Road trip across Australia – Day 21 Esperance and Hopetoun

I had gotten into the habit of rising early to photograph the sunrise, and there are few spots better to see a magnificent sunset than from a vantage point on the Bay of Islands in Esperance.

Why is it called the Bay of Islands? Simply because just off Esperance are over 100 islands of the Recherche Archipelago. Esperance, in my humble opinion, has the prettiest coastline that I have seen in Australia. Yes, it does even surpass the best of Queensland’s outstanding coastline.

Needless to say, the sunrise was spectacular. It was a cool morning, so we headed to walk out on the jetty in Esperance Harbour and there we found a coffee van which sustained us with lovely hot drinks.

There were a few fishermen on the jetty, mostly catching squid, and there were some huge ones being landed too.

After our walk we packed up the car and started driving Esperance’s version of the Great Ocean Drive. This drive is not as long as its similarly-named drive in southern Victoria, but it is spectacular nonetheless.

We started by climbing to the top of the lookout which gives you a 360° panoramic view over Esperance, from where you can clearly see the whole of the bay, many of the islands, the ocean bays and coves, and Esperance’s large Pink Lake, which was not as pink as I had seen it previously. My travelling partner had not visited Esperance before, and he gasped in amazement at his first sight of the Esperance area in all of its glory.

We spent a couple of hours completing the drive, stopping at every bay, beach and lookout. It didn’t matter in which direction you looked, there was always something worthwhile to see. The weather was not always kind, and we endured several rain squalls, but that did not dent our enthusiasm for Esperance.

After completing our sightseeing in Esperance we headed out to Cape Le Grande National Park, a 56 kilometre drive from Esperance, during which you see still more gorgeous views of the bay.

Upon entering the park gates you are greeted with an amazing vista of brush-covered lowlands that are punctuated by great hills which rise suddenly out of the earth to form a landscape that is very reminiscent of Arizona’s Monument Valley. What Cape Le Grande has that will beat the Monument Valley hands down every time is some of the best beaches you will see anywhere.
Lucky Bay officially has Australia’s whitest beach. What is also has is a gorgeous 270° curve, breathtakingly-turquoise waters, high hills providing the beach with spectacular headlands, fascinating rock formations on those hills, and offshore islands as an added interest. Lucky Bay is also famous for having kangaroos on its beach, and sure enough, two kangaroos popped out of the bushes near us and hopped their way down to the beach, where they seemed to graze on beached seaweed.

Although Lucky Bay is aptly named and is superb, my personal favourite is its neighbour, Thistle Cove. This beach also has brilliant white sand, crystal clear aqua-coloured waters at its shore which gradually become a dark turquoise as the water deepens. It too has an enormous hill as its background. Thistle Cove also has sand dunes and, just beyond the dunes, a small lake.
Hellfire Bay is the next beach, and a more inappropriate name for such a piece of perfection could not have been found. The explorer Matthew Flinders named the beaches in Cape Le Grande, and one can only assume that he’d had a bad day when he named this gorgeous beach Hellfire. Like its neighbours, it would qualify under any benchmark as being a superb beach.

We debated about climbing the 262m Frenchman Peak but wisely decided against it as the day was getting on, and so were we, come to think of it. It’s an amazing piece of geological architecture, having a large gap near its summit. Frenchman Peak looks different depending from which angle you look at it. Standing directly in front, looking up, it looks like a Napoleonic French military hat, but when you see it from Le Grande Beach, the Peak looks like a giant seal.

After a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours we left Cape Le Grande National Park, and headed to Esperance to refuel. On the way back we passed a fake Stonehenge which is currently under construction on a local farm.

We refuelled in Esperance and left for the coastal town of Hopetoun, about two hours away, where we’d arranged to stay with friends. It was a very interesting somewhat scenic drive, but it was dark when we arrived in Hopetoun, so we didn’t see much. It was also bitterly cold, so we opted to visit the local pub and let them cook dinner.

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