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Albany is Western Australia's oldest European settlement and still retains a hearty dose of colonial appeal. But it's the crashing waves and lush green coastline that steal the show here. The city itself sits on the calm waters of King George Sound surrounded by a handful of national parks where you can hike, surf and cruise. There are also wine-tasting tours and bountiful local food markets, thanks to the area's mild climate.
The Albany hostel scene includes a modern stay that puts on weekly barbecues, and has musical instruments and a vegetable garden. You could also choose a hostel overlooking the waterfront, with a bar and a South American themed restaurant. Some Albany hostels have free breakfast (one even does all-you-can-eat pancakes) and there are communal kitchens to cook your own food too. Mix with other travellers in a secret library – or brave a night in a haunted dorm.
The waterfront area and colonial quarter of Albany are connected by historic York Street, the main boulevard through the city. The waterfront has been redeveloped with an entertainment centre and opera house. The old town, in particular Stirling Terrace, is a mix of stately European facades and gold rush pioneer town. There are restaurants along the length of York Street, museums by the harbour and shopping in the old town. An hour's walk east of town will take you past the National Anzac Centre and the Princess Royal Fortress Military Museum on Mount Adelaide, to the white sand and surf of Middleton Beach.
There are several museums depicting indigenous and colonial life. Old Goal, in the former convict-hiring depot, is one of the most creative with candle-lit ghost tours. Princess Royal Fortress, the city's defence, is a 40-minute walk uphill from Albany and has views over Vancouver Peninsula and the bay. Foodies should stop by Albany Boatshed Markets on the harbour first for locally sourced picnics. You can go hiking between the incredible eroded rock formations of Torndirrup National Park south of the city or drive east for 30 minutes to surf on Nanarup Beach.
To get here, fly from Perth to Albany Airport and take the 15-minute taxi ride into the city centre. Another option is to travel by bus, which arrives and departs from outside the former train station (close to the waterfront). Buses to Perth take 6-8 hours, York takes 6 hours and Mount Barker is a 45-minute trip. You can get around Albany on foot, by bike or on the local bus service, which goes to Middleton Beach.