The little town of Albany grew around a port on the southern coast of Western Australia. It was the state's first European settlement and is a popular holiday centre, with summer temperatures averaging 22 degrees celcius. Its harbours, rivers and estuaries offer fishing and sailing, and beaches and national parks provide lots of amusement options.
Albany is quickly becoming a major player in the west's food and wine stakes, dominated by the beautiful Margaret River area.
Albany Farmers Market has been open for business every Saturday for six years. The thriving marketplace's catchcry is ''fresh is best''. The non-profit group sells every imaginable type of fruit and vegetable, organic beef and lamb, free-range pork and chicken, venison, honey, bread, yoghurt, cheeses, oils, jams and flowers.
The growers themselves proudly sell their products and pass on useful tips and recipes. Locals tend to use the markets for their major weekly shop, and holiday makers purchase goodies for picnics and non-perishables to take home. It all begins with the ring of a bell at 8am sharp.
Just 10 kilometres out of town is the oranjetractor Winery. They produce riesling, sparkplug riesling, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, cabernet merlot and rosé without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fungicides. They produce a small quantity of wine and enjoy dealing with customers on a one-to-one basis.
Friends and family helped plant the vines and WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) are hosted in return for pruning, watering, weeding and harvesting the three hectares. They come from around the world and the experience is enjoyed by both sides.
The winery's beloved 1964 Fiat tractor has worked hard to turn dreams into reality. It is still working and has been honoured by having the winery named after it.
Co-owner of orangetractor Pam Lincoln is a wine educator and offers classes to residents and visitors. While the content of her classes is formal, they are fun and informative.
The Squid Shack at Emu Point Marina is excellent for a seafood meal. Supplies bought from the fishermen at their front door are cooked and usually eaten right there, maybe with a bottle of wine, with the ocean serving as a backdrop.
If you're at Middleton Beach on a Friday morning, you will most likely see the Granny Grommets on their boogie boards. These inspiring women have a ''no male'' policy and they swim year round. The club has celebrated its 25th anniversary. It costs just $25 a year to join and the strictly adhered to rules are: female; over 50 years old; enjoy the water; willing to learn surf slang.
Anyone over the age of 17 can join WWOOF. Participants need at least average physical fitness and organisers suggest that four to six hours of work a day is fair exchange for a day's full board and accommodation.
To make sure you don't miss anything, pick up a map called Go Taste Albany at the Visitor Centre. It has an easy-to-follow 75 kilometre circular trail through rolling hills and along the shoreline. You can take in wineries, small breweries, dairies producing delicious cheeses, and farms growing wonderful fruit. You can take the trail with a local expert or by yourself.