Friday, 11 November 2016

Esperance, Western Australia: Pink lakes and kangaroos on the beach. Does Esperance live up to its reputation?

Whale Tail EsperanceI came to Esperance for the pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos. David came because I wanted to and he is good like that. Google Esperance and you will see kangaroos posing for selfies in the sunshine on the beach at Lucky Bay and lakes so bright pink it is hard to believe they are real. Perhaps I am naive but if Google promises me something I kind of assume I will actually see it, or at least have a shot at seeing it. Sadly, my hit rate with Esperance was zero out of two - no pink lakes and no sunbathing kangaroos. Zero out of three if you include the fact that I expected warm weather and blue skies and the weather we got was worthy of an arctic winter. Zero out of four given I didn't see a single whale - but hey who's counting!

Did Esperance live up to its reputation? No, not for the things I expected. Do I think Esperance should be on your travel bucket list? Absolutely!


Esperance - the town


Esperance is a small town on the south coast of Western Australia almost eight hours drive from Perth, one of the world's most isolated cities - nine and a half hours drive if you go the interesting way via Albany. (Click here for my post on thing to do in Amazing Albany.) With a population of less than 15,000 Esperance is a quiet little corner of the world tucked away on the edge of the Nullabor Plain. For those of you not familiar with the Nullabor it is home to the longest stretch of straight road in the world with not a single tree or hill for its entire length. It gives new meaning to the word 'remote.'

Esperance itself however is a like an oasis in the desert. Surrounded by unbelievably lush countryside, the town is charming, the beaches are stunning and in spring the wildflowers on the drive in are nothing short of gorgeous.

Beach Esperance
Esperance has the world's most stunning beaches! I don't know which one this is but it was on the cycle out to Twilight Beach


Pink Lake - not pink by the way!


Pink Lake is ten minutes by car from the centre of town. I had done my research here. I knew it wasn't pink - apparently it hasn't been pink for years. I wanted to check it out anyway. You never know - it might have turned pink again just as we arrived in Esperance.  David, with his usual good humour, came with me to investigate. Definitely not pink!

My Tip:

If you want to see a pink lake, stand at the edge of the water and hit Google Maps on your phone, because that is the only way you're going to see one here.

Pink Lake Esperance
Pink Lake - Not pink but beautiful nevertheless.


The other pink lakes


According to Google there are other pink lakes not far from Esperance - two of them. One, Lake Warden, fell into the same category as Pink Lake - not actually pink. I got closer to my goal with Lake Warden. A nice lady at the visitor information centre told me it had been pink until a few months ago. If you are desperate to see a pink lake this may be your best bet.

The other pink lake is Lake Hillier on Middle Island about 120 kms off the coast. Middle Island is part of a National Park. Not only was I going to need a boat but I also had to have permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to even set foot on the island. The nice lady at the Esperance Visitor Centre gave me an email address to contact. She also gave me the names and emails of a couple of air charter services which might be persuaded to fly over the lake.

Rob, at Goldfields Air Services was friendly and helpful. For $800 I could charter a six seater Cessna C210 and fly over Lake Hillier. There were two problems with this. First, to bring the cost down to a reasonable amount, I would need four other people and secondly, all Rob's planes were in Kalgoolie, 400 kms away. Later in the year when the tourist season was in full swing he would bring one down to Esperance but right now there were none available. Oh well - you can't say I didn't try. Perhaps I just wasn't meant to see a pink lake - not this year, at least!

Esperance
I wish I could show you a photo of a pink lake here but I can't so you get the waterfont path instead.


Lucky Bay and sunbathing kangaroos


Did I mention we got terrible weather in Esperance? It wasn't as bleak as the weather we struck in Albany but it wasn't sunbathing weather either. If kangaroos ever sunbathe at Lucky Bay they weren't doing it the day we were there.

Lucky Bay is in Cape Le Grand National Park, about an hour's drive east of Esperance. It is a sealed road all the way, easily accessible in our two wheel drive hire car. However much beyond here and you are in 4WD only territory. This is the edge of that part of Australia reserved for true adventurers - a race of people kitted out with serious off road vehicles complete with winches, roo-bars, air-intake snorkels and diff breathers. Does anyone know what a 'diff-breather' is? I have no idea. I put it in because it sounds impressive. I have nothing but admiration for people like this but David and I also have nothing in common with them. D's idea of roughing it is being forced to stay in a hotel with no suites - and therein probably lay our problem with the sunbathing kangaroos.

