I hate to say this, and I never thought I would be saying this, and I’ll probably cop some flack for this post, but I wouldn’t hurry back to Esperance in Western Australia.
And that comes just as much of a surprise to me as it might to you.
But hear me out.
Esperance had been high on our Aussie bucket list for so long. Everyone kept saying, “You just have to go there. Wait until you see the beaches around Esperance, you’ll be blown away!”.
Maybe that was part of the problem. Our expectations were so high, as we’d already been BLOWN AWAY so many times since we’d started our trip.
It was getting harder and harder to be blown away by places, especially by beaches in Australia.
Allow me to defend Esperance – it was more me than you
In defense of Esperance, it was up against me from the minute I arrived in town.
Mentally I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I’d become jaded from 16 months on the road around Australia. Our trip had started to get to me and I wasn’t that excited about seeing yet ANOTHER beach.
After traveling for so long travel had become the norm, and once things become the norm, they become less exciting!
For those that don’t know, Esperance is the gateway to Cape Le Grand National Park, home to Lucky Bay.
You’ve probably seen photos of Lucky Bay, that famous beach with kangaroos hopping about. It’s been used extensively in promo material forever.
And when I say gateway, it’s still a one hour drive east of Esperance to Lucky Bay.
In my mind, I had already seen 38 of the best beaches in Australia. And that list doesn’t yet include my 9 favourite beaches of Margaret River, which to me are some of the best in the country!
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches in Oz, a quality problem, and at that stage of our trip I would have been content to call it a day on beaches.
As for the town of Esperance, it just didn’t do anything for me. I found it a bit rundown, drab and lacking any real vibe.
And arriving from Margaret River, Dunsborough and Fremantle, I was always going to judge the cafe scene, of which there was little. Although I will give a shout out to Coffee Cat, a cute mobile coffee truck on the Esplanade. Delicious coffee at cheap prices!
I hate to be so critical, but besides the surrounding beaches it just lacked as a family travel destination.
I mean, somebody had decided to build a full-size replica of Stonehenge. Number 5 on the list of things to on TripAdvisor. It just seemed a bit weird. What is the connection? And when I hear of people saying the real thing is a bit of a letdown, why would I want to see a replica?
At an eight hour drive from Perth, Esperance is isolated. And in case you didn’t know, Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world. That’s extreme isolation.
Now that might appeal to you, but for me it was a lot of effort when I just wasn’t up for it.
Why might Esperance be worth it?
Is Lucky Bay and the Cape Le Grand National Park beautiful?
Stunning, beyond words. But, in terms of Australia, it’s not the only drop dead gorgeous beach. You’ve got options. So considering the huge detour to get to Esperance, and given there is not much else in the surrounding area, it may not be worth a specific trip there.
It depends on your time and goals of course.
If you’re passing near to the area like we were on the way across the Nullabor, then it’s worth a stop.
If you haven’t seen many beautiful beaches in Australia yet, then it’s definitely worth checking out. But, since we’d been so hyped up about them being out of this world, we were disappointed to not get that expectation.
We still think Western Australia has the best beaches in the country, although Whitehaven Beach in Queensland is still my number one, with Cable Beach in Broome a close second.
Throw in the stunning beaches of Rottnest Island, Margaret River, Elephant Rocks in Denmark, Little Beach at Albany and Turquoise Bay and Sandy Bay in Exmouth and these other beaches in Western Australia hits it out of the park!
Feeling like this about Lucky Bay and Cape Le Grand reminds me of the time we spent five months traveling through Africa, going on many safaris. Towards the end, we would find ourselves casually saying, “there goes another elephant” without the awe and wonder.
It could be just a timing thing.
Caz and I said to each other several times, if we’d been travelling Australia clockwise, were near the beginning of our trip and we had just spent three days driving across The Nullarbor (Australia’s longest road), seeing Lucky Bay for the first time probably would have been a WOW moment.
So what does Lucky Bay & Cape Le Grand look like?
I know you’re just going to be thinking. “How could you not be blown away by this. You’re friggin crazy?!”
Even now as I’ve just finished editing my photos, I’m asking myself if I still feel this way. I mean they are stunning.
We did have a fun day.
My kids enjoyed playing on the beach, and it was cool to be able to drive our car on the sand (which was compacted like concrete). I could imagine it being as busy as the M1 in peak season.
Maybe I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the classic kangaroo shot with the beach background. Or maybe it was the fact that we’d already seen kangaroos on a beach at Pebbly Beach and Cape Hillsborough, Mackay, and hundreds of kangaroos in the wild.
I did get this one shot of a roo up against the bush; even he seemed a little over it, ha ha.
I don’t know. I probably sound like I’m fussy, but I can only compare it to what else I’ve seen.
When I think of the “best in Australia” I think about the pure white powdery soft sand you get on Whitehaven and Hyams Beach. I think about the sunsets at Cable Beach, and the surf at Byron Bay.
My idea of the perfect beach might differ to yours. For me it’s one that offers more than just sand and water. I can’t sit on a beach all day and just lie in the sun and read a book. I like to have other things nearby.
That’s why I love Cable Beach so much. You can spend a few hours on an incredible beach, and at your fingertips are lovely cafes, sunset bars, kids playgrounds and so much more.
That’s why I love the Margaret River region. And Rottnest Island. And Byron Bay. And Burleigh Heads.
They offer more than just a pretty beach.
Again, in Cape Le Grand’s defense, we didn’t see and do everything in the park. Many people had said how they loved camping within the park and it was a highlight of their visit.
To me, at this stage of our journey, rough camping was the last thing I felt like doing. I was struggling enough as it was in our camper trailer in a caravan park. I was even over that.
And some of the walks look pretty amazing. We didn’t do any because Savannah is at the stage where she won’t walk and only wants Caz to carry her. Caz’s back and exhaustion refused to entertain it anymore.
West of Esperance – Twilight Beach is a stunner
A short drive west of town are some other stunning beaches, and I’d argue just as good if not better than Lucky Bay, they’re definitely more accessible. And the coastal views from the road are outstanding.
My fave was Twilight Beach. If you do end up in Esperance, this drive is well worth it.
Knowing what I know now, if I did my 18 months around Australia again, I would skip visiting Esperance for a second time. Now that I’ve seen it once, I’d rather spend that time elsewhere.
If I was in Perth, I’d prefer the 20 minute ferry ride back to Rottnest, the three hour drive to Margs, or heading back to Coral Bay.
Nothing personal Esperance. And I’m not saying don’t go there, not at all. But some places do it for you and some don’t. We can’t all love everywhere!
If you like to totally get away from it all, Esperance might be your kind of town. In hindsight I personally didn’t think it was worth the effort, when you have so many other great places in Australia.