Esperance Mini Guide
Looking for beautiful beaches, remote national parks and untouched islands? You've come to the right place. Read on for our guide to Esperance's sights, food and accommodation.
Esperance has a country charm, beautiful secluded beaches, the Recherché Archipelago stretching into the Southern Ocean; a gateway to the Cape Le Grand National Park, and beyond to Cape Arid.
Cape Le Grand National Park
Cape Le Grand National Park with its Coastal Trail can be accessed for day trips from Esperance, or better, pitch up for a few nights, or even a week. The trail works its way along the coast from Le Grand Beach, where you’ll find a popular DPAW campsite (with few pitches, be sure to book, parkstay.dpaw.wa.gov.au), then on to Rossiter Bay. This 15km walk takes around 9 hours. With varying degrees of difficulty it can be broken into sections taking in Hellfire Bay, Thistle Cove and Lucky Bay (where you’ll also find an ocean-side campsite).
Whilst walking it in one go has its appeal for experienced hikers, breaking it up is a good option; spending a morning hiking, an afternoon on the sand at Lucky Bay, where you’ll find the Lucky Bean coffee van, and kangaroos drawn by the freshwater streams running across the sands, believed to be Australia’s whitest.
Factor in a steep hike up Frenchman Peak , said to resemble the shape of the hats worn by French troops. The Aboriginal community know it as Mandooboornup, a place central to the Walich (eagle) Dreaming story; a mother eagle nested on the peak carrying two children who disobeyed their elders and dropping them in the ocean; represented by two offshore rocks.
Cape Arid National Park
Cape Arid National Park, rewards those who go the extra distance, because much of the park is only accessible by 4WD. At the western side, around Bay of Orleans there are some accessible beaches. Call into the Condingup Tavern (Corner of Ayre & Parish St, Condingup), a great stop for a hearty counter meal or to stock up at the General Store.
The Recherché Archipelago is made of 105 islands, and many more ‘obstacles to shipping’, its name pointing to the shared history on this coast. A French expedition named it Recherché after one of the ships in the fleet, Espérance, being another ship. Its maritime history is rich, being part of the stories of Black Jack Anderson, Australia’s only recorded pirate.
Middle Island, is the site of Lake Hillier, a saline lake, coloured bubblegum pink. Inaccessible by land, take a stunning aerial tour; the pink contrasting against the blue ocean, white beaches and verdant bushland. The pink lake isn’t the only draw, a flight uncovering the scale and natural beauty of the region, with remote beaches and coves, and in season scanning the ocean for migrating whales.
On Woody Island, take to the paths, walk the island for the day or stay overnight in one of the island’s eco tents. The waters around the island are explored on the way out with Woody Island Eco Tours. Boarding at the Taylor Street jetty the journey takes in sea and birdlife, from white bellied sea eagles off Charlie Island, to Cape Barren geese and seals basking on rocks.
Eating and drinking
Back on the mainland, Esperance has in recent years started to cultivate a food scene. Taylor Street Quarters (1 Taylor St, Esperance) has a prime harbour side spot, where chef-owner Dean Wood has created one of the region’s favourite eateries. The British chef, is keeping Esperance locals fed and watered; the coffee machine pumping from early, and lunch on the oceanside deck a locals tip not to be ignored. A casual menu is in full flow in the daytime, while evening sees Wood raise the culinary stakes.
Fish Face (1 James St, Esperance) does a brisk trade on take out fish and chips but be sure to book a table for the busy restaurant. Grilled battered or crumbed, the chefs here are working with predominantly local fish: Samson, Queen Snapper, Gummy, Nannygai, Ling and Trevally. Also check out the daily specials board, for classic surf and turf, pasta dishes and more.
The Coffee Cat van has been popular in Esperance for a number of years but Grant and Nicola Sime eyed bricks and mortar. Downtown Espresso (94c Dempster Street, Esperance), with its whitewashed walls and contemporary design is just that; a place you’d expect to find in one of Perth’s trendy inner suburbs. And it’s not a case of style over substance either, with a focus on the coffee knowledge they’ve built up. Expect to find single origin beans, house-made cold brew, Kono pour over and Aeropress alongside the espresso.
Travel around the Golden Outback region from Esperance to Kalgoorlie and you’ll find Lucky Bay Brewing Co. (Lot 16 Barook Road, Pink Lake) on tap and in cans. Head for the source where Nigel Metz, a grain researcher turned brewer, uses local wheat and barley, raw, in his brews; an unusual move, but one that’s got beer lovers talking for all the right reasons.
Esperance has a wealth of accommodation options but Esperance Chalet Village (49 Frank Freeman Drive, Bandy Creek) is a destination in itself. A labour of love for Fiona and Matt Shillington, Sydney sea changers who took classic A-Frames, gave them some TLC and created one of the region’s most Instagrammable spots.