Getting to Albany on the Albany Highway

Once it leaves that metropolitan area, the Albany highway is mainly single lane each way, 110km/hr zone, fairly busy with a high number of trucks as well as cars, and often no shoulder. I do not suggest riding it - use Munda Biddi Shuttle Services or a Transwa bus. The trip will take at least 5 hours in light traffic, but maybe much longer with heavy traffic, or if you stop regularly.

After heading up the Darling Scarp, the highway passes through semi rural properties east of Armadale. At the top of the Scarp, housing stops and the jarrah bush starts as the highway enters the water catchment area for the nearby dams.

Although now just a rest stop on the Albany Highway, Gleneagles was a settlement for forest workers and their families. It was a locality that was seriously affected by the 1961 Jarrahdale fires. Some remnants of the townsite remain including roads and the central water tower, but the houses were removed upon closure. The Munda Biddi trail crosses the Albany Highway here, so it is a good spot to stop and see the Trail.

Just after Gleneagles, the Monadnocks Conservation Park contains one of the highest points in the Darling Ranges, Mount Cooke (582m), as well as several others such as Eagle Hill (indicated on the Munda Biddi maps). These hills form the divide between the Serpentine and Canning drainage systems. Monadnock is a term used by geologists to describe large flat isolated hills that rise out of generally flat plains. They were formed 2,650 million years ago when magma from 14,000 metres below the earth's surface came to the surface and crystallised. Large slabs of granite are commonly scattered over the Darling Range and they often feature "onion peeling" caused by continual cooling and heating, causing the rock's surface to split in layers. Mount Lindesay on Map 8 is also a monadnock.
After leaving the jarrah forest, the country side is more open pasture for farming. There are several small road houses along the way, such as Bannister, but I have not detailed them here.

Williams is located 161 kilometres southeast of Perth . The Williams River passes through the town. At the 2006 census , Williams had a population of 338. 
After the building of Albany Highway by convicts in the 1850s, Williams became an important stopover point for passengers and changing of horses. It became the main centre in the district. The Williams Hotel was erected in 1871, and a Road Board (predecessor to the current Shire Council) first convened in 1877.
In early 1898 the population of the town was 55 - 30 males and 25 females.
The original town had been built on the Albany side of the river, but was subject to increasing floods due to the clearing of the land for farming, so the town was relocated to the Perth side of the bridge. The town site was surveyed in 1905 and most of the buildings in the present town site were constructed after that time. Today the town is a centre for the wool, cattle and coarse grains industry, and serves as a rest point on the Albany Highway . A 1 km heritage walk trail takes visitors past some of Williams's historic buildings. Nearby stands of wildflowers and the Dryandra forests (approximately 25kms north of Williams) are also attractions. 
The Williams Woolshed is an innovative tourism complex presenting the local wool story. The Woolshed combines sheep shearing, regional wines, food, entertainment, art displays, educational programs and retail wool products. Williams now has a couple of service stations, and several options for food for travellers.

At the old 125 mile peg, or just under 200 km from Perth, Arthur River is approximately half way between Perth and Albany.  Following the introduction of convict labour in to the W.A. in the early 1850s, the road from Perth to Albany was completed.  Small settlements sprang up along it's length to support pastoralists who had been granted grazing leases in the area from as early as 1854.
Arthur River gradually developed into a thriving centre with a police barracks and gaol (1866), the Mount Pleasant Inn (1869) and St Paul's Church (1885) still surviving to this day as remnants of the original settlement. But when the Great Southern Railway opened in 1889, much of the existing trade moved  east to towns along the Great Southern Highway.  Like many of the centres along the old "Coach Road", Arthur River closed. Today,  Arthur River mainly serves as a fuel stop for travellers, with some of the historic buildings open to tourists.