My tip: 

If you have your heart set on seeing kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay - camp! Kangaroos are most active at dawn and dusk. Kit yourself out with a serious 4WD and a tent and stake out the beach when the kangaroos like to visit. There is a campground nearby and lots of 'serious 4WD people' to give you advice on the best spots and times for seeing beach kangaroos.



Lucky Bay
David and I at Lucky Bay. You can see by how warmly we are dressed why the kangaroos weren't interested in sunbathing that day.


Stonehenge


Yes - you read that right. Stonehenge! What can I say - someone has built a complete replica of the world's most famous neolithic monument right next to the road on the way from Esperance to Lucky Bay and Cape Le Grand National Park. This is about a '10' on a '1 to 10' weird scale and almost made up for the lack of pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos.


Stonehenge Esperance
Stonehenge, Esperance. Don't you just love the cows!



Stonehenge Esperance
This was so weird I had to put more than one photo in.


Wildflowers


We timed our visit to Western Australia to coincide with the Kings Park Wildflower Festival. This put us at the epicentre of one of the most beautiful wildflower seasons in the world.  For almost the entire drive between Albany and Esperance there were flowers right beside the road. They came in clusters of yellow, blue, red and orange. Most had tiny delicate petals, much smaller than I expected, but beautiful nevertheless.



Grannies Bonnets
These are called 'Grannies Bonnets'. We saw lots of them by the side of the road on the drive between Albany and Esperance


About three hours east of Albany we stopped for the Ravensthorpe Wildlfower Festival. Ravensthorpe is 541 km south-east of Perth and has a population of 438. We are not talking a major metropolis here. The wildflower show is held in the local hall where for an entry fee of $5, we were treated to row upon row of some of southern Western Australia's most beautiful native flowers - all presented lovingly in old bottles and jam jars.

Wild orchid
These were my favourite jam-jar flowers. I have no idea what they are, some sort or wild orchid I think. I didn't take this photo at the Ravensthorpe Show but at another small town on the way back to Esperance.


Beaches and Cycle Paths

After pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos, Esperance is most famous for its dazzling beaches and pristine aqua coloured ocean - nature doesn't get more beautiful than this.

The Great Ocean Way shared cycling and walking path from Esperance Bay to Twilight Beach is the perfect route to see some of the world's most stunning views. The trail runs for about 12 kilometres, with the first few kms around Esperance Bay being dead flat. As it heads south-west the path parallels Twilight Beach Rd and makes a short but steep climb up on to the headland. Don't give up here!  From the headland to Twilight Beach the path runs along the tops of the cliffs giving you views down onto beach after spectacular beach. There are plenty of seats to stop, rest and soak up the scenery along the way.

If you can't walk it or bike it you can drive along Twilight Beach Rd and stop at the many car park viewpoints. The views will still be stunning but the experience will be a lot less exhilarating.

Great Ocean Way path
D taking a break on the Great Ocean Way cycle path.


Esperance - a few facts
  • Esperance has a population of less than 15,000.
  • By road Esperance is 4½ hours from Albany and 7 hours from Perth via the inland route.
  • Esperance has charm and character by the bucket load but don't expect to find world class hotels. They don't exist. David and I stayed in the best accommodation we could find and it was just okay. To be fair, our standards are pretty high.
  • Don't miss the 40 km loop drive along the Great Ocean Drive. It takes you past the most beautiful beaches you will ever see and the 'not' Pink Lake.
  • From June to October, southern right whales frequent the sheltered bays and coves around Esperance - you will have to take this on faith because we didn't see a single whale.
  • Wildflowers bloom between June and September. Click here for the best places to see them.

Footnote - I haven't given up on pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos. Next year we will be back in Western Australia. Google assures me there is a pink lake we can drive to at Hutt Lagoon near Geraldton, and kangaroos love the Coral Coast beaches - they are just hanging around waiting for me to show up with my camera. I'm certain Google can be trusted this time.

