Ellen Cove to Albany Port
6.1km (One Way)
Directions - The start of the trail is located at Middleton Beach on the other side of Mount Adelaide from Albany. To get there take Stirling Drive and follow the signs around the hill on Marine Drive until you reach Middleton Beach. There is plenty of parking available.
The Hike - With a few days to relax and enjoy Albany after finishing the Bibbulmun Track, I really wanted to get out and explore a couple of walks closer to town. This was partly forced upon me by car issues (not the first time this has happened on a trip to Albany) but the Ellen Cove to Albany Port walk was one I had been wanting to do for a while now. The drive along Marine Drive is a very nice one so a walk trail following the same route but closer to the water must be even better. As Middleton Beach was on the other side of the hills from where I was staying, I walked up and over Mount Adelaide, taking in a loop trail there before picking my way down the steep roads that contained some interesting houses built on the foothill of Mount Adelaide.
This area is one I have great memories of from my childhood as we used to holiday a lot in Albany and Middleton Beach was a popular spot. While the area has been in a holding pattern since The Esplanade Hotel was demolished, hopefully it returns to its former glory as it's really is a pleasant place for a holiday. I stopped in for a morning coffee and snack at Bay Merchants to refuel before heading down to Middleton Beach to start the walk. If there's one thing that stirs up a bit of nostalgia, it's the sight of the Middleton Beach pine trees and that view looking out to King George Sound. While I was on the Mount Adelaide Nature Trail I noticed the clouds to the north starting to grey up a bit but in a stormy kind of way. By the time I'd finished my coffee they were really noticeable but given the sun was still shining on Middleton Beach, the stark contrast created a very cool effect. The turquoise waters of the south coast I had enjoyed seeing over the past few days took on a different feel with dark clouds looming in the distance and I have to say that I was absolutely loving it. That view looking over to Gull Rock National Park looks so much more ominous when there is a bit of weather about and one day I'll get over there to explore the area (I've had many trips there thwarted over the years). There was a bit of activity near Three Anchors and the beach volleyball courts that was nice to see and I could see a few people going in both directions along the start of the Ellen Cove Boardwalk. A nice memory I have from here is waking up early on an Easter trip and heading out to photograph the sunrise over the water, a unique experience in WA.
The Noongar people called this Binalup meaning the place of first light and I'm sure they enjoyed many amazing sunrises over the millennia. This whole little corner of Albany is really cool with a café, jetty, roped off swimming area, a stepped terrace for picnics and the boardwalk leading up to better views of King George Sound. Walking above the jetty, it was looking stunning with the turquoise cove still lit up with bright sunshine and the clouds rolling in to the north. With time on my hands I decided to head down the stairs for a visit. The shark net means the chances of seeing some bigger marine creatures from the jetty is nil but is was still nice to walk out over the water and take some photos. The water did look much better from up on the boardwalk entry so I returned to take more photos when two girls ran past me and jumped right into the water fully clothed. A bit odd but a group of other youths soon arrived all dressed up and I believe this was some sort of scavenger hunt where you had to do certain things and take a photo. Some good harmless fun but the two girls were the only ones that braved the water and jumped in. Moving on I headed onto the boardwalk and up the side of the hill. The turquoise theme continued with a bench to the side painted in the same colour as the water that was donated by the Albany Weavers. The sense of community was strong in this area and with roots dating back to the late 1800s when the first Esplanade Hotel was built and you can feel the history as you explore the area.
Rising up the hill, the views just keep getting better and better with a lookout to the left providing one of the best opportunities for uninterrupted views across King George Sound and a look back to Middleton Beach and Emu Point. Arrive at the right time from May through to November and you might be lucky enough to spot some whales down below. Along here I spotted the first of many locals of the reptile variety that were out enjoying the sun with a number of King Skinks on the path. As soon as you approach they scurry off but some were easily noticed at distance and if you approached quietly, they stayed still long enough to pose for photos. Heading into the Peppermint Tree and Eucalyptus lined path, the views disappear momentarily and the path is now a familiar bike lane style pavement. A little stone pavilion type building can be found here, very handy if you get some fickle Albany weather and there was some nice Native Geranium to provide something pretty to look at while the views weren't available. The views returned pretty quickly as the trail starts heading south and the full vista of King George Sound was on display. Albany is not short on great views but this has to be one of the most iconic with Michaelmas and Breaksea Island off on the horizon and Flinders Peninsula to the right providing some pretty dramatic terrain bordering the water.
The great wildflowers continued along here and with the sun shining to the areas looking south and east, I was having a great time photographing everything. The climbing wasn't over as the trail continued to rise and here was my first encounter with what became a symbol of the post-Bibbulmun hiking I did, the Pelican. I noticed one flying from left to right and followed it with my camera until it was in the right position, looking like it was about to fly head first into Flinders Peninsula. It was a funny moment when I looked at the shot afterwards and saw that I'd captured it although a zoom lens would have been great on this hike. I spotted many more King Skinks along here but they were too fast or too far away to photograph. Most of the time I only noticed them because of the rustle near my feet. Making for some great photos were a series of Showy Dryandras, a golden orange Banksia flower that thankfully lined the trail on the ocean side. Having these beauties in the foreground with the water in the background made for some very nice shots and they reminded me a lot of the Couch Honeypots I'd taken a liking to over my time hiking between North Bannister and Dwellingup earlier in the month.