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Princess Royal Harbour, 1854 Rex Nan Kivell.jpg

Historic Albany

From her inauspicious beginning grew the first settlement of Western Australia.

Princess Royal Harbour, 1854 Rex Nan Kiv


History of Albany

On the afternoon on Christmas Day 1826, the H.M. Colonial brig Amity sailed into King George's Sound and on board the Amity were twenty troops and twenty-three convicts to assist Lockyer with this important undertaking.  The following day the party disembarked the Amity and set foot on the shore of what is known today, as Residency Point and from this grew the first European settlement of Western Australia.  Major Lockyer had been assigned the task of establishing a penal outpost of the New South Wales Government on the west coast of New Holland.

On the 21st of January 1827, an official ceremony was held proclaiming the foundation. Major Lockyer named the settlement Fredrick Town, after King George the Third's, second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, however this name never gained acceptance and was instead referred to as King George's Sound. In 1831, Governor Stirling changed the name to Albany.


Albany was settled before Perth and played a major role in the early decades of the Swan River Colony. These included a port for the whaling industry from the 1830s and became an important whaling base during the 1840s, The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company started at Frenchman Bay in 1952 until its closure in 197. The base was the last surviving shore-based whaling enterprise in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Albany became the centre for the pastoral industry and as a safe port for the south-west coastal shipping (and some international) of the colony.

Albany's selection in the 1850s as the coaling station/mail steamer port for Western Australia recognised the convenient situation and safe harbour in King George Sound and Princess Royal Harbour. Until the end of the century, the mail ships between the eastern colonies and Great Britain went via Albany and most people travelling to and from Britain were on ships that called at Albany.

King George Sound contained the only deep water port in Western Australia until 1897 and was the favoured location for delivery of mail and supplies from abroad to Western Australia. These were then transported to Perth and Fremantle by road or coastal shipping until the early 1890s, when the need for rapid communication of the contents of the mails resulted in the construction of the telegraph line to the eastern colonies via Albany in 1876 and while the construction of the Great Southern Railway was completed to carry the mail from Albany to Perth.

In the late 1890s Premier, John Forrest made it essentially a condition for Western Australia coming into the Federation that the other colonies agree to the transfer of the mail port to Fremantle.


The importance of the port for Western Australia resulted in Albany being fortified, which later offered protection when King George Sound was selected as the gathering and starting point for the first ANZAC contingent to leave for WWI.


Through its history Albany and its' people have attributed significantly in the economic, social and cultural roles for Western Australia and the south-west, as well as Albany itself. There are three aspects and connections that give Albany a broad significance in Western Australian and Australian history.


From a settlement that grew from a military garrison that laid the foundation of the State of Western Australia to a busy port which was a key part of the early industrial development of Australia.  Whaling, pastoralism and coastal shipping that serviced the scattered settlements were its first industries. These people contributed to the economy and society of this region of Western Australia in diverse ways.

Replica of the Brig Amity at night in Albany, Western Australia.jpg

H.M. Colonial brig Amity

The brig Amity

Read about the history of His Majesty's Colonial brig "Amity".


Menang People

The traditional owners of Kinjarling (Albany) are the Menang people (also spelt; Meenanger, Mineng, Minang, Minanga, Mirnong). The area is called Kinjarling by the traditional custodians, which means "the place of rain" and have maintained a cultural connection to the country.

The area is inhabited by the Menang Noongar Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years before it was first encountered by Europeans. During the summer their ancestors lived along the coast, where they caught fish with stone traps in the naturally broad, deep, sheltered harbour, known as Oyster Harbour and in winter they moved inland. 

The Menang people had already seen and met European explorers who had visited these shores earlier and is thoroughly documented in early exploratory journals, artworks and reports.  The profound knowledge shared and the aide and guidance provided by the Menang people to the seafarers and first settlers was exemplary and courageous including giving the Europeans their trust, by sharing their culture, vast knowledge of the country, fauna and flora.

King George Sound

King George Sound is located on Western Australia’s south coast and stretches between Bald Head and Flinders Peninsula on the southwest and Cape Vancouver on the northeast. The Sound has two extensions, Oyster Harbour to the north and Princess Royal Harbour to the west. Although the sound is open water to the east, the waters are partially protected by Michaelmas and Breaksea Islands.  Seal and Mistaken Island also known as Rabbit Island are also within the Sound.  Princess Royal Harbour was Western Australia's only deep water port for approximately 70 years until the Fremantle Inner Harbour was opened in 1897. 

