Esperance, Western Australia

Esperance is located on the south coast around half-way between Albany and the South Australian border in the state Western Australia. Its population is around 14,000 people, and its major industries are tourism, agriculture and fishing. Approximately 7.5 hours' drive or a 1.5 hour flight from Perth, the state capital, Esperance is a popular destination for medium term trips for families based there. It is also around 4 hours' drive south from the Goldfields mining town of Kalgoorlie, and offers a convenient get-away for weekends for the mine workers.

Where is it?: Western Australia: Great Southern. Esperance is 950 ikm by road from Perth via Coolgardie and Noreseman.

At Norseman, after crossing the Nullarbor Plain, motorists heading for Perth have the choice of taking the shorter inland route via Kalgoorlie, or south via the south coast and south-west corner of the state. The first town you reach if you take the latter route is Esperance.

The ocean here is crystal clear, the waters are a deep aqua colour; the coast is lined with stunning pink granite outcrops and offshore there are a myriad islands. Seals, dolphins and whales (in season) abound. It is one of Australia's most serenely picturesque stretches of coastline.

Esperance is set in the middle of a coastal region known for its many attractive beaches, offering surfing, scuba diving and swimming in sparklingly clear water. Nearby are a number of salt lakes, including the Pink Lake, which gains its rosy hue from red algae living within its waters. These can all be viewed on the Great Ocean Drive.

Offshore from Esperence is s string of 105 islands known as the Recherche Archipelago. These islands are protected as a Nature Reserve as they are teaming with sealife, including New Zealand fur seals, tammars (a species of Bandicoot), Recherche Cape Barren Geese, dolphins and Minke whales in season. Woody Island is the only island open to the public within the reserve. It offers the most activities to visitors and is well worth visiting.

Lookouts: The Rotary Lookout Esperance is located high on a granite outcrop on Wireless Hill, and offers expansive views of the surrounding coastal town and its magnificent beaches. Doust Street, off Twilight Beach Road.


March: Annual Classic Fishing Competition
August: Esperance Music Festival
September: Esperance Wildflower Festival
October: Esperance Agricultural Show

About Esperance

Esperance is located on the south coast around half-way between Albany and the South Australian border. Its population is around 14,000 people, and its major industries are tourism, agriculture and fishing. The only port in the south east of Western Australia, the Esperance Port Authority completed an A$54 million dollar upgrade in 2002.

The upgrade made the port one of the deepest in Southern Australia, capable of handling Cape class vessels (up to 180,000 tonnes) and fully loaded Panamax class vessels (up to 75,000 tonnes). Exports for the year ending June 2005 were 7,394,155 tonnes, including 1.7 million tonnes of grain, and 5.3 million tonnes of iron ore which is railed from Koolyanobbing.

Approximately 7.5 hours' drive or a 1.5 hour flight from Perth, the capital of WA, Esperance is a popular annual vacation destination for families living Perth. It is also around 4 hours' drive south from the Goldfields mining town of Kalgoorlie, and as such offers a convenient get-away for weekends for the mine workers.

Climate: Esperance has a Mediterranean type climate typically with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. In summer the average maximum temperature is in the mid 20s (degrees Celsius), however on occasion, hot, dry northerly winds can blow off the arid interior of the state to the north-east, raising temperatures upward to 40 degrees or above. The winter climate is generally less prone to extremes. The dominant influence is the cool, moist winds from the Great Southern Ocean to the south, bringing lower temperatures and the bulk of the annual rainfall in cold fronts. The average maximum temperatures are in the high teens.

Maritime History: European history dates back to 1627 when the Dutch vessel Gulden Zeepaert, skippered by Francois Thijssen, passed through the blue waters off the Esperance coast. French explorers are credited with making the first landfall near the present day town, naming it and other local landmarks whilst sheltering from a storm in this area in 1792. The town itself was named after the French ship, L'Esperance, commanded by Bruny d'Entrecasteaux. Esperance, roughly translated, is French for 'hope'.

In 1802, British navigator Matthew Flinders sailed the Bay of Isles, discovering and naming places such as Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove. Whalers, sealers and pirates followed, as did pastoralists and miners, keen to exploit the free land and to cash in on the gold boom in the goldfields to the north.

