Esperance, WA

We arrived in Esperance to smoke filled skies, a red sun and bush fires (lit by lightning storms) burning  out of control in the area.

With more electrical storms and no rain, several new fires started during the week. Accommodation in the town was filling up with fire fighters and campers evacuated from nearby national parks. Thankfully we got into Esperance Foreshore Caravan Park. The staff were friendly and kept everyone updated with bushfire information and road closures. It is also the WA long week end and the national park camp sites are booked up months in advance.

The area around Esperance had catastrophic bush fires in 2015. Commercial hardwood forests surrounding the national parks were one of many areas  destroyed during those fires, but the dead trees still stand, hectares of them, just waiting to go up in flames once again.

The army arrived to provide tents for fire fighters as accommodation ran out in the town. These trucks were outside our caravan park.

This was an interesting camper. (Not supplied by the army)

By the next day the smoke had cleared and we enjoyed exploring the town on our bikes.

The beach along the foreshore isn’t the best due to erosion.

Tanker Jetty was built during the great depression and was one of Western Australia’s largest timber jetties. It closed as a commercial jetty in 1977 and became a draw card for locals to dive off and fish from. However it wasn’t maintained.  One of the locals told us the council had been disagreeing between repair or rebuild for so many years now that most people had given up hope of anything happening. Its ongoing  disintergration is a hazard to boats and swimmers.

The museum has a large display on the NASA Skylab from when it fell across W.A. in 1979. Considering the size of  some of the pieces it’s surprising no one was killed. Apparently the Mayor of Esperance fined NASA $400 for littering, as a joke. They never paid but 30 years later an American radio DJ and his listeners paid it.

“The Great Ocean Drive” took us to some of the most amazingly beautiful, pristine, beaches we have ever seen. We went swimming at Twilight Bay. It also took us past the wind farm and the Pink Lake (which is no longer pink).

The Woody Island Eco Tour around the Recherche Archipelagos was the highlight for us. ..Just off the coast of Esperance are the Recherche Archipelagos, consisting of 105 islands, over 1500 islets, and many more submerged rocks, making shipping in the area very hazardous. The islands are generally composed of granite, often with steep slopes and usually lacking beaches. The coast is subject to some of the most extreme wave energy in all of Australia, with the wave energy causing abrasion as far down as 100 metres (328 ft) during storms…  

I know I have added way too many photos here, but it’s the only way I can portray the enormous number of BIG ROCKS sticking out of the ocean. If they are a certain height above water level they are deemed an island, smaller ones are islets, and then there are the thousands more that are submerged. The islands alone stretch 240km east to west and 50km off shore. Sea lions and sea eagles call this place home, and we saw both.

Woody island is the only island that allows visitors. ‘Glamping’ tents are set up for anyone wanting to stay a few days, and there are no snakes on the island. We also managed to find a few remnants of the historic ‘self guided snorkeling tour’ in the bay. But the water was lovely and there were lots of fish to see. There’s a pontoon for swimmers to dive off too.

At the turn of the 20th century the island was a sheep station. Feed brought in for the sheep caused an invasion of weeds. Once the sheep were gone, kangaroos were brought over to eat the weeds. This worked well, the weed has been eradicated and the kangaroos seem happy. During the driest summers, like now, there isn’t enough for the kangaroos to eat so feed is brought over for them. This one is having a snack at the feed barrel under the building.

We went on an island walking tour and learnt that one area of the island is a mutton bird sanctuary. Mutton birds dig burrows up to 2 meters deep to lay their eggs. They are also terrible at landing and tend to crash land. Fairy penguins also come ashore in this area. For anyone staying over night, coming at dusk to watch mutton birds and penguins is a ‘must do’ for entertainment.

Back in Esperance, we did a day trip to Cape Le Grand National Park once the roads were open. If not for the fires we would have taken the van and stayed at Lucky Bay for a week. The sand is so white and the water is a stunning torquoise and crystal clear. Kangaroos come down to the beach and eat the seaweed. There’s a coffee van on the beach with really uncomfortable chairs. (The chair bit is joke for any one who saw our daughter’s play ’Lottie in the late afternoon’. These chairs were actually fine.) If you ever get a chance to come and camp here, do so, it truely is magical.

Frenchman Peak is the highest mountain in Le Grand National Park. We haven’t climbed a mountain since 2015 and realised how much we missed it. Three hours of the best fun. Can’t wait for the next one.

This is Frenchman Peak from a distance. Can you see the people on the top? That’s where we went.

The track is marked in yellow on this map.

The first bit is easy.

Then it gets a little bit interesting, and slightly terrifying, but loads more fun.

Just before the summit is a rock canopy giving some much needed shade. Around the side of the canopy the track continues.

There is a cave/ opening which can be seen on the other side from the distance. There was a wonderful cool wind blowing up through it. A great place to cool off. But the ground was very steep with nothing to stop ‘a very quick’ descent  into the car park below.

Then 15 minutes later we were ON THE TOP!!! So exciting.

Going down was a little tricky in places, but much easier than going up.

At the bottom were some lovely wildflowers.

A swim at Cape Le Grand Beach freshened us up after the climb. The water was gorgeous and clear,  very refreshing if a bit cool.

One place I had read about and wanted to stay was Duke of Orleans Bay on the opposite side of Cape Le Grand National Park to Esperance. Due to the fires we had to cancel our booking. We took a day trip out to the caravan park and were suprised to find that the swimming beaches were 3 km away. They are beautiful beaches but that particular day the wind was incredibly strong and quite cold, making it unpleasant to stay outside for any period of time.

If we get the chance to come back, we will definitely stay at Lucky Bay, it’s such a magical place.

We are on the road again, heading west. Cheers til next time. Helen and Tim