Off the Nullarbor, it was only a couple more hours of driving to Esperance, a place I had been especially looking forward to and one that we had been hearing nothing but good things about from people heading the other way. The name alone, Esperance, invokes positive feelings and images of a wonderful place. And the photo used on all of Esperance’s brochures and marketing materials further backs up its idyllic image. (It’s a picture of a kangaroo lounging on a perfect white beach backed by a gorgeous turquoise sea… you can see it here.)
We arrived in Esperance to sunny skies and warm (though not hot) weather. Our first activity was to do the 36km Great Ocean Drive (not to be confused with Victoria’s Great Ocean Road) loop. It’s probably not right to compare this drive with that of the Great Ocean Road, as their length is not even close to comparable, but I think if the Great Ocean Drive was as long as the Road, it would probably beat it out. The beaches were all pure white sand, the water was a gorgeous array of blues and greens, and the jagged cliffs, rocks and archipelago of islands were all spectacular. We didn’t even stop at all the various lookouts and walks since we were pretty tired, but I would be happy to spend half a day or even a full day exploring all the gorgeous areas along the short drive.
Esperance definitely didn’t disappoint (except in the fact that its caravan parks, and entry to its national parks, are a bit more expensive than we’re used to, but it appears that this is going to be something we’ll have to accept in WA). We’ve experienced a lot of incredible beaches on our trip so far, but Esperance seems to have something that still sets it apart.
After a bit of relaxation in the van, we took a stroll from our caravan park to the tanker jetty where we spotted Sammy, a sea lion that has been a long-time resident at the jetty. I’m not sure how long sea lions live, but there is a statue of Sammy at the start of the pier dated from 1999 and he is mentioned in my guidebook and other things we’ve read about Esperance. We think he’s probably just an extra smart and lazy sea lion, as he seems to position himself right near the fish cleaning tables on the pier where he probably catches some free meals when fishermen realize some of their fish are too small and throw them back
The next morning I woke up early and headed back to the pier where there were a couple people fishing but it was overall very quiet and peaceful. I grabbed a spot for myself (it’s a very long pier!) and sat and enjoyed the silence and the sea for a while. After a quick walk around town (it’s a very small town), Oscar and I took off toward Cape Le Grand national park. Again I had seen stunning photos from this area, and so I was especially excited about visiting it finally.
We paid our $11 entry fee (per car for most national parks, something I unfortunately had missed in my research, and we should have probably gotten the four week holiday pass with unlimited park visits for $40), and drove into the park. The surrounding trees and plants were all pretty short, which gave the nice feel of still being in a nature park while also being able to see around you and see how big the park is, where the sea is, etc.
We first visited Cape Le Grand Beach and Hellfire Bay. Both were absolutely gorgeous beaches (I’ve run out of different adjectives to use!), the kind you just can’t believe your eyes at how spectacular they are. We walked the length of the beaches but couldn’t lay out for a tan no matter how much we wished it, as the wind was strong and made it cool on the beaches even though it was a hot day. Strong winds come in over the Southern Ocean!
After a quick lunch break we decided to climb Frenchmans Peak, which I wasn’t quite prepared for! The climb itself wasn’t especially difficult physically (there were plenty of older people climbing it with the tour group that had started just ahead of us and they all seemed to make it), but for me it was a little bit terrifying. While I wouldn’t say I really have a fear of heights, I do have a bit of a fear of slipping/sliding/tumbling/falling down or off steep mountains and dying or seriously injuring myself!
The peak was very steep in places and there was no path or any kind of fences or safety measures at all. I suppose I might have made it more scary and dangerous in my mind than it really was, but I’m a bit clumsy as it is and I kept picturing myself tripping over a rock or not making it over a boulder and tumbling down the mountainside to my death. Oscar was of course hopping along without a care in the world and trying to get me to take the scary shortcuts or look over scary overhangs (did I mention it was also incredibly windy?), which I wasn’t enjoying so much. However the views at the top were fantastic (to put it lightly!), though it was slightly marred by the knowledge that I still had to get back DOWN the mountain (let’s just say there was a lot of crab-like crawling involved).
After surviving the mountain (I am now convinced I will never conquer Mount Everest), we headed to Lucky Bay, where we were going to camp for the night. Lucky Bay is the beach where the photo of the kangaroo on the beach was taken, so I had high hopes for some kangaroo-on-the-beach spotting.
Unfortunately, Lucky Bay seemed to be undergoing some kind of seaweed attack, and the beautiful white beach was looking a little less than beautiful as about half of it was strewn with weeds. I still had kangaroo dreams, though, so we wandered, shivering, along the windy beach.
On our way back toward the campsite, thinking we’d missed out, we spotted some kangaroos up on the hill above and behind the beach. As we walked we saw more and more, so we stood and waited, hoping they’d come down and come closer. We stopped by a family, a huge male kangaroo and a female with her two children (one very small and one medium sized). The two young ones started play-fighting and hopped down the hill but were still hidden in the trees next to the beach. The mother hopped down, too, but we couldn’t see them. Then Oscar decided he was too cold and wanted to return to the campsite. I remained and moved a bit closer to the trees by the beach.
Then I saw them. The mother and two younger roos were all in the brush right on the edge of the beach, and I was just a few feet away from them! I stood and watched as they grazed and stood alert watch from time to time. The baby was the most adorable thing and stuck its head in its mothers pouch to drink some milk at one point, before hopping excitedly over to his brother to play-fight some more. It was definitely a sight to see!
This is part 9 of a 12 part series. Read the rest of the Epic Aussie Road Trip series or watch the video to drive across Australia in 2 minutes.