Here at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station we are custodians of the unique whaling history of not only our town but of Australia also, as it was here that the very last whale hunted in Australian waters was harpooned. In Australia, whaling existed well before wheat and wool, and as the most intact whale processing factory open to visitors in the world we are able to bring whaling stories to life in a manner that no other whaling museum can.
The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company (CBWC), the site where we are located, was the last whaling company to cease operations in Australia, closing in November 1978. Opening as a historical tourism site in 1980, we are now home to an interactive museum on whales and whaling.
For over forty years as an iconic tourist attraction open daily (except Dec 25th), we offer visitors a chance to learn the industrial whaling history of our site and gain a better understanding of the cultural and social significance of its heritage. We are a must-see in Albany, and by sharing actual work spaces and buildings we immerse you in history and offer a truly memorable experience. We also open the heritage-listed Cheynes IV whaling ship to the public every day.
In 2018, the 40th Anniversary of the closure of the CBWC was marked with a series of educational and interactive events and exhibitions, and a CBWC whalers’ reunion. Some of these retired whalers now volunteer on site, greeting visitors to the ship and answering questions about the past. A commitment to offering an authentic experience is what we are most proud of, as it is through being authentic that experiences are memorable.
Situated on the far southern coast of Western Australia, 400kms from Perth lays the picturesque town of Albany. Our museum attraction is located a further 22kms south of Albany, accessible by road at the end of Torndirrup Peninsula.
Since opening as a museum in 1980, our site and all assets were owned by the Jaycees Community Foundation Inc. (JCF), based in Perth. In 2022, the site and all assets were gifted by JCF to the Albany Heritage Foundation Inc. (AHF). Our board of management, Discovery Bay Tourism Precinct Ltd (DBTP), is a not-for-profit organisation, with board members from both AHF and Albany residents.
The story of how the museum came to be starts with a chance introduction early in 1979 – only three months after commercial whaling operations ceased. During friendly discussion between Colin Green, a director of the defunct CBWC and Peter Snow, JCF Chairman, it was decided that Green would gift the rusting Cheynes IV whale chasing ship to JCF for conversion into a tourist attraction.
However, complications in delivering the rusting ship to Perth prompted him to instead offer what remained of the defunct whaling station assets: six houses, two whalechasers, 300 bent harpoons and the noxious industry lease over the factory. After 18 months of paperwork, the gifting was finalised on 15 December 1980 and 11 days later the attraction opened. This began a “labour of love” for our team – the never-ending challenge to preserve the history of Australian whaling and create the region’s premier tourist attraction.
During the 40+ years since opening we have achieved:
- Preservation of all factory buildings and workplaces, including restoration where safety required.
- Relocation of Cheynes IV whalechaser to museum site and full restoration of ship for tourism purposes.
- Over twenty enhanced exhibits added, developed with educational objectives, including nine with innovative technology not found in other heritage sites.
- Growth of the business to now employ twenty team members and ten regular volunteers.
- We have welcomed over two million visitors to the site.
In 2019, we achieved recognition in the Perth Airport WA Tourism Awards (Silver Medal in Cultural Tourism), WA Heritage Council Awards (Joint Winner – Contribution by a Community Based Organisation, and Winner – Voluntary Individual Contribution), and celebrated JCF Life Member and long serving Board Member, Mr Peter Snow, receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community of Albany.
Every day we enrich visitors lives through connecting with our past and bringing stories of Albany’s diverse history to life.