Esperance is a beautiful coastal town located on the southern coast of Western Australia. It’s known for its stunning beaches, clear blue waters, and scenic natural attractions. Here are some of the things to do in Esperance.
Why Visit Esperance
Esperance is the first good-sized city along the southern coastline of Australia after crossing the Nullarbor Plain from South Australia. It’s a popular stop on the road trip itinerary of those visiting the southwest corner of Western Australia, either to recharge from the long trip across the Nullarbor or to prepare for it.
Esperance sits on the traditional lands of the Noongar people.
Esperance was initially settled as farming land, and today that still makes up a large portion of the industry in the area. Tourism and fishing are also a large part of the town today.
The natural beauty of the area is the major drawcard for visitors, and it is well worth the drive to see it.
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Common Driving Distances to Esperance
Esperance is not close to, well, pretty much anywhere. Here are some examples of how far it is from “nearby” places
- Perth to Esperance 700km
- Adelaide to Esperance 2175km
- Sydney to Esperance 3420km
- Norseman to Esperance 200km
- Albany to Esperance 480km
- How big is Esperance?
Esperance has an approximate population of around 13000 people. It is a regional hub so you will find most of what you need here in town.
- How long to stay at Esperance?
I recommend at a very minimum staying two full days (three nights) but an extra day or two would be very easy to fill with activities and give you more time to slow down and enjoy some of the stunning scenery.
- Where to stay in Esperance?
We were camping so stayed at Esperance Bay Holiday Park. The location and facilities were great but it may not be a great choice if road noise keeps you awake and you are in a tent. In a caravan or one of their cabins, I don’t think it would be a problem.
For a motel option, the Hospitality Inn Esperance was in a good location and didn’t look too bad.
- When is the best time to visit Esperance?
The summer months will give you a higher chance of seeing the beaches on beautiful sunny days and be best for swimming and enjoying the area. If you want to do some hiking, cooler months might be better, and whale watching is also only available in winter.
Things to do in Esperance
There’s a huge variety of things to do in Esperance and surrounds. From nature and beaches to history and culture, a craft brewery and a distillery you will be entertained here for days.
Be Amazed in Cape Le Grand National Park
While not exactly “in” town, this should be number one on your list of Esperance attractions. Cape Le Grand is on a peninsula to the east of Esperance. The gates of the park are 50km from the centre of town, but the places to see are further than that.
There is a ticket office at the gates of the park where you will need to either buy a ticket to enter the park (up to $15 per car) or show your WA Parks Pass if you already have one.
Not only are there some iconic beaches to see in the park, but there are also a number of walking trails too, including the 20km Coastal Trail if you would like a real challenge.
It is possible to stay inside the national park in your caravan/RV/tent but be warned, it’s very popular and is usually booked out six months in advance. I think this would be fantastic though if you can manage it.
Here are the top attractions to see in Cape Le Grand National Park
Have you seen those beautiful Australian tourism photos that show kangaroos on a pristine white beach with turquoise blue waters? Well, they were taken here at Lucky Bay and in my opinion and it is even more stunning in person.
The group of kangaroos have taken up residence on the beach here at Lucky Bay and it’s not unusual to see them hanging out on the sand. For our visit, they were greeting visitors in the car park but weren’t down on the beach. These kangaroos are used to people, but do remember they are wild animals so keep a safe distance and do not feed them.
If you are visiting with a 4WD, you can drive down onto the beach. Otherwise, just walk down into this breathtaking bay and spend an hour or two walking on the sand or taking a swim. We also saw surfers in two different locations around the bay, and someone fishing from the beach too.
Make sure you take your shows off and walk in bare feet – the sand is made of Quartz and is incredibly fine and white. It squeaks as you walk on it and is as soft as powder.
There are picnic facilities and toilets nearby, and this is the location of one of the camping areas
Lucky Bay is not the only beautiful beach here, the whole coastline is dotted with them and if, like me, you can’t get enough of that white sand and blue water then Thistle Cove is another to see.
Make sure you also follow the signs from the car park to see Whistling Rock. The curved shape acts like an amplifier, to bring the sounds of the sea right up close.
There is a walking path from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove which is about 4km return and takes around an hour to walk comfortably.
For a third beautiful beach visit Hellfire Bay. There’s not a sign of hellfire in this picturesque location, it’s a sheltered bay great for swimming, especially if you have kids with you. During our visit, a group of school kids were body-surfing in the small waves.
You can also visit Little Hellfire Bay, a smaller version of its big brother, with a short ten minute hike over the hill.
There are picnic tables, BBQs and toilets here so this makes a good lunch stop.
We ran out of time to do this, but if you are looking for the best views in Cape Le Grand National Park then you need to climb to the top of Frenchman Peak. There’s a large cave near the top that’s worth exploring and it’s a great photo opportunity.
The climb is steep and difficult, often scrambling over exposed rocks to reach the peak at 262m. It’s a 3km return walk and you should allow 2 hours. Ensure you are prepared before tackling this climb.