The south west coast of Australia was initially surveyed by Dutchman, Pieter Nuytz on the vessel 't Gulden Zeeparedt 'The Golden Seahorse' commanded by Captain Francois Thijssen as part of a landmark expedition of the Dutch East India Company during 1626–27 and is the earliest recorded explorer. The 't Gulden Zeeparedt reached the south west tip of Australia, near Cape Leeuwin on 26th January, 1627 and continued to sail eastwards mapping more than 1,500 kilometres of the continent which was already known as New Holland.

It wasn’t until 1791, some 164 years later that Captain George Vancouver onboard the HMS Discovery and accompanied by the armed tender HMS Chatham, sailed past Michaelmas and Breaksea Islands and named King George the Third’s Sound after the reigning English king, later to become known as King George's Sound and today King George Sound. After exploring along the coast, Vancouver discovered one of the world’s finest natural harbours and named her, Princess Royal Harbour after Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda, the first daughter and fourth child of King George III.

The Sound was used as a whaling base as early as 1801 and the King George Sound settlement was founded in 1826, calling the settlement Frederick Town and was formalised in January 1827. The Sound was the gateway port to Australia for international passenger ships in the 1860s to the late nineteenth century.

In 1832, Governor of Western Australia Captain James Stirling renamed the town to Albany, but the broader area continued to be referred to as King George's Sound for many years.

The Princess Royal Fortress was opened in 1893, the first federal defence of Australia. The loss of a strategic port such as King George Sound, to any enemy was recognised as a potential threat to the security of Australia. All the Australian colonies agreed to proportionally pay for the construction of the fort with the British Government supplying the guns. From 1893 until 1956 the guns of King George Sound maintained their role as a deterrent, never firing a shot as an action of defence. 

In 1908 the American "Great White Fleet" made a necessary stop in Albany, arriving on the 11th of September.  The U.S fleets required their coal supplies to be replenishing and the colliers were to meet the fleet however were delayed.  Albany provided the ideal geographical location for the fleet, before completing the 3,500 mile transit to Manilla. 

On 1st November 1914, the first fleet of 38 troopships assembled in King George Sound, 28 from Australia, 10 from New Zealand, carrying approximately 29,000 men and just over 7,000 horses with seven of the warships as escorts. At first it was suggested that Fremantle should be the place for the ships to assemble, until it was pointed out that King George Sound had a far larger safe harbour and there were a lot of ships being gathered. They came from Australia and New Zealand, collecting to travel in convoy from King George Sound via Ceylon and the Suez Canal to training camps in Egypt. For many, their last contact with Australia.

On 8 March 1836, HMS Beagle visited the Sound and anchored for eight days. On board was the young naturalist Charles Darwin, who collected flora specimens. The Beagle was on her last leg of her celebrated circumnavigation of the world, having already stopped off at Sydney.

During World War II,  the Sound played a significant role in Allied submarine operations and was used as a U.S. naval base and a small area known as Stoney Hill contributed to defence efforts in both World War I and World War II.  This place provided an advantage point due to its geographical features as a radar operation to cast a watchful eye ensuring that Australia was not invaded.

KGS Art Collection


Our Anzac's

On 1 November 1914, the first fleet of 38 troopships assembled in King George Sound, 28 from Australia, 10 from New Zealand, carrying approximately 29,000 men and just over 7,000 horses with seven of the warships as escorts. They came from Australia and New Zealand, collecting to travel in convoy from King George Sound via Ceylon and the Suez Canal to training camps in Egypt. For many, their last contact with Australia.

On 31 December 1914, the second convoy left Albany of 16 ships, including three from New Zealand. It was bound for Egypt. HMAT Ajana joined the convoy on 2 January 1915. Ajana underwent a conversion to a troopship at Cockatoo Island Drydock (Sydney) on the 9th and 10th December 1914, she transport 427 troops and 304 horses.

Description: This film was taken from aboard a troopship of a convoy assembled off Albany WA. It is probably of the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand ships leaving for Egypt, 1 November 1914. Source credit: published on the website of the Australian War Memorial. 



Historic Landmarks

Albany's history is engraved within the roles, connections and the historic landmarks and streetscapes that display the city’s rich colonial past and her nineteenth century charm. Albany’s harbour was known by seafarers as one of the finest harbours, bringing much influence to many of the landmarks of the early explorers and settlers.

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Grand Hotels

It was the golden era of hotels, evolving from humble private residences and small inns to a conglomerate of splendid and magnificent establishments. Over the years, establishments were continually renovated, expanded and were on occasions rebuilt, due to the demand to accommodate the changing needs and progression of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 


The grand hotels sought to offer all the comforts and luxuries for their guests that often stayed for weeks or months, including sighting large spacious balconies commanding beautiful vistas with all the conveniences and embellishments to be enjoyed with inviting lobbies, lounges, reading and writing rooms all adorned with rich furnishings and elegant and regal decorations.

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