Find out why Misery Beach, Albany is Tourism Australia's best country beach for 2022

By Brooke Littlewood
March 5 2022 - 10:00am
Judge Brad Farmer described Misery Beach as "uncrowded, crystal-white sand, turquoise waters and a very dramatic granite backdrop". Photo: Drew Aris, At Altitude Photography

THERE is irony in the name - Misery Beach.

The breathtaking coastline at Albany is anything but that, having been officially named by Tourism Australia as the country's best beach for 2022.

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It is a far cry from Misery's grim past, when blood of whales hunted by a nearby whaling station stained the ocean red.

So how did the small, secluded beach earn its name?

While there was no written documentation, ask City of Albany local history co-ordinator Sue Lefroy and she will tell you there are two theories.

The first was Misery's association with whaling due to its locality to the now defunct Cheynes Beach Whaling Company.

Ms Lefroy said in the past, jaw bones of sperm whales were either dumped or washed up at Misery's boat ramp site in the past.

She said evidently fresh ambergris - a valuable product sourced from sperm whales and used in the manufacture of perfume - had a certain stench to it, which could also associate misery with the beach's name.

However, that thought was said to be presumptive.

Misery Beach in Albany was named by Tourism Australia as "Australia's Best Beach" for 2022. Photo: Matthew O'Donoghue Images.

The second thought was - when in certain light and seen from offshore- granite rocks resembled a likeness to "very dispirited" face.

"To me the second school of thought is reasonably plausible," Ms Lefroy said.

"Perhaps that's why it has not been documented because how many people would be able to look back at the rock face from the ocean.

"Most are looking at it from the beach."

For Ms Lefroy, the history of Misery Beach has been interesting to research as many early explorers named promontories and physical features, but not beaches.

The only beach she had identified on early maps was Middleton Beach, which takes its name from Middleton Bay.

Ms Lefroy said early maps would identify rocks, promontories and islands, while beaches were named by history or association with someone identifying it.

"For example Koala Rock on Mt Manypeaks," she said.

"In certain light and using one's imagination it resembles the face of a koala, but because of its inaccessibility it is not a well-known landmark.

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"And Betty's Beach also near Manypeaks, was named after a young girl Betty Poole, who holidayed out there in the early 1930s.

"On a family camping trip she discovered a freshwater stream in a bay (now named Betty's Bay), deeming it a great campsite alternative to Two Peoples Bay."

Ms Lefroy added that historians had interviewed former whalers in the 1990s, however none had spoken about returning from sea and identifying the likeness on the rock to someone who was "very unhappy".

But then they weren't asked either.

The win is a far cry from the beach's grim past when a nearby whaling station stained the ocean red with blood. Photo: Dylan Alcock, West Beach Studio.

Notoriously wild and brutal gangs of sealers were also known to operate along the south coast with many crossing paths in King George Sound, which hugs Misery Beach.

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Islands were a particular haven for sealers because of the seal colonies there.

One of those sealers was 'Black Jack' Anderson, who was one of Australia's first and only recorded pirates in 1826.

Anderson docked in the King George Sound on the crippled whaler named Vigilant.

After he was blamed for killing a man in an alcohol-fuelled brawl, Anderson and several crewmates fled Albany for Recherche Archipelago at Esperance.

He went on to lead a gang of escaped convicts in terrorising shipping off WA's Great Southern coastline in the 1830s.

Albany's mayor Dennis Wellington described the win as "great recognition for a beach that has had a dreadful name for such a long time".

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Mr Wellington said the win would make the region a greater draw for tourists in the future.

"When the whaling station was open there it was absolute misery because it was full of whale carcases, blood and gore etcetera," Mr Wellington said.

"Since that stopped it is a delightful beach to go to.

"It is well protected, has beautiful water and clean white sand.

"The town is very appreciative of the recognition."

Judge Brad Farmer, Tourism Australia's appointed Friend of Australia and beach expert, said Misery Beach ticked all the boxes in what a typical beachgoer was looking for.

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"Uncrowded, crystal-white sand, turquoise waters and a very dramatic granite backdrop," Mr Farmer said.

It was selected from more than 11,000 beaches in Australia.

Also recognised in this year's Top 20 best beaches for 2022 was Coogee at number 13.

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