The isle-wrapped vista surrounding Esperance is one of the dreamiest scenes in Western Australia. With some of the whitest beaches and clearest waters in Australia, this southern gem is worth the drive.
By Fleur Bainger
Remote, untouched and pure, the town of Esperance has a coastline that would rival any in the world. Fine quartz sands edged by tumbles of rounded boulders meet placid ocean and endless islands. Esperance is also the closest town to the beach of Lucky Bay, where kangaroos regularly come to sunbake on its white sand.
HOW TO GET THERE
Esperance is 714 kilometres (444 miles, about a day's drive) south, or a two hour flight with Virgin Australia from Perth.
- Spotting sunbathing kangaroos on the sand
- Driving beside hundreds of uninhabited islands
- Discovering coastal Aboriginal culture
TOP THINGS TO DO IN ESPERANCE
Explore Esperance town
The town of Esperance faces a scattering of gently sloping islands known as the Recherche Archipelago, and it’s this view that makes the town so beguiling. Stop in at Taylors Beach Bar – Tearooms for lunch and gaze out to sea, then drive the 38 kilometre (24 mile) Great Ocean Drive as it loops past a dozen blindingly white, fine sand beaches, motionless bays and fragrant native scrub. Keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking in the glassy ocean and stop at local favourite, Twilight Beach. Nip out to the full size Stonehenge replica (entry AUD$25 for a family) and finish with dinner at the excellent Loose Goose restaurant.
Meet the sunbathing kangaroos at Lucky Bay
There’s a reason roos (that's Australian for kangaroos) lounge on the far end of Lucky Bay. Not only does it have some of Australia’s whitest sand (scientifically proven), its translucent blue waters are more dazzling than a picture perfect postcard. It’s also devoid of any signs of civilisation, other than a camping ground (AUD$10 per adult per night) which has just been upgraded with 37 new campsites, nearly doubling the offering at the coastal escape. There are free barbecues, solar-heated showers and toilets here. Drive 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Esperance and find the beach inside Cape Le Grand National Park.
Pretend you’re a castaway on Woody Island
None of Esperance’s 100 islands are inhabited, but you can day trip or stay on Woody Island Nature Reserve, where bushwalking, swimming, snorkelling and fishing are all that matters. Safari huts overlooking the ocean are open during school holiday periods and general camping is open between September and April. Keep an eye out for bandicoots and wallabies – you are likely see many of these.
See the beaches through indigenous eyes
The local Aboriginal people, the Noongar, are deeply connected to the Esperance area’s natural attributes. A Kepa Kurl eco discovery tour with a traditional Aboriginal owner will introduce you to their hunting and gathering practices, honed over millennia. You'll walk along bush trails and begin to see the native bush in a new light, as you spot wildlife along the coastline. You’ll also get to see some of the country’s most southern rock art, taste bush food and drink billy tea. Half and full day tours run on request, and accommodation pick-up is included.
Marvel at a bubblegum-pink lake
The fuchsia pink water of Lake Hillier needs to be seen to be believed. The lake sits behind a scrubby rise on Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago, and can be seen on a boat cruise (departures on demand) that stops on the island. As you wander up the walkway towards it, ask about the island’s dark past – it was once home to Australia’s only known pirate Black Jack Anderson, who arrived from Massachusetts in 1826. His campground is still there.
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