It’s a long way from anywhere, but there are a lot of things to do in Esperance. This coastal town on the southern coast of Western Australia is well worth the long drive if you are looking for white-sand beaches, kangaroos and lots of wilderness, and it’s easily one of the most scenic destinations in WA.
There are a lot of things to do in Esperance, especially if you are big into the outdoor lifestyle and are looking to explore a little known part of Australia. WA is one of the least visited states in the country, and with Esperance being a long way from Perth, compared to anywhere on the east coast, this isn’t exactly a location that’s raved about in tourist brochures.
Don’t expect it to be empty though, because the spectacular white sands, turquoise waters and friendly kangaroos of Lucky Bay are slowly attracting more and more tourists each year, and with limited camping spots and accommodation in and around this small town, it can feel strangely touristic in peak season.
It’s definitely one of those get there quick places, because, with epic scenery and great things to do in Esperance, the town won’t be able to keep its low profile for too much longer.
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The Best Things to do in Esperance
Esperance is all about the scenery, and to be quite honest, the small seaside town itself has only a few limited traditional attractions, many of which you might even not want to bother seeing at all.
Make time for the excellent Lucky Bay Brewery, but feel free to skip the strange Stonehenge recreation, that somehow seems to feature heavily as one of the best things to do in Esperance on certain online review sites – for reasons I’ll never know.
Esperance is around 8 hours straight driving time from Perth, or if you are travelling from Albany to Esperance, along the south coast it’s at least 5 hours, not counting any stops. The remote mining town of Kalgoorlie is another 4 hours inland, and with many intriguing things to do in Kalgoorlie, this can make for a great stop before or after visiting Esperance if you are self-driving.
You can even drive the long way from Perth to Kalgoorlie, then to Esperance, rather than taking the Albany route. It’s a tough call which way to go though because there are some great things to do in Albany WA too. If you need to end up back in Perth again, then definitely take a loop.
Here are the best things to do in Esperance!
Cape Le Grand National Park
Cape Le Grand National Park is the most famous attraction in Esperance because this large protected area of coastline is one of the most dramatic national parks in Western Australia.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Esperance was originally French, given the French names around the area, but while France never colonised the south coast of Australia, they did name much of the area, including Cape Le Grand, when they explored the coastline in a 1792 expedition – not that the local Aboriginal communities didn’t already have names for places of course…
They were impressed with Cape Le Grand, as you will be too, and within the national park, you can find small mountain peaks to climb, white sand beaches, turquoise bays and plenty of wildlife. There are several camping spots within the national park, and given that Cape Le Grand is actually at least an hours drive from Esperance itself, it’s well worth staying a night or two.
National Park fees are payable upon entry to Cape Le Grand National Park – if you don’t pay you can get big fines from the rangers, as this is one place they definitely check up on!
Lucky Bay is the most iconic sight within Cape Le Grand National Park, and to be quite honest, it’s probably the number one reason why people make the long drive to Esperance.
This large bay is horseshoe-shaped, fringed by low lying hills and cliffs, and blessed with pristine white sand. The water is shades of turquoise and green and contrasts sharply with the pure white of the beach.
The long, sandy beach is perfect for relaxing on, and you’ll find people settling in for the whole day, to just do nothing. On the shorefront, you can even find barbecues too.
The nearby campsite, just a short walk from the beach, is one of the most popular in Esperance, and in peak season – that’s summer season – it can get quickly booked out, so get here early in the day to grab yourself a spot. Get here late, and you might be unfortunately disappointed. Camping out by Lucky Bay gives you the chance to get up early and watch the sunrise over the water – because quite simply, it’s spectacular.
Lucky Bay is also known for its friendly kangaroos. In many respects, they are far too friendly. They bound across the beach, and provide a great photo opportunity, and for the most part, they don’t flinch when humans get near them. They are fairly arrogant though, and if you’re camping you’ll find them rummaging through your food supplies when the sun starts to set.
Cape Le Grand Beach
Cape Le Grand Beach is the second most popular stretch of coastline within Cape Le Grand National Park, and although it’s not quite as dramatic as Lucky Bay, it’s definitely striking, and in peak season, probably quieter too.
Cape Le Grand Beach is a long beach, and you’ll find soft white sand stretching for miles. If you have a four by four, you can take it along much of the beach, but just watch out for the tides and the really soft sections of sand.
The beach is just a short drive from Lucky Bay, and there is, in fact, a second campsite at Cape Le Grand Beach. If Lucky Bay campsite is full, you’ll want to head here instead, or if you are looking for a change of scenery, it’s an equally scenic place to bed down for a few nights.