256 km south-east of Perth is Kojonup The name is believed to refer to the "Kodja" or stone axe made from the local stone by Noongars. Both Kojonup and The Kodja Place, which tells of Kojonup's Noongar-Aboriginal and settler cultures,  are named after the historically significant implement. In 1837 a military post was established there, and by 1845 this outpost had grown to support a military barracks. It was built on the site of the freshwater spring, by the 51st Regiment. It was later manned by the Pensioner Guard, made up of retired British soldiers. The barracks is one of the oldest buildings in W.A. You can visit the barracks (it now houses the Kojonup Pioneer Museum), just off the highway - it is well sign posted. An interesting feature is a tree with foot holds cut out for local Aborigines to climb so they could raid a bee hive at the top.
Kojunup produces wheat and other cereal crops. The wool industry began to boom -  from 10,500 sheep in 1906, the shire had over 1 million sheep being shorn in 1989. To celebrate the importance of the wool industry the town built a one and a half scale model of a wool wagon, visible from the highway.
Kojunup now has a couple of service stations, and several options for food for travellers.

Cranbrook is a small town just off the highway, 320 km south of Perth . It is billed as "The Gateway to the Stirling Ranges". At the 2006 census , Cranbrook had a population of 280. Cranbrook marks where the Great Southern Railway (which follows the Great Southern Highway) joined the Albany Highway.
The settlement grew after it was one of the original railway stations on the Great Southern Railway when the railway opened in 1889, and was gazetted a townsite in 1899.

The Stirling Ranges, or Koikyennuruff is a range of mountains and hills 337 km south-east of Perth, and are clearly visible from Albany Highway in the East, just before Mount Barker. They are approximately 40 km to the north-east of Mount Barker via Kendenup. Bluff Knoll (1,099 metres above sea level) is the tallest peak for a thousand kilometres or more in any direction and the most popular tourist attraction. Local Noongars called the mountain Pualaar Miial, meaning "great many-faced hill". Climbing Bluff Knoll is a round trip of about 6 kilometres that takes three to four hours. Preparation for the walk is essential, as it can be very cold and windy at the top in Winter, and water is essential during summer as dehydration is a common problem for hikers.
As the only vertical obstacle to weather in any direction, the range also tends to alter weather patterns around itself. Its upper slopes receive significantly more rainfall than surrounding areas.

The range is one of the richest areas for flora in the world. The low-nutrient soils support five major floral communities : 
(1) shrubland
(2) mallee-heathlands at higher altitudes;
(3) woodland
(4) wetland  
(5) salt lake communities on lower slopes and plains. 
Over 1500 plant species occur there, 87 of which are found nowhere else. This represents more than a third of the known flora of the southwest , and includes more species of wildflowers than in the entire British Isles.

Mount Barker is 360 km from Perth and is the administrative centre of the Shire of Plantagenet in the Great Southern region. The main part of town is just off the highway, and has numerous fuel, food and drink options. At the 2011 census , Mount Barker had a population of 2,761.
The town was named after the nearby hill, which was named in 1829. The Aboriginal name for Mount Barker Hill is 'Pwakkenbak'.
European settlement of the Hay River area commenced around the 1830s. The opening of the Great Southern Railway in 1889 ensured the town's future. The first store opened in 1890 and the first school and the town hall were opened in 1893. In 1898, the population of the town was 326 (183 males and 143 females).
Apple orchards were once one of the major industries in the region and thrived until the mid-1960s. Today, viticulture, wheat, canola, plantation timber, sheep and cattle are some of the area's main agricultural activities. Mount Barker is part of the Great Southern wine region in W.A., which is Australia's largest wine region at 200 kilometres from east to west and over 100 kilometers from north to south. 
Mount Barker is also home to numerous historic buildings. On the highway you will pass:
- The old police station, opened in 1868, is now a museum.
- The town railway station, built in 1923, was restored in 1997 and today houses the Mount Barker Visitor Centre.
- The Mount Barker Post Office and Telegraph Station, built in 1892, ceased operation in the 1960s. It is located opposite the tourist bureau. Today it is named 'Mitchell House' and houses the Plantagenet art centre.

