Esperance beckons holidaymakers with a promise of natural perfection and peaceful solitude.
Those who make the 700-kilometre journey from Perth to this remote town on the south coast of Western Australia can enjoy some of the whitest beaches in the world. Stroll by the turquoise waters of the Southern Ocean and soak up the extraordinary beauty of this distant corner of Oz. Chances are you’ll be the only person for miles around.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Esperance.
While most visitors to the region are probably familiar with Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, Esperance’s impressive full size replica may come as something of a surprise. It was built from local pink granite and is perfectly aligned with the local summer and winter solstices (when the sun reaches its most northerly or southerly point relative to the equator). The solstices happen twice a year — the 22nd of December for sunrise and the 21st of June for sunset. If you happen to be present, you’ll see the sun’s rays shine through the station stones to the central altar stone.
For such an isolated town, Esperance has a diverse range of experiences to offer visitors — including a vibrant cultural scene. Head along to the Cannery Arts Centre, located on the stunning Esperance foreshore. Built in 1949 as a fish cannery, it is now the region’s premier arts space and hosts exhibitions that change on a regular basis.
As you stroll along the foreshore, you’ll undoubtedly notice the large sculpture of a whale tail. It’s the tail of a southern right, and the joint work of local artists Jason Wooldridge and Cindy Poole. Cindy’s glass art gallery gets great reviews. You’ll find it just a short drive from the centre of town. There’s a cafe on site.
Esperance was named after a French ship which made the first recorded European landing here in 1792. When Matthew Flinders sailed along this part of the coast in the early 1800s, he named other locations such as Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove. During the 19th century, the town boomed with the discovery of gold in the Eastern Goldfields. A visit to the Historic Museum Park Period Village is a fun way to learn more of the region’s backstory. Located in the centre of town, the park consists of a collection of restored historic structures that were relocated here from various points around Esperance. The quaint buildings now house a range of boutiques. Every second Sunday the site hosts the Museum Village Markets. Vendors set up shop between the various buildings.
Those of a certain vintage may recall hearing about the debris from NASA’s Skylab space station that crashed near Esperance in 1979. Esperance Museum displays a few large pieces of the space station, and also provides a comprehensive rundown on the history of European settlement in the area.
With the epic Southern Ocean on the town’s doorstep, it would be remiss not to indulge in fresh fish and chips at least once during your stay in Esperance. Along with takeaways, Fish Face serves quality seafood dishes in a casual dining setting. Check out the specials board, which changes daily. If you’re really lucky, they may have the ‘bass cod, prawns, scallops, squid, octopus and pippies cooked in ginger and lemon chilli butter and served with mash’ on the menu. It’s guaranteed to tantalise the taste buds!
A visit to Yirri Grove Olive Farm and Restaurant is worth the 20-minute drive from town. The restaurant offers a paddock to plate experience. Start with a scrumptious tasting plate, including the farm’s own olives. Move on to the Black Angus steakburger or perhaps the country-style beef pie. You won’t be disappointed. Also check out the shop, which offers a range of olive oils, local preserves and artisanal gifts.
There are some definite retail gems dotted around Esperance’s town centre. Bob & Jim’s General Store is family-owned and operated. They sell amazing fruit, vegetables, bread and eggs, and pride themselves on only offering Australian produce. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, especially with the aroma of freshly made waffles and sourdough bread wafting through the store. Also check out the range of locally made giftware.
You’re sure to pick up a souvenir of your visit to Esperance at Knots & Weaves Co. This bohemian homewares boutique stocks a wonderful selection of macrame and hand-woven items. For an eco-friendly, chemical free, healthy and happy take on life, check out Naturally Esperance. It’s a quirky little store with a huge personality.
Esperance is a year-round travel destination, but October through to July is generally considered to be the best time to visit — especially if you want to hit the great outdoors and amazing beaches. Temperatures average around 28 degrees and rainfall is minimal.
There are five national parks within easy reach, including popular Cape Le Grand. Here you can swim, rock climb, bushwalk, surf, fish and camp. One of the absolute highlights of the park is Lucky Bay — said to be home to the whitest beach sand in Australia. You may see the famous local kangaroos lazing the day away on the beach (a great photo opportunity!).
For something a little more secluded, make your way on to Thistle Cove. It’s another pristine gem that won’t disappoint those in search of clean white sand and turquoise blue water.
Also in Cape Le Grand is Frenchman Peak. The 262-metre Grade 5 walk to the top is well worth the effort for the stunning views across the park. Check out the caves and crevices that nature has carved out over millions of years.
On the opposite side of Esperance, the 40 kilometre Great Ocean Drive is a circular route that take in more of the stunning coastline. If you feel like a swim en route, stop off at Twilight Cove. It has crystal-clear water and some spectacular rock formations (see if you can spot the dinosaur lurking underwater!).
On your return from Cape Le Grand National Park and Lucky Bay, it seems fitting to stop in en route at award-winning Lucky Bay Brewing for a refreshing afternoon ale. The flavours this micro-brewhouse produces are clean and fresh, just like its exquisite namesake beach.
For more information, visit www.visitesperance.com.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Esperance? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Tourism Western Australia. Additional images: Bigstock