FROM a whaling town to a whale-watching town, Albany now safeguards these gentle giants of the sea.
Its historic whaling station, the last whale processing factory in Australia, closed in 1978 and is now a tourist attraction.
And while its exhibits are not for the faint-hearted, it's an important look back at another time.
Today the small West Australian town is the place to watch the annual migration of humpback and southern right whales.
The state has one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the world and even the rare blue whale has been spotted on whale-watching tours which run from now through to October.
At the whaling station at Discovery Bay you can climb aboard the Cheynes 1V, the world's only preserved whalechaser ship.
Her narrow stairs are steep, her quarters confined, but for the men who worked aboard it was a hard but thrilling life, pulling in and processing up to 12 whales a day.
Some who were employed at that time now act as volunteer guides. On board we find Mark Boardley, who went to sea on a whalechaser as a 17-year-old and loved the life.
A whale-spotter, he ruefully admits he'd often get into trouble for having eyes down in a comic instead of on the water ahead.
Interestingly, it wasn't humanitarian and conservation reasons that closed the whaling station. Prices and demand for whale products had dropped and whale processing was no longer economic.
A regional wildflower garden has been developed on the hill above the whaling station. Albany is a five-hour drive from Perth or a 75-minute flight.
You can visit the whaling station yourself or on a tour with Busy Blue Bus. Hilton Garden Inn Albany, overlooking the Albany Waterfront Marina, puts you in pole position for a morning whale-watching tour.
By Sue Preston
ALBANY locals like to boast they have the closest letterbox address in Western Australia to the Antarctic.
The statement conjures up a vision of rugged cliffs, icy cold seas and inhospitable landscape; but in fact it is overridden by its enviable position overlooking King George Sound, its temperate climate, beautiful secluded beaches that rank among the best in Australia, and a history that sets it apart from any other Australian town.
The brig Amity brought the state's first European inhabitants on a perilous six-week journey from Sydney to Albany in 1826. The legacy is around 50 early colonial buildings, some now transformed into museums, galleries and restaurants.
On board were a number of convicts who were artisans and skilled labourers, giving the fledgling town the opportunity to become something special. The tradition has continued, with modern-day artists decorating the streets and laneways with beautiful murals and sculptures.
A striking art piece, the Leafy Sea Dragon, one of two species of sea dragon found only in Australia's southern waters, looks out over the town from the port's grain handling facility.
It was from Albany that 41,000 Australian and New Zealand troops and a number of horses set sail in 1914 to fight on foreign shores. For many it was to be their last time on Australian soil. Their moving stories are told in the National Anzac Centre overlooking the harbour.
Today people come to engage with the past, to visit Torndirrup National Park with its spectacular lookout platform at The Gap and Natural Bridge, and to enjoy its vibrant food scene.
Come Saturday morning, the Farmers Market is in full swing, transforming a modest carpark into a thriving marketplace stocked with fresh seasonal produce. The Sunday Boatshed Markets are another opportunity to buy fresh and gourmet foods and locally made goods.
The 108-room Hilton Garden Inn Albany recently opened its doors. Situated alongside Albany Entertainment Centre, the four-storey hotel makes the most of its waterfront position.
The striking hotel is a vibrant meeting place for tourists and locals. Spacious guest rooms provide the sort of view that make you happy to wake up. From the comfortable day bed by the window the view takes in bobbing yachts, early morning strollers grabbing a coffee at the Haz Beanz cafe below, and people giving their dogs a run along the water's edge.
An overhead walkway gets you easily into town for shopping or lunch cost cafe Kate's Place, or dinner at Liberte, a Parisian inspired bar and restaurant serving French-Vietnamese fare.
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