Lake Hillier, Middle Island, Esperance, South West Edge, Western Australia
Esperance, on the south coast of Western Australia, has incredible beaches, untouched coastal scrub and more than 100 islands offshore.
By Fleur Bainger
Esperance offers the kind of natural beauty that borders on overwhelming, and a slow simplicity that will remind you that sometimes, the Earth’s treasures are all you need. It's a 7 1/2 hour drive or 1 1/2 hour flight south-east of Perth.
VISIT A BRIGHT PINK LAKE
The Recherche Archipelago dots the seascape as far as the eye can see. Lining the Esperance coast, more than 100 smooth, rock islands are scattered in the navy blue ocean. Most never have a soul on them, but some can be visited: Esperance Island Cruises will take you on a half day cruise to Woody Island, 15 kilometres (9 miles) away, where the nature reserve is open for camping between September and April. You can also take a boat cruise to Middle Island (departures on demand), where you'll find the bright pink Lake Hillier.
SEE SOME OF THE WHITEST BEACHES IN AUSTRALIA
Scientific tests have ruled that Esperance has some of Australia's whitest sand. Its countless sugary beaches are best seen via the 38 kilometre (24 mile) Great Ocean Drive – plan to stop and stare every few minutes. Along the drive, Twilight Bay is a firm favourite for its translucent, turquoise waters, sculpted rock formations, picnic tables and showers. Out of town, Lucky Bay has sand so fine, it squeaks when you walk on it (more on Lucky Bay below).
TAKE A TRIP TO STONEHENGE
Stumbling across Stonehenge isn't exactly what you'd expect outside a remote coastal town in Western Australia. The world’s only full size replica, made of 2500 tonnes (2755 tons) of local pink granite, was created as a quirky attraction on a cattle property in 2011. Open Thursday to Monday (entry AUD$10), it is 15 kilometres (9 miles) east of Esperance. So if you've never been to the original in the United Kingdom, stop in here – especially if your visit coincides with the summer or winter solstice, when the sun and the rocks align.
SOAK UP THE ATMOSPHERE AT AUTHENTIC COUNTRY PUBS
Many of Australia's urban pubs have been renovated and polished, but in country areas such as Esperance you can still find pubs that are fond community hubs overflowing with character. The character-filled Gibson Soak Hotel, 26 kilometres (16 miles) north of Esperance, is a pub worth travelling to. Historically a key water point, these days it’s known for its generous lunches. Try some local craft beer by Lucky Bay Brewing. East of town, between Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid, the Condingup Tavern is a much-loved local haunt of dark stone and wood.
MEET KANGAROOS SUNBAKING ON THE BEACH
About 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the east of Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park harbours low scrub, mountain peaks and people-free beaches. Its main drawcard is Lucky Bay, where kangaroos lie on the blindingly white sand, not far from a recently expanded public campground. Late in 2017 up to 10 deluxe campsites with private decks, kitchens and bathrooms will be added, bringing a level of glamping to the wilderness area. Further east (a one hour drive from Esperance), vast Cape Arid National Park presents a more rugged experience for those wanting to get in touch with raw, remote nature. Only tackle it in a 4WD. Bush site camping is the only accommodation option. Be sure to pack plenty of water, food, sunscreen, a first aid kit and a spare tyre, and tell someone where you're going.
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