Surrounding area

Cape Le Grand National Park

Cape Le Grand National Park is the closest National Park to Esperance (56 km east), and is a must-see for visitors to the Eastern Goldfields region of WA and travellers across the Nullarbor Plain. Cape Le Grand boasts a stunningly picturesque coast of largely granite terrain and sheltered white sandy beaches. It is a popular spot for beachcombing, recreational fishing, and is enjoyed by four wheel drive enthusiasts and hikers. One beach here even has a family of resident kangaroos that feed on seaweed on the beach - no wonder they call it Lucky Bay!

The park is popular for fishing, off-roading and hiking. Features of the park include incredible coastal scenery - a largely granite shoreline with crystal-clear turquoise water and white sandy beaches - surrounded by majestic granite peaks within expanses of heath.

Beaches within the Park include those at Lucky Bay, Rossiter Bay, Hellfire Bay, Le Grand Beach, and Thistle Cove. Lucky Bay is one of the most stunning and unique bays in Australia. The bay stretches for over five kilometres, offering a magnificent stretch of beach and sparkling clear blue water. The area is home to pygmy possums, bandicoots and kangaroos that like to laze on the pristine beach.

The islands and waters to the south of the park are known as the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve, another protected area of the Archipelago of the Recherche and nearby coastal regions. The equally picturesque Cape Arid National Park is located to the east.

The south-west section of the Park is dominated by rock outcrops of gneiss and granite. These form a distinctive chain of peaks including Mt. Le Grand (345 m), Frenchman Peak (262 m) and Mississippi Hill (180 m). Further inland, the park comprises mostly heath-covered sandplain, interspersed with swamps and pools of fresh water. The sandplains support dense stands of banksias.

Cape le Grand was named on 16 December 1792 by French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteaux. He named the cape after after Ensign Jacques-Bertrand le Grand (1763-1798) (and later Lieutenant and Captain) of the 1791-1793 expedition vessel, L'Esperance, who bravely scaled the mast during a severe storm, guiding the two vessels Esperance and Recherche through the reefs safely into Esperance Bay.

Hellfire Bay: Perhaps named after the orange rocks that curve around the fingernail of white sand beach in the crook of the small bay. The booming ocean waves that crash into the headland peater out by the time they reach the shore. The surrounding bush is well stocked with showy Banksia trees and other wildflowers. An easy 40min walk loops up and along the headland from the carpark. Picnic shelter and gas barbecues are provided as well as a beach viewing area. Two unisex accessible toilets are provided.

Le Grand Beach: A wide stretch of flat white sand seems to stretch out forever from the granite headland. It may not have the dramatic beauty of the other bays but is does offer plenty of wide open space. The coastal hike starts here and even if you dont want to do the whole thing the first section to the top of the headland leads to a good site to look out into the islands. A camping area, toilets and a picnic area with a barbecue are provided. There are 15 campsites and a sheltered camper's kitchen with two picnic tables.

Lucky Bay: is one of the most stunning and unique bays in Australia. It stretches for over five kilometres, offering a magnificent stretch of beach and sparkling clear blue water. Here, seaweed accumulates in deep spongy masses and provides the interesting spectacle of the local kangaroos descending to the beach of an evening to dine on fresh seaweed and afterwards laze around on the sand. Camping is available for large caravans, motorhomes, tents and swags. There is a camper's kitchen, picnic tables and barbecues. Picnic tables are partially shaded by trees.

Thistle Cove: A bay between two bulging headlands, named by Matthew Flinders after his ship's master, John Thistle, who safely brought HMS Investigator into the cove on 10 December 1802. Thistle drowned ten weeks later at Cape Catastrophe on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. A natural monolith next to the carpark makes a peculiar sound similar to an air-conditioner or electrical humming depending on the angle of the wind and your position. The rocky cove is scattered with boulders sculpted by wind and water into savage shapes. Behind it is a small sandy bay that has the force of the entire ocean concentrated into to a white capped tumult. Probably not the best spot for a swim. No toilet or shower facilities.

Rossiter Bay: Though not considered by many visitors to be as exciting or as dramatic as other bays in the Park, it is historically significant as the stretch of coast where explorer Edward Eyre and his Aboriginal companion Wylie were saved from near starvation in June 1841 by Captain Rossiter and the crew of the French whaling ship Mississippi. The bay and nearby Mississippi Hill were named by Eyre in honour of his saviours. Less notable accounts exist of whalers, sealers and pirates using the bays and isles for their trade over the past few hundred years.

