Esperance is said to have the purest white sandy beaches in Australia. That makes it a great place to spend time here, as long as you don’t pick a windy day.
Esperance Bay is located about 720 kilometres from Perth (depending on which way you travel) on the far south coast of Western Australia. It is almost directly south of Kalgoorlie (about 400 kilometres)and Norseman on the Coolgardie- Esperance Highway. The city with a population of around 15,000 is right on the waters of the Southern Ocean and the Archipelago of the Recherche, named ‘Esperance’ by the French Explorer Antoine Bruni d’Entrecasteaux in 1792, just one year before he died in Manus in New Guinea.
The Port itself has been used for shipping Gold in the early Gold Rush days and cattle in the past and today nickel, wheat, barley, lupins and canola are the main exports from the Port. More than 200 ships arrive in port each year, and Esperance Port being a deep harbour port is able to handle some of the biggest ships in the world.
Esperance is surrounded by beautiful coastal scenery and a number of beaches including Salmon Beach (where there are wind farms), Twilight Beach, West Beach, Le Grand Beach, Nine Mile Beach and others including Lucky Bay – where you are likely to see small western grey kangaroos on the beach too. Just offshore there are around 100 islands and you can spend time at Woody Island – which is set up for camping, fishing and diving. You can reach the island on a ferry from Esperance and also see it from a boat cruise which will take you to see different parts of the Archipelago and islands. The area is renowned for its sea and bird life – and July to October is whale watching time, and then throughout the year you will probably see eagles, dolphins, seals and sea lions too.
Pink Lake – named after its water colour due to the algae – is a salt lake just out of town. Rotary Lookout is at the start of the Rotary Walk – a one and a half hour walk along the coastline.
About 3 kilometres from Esperance on Windabout Way (off Fisheries Road) is the Lake Warden Wetland System and the Kepwari Trails – a 3.5 kilometre walk next to Lake Warden, Woody lake and Wheatfield Lake. Here you will walk through the low native bushland and have the opportunity to see some of the many birds that call these lakes home.
There are three National Parks near Esperance – Cape Le Grand, Stokes and Cape Arid National Park.
Cape Le Grand National Park is about 30 kilometres east of Esperance on Esperance Bay with beaches, scenic walks, wetlands, native wildflowers, sand dunes and granite outcrops – and short as well as longer bush walk trails that lead to different parts of the Park including Frenchman Peak (262 metres high), Mt Le Grand (345 Metres high), Hell Fire Bay and Thistle Cove.
Stokes National Park is 86 kilometres west of Esperance, off the South Coast Highway is popular with bird watchers who head to the wetlands areas, while fishers, wind surfers and boaties head to Stokes Inlet where there are long beaches and a walking track that leads around the escarpment overlooking the inlet. Also on Farrels Rd, look for the Moir Homestead ruins – a group of buildings, including the old homestead, built in limestone in the late 1800’s.
Cape Arid National Park is located 125 kilometres east of Esperance on the coast where the Thomas River enters the ocean. There are lots of inlets and bays along the coastline, and the park is mostly sand plains with low coastal acacia, banksia and scrublands. It is also home to western Ground Parrots and other birds.
In Esperance itself there are lots of places to ride a bike, to stay, eat and wander, including along The Esplanade that runs beside the ocean and on Harbour Road. Boat Cruises leave from the Taylor Street Jetty.
The Esperance Visitor Centre is located at the corner of Kemp and Dempster Streets – off The Esplanade. Look for the Museum to see old farm equipment and also remnants of the US Space Skylab that crashed to earth in 1975 near Balladonia on the Nullarbor Plains.
One of the interesting places to see is the Mermaid Leather Tannery on Woods Street (See www.mermaidleather.com.au Tel: (08)9071 5248) They tan leather made from fish and shark skins to make various leather goods with the skins, and they run regular tours of the tannery.
Another unusual place to visit is the replica of Stonehenge – a circle of granite stone blocks to replicate the original Stonehenge in England. The best view is from inside the circle. This is located on Merivale Road (Tel: (08) 9075 9003)
Esperance is a balance of pristine beaches and landscape, and a rapidly developing Port facility and infrastructure with mining export of nickel and iron ore happening and potentially coal exports too.
Like all places of interest for travellers, it is not only the scenery that creates an interest, it is also meeting the locals and finding more about what is happening in their lives too, that combined create the real travel experience.