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Esperance and Cape Le Grand (WA)

Experience Esperance- another one of WA’s gems!

Dazzling Beaches! Turquoise Waters! And a National Park that’s grand indeed!

Situated along the southern coastline of Western Australia, 720 kms south west of Perth is the town of Esperance. Famous for a few reasons, but none more so than for its stunning coastline. Characterized by an abundance of white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, Esperance is a haven for holiday makers seeking a little ‘something special’.

p2.1 Sammy the sealToday, Esperance has a thriving tourism trade that draws thousands of holiday makers and travellers to the area each year, particularly in the warmer months and of course school holidays and with good reason too!

Not unlike many other coastal towns found in WA, Esperance is another great example of a town offering that “something for everybody” mystique. Esperance is considered the gateway to the world famous Cape Le Grand National Park which is popular with camping families and bush walkers alike.

The town of Esperance and the National Park had been on our family’s bucket list for a while and as we travelled down the WA coast we heard from many travellers just how wonderful the area is. Of course all the rave reviews and comments we were hearing just added to our excitement. Apparently Esperance hits a perfect ‘trifecta’ of red dirt, white sand and blue waters all in one place.

To be honest we are true fans of the entire south west coast but Esperance really lived up to all the hype. The phrase “you have to see it to believe it” really became a true statement. Those beaches truly are dazzling! That’s why they have been voted “Australia’s Best Beaches”, “Australia’s Whitest Sand” and “WA’s Most Popular Beach”. Now that’s an impressive set of accolades.

Esperance derives its name from the French Naval ship L’Esperance which sought refuge from a storm in 1792 along with another ship, ‘Recherche’ and was later given the name Esperance by Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802 as he and his crew sailed past, carefully mapping the south coast.

The main street of Esperance is Dempster Street named after the first European land holders of the area, the Dempster brothers, who secured a pastoral lease of around 100,000 acres and drove sheep, horses and cattle to the area in the 1860’s but it wasn’t long before gold was discovered in the nearby goldfields. All of a sudden a flood of fortune hunters were visiting the small port in Esperance on their way to the towns such as Kalgoorlie, Dundas, Coolgardie and alike hoping to strike it rich. The town was soon transformed and a few hotels were built, 2 newspapers took their stand, a jetty was built and a brewery even popped up.

The area around Esperance was believed to be perfect for growing wheat and grains and many were hoping the land would be prosperous for farming. This was the “next big thing” for the area and the town continued to grow.

Today, Esperance is home to a major shipping port for the export of grain and minerals such as Iron Ore. Before visiting Esperance we never knew such a port existed here and although that part of the town seemed very industrial, it was quite interesting watching the stream of trucks roll in and watching the huge ships being loaded up.

p1.2 EsperanceThe foreshore area around the CBD lived up to everything we had heard. The area was green, the beaches so white and the water so blue. There are plenty of pathways, playgrounds and picnic tables which really invite the visitor to just stop and relax and enjoy the views. One of our favourite little quirks of the town is the resident seal “Sammy” who can often be spotted frolicking around the town jetty. He is known to be a bit of a show off and enjoys entertaining the crowds. Whilst visiting the town jetty, do as the locals do and enjoy a laze around in the sun and socialise whilst sampling a delicious cappuccino from the ‘Coffee Kat Van’ which sets up daily in the car park.

As mentioned above, Esperance is quite the holiday “hot spot” and features heavily on many campers and caravanner’s itinerary. Caravanners are made feel very welcomed here with a selection of holiday parks to choose from, many welcoming pets now too. During our visit we stayed a little out of town at the Pink Lake Tourist Park. For us, the Pink Lake Tourist Park had all the facilities we needed. Large level sites, modern amenities and a playground for the kids.

The Pink Lake itself is a salt lake located not too far from the town. Although not always pink, the colour of the lake is determined by the presence of a delicate balance of high salinity levels, temperature and adequate light conditions. When the perfect balances of those conditions are met, the lake gains a rosy hue caused by the red algae which forms on the salt crust at the bottom of the lake. The Pink Lake in Esperance is one of the only lakes in the world to have this phenomenon. To see it from the air will give you the absolute best appreciation of the lakes marvel but the scenic drive around the lake offers plenty of observation decks and viewing areas which still give chance to some great photo opportunities.

