Despite Australia having one of the most abundant offshore wave energy resources globally, there remains a lack of understanding of how this offshore resource extends into the coastal zone where most wave energy converters would be deployed. We used the phase-averaged wave model SWAN to simulate 38 years (1980–2017) of wave conditions near Albany, Western Australia, which has been proposed as a future commercial wave energy development site. The nearshore (30 m depth) wave resource varied seasonally and interannually with the wave energy flux and mean wave direction negatively correlated to the phase of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and positively correlated to the latitudinal position of the subtropical high-pressure ridge. As a result, the observed positive trend in SAM over recent decades may cause a decrease in nearshore wave energy (including fewer storm events) and an anti-clockwise (more southerly) rotation in wave direction. These changes may facilitate wave energy development and extraction by reducing the number and magnitude of extreme events during which wave energy cannot be extracted and equipment can be damaged. The interannual fluctuations in the wave resource can be significant and should be considered during the site selection for wave energy projects.