Whether you arrive from Adelaide to discover the West Coast of Australia or leave the Perth Hills to cross the Nullarbor Plain, don’t miss out on the small town of Esperance and its idyllic beaches.
The city of Esperance
This small fishing town of 13,000 inhabitants owes its name to a French expedition, which arrived there in 1792. When a century later the gold rush started in the Kalgoorlie – Coolgardie region further north, the town was really flourishing. Today, its economy is based on fishing and tourism. If Esperance is on your must-see list in Western Australia, don’t expect to find hordes of backpackers or parties there. It’s a rather quiet little town! An ideal stop if you need a bit of a rest during your road trip (yes, holidays can be tiring!).
While the town itself is not that spectacular, the beaches won’t disappoint you. In Esperance, you find some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. When traveling in the area, don’t hesitate to stop for a day there. Go for a stroll on the main street called Dempster Street. There you find not only all kinds of restaurants as well as clothing and souvenir shops, but also the famous Lucky Bay kangaroos. Also head to the esplanade for a nice walk along the sea.
Take a break in the picnic area of the Tanker Jetty before walking or cycling to the small marina. We recommend you to go to the café Taylor Street Jetty. Relax on comfortable sofas surrounded by garlands and enjoy the view of the harbor. The atmosphere is very cozy and if you are lucky there might be live music playing at sunset. In any case, don’t miss their Cruffins, a mix of croissant and muffin filled with Nutella … Unforgettable!
To the west, the Great Ocean Drive
Put on your swimmers, grab your surfboard and your backpack: You’re ready for the Great Ocean Drive. Locals call it the tourist loop. Enjoy 20km of coastal walks and fabulous views of the crystal blue waters of Esperance. This route is amazing because it lies so high above sea level. You have to go down wooden stairs to get to the beaches. By the way, we realized that Australian beaches are even more beautiful when viewed from above. You see so many different shades of blue there.
West Beach – A surf spot not to be missed
First, stop at West Beach, which is one of the favorite beaches of local surfers. Be careful though if you surf! Great white sharks frequent these waters.
Going 3km further, stop at Blue Haven. A paradise with pine forests and beaches protected from the wind by red rocks.
Twilight Beach – The most beautiful beach in Australia
Continue for 5km to Twilight Beach. One of our best picnic spots was certainly the car park that leads directly to the beach! It’s ideal for taking a nap in the van, while listening to the sound of the waves. This beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, is perfect for swimming and sunbathing on the rocks. We saw a seal, which must have been the famous Sammy whose statue you see in the center of the esplanade. But this was not the only visitor we had on our trips to Twilight Beach. Peacefully setting up our breakfast on the beach, we saw all surfers running out of the water. A great white shark approached a surfer, 30m from the shore. We warned you, watch your toes!
The road goes further, with one sight more spectacular than the other. Check out the lookout point, the wind farm, and the beaches with clear blue water.
You can do this route in one day or in three if you want to take your time at each point of interest. Don’t miss Eleven Mile Beach, which is quite amazing because there are two beaches that are very different from each other. Also go to Ten Mile Lagoon, which has a platform from where we watched the most beautiful sunset since our arrival in Western Australia.
You can go back to Esperance to take a picture of Pink Lake, but it has not been pink for the past few years. Because of seaweed, the lake has lost its spectacular color for now. You can find a beautiful pink lake near Esperance though. It’s called Hillier Lake. However, it is only accessible by plane (it costs about $300/ person).
And don’t miss a visit to Rotary Lookout at the beginning of the Great Ocean Drive. You get a great view of the area, especially at sunset (or at sunrise for brave people). There is a hiking path starting at the lookout.
To the east, Cape Le Grand National Park
This park, about an hour’s drive from Esperance, is known for the famous Lucky Bay beach. However, it has got a lot more to offer. The entrance fees to the park are $12 per vehicle per day. You can pay by card or cash at the entrance.
Esperance, like Rottnest Island and its quokkas, has benefited from our use of social networks while traveling. Posting a “kangaroo selfie” has become a must-do for many travelers. It’s on the beautiful Lucky Bay beach that you get the chance to take a picture with these Australian icons. Dozens of tourists feed these kangaroos in order to get close enough to them to take a selfie. Before thinking about your Instagram, think of them first! These are wild animals that get into the bad habit of not regarding humans as predators and of not finding food themselves. The food tourists give them is not good for their health and is not part of their natural diet. If you want to take a photo with a kangaroo, feed it greens rather than chips.
Apart from the famous kangaroos, Lucky Bay is breathtaking. The sand is so fine that it squeaks under your feet. The contrast between the sand and the clear water makes this beach one of the most beautiful beaches of Australia. For an unforgettable experience, get a camp spot at Lucky Bay. You don’t get reception there, so enjoy a phone detox. The view from there is amazing and you sleep only a few meters from the beach for $11 per person. However, leave Esperance very early so you get there in time. Camp spots are limited!
Thistle Cove and Hellfire Bay
From Lucky Bay, you go to Thistle Cove and Hellfire Bay. These two bays are often deserted and the water is even bluer than in Lucky Bay. The contrast between the water and the red rock is striking! Walking through the rocks you get stunning views. Once again, we found that getting high up was the best way to see the beautiful shades of the water. Our favorite thing to do was playing stuntmen and climbing on the rocks. Don’t do it in flip flops…
If you want to go for a hike, head for Frenchman Peak. Plan in 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on your physical condition and the amount of water you take. Climbing up the rocks, you are surrounded by flowers and lizards. The view of the ocean and the park is worth it.
Finally, don’t miss the huge Cape le Grand beach and the more sheltered campsite there. A last break in paradise before going on to other adventures…
Updated on the 17/11/19. Initially published on the 18/09/18.