April 21, 2020

Explore Esperance and Western Australia

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Vast open landscapes, raw natural beauty, red dirt roads and stunning turquoise waters – Western Australia is like nothing I have witnessed elsewhere in the world. Throw in the relaxed, welcoming people and you’re going to need to make time to visit this relatively untravelled corner of Australia.

Esperance

For us, our trip to Western Australia was majorly to return to the beautiful town of Esperance and its surrounding beaches. This place is INCREDIBLE! I travelled to Esperance last year with a girlfriend of mine and it was love at first sight. I knew straight away that this wouldn’t be my only visit here and so I returned a year later with Chesh to soak in some more West Oz vibes. 

Why is this place so amazing? Looking on a map, it appears to be one of the most isolated towns in the country. With only around 12,000 people living here it might not seem worth the 9 hour drive from the capital city, Perth. And that’s the magic of it. Only those with a sense of adventure, wanting escape from the normality and willing to travel large distances will be able to truly appreciate this region. As soon as you step off the plane in Perth, you instantly feel that connection to nature and this strengthens as you leave the city behind and drive to the Southern coastline. After seeing only scrub and farmlands for the duration of the road trip, first seeing that crystal clear water washing up against pure white sand beaches will make your jaw drop. Seeing Chesh’s face as we rolled over the last hill before the coast will always be in my mind. After the initial shock and amazement, you’ll find yourself yahooing and high-fiving. Then comes the confusion – why is there no-one here?! Where are the hotels? Why is the coastline undeveloped? Why are all the shops closed on a Sunday? And this is the real charm of this place. Esperance is modestly beautiful.  

The beaches

The coastline is the major appeal for Esperance. And there is so much of it to explore! We were here for 9 days and still only scratched the surface. Within 5 minutes of the main town you will be sitting on a beach with sand and water that competes with the beaches of Bora Bora. In fact, these beaches actually have some of the whitest sand in the world! And Esperance has the water clarity and colour to match a French Polynesian atoll. Even on a cloudy day the ocean plays a bubblegum hue that is just so pretty to see, but seeing the beaches here on a flawless summer day is crazy. All the most beautiful blue tones entice you into the water and the water clarity is also incredible – it’s like a swimming pool. As you look back to shore you might see sandy cliffs with only a solitary staircase down to the beach or you’ll see untouched sand dunes and a handful of 4WDs spread out along the sand. Like I said, like nothing I have seen before!

Near the town our favourite beaches were West Beach, Twilight Beach and Blue Haven. Even if there’s a wind up (like we had) there’s a beach or a sheltered headland you can find to escape the swell and the breeze. We went in February (at the back end of Australia summer / high season) and we were never within 100m of another soul on the beaches. There is a scenic drive you can take West of the town that meanders along the coast and it’s so special. I challenge you to drive it and not stop at every look out and car park! Whether checking the surf or choosing your beach to explore for the day, this was a highlight I’d recommend. 

In keeping with the theme of the region, if you don’t mind a drive then you can find some more magic further again from civilisation. One such favourite was the beaches at Duke of Orleans Bay, specifically Wharton Beach. About an hour and a half from Esperance, here you can park right up on the headland and walk down to the sheltered corner of white sand or you can drive your 4WD onto the sand. Either way, you will have ample room to spread out and enjoy this spot. Chesh and I had a surf here one morning and the water is so clear that you see straight down to sand, and you feel as though you are floating on air as you glide down the line. And taking a look around you will see not one sign of human intrusion to the natural landscape apart from the tyre tracks leading off the beach! 

National Parks

Again for those not afraid of some extra driving, the National Parks have plenty more gems hidden inside. Beaches such as Lucky Bay and Hellfire beach were visited by us on the reg. At Hellfire Beach we had an afternoon where the sun came out from behind the clouds just as the few other beachgoers packed up for the day and we were left completely alone. We swam in the glassy waves and then sat up on the sun baked rocks to warm up and couldn’t believe the moment we had.

Then there’s Lucky Bay. Wow. With the whitest sand beach in Australia, this is a sheltered bay from the elements that has only kangaroos as locals! The roos are more than happy for you to sit with them as they graze on the beach. There’s even a local couple who set up their caravan on the beach and serve coffees, which is such a vibe since there’s no shops anywhere near this place! The only permanent feature here is a camp site perched on the hill, which is where we stayed for a few nights. You really can’t get a much better view to wake up to the white stretch of sand and the crazy blue waters. Nature is king out here. 

