With a population of approximately 12,000 people, Esperance is a quiet, coastal town on the south-east coast of Western Australia.
It was traditionally named Kepa Kurl by the local Nyungar and Ngadju people who have lived on Country for more than 50,000 years. The town received its European name from a French navigator in 1792, who named it after his ship The Espérance (meaning ‘hope’ in French).
Esperance is a region of exceptional natural beauty, with long ribbons of powder-white beaches and sparkling turquoise waters, stunning mountains and spectacular wildflowers. Just off the coast you’ll find the untouched islands of the Recherche Archipelago, while in town you can find a thriving community scene, great food and drink, and a laidback vibe.
Opening image: Twilight Bay, Esperance © Tourism Western Australia
See the sights
The 40km Great Ocean Drive from West Beach to 11 Mile Beach is a great way to take in some of the most spectacular swimming and surfing beaches in the country. Your choices to stop for a dip in the pristine waters are almost endless but local favourites include West Beach, Blue Haven and Twilight Beach.
Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park is famous for its friendly, sunbaking kangaroos as well as having some of the whitest sands in Australia. Just a 45-minute drive from Esperance, you can pull up right onto the beach for a perfect day out in the sun. Make sure to grab a coffee from the Nyungar-owned Lucky Bean café!
Lake Hillier on remote Middle Island is a natural bubblegum pink colour (thought to be due to colourful bacteria and algae), and best appreciated from the air. Book a joy flight with Fly Esperance, which will also take you to Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid National Parks, or explore by chopper with Helispirit.
Taste the local drops
Launched in December 2020, Esperance Distilling Co is the smallest distillery in Australia: a father-and-son team operating with just a 30 litre pot still. They produce unique, small-batch gins using native botanicals from the region, such as acacia, lemon myrtle as well as grass tree sap, strawberry gum, kelp and sea parsley. Have a taste at local restaurant Taylor St Quarters or newly renovated pub 33 Degrees.
Lucky Bay Brewing, on the outskirts of town, is a community-focused space that prides itself on sustainability and delicious beers. Brewed with locally grown grains, make sure you try the Sandy Hook Barley Pale Ale and the Lockdown Dark Lager. If you’re peckish, there’s also tasty wood-fired pizzas or nachos to fill you up.
A bite to eat
The waterfront restaurant Taylor St Quarters was once a hospital and tearooms, but in 2017 became a chic restaurant and bar on the Esplanade. Specialising in modern Australian cuisine you can dine on their seasonal menu, including linguine with Shark Bay prawns or local pork belly, while enjoying the views from the deck overlooking the yacht marina.
A few cafes vye for the title of best coffee in town, but you can’t go wrong with DownTown Espresso Bar, Cloud Eleven Coffee + Tea or Coffee Cat on the Esplanade.
Stroll around town
The Cannery Arts Centre is housed in a heritage building initially used as a fish cannery on the beautiful Esperance foreshore. This vibrant arts facility hosts contemporary art exhibitions, concerts and events. Take a yoga class with Twilight Yoga Studio and Retreats, or participate in a range of creative workshops for both kids and adults.
The Esperance Grower’s Market is a must-visit: a local institution, it is held every second Saturday from 9am to 12pm at the Esperance Scout Hall. Fill up your shopping bag with a range of local goodies including organic produce, fresh bread, pastries, flowers and preserves.
The Esperance Museum’s fascinating collection offers a unique insight into the history and growth of the town, from settlement as an agricultural station to the gold boom of the late 1890s.
The distinctive Frenchman’s Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park is said to resemble the hat of French troops in the 1800s. The steep hike is a 3km return – but worth it for the sublime views over the coastline and islands.
Chase thrills and spills at the scenic Esperance Mountain Bike Track (also known as ‘The Piggery’) north of town. Berms, jumps and other features are scattered throughout the 13.5km loop track, but it’s also suitable for beginners.
Woody Island is the only island in the archipelago with visitor facilities operated by Woody Island Eco Tours. You can take a day trip by boat or helicopter to experience a guided eco-walk and snorkelling, or you can soak up the island’s natural beauty overnight by camping or glamping in their tents and safari huts.
Did you know?
Esperance is home to the only full-scale replica of Stonehenge outside of the UK, which appears as it would have in 1950BC. It was built on a cattle farm in 2011 and consists of 137 pink granite locally quarried stones with a combined weight of 2,500 tonnes.
Rex flies to Esperance! Take a look at their route map for more details.
Interested in taking a holiday to Western Australia? Check out our podcast on the best places to eat, sleep and play in Albany, WA.