Sandwiched halfway between Lucky Bay and Cape Le Grand Beach, Hellfire Bay is often overlooked and lost between its two more famous neighbours. Hellfire Bay isn’t as extensive as Lucky Bay, and the beach isn’t as long as Cape Le Grand, but it’s just as spectacular.
The sand is just as white as the other two beaches, and the water is just as turquoise. It’s a more compact place to visit, but in many ways, I preferred it. You can find a few barbecues on the cliffs leading down to the beach, and it’s an excellent place to just chill out, cook up a few burgers and take in the views.
Rossiter Bay is found to the east of Lucky Bay and is just about as far east as most people venture within Cape Le Grand National Park.
You can get here by two-wheel drive vehicle – although it’s a dirt track of course – or you can even walk here from Lucky Bay. It’s about 5 kilometres away, but few people actually seem to make the journey – whether on foot or by car – making this one of the more secluded parts of the national park.
Halfway between Hellfire Bay and Lucky Bay, you can find Thistle Cove, which is another part of the national park that isn’t quite as popular as its neighbours. Thistle Cove is yet another spectacular bay, with white sand and turquoise waters. In a national park of such beauty, even beautiful places struggle to stand out!
You can walk or drive here, and the cove is known for being the home of the Whistling Rock, a unique rock that, presumably, whistles…
Le Grand Coastal Trail
While you can drive between all the different bays and beaches within the national park – and let’s face it, if you’ll most likely have a car if you’ve made it here in the first place! – if you’re looking for more of a challenge, and to get off the roads, then you can hike the Le Grand Coastal Trail.
The trail is a total of 17 kilometres in length, and it takes you from Rossiter Bay in the east to Cape Le Grand Beach in the west. It can be tough in places, as you’ll be traversing the rocky coastline and cliffs, while in summer, the heat will be scorching.
It’s 17 kilometres ONE WAY, which means 34 kilometres return if you started and ended at Cape Le Grand Beach or Rossiter Bay. That makes it impractical in many ways unless you can hitch a lift to the start or hitch one back from the endpoint.
Many people choose to walk different segments of the trail rather than the whole route in one go. For instance, if you’re camping out Lucky Bay, you can hike to Rossiter Bay, or hike down to Hellfire Bay, and return the same day from either. Equally, if you’re camping at Cape Le Grand Beach, you can hike along to Hellfire Bay and back again. It’s totally up to you, but it’s a great way to see more of the national park that gets missed when you drive.
If you are looking for another hike and another adventure in Cape Le Grand National Park, then one of the best places to visit is Frenchman’s Peak.
This prominent peak is the closest you’ll get to a mountain in Esperance, but it still only rises to a height of 262 metres – more of a hill, and it has nothing on Bluff Knoll, one of WA’s tallest mountains. It rises abruptly though, and the walk to the top is a challenge. The steep slopes can be loose and dangerous in bad weather, while in the height of summer, you can easily be beaten down by the fierce sun as you struggle to the summit.
Along the way, you’ll find precipitous drops, huge, dark caves and probably the odd snake or spider. The views from the summit are exceptional, and you can see far out to sea, and across most of the national park. The hike takes at least an hour each way, and you don’t want to be returning in the dark, so time it well if you want to catch the sunset from the top!
Lucky Bay Brewing
One of the best things to do in Esperance is to call in at the Lucky Bay Brewing company because once you’ve spent a few days exploring Cape Le Grand National Park, you’ll be wanting a few cold drinks.
Lucky Bay Brewing is found on the outskirts of the town itself – yes, unfortunately, someone will have to be the designated driver for this one! – and they serve up the best local craft brews. You can find their beverages on tap and in bottles across Esperance and in some of the wider area, but at the brewery, you can get the freshest drinks and see first hand how it’s crafted.
In Esperance itself, one of the best places to visit is the Esplanade, which traverses most of the shoreline in the town centre, taking in the harbour and much of the bay.
It’s a great place to take a walk, or just to hang out, and you can stroll all along the length of the Esplanade. There are barbecues, benches, parks and grassy areas, as well as small piers and lookouts.
Get some barbecue food from the local supermarket or hunt down some fish and chips – that’s not hard to find in Esperance! – and just chill out and enjoy watching the world go by.
At the far end of the Esplanade, just off Twilight Beach Cove, you can visit the Rotary Lookout for one of the best viewing spots in town.
The lookout is built atop an enormous granite rock, that forms the natural end of the bay and the edge of Esperance itself. You can easily walk here along the Esplanade, but if you’re feeling lazy, there’s parking too.
Head here for sunset for the most epic views over the ocean, and wait for it to drop completely to see Esperance lit up at nighttime.
