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 things 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.
|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!
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 - 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!
|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.
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.
|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.|
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. Don't you just love the cows!|
|This was so weird I had to put more than one photo in.|
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.
|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.
|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.
|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: -
- Wildflowers in Western Australia: Kings Park, Perth
- Rottnest Island
- Fraser Suites, Perth - a review
- The National ANZAC Centre, Albany
- Albany Harbourside Apartments: self-contained accommodation in Albany
- 7 things to do in Amazing Albany.
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