I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published October 26th 2012
School holidays are here again and this review aims to help parents with lack of ideas on where to go. Not down south again, you might think. Well, depending on who is calling it, Esperance has been included in different groupings. The Department of Environment and Conservation includes it in the "Golden Outback," the Bureau of Meteorology groups it under "Southeast Coastal," whereas the Esperance Visitor Centre's website calls it "Western Australia's Secret South."
Startlingly turquoise water along Esperance coastline
But whatever it's called, the fact remains that Esperance has some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, topped with visible wildlife, family-friendly facilities and affordable accommodation, making it a very desirable destination for families as well as beach bums in general.
The most appropriate way to start describing Esperance is to start mentioning its beaches. If you drive around Esperance following the Great Ocean Drive (a 40km loop dubbed the Best Scenic Drive in WA by RAC's Horizons Magazine), you might be overwhelmed by the number of beaches that the small city seems to own. If you have plenty of time, do visit them all. But if you're pressed for time, I'd mention two options here which you could choose depending on your preference.
If you prefer family-friendly swimming beaches with lots of facilities like Surf Lifeguards, showers, picnic tables and barbecues, then head to the Twilight Beach. Although Cottlesloe worshippers may disagree, it has actually been awarded the title of WA's most popular beach in 2006.
The more the merrier at Twilight Beach on a hot summer day
On the other hand, if you prefer more rugged, less crowded beaches, head to the Nine Mile Beach. This beach has an open ended pool protected by rocks which act as natural wave breakers. Children still need to be supervised though, as the calm pool sits side by side with the rocky beach which would be very unfriendly to soft young skin.
The two sides of Nine Mile Beach
As the name suggests, the Nine Mile Beach is located about 9 miles west of Esperance. No prizes on guessing how far the Ten Mile and Eleven Mile Beaches are from the city. Across the road from these three beaches is Australia's oldest wind farm. Following an upgrade in recent years, an old wind turbine's head was installed like a statue near the city centre (corner of James St and the Esplanade), so you could stand next to one of its blades and feel your meagre self dwarfed in comparison.
Another attraction on the Esplanade that you would not want to miss is the Tanker Jetty. If you're a fishing enthusiast, bring your rods and baits and prepare to stay for a few hours. If you're not, you might still want to hang around for the chance of meeting Sammy the resident sea lion. A local told me that this sea lion has been staying around the jetty for years now, enjoying the good life of doing nothing much and eating fish heads and guts thrown down from the fish cleaning benches.
Sammy begging for fish
On the unlikely event that you or the kids have had enough of the ocean, Esperance does have more to offer. Birds and animal lovers could head north to visit the Bird and Animal Park (about 13km out of town on the Kalgoorlie-Esperance Highway). You could feed the animals and trust me, even the emus with their wicked-looking beaks are clever enough not to bite the hands that feed them (or at least these ones are).
Some of the birds and animals in the Bird and Animal Park
Those of you who prefer to walk among natures could visit the Kepwari Walk Trail, which meanders around the wetland surrounding Woody Lake. The field of dead paperbark trees create a surreal landscape when seen from the boardwalk. Apparently the wetland has become too wet in recent years due to diminishing vegetation in other areas which caused all the water runoff to collect here, killing the paperbark trees.
Dead paperbark trees seen from Kepwari Walk Trail
Hungry for more? Well, these are only some highlights of the city and the Esperance Visitor Centre's website would have more. And we haven't even started discussing the national parks around Esperance yet. But that's another story to tell.