Pink Lake has traditionally been one of Esperance’s biggest tourist draws, but when I visited, I could barely make out any sort of pink tinge at all in the water. Supposedly, many years ago, it was vividly pink and justified its name. These days, the pink hue hasn’t been seen for a long time.
The fading colour is due to the fact that the salinity levels have dropped massively due to water diversions, and it’s the salt that provided sustenance for the microbes and algae that gave the lake its pink colour. Now, it’s just like a normal lake, so locals are starting to call it Spencer Lake – it’s original name – rather than Pink Lake.
That being said, it’s still a lovely lake and as long as you aren’t expecting to find bright, fluorescent shades of pink when you visit, then it’s a great place to visit. There are hiking trails and viewing points around the edge, and you’ll soon realise it’s actually, rather large.
Pink lakes cause even more confusion amongst tourists in Esperance because actually, there still is a pink lake in the area – and many of the pictures you see online, might well be of this pink lake, and not the pink lake that’s called Pink Lake but isn’t actually pink. The second lake in question is Lake Hillier, however, for most tourists, it’s not a practical place to visit.
Lake Hillier is vibrantly pink, but it’s not actually in Esperance. Instead, it’s found on an island in the remote Recherche Archipelago, which is found far offshore. The only way to see the pink lake is by joining a scenic flight from Esperance – and they don’t come cheap.
Cape Arid National Park
Another remote and isolated place to visit in the region is Cape Arid National Park, but like the Recherche Archipelago, few tourists make it here either. It’s one of Western Australia’s largest and most out of the way national parks, and it will take you a good 3 hours to get to the edge of Cape Arid from Esperance.
If you are heading off across the Nullarbor, then you can make it a stop before you carry on into the emptiness of remote WA, but another obstacle is the fact that Cape Arid is suitable for four by four vehicles only, which greatly reduces the number of visitors that actually get here.
If you do make the journey though, you’ll find secluded beaches, quiet campsites and spectacular coastline.
An easier to reach, and more conventional attraction, is the Esperance Museum. If you’re interested in history, then this is one of the best things to do in Esperance, as you’ll find a wealth of local artefacts and quirky exhibits on displays.
You can learn about European exploration along the coast in the 18th century, the first settlers to arrive during the gold rush days, and most fascinating of all, Skylab.
Bizarrely, in 1979, a NASA space station known as Skylab crashed down to earth, and parts of the wreckage fell over Esperance. The town fined NASA for littering, and many years later, the space organisation actually paid the local government!
Museum Village Markets
Esperance has a quirky ‘Museum Village’, which recreates how the early pioneer settlement established by European colonists might have looked like in the 19th century.
It’s a vaguely interesting attraction, but the real draw is the vibrant markets that are held in and around the museum village, every second Sunday of the month. If you’re in town when the markets are on, you’ll find some excellent food and drink from across the region for sale!
More bizarre than the Skylab story or the lack of pink in the Pink Lake, is the unashamedly strange local attraction of Stonehenge.
This is a replica of the original Stonehenge, which of course, is thousands of years older and thousands of miles away in England. In Esperance, a local farmer built his own Stonehenge in a field – complete with grazing cows too.
It was unclear why exactly he felt the need to do this, but it’s become one of the top-ranked things to do in Esperance on sites like Tripadvisor. It’s even made it onto my list here, and I’m not even really sure why…
In the interest of journalistic integrity though, I’ll admit that I didn’t feel the need to pay the $10 entrance to get closer than the fence.
Great Ocean Drive
One of the best things to do in Esperance if you’ve got a vehicle is the Great Ocean Drive. This beautiful 40-kilometre loop leads you around the best beaches and coastal scenes in Esperance.
The circular loop starts and ends along the Esplanade, and it will take you up to the not-so-Pink Lake, out to Eleven Mile Beach, and then along the coast back to the town. Along the route, you can stop off at countless beaches and bays. Enjoy the sands, go for a swim and take in the great scenery from the viewpoints.
You’ll pass by some of the best beaches in Esperance, including Salmon Beach and Twilight Cove.
If you’re carrying on into the great expanse of Western Australia after experiencing the best things to do in Esperance, then two hours north you’ll find the old gold rush town of Norseman WA.
This is the halfway point between Esperance and Kalgoorlie, and it’s the last town on the highway before you head east across the Nullarbor, the road which eventually leads all the way across Western Australia to Adelaide.
Norseman is a bit of a strange place, but it’s an interesting one. This was once a booming gold rush town, but it’s now a faded version of its own former glory, but one a place that’s packed with pioneer history in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Map of Things to do in Esperance