Where the Leeuwin current wraps itself around WA’s southern coastline and takes a turn east, it influences the local climate and marine environment of the Great Southern.
The region occupies approximately 250 kilometres of the granite headlands and extends north 200 kilometres to meet the Wheatbelt. Its neighbours include the South-West region to its west and Esperance-Goldfields to its east. Although it only occupies approximately 1.5 per cent of the State's total area, it is home to some of the most diverse landscapes in WA
Relics of the south coast’s first encounter with both Aboriginal people and European explorers are present in the names of the many bays and parks that speckle the coastline. King George Sound bares its name from the British explorer George Vancover who originally named it ‘King George the Third Sound’.
Likewise ‘Two Peoples Bay’ was named by the French Scientific Expedition led by explorer Nicolas Baudin. The ‘Kalgan River’ near Albany was originally named 'Riviere des Francais' and early settlers called it ‘The French River’. The expedition, comprised of two ships and 22 scientists, set out in 1800 to survey the southern coast of Australia. Despite Baudin’s death in 1803, he helped produce the first conclusive map of Australia—three years before that of Matthew Flinders. One of the many monuments honoring Nicolas Baudin in Australia can be found in Albany.
With its natural beauty and diversity in mind, ecotourism in the Great Southern is being developed with an increasing number of sensitively designed developments in accommodation, adventure, tours and education.
The extension of the Munda Biddi Trail, an off-road cycle track from Mundaring to Albany, will compliment the world-renown Bibbulmun Track—one of Australia’s longest walking trails.
Fitzgerald River National Park is known as one of the most diverse botanical regions in the world and is recognised by UNESCO as a ‘Biosphere Reserve’. The Great Southern as a whole, boasts over one dozen national parks and numerous marine hot spots.
Southern Right Whales frequent waters from Albany to Esperance from June to October, on their way to Antarctica for the summer. The Humpback whale also visits the southern coastline from May to November, during which time females and calves can be spotted beyond the surf break, also on their way south.
As Western Australia’s oldest settlement, Albany has one of the best natural anchorages in the southern hemisphere and is the region's administrative centre and main shipping hub for crops and livestock. The Albany Port contributes greatly to WA’s economy with an annual average export of 4 million tonnes of product.
The region’s dominant industries include wool, broadacre cropping, livestock production, tourism, timber production and fishing. The economy has also diversified to include horticulture and viticulture.
The mild climate, extended rainfall, competitively priced land and reliable labour force provide the region with several advantages for horticulture.
The region produces high quality wines and increased grape planting is planned to meet export demands. The region produces nearly 40 per cent of wine grapes produced in Western Australia.
Ideal growing conditions have led to the introduction of specialty commercial timbers, including native and planted species.
The hinterland is a major producer of wheat, barley, lupins, canola and oats. Aquaculture is in its infancy although the region is well placed to cater for growing domestic and overseas markets.
The region is a premium wool-growing and stud-breeding area. Growers are currently focusing on improving spinning qualities to create high-quality textile products.
Special industry sites at Mirambeena (Albany) and Yerriminup (Mount Barker) have been established to process local resources, including fish, timber and agricultural products.