire hallow of the tree will burn out, but the living shell with remain and the tree will stay standing and living for hundreds of years. Precisely why I can stand inside this totally burnt, but fully living tree.This one in particular is estimated to be somewhere between 400-500 years old – looks pretty good for her age, eh!?
You don’t need to allocate much time to staying at the valley forest as the tour is informative and relatively short, so from here we had our eyes set on two sites we’d passed on the way in: Valley of the Giants Olives + Wine and Bartholomews Meadery.
Valley of the Giants Olives + Wine | the guiding principle of the shop-owner himself is that wine and olives go together always, and I don’t disagree. Never served apart in his shop, we were able to have a tasting of both and it was simply bliss. Having moved here from Switzerland about 20 years ago, the olives were his primary passion project, but moving into wine production (given the perfect climate of course), he’s found a match made in heaven and it really shows through in their final product offerings.
Off the beaten path on their own plot of land, this is was an amazing stop-over topped only by….
Bartholomews Meadery | do you know what Mead is? Because I didn’t, so this became an extra special surprise when I found out that it’s a type of alcohol made of honey! This tiny shop had a bee-hive inside (accessed by the bees from the outdoors, of course) where the bees were busily producing what was then produced into the most delicious treats for our enjoyment.
According to the store manager, Mead is the oldest type of alcohol dating back to ancient Egypt, my research thereafter doesn’t exactly provide any conclusive facts, but I’ll leave it to you to inquire further if you so care.
What I ACTUALLY want to share here, is the hazelnut honey this place makes, which could possibly be the best thing I’ve ever tried (do I say that a lot? haha). I had it as a scoop of ice cream, and had to go back to buy a jar of just the hazelnut honey to take home. I’m envisioning a very delicious cheese board with a few spoonfuls on the side to make all my dreams come true.
And NOW after wine, olives and ice cream, we were ready for the beach.
I’m not even going to try to explain the beauty and phenomena of these stunning formations – Elephant Rocks + Green’s Pool. Instead I’ll leave you with these photos, as a picture is worth a thousand words after all: