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Southwestern Western Australia

From Perth to Albany

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On the shortest road route from Perth, capital of Western Australia, to Albany on the state's Rainbow Coast, it would take nearly five hours to cover the 417-kilometre distance via the Albany Highway.

This is the inland route which bypasses the coastal cities and towns of southwestern Western Australia, and the visiting traveler may prefer the longer routes which take in Fremantle, Rockingham, Mandurrah, Bunbury, Margaret River and Augusta.

The coastal route follows the Old Coast Rd (Highway 1) south until Bunbury where it branches off into Busselton Highway to Augusta and Jewel Cave. From Augusta you'd need to backtrack on Busselton Highway until Karndale to find the turnoff to Brockman Highway which leads east and eventually joins South Western Highway all the way east to Albany.

1. Fremantle

Fremantle Prison, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Fremantle Prison © Tourism Western Australia

The first coastal city just southwest of Perth city centre is Fremantle, Perth's seaport, which is virtually a Perth suburb. If you're traveling south from Perth and take the Kwinana Freeway, you'll completely bypass Fremantle.

If you do pass through and stop at Fremantle you may want to see what Fremantle activities and attractions — including Fremantle Prison, which is part of the World Heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites — are there.

The Fremantle visitor centre (telephone 618-9431-7878) is in Kings Square at the corner of William and Adelaide Sts.

2. Rockingham

Little penguins on Penguin Island, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Little penguins on Penguin Island © Tourism Western Australia

The city of Rockingham, fewer than 50 kilometres south of Perth, is often considered the southernmost border of the greater Perth metropolitan area.

Fine beaches, a variety of watersports and environmental parks contribute to make Rockingham a Perth "suburban" holiday and daytrip destination. Water activities that may interest you include snorkeling, sailing and surfing.

Dolphin watch cruises get you close to the dolphins off the Rockingham coast. Take a ferry to nearby Penguin Island, home to more than 1200 little penguins.

The Rockingham visitor centre at 19 Kent St (telephone 618-9592-3464), is open daily.

3. Mandurah

Mandurah foreshore, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Mandurah foreshore © Tourism Western Australia

Mandurah, south of Rockingham on the Old Coast Rd, is some 72 kilometres from Perth. It is Western Australia's second largest city.

Mandurah's foreshore and coastal waters are home to dolphins, pelicans, shags (a cormorant-like bird) and the blue manna crab for which Mandurah's Peel River estuary has become famous as a crabbing destination.

As with many Australian coastal areas, beaches and water activities are a major attraction.

The Mandurah visitor centre at 75 Mandurah Terrace (telephone 618-9550-3999) is open daily except Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

4. Bunbury

Bunbury Visitor Centre, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Bunbury Visitor Centre copy; Tourism Western Australia

Some 175 kilometres south of Perth, Bunbury is Western Australia's third largest city after Perth and Mandurah. It is located near the mouth of the Collie River at the southern end of the Leschenault Inlet.

Not only does Bunbury have several fine beaches but yachting facilities, diving sites, dolphin and whale watch cruises, and beach and sea fishing add to the city's many attraction as a coastal visitor destination.

If you wish to bypass the Margaret River region, the South Western Highway to Albany starts at Bunbury.

The Bunbury visitor centre at the old railway station, Carmody Place (telephone 618-9792-7205 or 1800-286-287) is open daily except Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

5. Busselton

Busselton Jetty, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Busselton Jetty © Tourism Western Australia

Probably best known for its two-kilometre-long wooden jetty, said to be the longest wooden pier in the southern hemisphere, Busselton is some 220 kilometres south-southwest of Perth. It is located at the northeastern end of the Margaret River wine and surfing region.

At the end of the popular Busselton jetty, the Underwater Observatory brings visitors face to face with one of the country's best artificial reefs and the variety of colorful marine life.

In Geographe Bay, fishing, water skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing and sailing are among the many aquatic activities visitors can induge in.

The Busselton visitor centre at 38 Peel Terrace (telephone 618-9752-5800) is open daily.

6. Margaret River

Windsurfing at Margaret River, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Windsurfing at Margaret River © Tourism Western Australia

Margaret River is town, river and region. The town is some 277 kilometres from Perth, the river is where the town got its name, and the Margaret River region from Busselton to Augusta is arguably Western Australia's premier wine region. It is as well a place of fine surfing beaches with a collection of nearby surf breaks, particularly Margarets Main Break, also known as Surfers Point, at the mouth of Margaret River.

Art and craft galleries, fine restaurants, forests, bush and beach, and yes, underground caves are among the attractions of Margaret River. For a taste of adventure, try rock climbing, abseiling, windsurfing or canoeing. Or you can take it easy whale watching or casting a line for the local fish.

The Margaret River visitor centre at 100 Bussell Highway (telephone 618-9780-5911) is open daily except Christmas Day.

7. Augusta

Whale watching in Flinders Bay, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Whale watching in Flinders Bay © Tourism Western Australia

Some 310 kilometres from Perth, Augusta is on the southwest coast of Western Australia near Cape Leeuwin which is the farthest southwest corner of the Australian continent. It is at the southern end of the Margaret River wine region.

A fishing town at the junction of the Indian and Southern Oceans, Augusta sees whales traveling through Flinders Bay in the whale migration season of June to September. Whale watch tours are available, or you can spot the whales from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse which is open to the public.

Blackwood River, which runs through Augusta, offers a range of aquatic sports which include waterskiing, fishing and boating.

The Augusta visitor centre at 75 Blackwood Ave (telephone 618-9758-0166) is open daily except Christmas Day.

8. Albany

Convict jail in Albany, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Convict jail in Albany © Tourism Western Australia

Some 417 kilometres from Perth via the inland Albany Highway, the port city of Albany lies at the northern edge of Princess Royal Harbour in King George Sound.

Historically, Albany was the last Australian city seen by the soldiers who were to be known as the Anzacs as they left for Europe in 1914 during World War I. The Albany Anzac Peace Park is dedicated to the Anzacs of that war.

Convict jails, old taverns, whaling ships, an old whaling station, and settlers' cottages bring an air of the past into today's Albany. Gone are the days of hunting whales, replaced in the present day by whale watching and whalewatch cruises.

Fishing, sailing, diving and hiking opportunities abound.

The Albany visitor centre at the Old Railway Station, Proudlove Parade (telephone 618-9841-9290) is open daily except Christmas Day.

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