Frenchman's Peak: A popular climb as it's not too hard to reach the 262m summit, though a reasonable amount of fitness and balance is needed to traverse the constant incline and scamper over obstructing boulders. Markers from the bottom show a general path to follow up the side with the gentler incline. The lower half is more or less flat (albeit with an upwards slant) but the upper reaches requires some scrambling around and over rocks. Strong winds may cause some difficulty and extra caution is needed in the rain as the moss covered surface gets very slippery. It's a good idea to take water, wear a hat and be prepared for changing weather conditions. 2hr return, 30-45 mins up.

How to get there: Cape Le Grand National Park is located 30 kilometres south east of Esperance. Esperance is located 740 kilometres south east of Perth, or 390 kilometres south of Kalgoorlie. Follow the road to Cape Le Grand National Park from Esperance via Fisheries Road.

Cape Arid National Park

Cape Arid National Park (120km east) offers more spectacular coastal scenery dominated by granite outcrops. Being home to more than 160 bird species, it is an important park for the conservation of birds in Western Australia. There are plenty of coastal walking trails to various fishing and swimming spots.

Located on the old camel/coach route between Israelite Bay and Balladonia, Cape Arid National Park is 125 km east of Esperance, and covers 280,000 hectares. It offers remote sandy beaches, excellent costal scenery, the Thomas River and its estuary, granite outcrops and marshy clay flats, along with several rocky mounts which offer fine perspectives of the surrounding terrain.

Park activities include bushwalking, camping, birdwatching, whalewatching, picnicking, photography, four-wheel-driving and fishing. Rock climbing is permitted with the ranger's permission, tel: (08) 9075 0055. The park is best visited in spring and autumn.

Thomas River is the main picnic area and campground in Cape Arid National Park. There are 17 separate camping areas, all reached via a loop road, all accommodate caravans. A camper's kitchen and picnic tables are provided under a shelter, a unisex accessible toilet is provided on site. Parking is in unmarked compacted gravel and limestone bays. Park entry and camping fees apply. Point Lonsdale East Beach, on Yokingup Bay, is 600 m long, lies at the base of the 20 m high bluffs, and is fronted by a mixture of patchy rock flats and a shallow sand bar. The 200 m long Point Lonsdale Jetty is located at the southern end.

Tagon Bay is located 1 km to the west of the main National Park campsite. There is 4WD access in the centre of Tagon beach, however beware as the beach is sloping with relatively soft sand. The beach is popular for beach and rock fishing, but relatively hazardous for swimming. Six beaches, each separated by granite outcrops, occupy the next 14 km of south-facing coast between the prominent Tagon Point and the lower Alexander Point. The latter backed by 104 m high granite dome of Alexander Hill. Taylor and Inshore islands lie close inshore, and several islands, islets and many rock reefs lie up to 10 km offshore, including the 7 km long Twin Peak islands. The western boundary of the national park lies 2 km west of Tagon Point. There is however, no formal vehicle access to this section of coast.

Little Tagon Beach lies in the next cove 500 m to the south of Tagon Beach. It is the least hazardous beach in this section of the park. However be careful, as while waves are usually low, the water is deep right off the beach. It is backed by dense coastal heath and bordered by partly vegetated granite slopes. It shares the car park with Dolphin Cove, with a 2-minute walk down the slopes to the beach.

Dolphin Cove lies 1 km southwest of the Thomas River mouth. There is a car park on the southern headland, with a 3-minute walk to reach the usually secluded expanse of beach. The car park provides good views of the beaches and bay. Dolphin Cove was named for the nearby headland that is shaped like a dolphin. On a calm day the white sandy beach and clear, azure blue water make this a delightful place to enjoy a swim and take in the stunning coastal scenery of Cape Arid National Park. There is also a lookout viewing point at Dolphin Cove, which is is one of the best spots in Cape Arid National Park to see migrating southern right and humpback whales.

Joorndee Creek is a popular camping and fishing spot near one of the more protected beaches along this wild part of the south coast. The creek drains across the beach and rocks at the southern end of a small bay that is well sheltered from onshore winds. West of Jorndee Creek to Cape Arid sloping gneiss and granites dominate the coastline. The locality is a popular camping spot near one of the more protected beaches in Cape Arid. Access is via good four-wheel drive track.

Though only 593m high, the surrounding country is quite flat apart from a few isolated hills and so the view is quite expansive. There is a walking trail to the summit, from which the ocean (Israelite Bay) can be see off to the east on a clear day. A booklet is provided at the top for people to record that they have climbed it. Camping facilities with a pit toilet are provided.


travel australia map