Town

Esperance itself is a cute little town that has all the essentials of a country town, as well as our fav coffee shop Downtown Espresso Shop and boutique shopping at Tide and Co. But our favourite thing of being in Esperance was returning to the beautiful Esperance Chalet Village. This place is a little home away from home, perfect to hang out during the day or unwind after a big day exploring with a glass of wine in hand. Set among the trees the village feel is created with a series of cute, stand-alone chalets that are beautifully styled. But the best part for me was the amazing host Fi, whose vibes and energy for the area are contagious and will want to make you move to Esperance (we are still trying to work this out!). Fi is such a warm and vibrant soul that makes you feel so welcomed to be a part of the place. We have stayed here the last 2 visits now and are already planning our next visit!

Road trip 

You can get to Esperance from Perth by plane, although this is quite expensive and so most people grab a car and hit the road. We hired a camper van from Perth with our amazing friends at Travellers Autobarn as we didn’t want to miss the epic Australian road trip vibes cruising around West Oz. I would suggest doing the same since everything is very far apart in this part of the country and the best things will need a set of wheels.

Leaving from Perth we were fully self contained for the trip down to Esperance, stopping road side for the occasional brew thanks to our little kitchen in the van or even once taking a nap in the bed. There’s also a few towns to stop at if you fancy a roadhouse meal, but we loved having the freedom to drive at our own pace.

Because we had a spare day, we decided to detour to Albany for a night as we’d heard so much about the spot (actually it seemed very similar to Esperance). Although only a brief stop, we had an amazing vegan breakfast at The Alkaline Cafe and got to explore some of the amazing beaches that were the perfect appetiser to what we would experience in Esperance. In particular we loved Two People’s Bay in the national park, which hosts two giant rocks in the middle of an isolated bay – we had so much fun shooting this beach with our drone!

Perth

Cottesloe 

Having been dosed up on the wild and powerful landscapes of the South Coast, we returned to Perth for a change of scenery and some time to explore one of the most chilled and friendly cities I have ever been to. We stayed in the beachside suburb of Cottesloe and absolutely loved it! This is a magic little stretch of coast just far away enough from the CBD to have beautiful yet relatively empty beaches and plenty of cafes dotted along the coastal road. We stayed at Cottesloe Beach Hotel which was in the most perfect spot to walk or bike ride along the esplanade and access all the beaches and coffee spots. But the hotel itself was our favourite place to have a late lunch, drinks or dinner and watch the fierce red sun set over the ocean, turning the sky into flavours of fairy floss. The Verandah Bar has a classic Australian vibe and when paired with the outlook straight over the beach, its no wonder this place is buzzing on a hot day or at golden hour. There’s also the Beach Club for amazing cocktails and the more intimate dining option of the Fish Bar, which served up the freshest and tastiest food (this was so delicious after having been road tripping for the last 2 weeks!).

Rottnest Island

To cap off our time in Perth, we took a day trip out to Rottnest Island. This island is a half hour ferry ride from the mainland and such an incredible place to explore. You can stay on the island or just visit for the day, and since there’s no cars on the island you are best to grab a bike to cruise around. We grabbed some bikes on the island at opening time and had them back just before the last ferry, such is the amount of things to do and see here on Rottnest. We loved the white sand dunes in Parakeet Bay, as well as The Basin for a dip when the sun was burning hot. Perhaps one of the most iconic things about Rottnest (‘Rotto’ to the locals) is the little furry inhabitants called Quokkas. These little guys can be found alongside the bike paths and near the main town foraging for food. Of course you have seen the Quokka selfies, but their little smiles are so freakin cute! 

It can take several hours to bike around the island, and so a MUST when visiting is to explore by the water which we did thanks to Charter 1! We jumped aboard the iconic yellow-coloured sail boat and made our way around the coastline of the island, stopping at a few magic spots like Salmon Bay. We swam in clear waters straight off the boat, watching eagle rays cruising beneath the boat. But the highlight for us was seeing sea lions! These guys perch up on the rocks off the island to take a break in the sun after spending time fishing at sea and we were lucky enough to have an encounter with them in the water! We could not believe it nor were we expecting this. Taking a dip off the boat and then seeing a couple of sea lions swimming around us, checking us out and then playing was one of my most memorable ocean experiences. Not only to be in the presence but to be the subject of their attention was overwhelming for me. This is just another reason to recommend seeing Rottnest via boat and this was the perfect end to our time in Perth.   

We will be back!

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