The Porongurup Range is a 15-minute drive to the east of the Mount Barker, about 40 km from Albany. The karri and jarrah trees of the range were first harvested in the 1880s and timber leases did not begin to be withdrawn until 1925. The National Park was gazetted in 1971. 
The Porongurup and Stirling ranges have vastly different appearances and display different flora and geology. Both parks have gazetted walk trails that are especially popular during the spring wildflower season (August to November). The Porongurup range is no more than fifteen km from east to west and consists of granite peaks levelled into domes. The highest point is Devils Slide at 670 metres. The new "Granite Skywalk" rewards hikers taking the Castle Rock walk trail with nearly 360 degree views, whilst the lower skywalk gives visitors views across the valley to the Stirling Range.
The karri forests are one of the major attractions of the Porongurups and occur chiefly on the upper slopes of the range on deep red soils known as "karri loam". The rain fall of 800mm per year explains the survival of karri forests quite a distance from their main stronghold between Manjimup and Walpole.

Albany is the oldest permanently settled town in WA. With Mount Clarence to the east and Mount Melville to the west, Albany city centre is at the northern edge of Princess Royal Harbour, which York Street, the main street in town, gently slopes towards. Albany is truly a harbour city filled with character, history and charm. There are many beaches surrounding Albany, with Middleton Beach being the most popular, and the closest to the town centre. Its coastline is a place of outstanding and spectacular natural beauty. Albany is also the southern terminus of the Bibbulmun Track walking trail as well as the Munda Biddi. Albany is a major country town with full facilities, several supermarkets, many options for eating out, and a couple of fully equipped bike shops, such as Passmore Cycles, at the top of the hill on York St.
In 1826 Major Edmund Lockyer arrived on the Amity, from Sydney, and founded a a military outpost of New South Wales. This was to stop any plans by the French to claim WA. The official postal service began in 1834 and the first town jetty was established in 1837. The construction of the railway in 1885, between Perth and Albany, brought with it more settlers and more opportunities. The 1890's gold rush brought more prosperity, and during this time many of the historic buildings on Stirling Terrace were built. Princess Royal Harbour was the only deep-water port in WA until the opening of the Port of Fremantle in 1900 by CY O'Connor. After this decline the town's industries became predominantly agriculture and timber.
Albany has a number of historic tourist sites including the Albany Convict Gaol & Museum (1852), The Princess Royal Fortress (commonly known as The Forts, 1893), The Old Post Office (1834) and Patrick Taylor Cottage, ("the oldest dwelling in WA, 1832"). There is a memorial to the World War 1 ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Desert Mounted Corps on top of Mount Clarence. The memorial consists of a statue of an Australian mounted soldier assisting a New Zealand soldier whose horse has been wounded and a wall bearing the words "Lest We Forget". Albany was the last place in Australia that the ANZACs saw and is therefore a prominent memorial. The first commemorative dawn service was held there on Anzac Day, 25 April 1923. A dawn service has been held ever since and currently around several thousand people participate each year. The Anzac Peace park commemorates that Albany was the last Australian soil the original Anzacs saw. The Park is very close to the end of the Munda Biddi and is shown clearly on the town map. The National Anzac Centre is located at the Princess Royal Fortress, overlooking the actual harbour from which over 41,000 men and woman departed Australia for the Great War.
The Brig Amity is an exact replica of the original vessel which brought the first white settlers to Albany from Sydney. Built in 1975, the Amity is placed a few hundred metres from where Major Edmund Lockyer and the party of forty-five arrived in the Princess Royal Harbour on Christmas Day 1826. Open to the public, for a small entrance fee you can look above and below deck to see how the crew members lived during their journey. It is positioned on the water front just a few hundred metres West from the Munda Biddi terminus.
Today the city of Albany is a thriving port city home to over 30,000, so has all the facilities you will need at the start or end of your trip. The Albany vistors centre is situated in the old railway station at the southern end of the Munda Biddi Trail - I assume you will ride the trail right to the very end and not stop short on the main street in Albany! The Brig Amity with the museum, as well as the Anzac Peace park are all located a short distance away. This spot is the Transwa coach stop, and it is also the trail head for the Bib track. Open every day 9am - 5pm except Christmas Day. See www.amazingalbany.com.au

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia.

Although now just a rest stop on the Albany Highway, Gleneagles was a settlement for forest workers and their families. It was a locality that was seriously affected by the 1961 Jarrahdale fires. Some remnants of the townsite remain including roads and the central water tower, but the houses were removed upon closure.