Cape Le Grand Beach
The park’s namesake beach is yet again white, blue and perfect. It’s a little further to get to this beach, but if you are not yet sick of looking at crystal-clear waters, white sand, and incredible views, make the drive to have a look.
This is where the second camp site in Cape Le Grand National Park can be found.
Another place we did not get to. While all the other roads to the places above are sealed, the road to Rossiters Bay is gravel, but it is still passable by 2WD.
Get Off the Beaten Path in Cape Arid National Park
If Cape Le Grand National Park leaves you wanting more, there is a second park not too far away that you can also visit.
This one though is a 4WD only park, so we didn’t actually visit, but I wanted to mention it to give the option.
There is a selection of remote and beautiful beaches throughout the park, with Dolphin Bay being a particular favourite. This is one of the best places to see Humpbacks or Southern Right Whales during their migration to the area.
There are some walking trails and several campgrounds if you would like to stay in the park. The national parks website recommends Cape Arid for “keen campers and nature enthusiasts”.
More Coastal Views with the Great Ocean Drive
This 40km scenic loop drive leaves from right in the centre of Esperance. It goes out of town to the west to Eleven Mile Beach, showing off even more of the region’s beaches along the way. On the drive, you will see the popular local beaches West Beach and Blue Haven Beach but stop first at the Rotary Lookout for 360-degree views over the town, the bays and the outlying islands.
On the drive back into Esperance, stop off at Pink Lake and learn why it is no longer that candy-pink hue.
The whole drive will take about an hour, but if you stop at all the viewpoints I would recommend allowing a little longer. We took around 90 minutes to do the loop, and only stopped around five times.
Visit Recherche Archipelago
You can’t help but notice the islands off the coast of Esperance and all the beaches you will visit. They belong to the Recherche Archipelago, or as the locals often call it, the Bay of Islands. The whole archipelago stretches for 230km and is made up of 105 islands.
Recherche Archipelago is home to the second largest divable wreck after the Sanko Harvest, a bulk carrier, sank in the area in 1991.
Visitors to Esperance can explore the Recherche Archipelago in a few ways
This is the largest of the islands that make up the Recherche Archipelago, but that is not the reason it is most known. It is home to Lake Hillier, possibly Australia’s best-known pink lake. It tends to be a bright candy pink almost all year round.
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed on Middle Island, so there is only one way to see Lake Hillier and that is from the air. A scenic flight over the pink lake ticks one of the bucket list things to see in Esperance.
Take this 80-minute flight from Esperance over the Cape Le Grand National Park and out to Middle Island to see Lake Hillier from the air.
Woody Island is the only one in the archipelago open to the public. It’s relatively small at only 1.5km long and is a nature reserve. Sheep were grazed on the island until 1954 when the whole archipelago was declared a reserve.
Woody Island Eco Tours offers a range of options from day trips to overnight stays, either camping or in their glamping and safari tents. Boat transfers to the island leave from right in the centre of Esperance
In the warmer months, it’s also possible to be transferred to Woody Island by helicopter with Helispirit.
While you are on Woody Island, you can enjoy some scenic walks, go snorkelling or swimming in the clear waters and learn about the area at the visitor centre.
From June until October each year, Southern Right Whales migrate from the cold Antarctic waters to give birth in the turquoise waters around Esperance.
They can often be spotted playing in any of the bays in the Cape Le Grand National Park, or if you have a 4WD, in Cape Arid National Park. Look out for them too at all the lookouts along the Great Ocean Drive – the one above Twilight Beach and the one at Observatory Point would be particularly good options.
You could also head out on a nature cruise with Esperance Island Cruises, who often spot whales during their winter cruises. You will also see seals and sea lions, dolphins, sea birds and more.
Stroll the Esperance Foreshore
Right along the waterfront in Esperance is a grassed area perfect for recreation of all kinds. Take a stroll to explore all the things it has to offer.
Down near the Taylor Street Jetty, you can find the Esperance Miniature Railway, the Esperance Clocktower (not as old as it looks) and Adventureland Park. Follow the path along and you will find BBQs, picnic tables and sheltered areas as you walk. You will pass a skate park and a BMX pump track.
Continue along until you see the iconic whale tail sculpture, then lookout for more art and interpretive signs as you make your way to the impressive Tanker Jetty.
This jetty was opened again in 2021 after reconstruction, preserving its distinctive curved shape. It’s great for fishing, and has a dive platform underneath it, perfect for searching for the elusive leafy seadragon that lives in the area.
Near the Tanker Jetty is another fantastic playground – there is no shortage of free things to do in Esperance with kids!
Visit the Esperance Museum
Located right in the centre of town, the Esperance Museum is a great place to learn a little about the story of the region, from the Indigenous culture to the modern day.
One of the most significant events to happen in the region, Esperance was where, in 1979, some of the parts of Skylab fell to Earth. Skylab was the only space station to belong to the US. It was planned that the debris would fall into the Indian Ocean, but that did not happen and instead, it was scattered all around the Esperance area.
Today there is a model of the Skylab space station outside of the museum and inside all sorts of memorabilia, including some of the actual debris.
The museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Entry costs $9 per adult, children $4, with other concession and family prices available.
Admire Australia’s Stonehenge
We’ve all heard of Stonehenge in England, but did you know there is one here in Australia too?
This Esperance Stonehenge was the brainchild of a businessman who decided it would be a good tourist attraction in Margaret River. The stone required was quarried at Esperance, and before it could be transported, the man went broke.
This left all the bits cut, sitting in the quarry. A local Esperance farmer (and engineer) thought it was a shame to see them broken up, so decided to take on the challenge of building Stonehenge on his land.
It was no mean feat, with the largest of the stones weighing around 50 tonnes, and even with modern equipment it took months to build.
Today it is a full-size replica, of how it is imagined Stonehenge was in its prime. It is lined up exactly so that at sunrise on the summer solstice and sunset on the winter solstice the sun shines directly onto the altar.
Esperance’s Stonehenge is open every day, from 9 am to 1 pm in winter, 9 am to 3 pm in summer. Adult tickets are $14.
Browse the Esperance Markets
If you happen to be in Esperance on the weekend, then there are two markets in town that you may like to check out.
Museum Village Markets
These markets are held every second Sunday from 8:30 am until 12:30 pm in and around the Historic Village adjacent the museum on Dempster Street.
The markets showcase local producers, and you can find local fruit and veggies, gourmet foods, crafts and other items. There is also a range of food trucks to pick up a bit to eat too.
Check their Facebook page to see when the markets are on.
Esperance Growers Market
The Esperance Growers Market is held every second Saturday at the Esperance Scout Hall on the Esplanade from 9 until 11 am.
As the name suggests, here you will find all sorts of fresh produce, from potatoes to tomatoes. There are also a handful of craft stalls, plant stalls and more.
Check their Facebook page to find out if the market is on when you’re in town.
Quench your Thirst at a Brewery or Distillery
Whether you are a beer drinker, or you prefer gin, you can find a locally made drink right here in Esperance to enjoy.
Lucky Bay Brewing
We called into Lucky Bay Brewing on our way back from Cape Le Grand National Park and it was a perfect way to relax.
I’m not a beer drinker, but my husband is, and he chose a tasting paddle of four of the different beers. He declared them all good and he would happily have more of any of them.
It’s not only beers here, there are other drinks too. I chose a Bridgetown soft cider since one of us would have to drive after this.
There are food options here too – the pizza looked and smelled delicious. I think if they had vegan cheese as an option for me we would have given in and ordered one.
This is a large venue with a huge outdoor area and is perfect if you have kids with you as there is a lot of room for them to run and play.
Lucky Bay Brewing is open Thursday to Monday, from 11:30 until 7pm (with slightly longer hours on Friday)
Esperance Distillery Co
Unfortunately, we did not get to visit Esperance Distillery Co as we were in town on days they were closed.
The folks here produce a range of gins, vodka and something called Wagtail Aniseed Spirit, and apart from the aniseed which is not to my taste, they all look good. Visitors can call into their cellar door on Norseman Road to taste or purchase.
Their opening hours tend to vary, and the website says to keep an eye on their Instagram page for the latest hours. At the time of writing (May 2023) the hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am until 4 pm.
Dine at Taylor St Quarters
If you are looking for an iconic place to eat in Esperance, head to Taylor St Quarters.
Located right on the foreshore near the Taylor Street jetty, the restaurant is in a building with a past. It was originally a hospital in Perth before being transported to Esperance to become the hospital here. In the 1980s, it was moved again to the current location and became popular tea rooms.
Today you can still call past for afternoon tea with a view over the water, or you can enjoy delicious fine dining meals made from local ingredients for lunch or dinner.
Taylor St Quarters are open 12 pm until 10:30 pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Walk the Esperance Tanker Jetty
There are a number of jetties in Esperance, but this one is the best for taking a walk – and if there is a jetty in town, we always feel like a walk is essential.
The Tanker Jetty has been recently renovated after it was deemed to be structurally unsafe, but it still has its signature curve from the days when it was used as a jetty to loads cargo vessels here at Esperance.
Today it’s a recreational jetty, perfect for fishing. It also has a lower platform at the end of the jetty, for easy access to the water for divers and swimmers. The leafy sea dragon lives in the area and it’s a good opportunity to see this elusive creature.
The jetty is 410m long, so this is a great opportunity to add to your step count for the day.
Even More Things to do in Esperance
There are so many things to do in and around Esperance that I did not get a chance to do everything – here are a few more suggestions you may like to look into further:
- Check out the Esperance street art
- Dabungool Cultural Experiences – on country tours to learn about the local Noongar culture
- Cindy Poole Glass Gallery
- Esperance Bird & Animal Park & Cafe
- Esperance Aboriginal Art Gallery
- Esperance Farm Experience
After enjoying Esperance, are you travelling further in Western Australia?
These posts might help you
Essential Things to Do in Perth on Your First Visit
Things to Do on Rottnest Island in Winter
TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs
Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.
Hire a rental car – RentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.
Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.
Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.
Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.
Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.
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