Click on the titles below for other posts from our road trip in Western Australia: - 

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46 comments:

  1. Coming from the east coast, I'd only occasionally heard of Esperance and seen photos of the pink lakes. Disappointed to hear that they're no longer pink. Still, that coastline does look stunning and a great place to go for a ride. Not surprised there isn't much in the way of accommodation - options can be pretty limited in Australia outside of the cities. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. We travel a lot and we have found that accommodation has improved in the eastern states in the last few years. Western Australia is yet to catch up, outside the big tourist destinations. Most travellers seemed to have campers or caravans. We were a bit unusual relying on motels and serviced apartments.

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  2. Haha, I was expecting a pink lake and kangaroos :) #wkendtravelinspiration

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  3. Australia huh? Where we build replicas of things like Stonehenge just because we feel like it! I can't remember if I went to Esperance when I lived in Perth. I probably should have, it looks stunning. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. It is stunning. I loved the Stonehenge, it was just so weird. There is one in Oregon in the U.S. If you google fake stonehenges you will find there are quite a few of them around the world.

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  4. Esperance looks really beautiful, Lyn. I'd love to visit it, especially if there is a chance to come across a kangaroo. I've never seen one in real life, can you believe it? The Stonehenge replica doesn't look very appealing to me, however. It looks too new, too 'made up.' #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Haha - I know what you mean about the Stonehenge being too new, but I just love the out-of-this-world weirdness of it. Later this month I am going to post a collaborative post entitled 'The Best Places to see Australian Animals in the Bush'. I will add it to your link-up and you can save it for the next time you come Down Under. I have seen kangaroos in the U.S in private parks and zoos but I can't remember where.

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  5. We have to miss Esperance (time issue). I love the Stonehenge with the cows.

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    1. Apparently there is a Stonehenge in New Zealand too. It is not far from Wellington.

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  6. You really did miss a few of the highlights in WA this visit due to the unseasonably very long wet and cold winter. On the plus side due to all that rain the wildflowers have been exceptional this year.

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    1. The wildflowers were fabulous and the unusually high rainfall meant the countryside was lush and beautiful. We are coming back next year, twice, so I will have another go at pink lakes and beach kangaroos.

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  7. so not a pink lake? but a fake Stonehenge?haha, cool! #theweeklypostcard

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    1. The weirdness of one made up for the lack of the other - lol!

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  8. I appreciate your honesty and honestly it looks beautiful enough to visit sans pink bodies of water or sunbathing Kangeroos! Thanks for sharing! Cheers from this corner of the world! Erin #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. Hi Erin, thanks. I would go there again in a minute even without the pink lakes or beach kangaroos. I'd hope to get lucky though!

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  9. I can certainly see why you wanted to go to Esperance. I would too...now, I'm not so sure it would be tops on my list. The water, although not pink, did look pretty!

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    1. It had been on my travel wishlist for a while but it is a very long way from just about everywhere. The aqua colour of the ocean was just gorgeous.

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  10. You are so funny! Got a kick reading your post! I really do not like when you see pictures or read something about a place and then, you do not get to actually see what you saw or read. That happened to me in Costa Rica when I booked a lava tour. We didn't see anything and I later read the particular volcano haven't been active for years. Anyway, I think Esperance is very beautiful and at least you got to know the area. Like that David followed along. My husband is like that too. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Hi Ruth, thanks for the encouragement. At least I had done my research and was pretty sure I wasn't going to see a pink lake. I would have liked to see kangaroos on the beach but animals are always tricky so I wasn't surprised when I didn't see any. What a shame about your volcano tour. That must have been disappointing.

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  11. I get on a mission to see things I see online too. Frank humors me too:) Sorry no luck with the kangaroos or pink lake but I'm sure you won't give up and find both one day. The cows at the Stonehenge were pretty funny though!
    #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. I think my problem is that I read too many travel blogs and social media accounts. Everyone else in the world except me seems to have seen kangaroos on that beach and posted selfies with them. I loved Esperance though. Except for the kangaroos, pink lakes and whales it totally lived up to my expectations.

