A further two hour drive east from Hopetoun and you’ll arrive at Esperance, the last sizeable town before the Nullarbour Plain heading east 925 km to the border with South Australia.
Whilst planning our trip we were a little unsure about visiting Esperance due to the fact that it was a good 5 hour drive further from Albany, however the tourist brochure promised a region often described as “out of the way, out of this world” and home to the iconic Australian photo of ‘Kangaroo on the beach’. With this in mind and the discovery of being able to break up the drive with a stop at Hopetoun & the Fitzgerald National Park we decided to give it a go and I’m so pleased that we did!
Starting at the waterfront, head southwest along the well signposted 40 km scenic drive. As Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive loops its way back to town you’ll encounter a spectacular stretch of coastline, with tranquil bays, surf beaches, soaring cliffs and picturesque lookouts. Check out Blue Haven, Fourth Beach and Observatory Point amongst the many others!
The newly completed Esperance waterfront links the foreshore to the town’s CBD and encourages locals and tourists alike to enjoy the outdoor life. With sculptures, playgrounds, picnic shelters, gas BBQs and landscaped lawns it makes the perfect place to stop and enjoy the ocean view.
The CBD area of Esperance left me a little underwhelmed but it does have all the essentials like supermarkets, banks, tourist information and petrol stations and to be honest with you, with all the stunning beaches in the area who wants to spend time in the centre of town anyway?!
60 km east of Esperance you’ll come across possibly the most iconic of the Southern Coastal National Parks, Cape Le Grand which boasts picture-perfect beaches, spectacular coastal scenery, excellent walking tracks and loads of local wildlife. If you grabbed yourself a 4 week National Park Pass (see our first WA post) then entry is free, otherwise you’ll have to pay AUD$13 per day per vehicle. We were extremely fortunate to find a spot at the Lucky Bay Campground (first come first served so turn up before 10am to grab a spot) and so spent 2 days and one night exploring the area. Campsites are priced at AUD$11 per person but are extremely well equipped by national park camping standards, with toilets, hot showers, a camp kitchen with gas stoves and BBQ areas. However there is no power or drinking water so make sure you bring enough water with you and ensure your campervan’s battery is fully charged to keep the fridge working for a couple of days.
The iconic Lucky Bay is stunningly beautiful. It’s been voted ‘The Whitest Beach in Australia’ (on a par with Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays for me!) and the white sand is so fine that it literally squeaks underfoot. Kangaroos are regularly spotted lazing on the beach, or in the nearby camping/BBQ picnic areas and love saying hello to excited visitors!
Other fantastic beaches in the area are Thistle Cove, Hellfire Bay and Little Hellfire. They all have brilliantly white sand and beautiful turquoise waters. You can drive to these beaches and park your vehicle if you’re short on time but the walking tracks from Lucky Bay link the other bays and make for a great day out.
Also worth a walk is the steep 3 km return track to the summit of Frenchmans Peak. It offers superb views from the top and is the only place in the area that you’re likely to get any mobile network coverage!