The white sandy beaches and bright turquoise waters of the Esperance area in Western Australia place the region at the top of many grey nomads’ best destinations list.
Esperance itself boasts a stunning 38-kilometre scenic drive that follows the local coastline and then loops back into town. There are several idyllic beaches where you can take a break for a swim as well as some lovely spots to meander along walkways and viewing platforms for some incredible coastal scenery.
Located some 720 kilometres to the south-east of Perth, Esperance is a major hub of imports and exports as it has one of the deepest ports in Southern Australia. It is fascinating to watch all the activity as the big ships load or unload their cargo. The port even offers tours on weekends if you are keen to learn more.
French explorers named the town and many other spots in the area while sheltering from a storm in 1792. The town gets its name from the French ship, Esperance, which means ‘hope’.
And if grey nomads are ‘hoping’ for a memorable stay when they drop anchor at a van park or camping area they are unlikely to be disappointed.
The white sands of the beaches here are the stuff of legend and the contrast with the vivid blue ocean makes a startling sight. There are many excellent places to drink in the stunning scenery including Blue Haven, Twilight Cove, Salmon Bay, and Observatory Point.
Among the most memorable experiences in the area is simply to find a spot to look across the Archipelago of the Recherche, which is made up of more than 100 islands covering 4000 square kilometres. Stunning.
Esperance is the second windiest place in Australia and it’s well worth a drive out to Salmon Beach and Ten Mile Lagoon to see the huge wind farms that are linked the local power supply.
Another top attraction is Pink Lake, a massive salt lake which – as the name suggests – appears pink at times. The experts say that the dunaliella salina algae causes the lake to change colour at certain times of the day.
Markets are held at the museum village in Esperance every Sunday and are a great opportunity to have a wander through the old buildings and perhaps pick up a bargain. The best time to visit the area is from September to May. The winter months can be cold and wet although the sea water is pretty chilly even in the summer months.
This is one part of the country you don’t want to miss!
IN THE AREA
The region’s national parks include the magnificent Cape Le Grand National Park, Cape Arid National Park and Stokes National Park.
Cape Le Grand 40km east of Esperance is probably the most popular and is well worth visiting for several days – or weeks – if possible. It boasts stark granite outcrops, swamps and superb beaches. If you are fit enough to climb the 262-metre Frenchmans Peak you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Archipelago of the Recherche. Bushwalking is popular in the park and the trail which winds from Le Grand Beach through Hellfire Bay and Thistle Cove and then and on to Lucky Bay is spectacular with dramatic views over the rocky coastline at every turn.
Cape Arid National Park is 120 kilometres east of Esperance and also has beautiful coastal scenery and colourful wildflowers in spring. The road in is gravel and is usually suitable for conventional vehicles but conditions can change depending on the weather so it is worth checking with local authorities before you set out.
Stokes National Park is 86 kilometres west of Esperance and offers good fishing, swimming, walking and birdwatching. There are two main camping areas in the park with basic facilities.
Woody Island can be reached by ferry from Esperance. Wildlife that can be seen on the Archipelago include seals, sea lions, dolphins, sea eagles and whales.
MAKE SURE YOU …
Find a good vantage point to gaze across the Archipelago of the Recherche; take your camera or your easel and paintbrushes to a white, sandy beach; watch the ships unload at the dock; visit a wind farm; visit the Pink Lake at different times of the day.
WHERE TO CAMP
Unsurprisingly, for such a major grey nomad destination, Esperance has plenty of commercial van parks. And, if it’s stunning non-caravan park camping spots you’re after … well, you’re in luck. Besides some top bush camping opportunities, the region’s national parks offer you the chance to put some mud on the wheels and see paradise up close and personal.
Cape Le Grand has two main camping areas in the park; Le Grand Beach and Lucky Bay. Le Grand Beach has a smaller camping area than Lucky Bay and its sites consist of private bays separated by dense vegetation. Lucky Bay is a much bigger and more open campground – but both areas are within a short walk to a stunning beach. The camping fees are at the top end of WA’s national park fee structure but the facilities are good and the scenery incredible.
Cape Arid National Park has several camping areas and the facilities are more basic than at Cape Le Grand but the fees are less, too.
Stokes National Park has two main camping areas, both boasting basic facilities.
Snell Park, Harvey