It had been a long time since we last visited Esperance, in the south of Western Australia. It is a beautiful destination, though the long distance from Perth means we don’t go there often. To break up the drive, and also to visit another place on our wish list, we stopped over about half way on the journey at the iconic Wave Rock.
Esperance is a popular destination for tourists in summertime due to the spectacular beaches, and as usual we booked late and by that time there were not many options left. The most sought after place to stay is out at one of the campgrounds at Cape le Grand National Park, but there are also a few camping options around town, which we had to settle for.
We found a vacancy at Pink Lake Tourist Park near Pink Lake, not surprisingly. We were placed out the back on a tiny site, but we did book late so we were just happy to have somewhere to stay in Esperance. The park was a little unkempt, but the best thing we noticed about this place was the friendly neighbours, all with kids a similar age, and with a similar interest – playing cricket all day long.
It had been very hot in Perth before we left, and we wrongly assumed it would also be hot here. We now know that you can expect the weather to be a couple of degrees cooler than Perth. We were not fully prepared for this, so a trip to the Op Shop to buy some warmer clothes was in order.
We started our Esperance experience by exploring the foreshore area on foot. We walked along the grassy foreshore, checking out a few statues and play areas. The best spot for a play is the Adventureland play area. There is a miniature train that loops around a small lake, a large slide, flying fox, mini golf and jallopy cycle hire.
Our first morning in Esperance was overcast, not beach weather, so we headed to the Esperance Stonehenge replica. It is the only full-size replica in the world, and has been made how it would have looked before it fell into ruin, so it doesn’t look how the original currently looks, much more fake looking. The great thing is that you can get up close and climb on the rocks here. The gorgeous pink granite has been sourced from a quarry nearby.
We are in Esperance for the beaches, so we made the effort to visit one after lunch. Twilight Bay looked like the pick of the local beaches for an afternoon swim – family-friendly and a little protected from the wind. Later we realised that we had rated this beach as our favourite beach around Australia when we did our lap around Australia in 2008. It was still a bit windy and the water was cold, but we eventually got up the courage to go for a swim. It was so worthwhile, the water was spectacular and so clear. We spent the rest of the time playing cricket on the sand.
On our second day we went to explore Cape le Grand National Park, about an hour’s drive away. You need to pay entry to the park, which fortunately we have our handy National Park Pass which is coming in good use.
We had originally planned to climb Frenchman’s Peak, which dominates the skyline wherever you are in the park. However, after reading reviews online we decided it was not suitable for our family. It does sound awesome and for those able it should be on your to do list while in the area. We climbed it about 10 years ago, and we certainly remember the amazing view from the top. We don’t remember the climb up as much, possibly because we were also carrying a one-year-old at the same time.
Lucky Bay is by far the most popular beach in the park. Last time we were here it was covered in smelly seaweed. Our first view this time was also not so impressive. The beach was full of cars and vans, and even a coffee van! How things have changed! This is not the pristine national park beach we remembered and had expected. After some debate, we decided to join the cars on the beach, tentatively driving down onto the sand. The sand was rock hard so there was no concerns of getting bogged. The beach is beautiful, with turquoise waters, and perfect white sand running a long way around the coast. Unfortunately, the kids were reluctant to get out of the car due to the blustery cold winds. It wasn’t the most pleasant day.
For the kids who ventured out of the car, the squeaky white sand, hard and flat, was a great surface for sports (as long as you looked out for passing cars).
We walked along the beach, around the bay, and came across a mother kangaroo and her joey who had come down to the beach only to be harassed by photographers. We went back to get the kids and had a few photos, only for the kangaroos to continue along the beach visiting each car for a pat and feed. Didn’t they read the sign about not patting and feeding them!
We were told that the beach at Hellfire Bay was also worth a visit. Just a short drive from Lucky Bay, it was well worth it, as it was much less windy and sheltered, and was just as stunning. There are also some nice rocks to climb at the end of the beach.
On the way back to town we made a last-minute decision to turn into the Lucky Bay Brewery. With a great vibe and great beers, we tried the sample paddle, it is a great spot for adults, and for the kids to play, although after the afternoon at the beach, and with the temperature dropping, the kids cuddled up inside out of the wind. Make note that you need to buy food if you are getting a wine though.
Our final day in Esperance was again not really beach weather. It is a windy town, and there is often a cold wind blowing from the direction of Antarctica. We headed out to explore the Great Ocean Drive (not to be confused with the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, although comparably spectacular). The drive takes you along the coast west of town and then loops back past Pink Lake.
[See out post of 10 great things to do in Esperance on a cold day]
There are about twenty stops on route, but we had already visited a few places, and we bypassed a couple of others. We started with the long jetty, which is under renovation, but the new playground was worth a stop, and there are food vans here for a snack or coffee while the kids play.
We drove past the port, saw some big ships. Next was the pleasant Rotary lookout and walk, the first of many amazing views of the coastline and islands of the archipelago.
We strolled around the old wind farm, the first in Australia. It is clear why they chose this spot for the first wind farm due to the constant wind.
We did not stop at twilight bay which we had already visited, but as we drove past and had a quick look, we were reminded why this really is the best beach around, worthy of our top spot on our favourite Australian beaches.
Observatory point was very impressive as you drive out to it. There is a lookout high on the point for more great views. We stopped here for a snack and coffee in the protection of the headland, while the more adventurous and fitter of us took the steps down to the beach.
Next we stopped at another beach, this one had rock pools to explore. After traversing the short steps down, you can wander and find some interesting specimens in the little rocky pools when the tide is out. Heading inland, we drove past pink lake, which is not pink anymore, so we decided was not worth a stop.
The final stop on the tour was at a glass artist studio and gallery of Cindy Poole. Casper bought a piece of glass which they kindly made into a keychain for him. The same artist created the gorgeous whale statue at the foreshore which we saw on our first day.
We really enjoyed our visit to Esperance with its spectacular beaches. If you can strike it lucky with the weather you could spend longer at all the beaches, but for us three days was enough.
From here we drove to the Porongurups.