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  12. I like the name of the town, Esperance, and even without the pink lake and sunbathing kangaroos, the town seems worth a visit for its beautiful beaches. Lovely photos of the beach!

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    1. The name does have a ring to do, doesn't it!

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  13. Esperance is excellent! It was one of the highlights of our trip around Australia. We spent a week here and drove out to Cape Le Grand where we were lucky enough to spot a few kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay. We also drove to another stunning place called Duke of Orleans Bay, with some of most stunning beaches I have ever seen. We did the bike ride too, but refused to pay to see a fake Stonehenge!

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    1. Haha - we thought the entry price for the fake Stonehenge was quite reasonable. I'm glad to hear that someone has seen kangaroos on the beach. I don't remember Duke of Orleans Bay but I agree with you about the beaches, they are just beautiful.

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  14. Lovely place even without pink lake. Wouldn't mind to explore Esperance.

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    1. A pink lake would have been icing on the cake. Esperance is well worth a visit even without the lake.

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  15. I wonder what makes the lakes pink and then not pink again? Love the Great Ocean Drive too! I have seen the original stonehenge and it is indeed an exact replica, just looks a lot more preserved ha! Why would anyone want to build that? When I'm down that way, I'll definitely check out all the 4WD places as me and my partner are one of these 4WD people you mentioned with a pretty nice set up ha! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. There was a long explanation on a sign next to the 'not' Pink Lake saying what made it go pink but most of it just went straight over my head. Chemistry was never my strong subject. I really admire 4WD people and would love to take a camping trip in the outback but David, while a wonderful husband in almost every other respect, is definitely not a camper.

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  16. It's hard to make the most of a trip that just isn't working out, and harder still to write about it. So I admire your efforts! If you want to see a pink lake go to Senegal. Lac Rose really is pink, more so on a sunny day but even on the cloudy day we saw and floated around in a lake that was distinctly rosy.

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    1. Senegal is a bit off the beaten track for me but thanks for the tip. There are other pink lakes in Western Australia and I hope to track one down next year. We still had a great trip, pink lake or not.

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  17. Sometimes the isolated places are worth the distance, and sometimes not. Looks like you made the most of it - and it's a beautiful lake even if it's no longer pink.

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    1. I love isolated places but not being able to camp makes them hard to visit sometimes. We once lived for a year on an island in the middle of the Pacific with no port and only 2,000 people - now that was isolated.

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  18. Great that you can still tell your husband what to do, and where to go Lyn. I have always heard about Esperance, and now I can see a little through your eyes.

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    1. There is a young guy on You-tube who takes drone photos and puts up stunning videos of Esperance. Sadly he is in a wheelchair (after a car accident I think) and this is his way of connecting with things he can no longer do. I think he has done more for tourism in Esperance than the local tourist board ever has. It was his videos which first made me want to go.

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  19. Wow, if I could see sunbathing kangaroos and Stonehenge on the same day I might just think I'd died and gone to heaven. I gladly miss out on the pink lake for that.

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    1. Haha - As the hashtag says #justanotherdayinwa

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  20. Wonderful post, Lyn. It's been far too long since I've been to the ocean. Would love to visit Lucky Bay! Great pics of all. Thx for sharing.

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  21. Esperance looks magical! I wonder if the pink-colored lakes are more apparent during some seasons than others?

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    1. It was wonderful. I think, but I am no expert, that the lakes stay pink all year round. I was told that one of the lakes lost its pink colour a few months ago because there had been much more rain than usual this year. Everything was beautifully green so there had clearly been a lot of rain.

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  22. I am in the midst of deciding how we spend our 7 weeks in Australia. When I first read pink lakes and Kangaroos on the beaches in Western Australia, I thought, we must visit Esperanza. Now I am not so sure taking the time is truly worthwhile on our 1st trip to Australia. What would you recommend?

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    1. Where else are you going and when will you be here?

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  23. I wondered if it was a seasonal thing too, but I read your comment on the rain. It definitely would have been amazing to see. I'm a flower photography lover, so seeing the wildflowers would have soothed a little of the disappointment. The Stonehenge is pretty fun too. Looking forward to visiting Australia one day! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. If you do flower photography then Western Australia, in the wildflower season, would have to be a dream destination. The flowers are spectacular.

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