An absolute myriad of attractions and “things to do” will undoubtedly keep you as busy as you want to be during you visit. Even if aquatic leisure activities aren’t quite your thing, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. We highly recommend the Great Ocean Drive which is a 38km self-drive, scenic tour which takes you along the coastline. The drive will guide you past the many lookouts for great photo opportunities of the bays, beaches and the very interesting rocky outcrops not that far offshore. The drive loops around and back into town. The highlights for us were the Rotary Lookout, Twilight Beach, Observatory Point, the Wind Farm and another look at the Pink Lake.

The main street is very tourist orientated. A laid back feel can’t help but be appreciated as you take a stroll along the footpath past the many craft shops, galleries and cafes. A ‘must do’ is to pay a visit to the tourist information centre and pick yourself up some mud maps and brochures and have a chat to wonderful staff who can help you make the most of your stay.

The Esperance museum is great for history buffs. Take a look back in time at the early days of the town and check out the Skylab Space Station display. In 1979 the Skylab Space Station disintegrated over the skies of Esperance, peppering the town with debris. A very highly publicised event which brought Esperance to the attention of worldwide media and subsequently the town monopolised on the event with memorabilia and souvenirs.

p3.2 Great ocean DriveGetting back to the star drawcard of Esperance; the beaches, feel free to break out the snorkelling gear and explore the artificial reef at the end of the jetty or explore the rocky outcrops of the many sheltered bays for a surprising look at some interesting marine life. Wet a line at one of the many fishing havens around the area and have a chat to the local tackle shop to see what’s biting and where. But really, you can’t beat strolling along that squeaky clean sand simply taking in the beauty of the waters, laying back and soaking up the sun or enjoying a romantic picnic from the foreshore. Having a great time doesn’t need to cost a lot of money and with so much natural beauty in Esperance why not take advantage of some of what it has to offer. This is a major reason why a holiday in Esperance is perfect for families too. There is no need to break the bank to keep the kids busy.

This brings me to next exciting part of our journey to the south west coast- Cape Le Grand National Park. Located an easy 50km drive from Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park would have to be one of WA’s most popular and spectacular National Parks. Although it is possible to visit Cape Le Grand on a day trip, there are some wonderful campground facilities there too if you choose to take your van out for a day or two.

Just like Esperance which is popular for a few reasons, Cape Le Grand also finds itself boasting quite a few natural attractions which entice tourists to visit.

p5.4The most popular spot in the park would have to be Lucky Bay, mainly for swimming and sunbathing because of its crystal blue waters and squeaky white sand and gorgeous outlook. Here you will often find an array of wildlife sharing the beach with you and it’s not uncommon to find a kangaroo or two sunbaking in the dunes. But all the beaches within the park are well worth visiting such as Hellfire Bay, the Whistling Rocks at Thistle Cove and Le Grande Beach where you are able to drive your 4×4 to seek some private space to yourself or even drive right back to Esperance itself if the tides are right.

If a bushwalk is more your thing, there are several coastal walks around the park including the Le Grand Coastal Trail and for the adventurous or those with lots of energy to burn, a trek up Frenchman Peak (262m) might test your limits. However the views from the top are amazing, especially during wildflower season and are truly a great reward for the blood, sweat and tears shed on the way there.

I am running out room here to keep going on about this area but as you can tell we were pretty impressed with the place during our visit. It’s a great place for everyone, young and old and families are very well catered for- lots of playgrounds and kids’ activities, especially during school holidays. Ample of take away shops for that iconic meal of fish & chips by the seaside and some pretty fancy restaurants in case you want to indulge and spoil yourselves- and why not. We hope you get down that way soon. Say hi to Sammy for us!

Additional info

Our Top 5 things to do in and around Esperance:

  • Take the Great Ocean Drive along the beaches and visit the Pink Lake
  • Walk along the town jetty and grab a photo of ‘Sammy’ the seal
  • Hop aboard an Esperance Eco Discovery tour for a guided tour of all the “best bits”
  • Take a bike ride from Castletown to Twilight Beach
  • Take the kids to Adventureland Park whilst you sit back and enjoy a coffee

Some useful links to help plan your visit:

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