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8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Esperance

Rimmed by some of Australia's most ravishing beaches, the little town of Esperance lies about 720 km southeast of Perth. The town takes its name from a French vessel, the Espérance, which anchored here in 1792. Nature is the star attraction along this spectacular turquoise-hued coast. Three national parks lie within the Shire of Esperance, including stunning Cape Le Grand - the most renowned national park in Western Australia. Kangaroos often hop along the beautiful boulder-strewn beaches where surfing, scuba diving, swimming, and fishing are all popular activities.

Just offshore, the wild and rugged Recherche Archipelago, a clutch of 105 granite isles, shelter rock wallabies and Australian sea lions. Inland, where the arid landscapes stretch to the vast and treeless Nullarbor Plain, nature lovers can hike the many walking trails, bump and grind on a four-wheel-drive adventure, or bask in the solitude and beauty of wind-rippled sandscapes.

1 Cape Le Grand National Park

Cape Le Grand National Park
Cape Le Grand National Park
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Of the three national parks in the Shire of Esperance, Cape Le Grand, a 30-minute drive east of Esperance, is the dazzling beauty queen. Long beaches with squeaky snow-white sand, turquoise seas, flower-flecked heathlands, and granite peaks are some of its most striking features. Gorgeous Lucky Bay, a pristine stretch of coast, where sunbathers can share a patch of sand with resident kangaroos, frequently tops the list of beaches with the whitest sand. A top activity in the park is the 3 km long hiking trail up gentle slopes to Frenchman Peak, which rewards hikers with breathtaking views over the park and the Recherche Archipelago. Another popular walk, the challenging 15-kilometer (one way) Coastal Track runs from Le Grand Beach past Hellfire Bay to Rossiter Bay, with spectacular views of the coast. The park's narrow inlets and beautiful bays lure many water sports enthusiasts and anglers.

2 Twilight Beach

Twilight Beach
Twilight Beach
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About 7 km west of Esperance, Twilight Beach is an exquisite slice of white sand and turquoise sea flanked by rounded granite boulders. This stunning stretch was voted the most popular beach in Western Australia and is reminiscent of boulder-strewn strands in the Seychelles (without the rustling palms). Granite islets lie offshore, and the wide, flat shoreline and shallow sand bar create perfect conditions for families with small children - it's the safest beach in Esperance for swimming and surfing. Lifeguards patrol during the summer months.

3 Esperance Museum

Esperance Museum
Esperance Museum DON PUGH / photo modified
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A visit to the charming Esperance Museum is like rummaging through all the treasures in grandma's attic, but with space junk thrown in the mix. This quirky little gem chronicles the region's social history according to topic, from antique farm machinery to early telephones, an old rail carriage, and even kitchen appliances. Perhaps the most unique exhibits feature the debris from Skylab, which plummeted to earth near Esperance in 1979. Interestingly, Esperance fined NASA $400 for littering. It took 30 years, but the fine has now been paid in full.

Hours: Open daily 1:30-4:30pm daily, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Location: Corner of James Street and Dempster Street, Esperance

4 Great Ocean Drive

Great Ocean Drive
Great Ocean Drive Larry W. Lo / photo modified
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Travelers to Australia have probably heard of the Great Ocean Road, a scenic route along the country's rugged south coast. Great Ocean Drive is Western Australia's version, an almost 40 km tourist route that curves along the unspoiled Esperance coastline and loops back into town. Along the way, sightseers can enjoy panoramic coastal views and stop at sublime beaches to surf, swim, picnic, or fish. Highlights include the Rotary Lookout perched on a granite outcrop with panoramic views of Esperance and the Recherche Archipelago, family-friendly Twilight Beach, the Western Power Wind Farms, and Pink Lake, which changes color due to the salt-tolerant algae content in the water, though it hasn't been pink in a while.

5 Cape Arid National Park

Cape Arid National Park
Cape Arid National Park
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Crystal clear seas, gleaming beaches, and boulder-strewn bays are the prime draw cards at Cape Arid National Park, 120 km east of Esperance. This huge park is best accessed with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and lies just east of Cape Le Grand, with similar coastal scenery. Granite promontories shelter white-sand beaches, which offer fantastic fishing and water sports in summer.

From the top of Mount Arid, sightseers can enjoy impressive views of the coast and the little islands at the east end of the Recherche Archipelago. In the north of the park, the craggy Russell Range rises from the mallee scrub with 600 m Tower Peak at its highest point. Coastal walking tracks and inland trails are a great way to explore the diverse plants and animals here, which include many birds such as the mulga parrot and purple-crowned lorikeet. During late winter and spring, migrating whales swim just offshore. At the east end of the park, the wind-sculpted dunes of Nuytsland Nature Reserve roll to the vast wilderness of the Nullarbor Plain.

6 Fitzgerald River National Park

Fitzgerald River National Park
Fitzgerald River National Park Graeme Churchard / photo modified
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About a 3 hour drive west of Esperance, Fitzgerald River National Park is a botanical wonderland. This expansive reserve is home to more than 20 percent of the state's recorded plant species, including many orchids and proteas. A few of the species are found only within the park's borders. The scenery here ranges from sparkling bays, excellent for swimming and fishing, to undulating plains and craggy coastal peaks. In the spring, particularly in September, fields of colorful wildflowers bloom, creating fantastic photo opportunities.

The Fitzgerald River cuts through the Barren Range, which lies along the Southern Ocean, with sheer rock faces and steep scree slopes. From the peaks, hikers can enjoy magnificent views of the coast; Point Ann is a prime vantage point for whale watching between July and October. Scenic drives are a great way to explore the park. The southern part of Hamersley Drive, winds past some of the top coastal attractions such as Four Mile Beach, Barrens Beach, Barrens Lookout, and Cave Point. An impressive network of hiking and heritage trails fans out across the park for those who enjoy exploring on foot.

7 Stokes National Park

Stokes National Park
Stokes National Park
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Stokes National Park, about 80 km west of Esperance, encompasses the tranquil waters of Stokes Inlet, a deep estuary with fantastic fishing, kayaking, birding, boating, and bushwalking. Long dune-backed beaches and rocky promontories fringe the coast, while low hills roll into the hinterland. On the shores of the inlet and in the neighboring heath and wetlands, many species of plants and water birds thrive. Anglers can cast their lines for black bream, King George Whiting, and Australian salmon. On the 4.3 km Heritage Trail hikers can enjoy beautiful views of the inlet and learn about how the area has evolved over time. The main entrance to the park is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles, however the rest of the park requires 4WD.

8 Lake Warden Kepwari Wetland Walk Trail

Birders and nature buffs will love the Kepwari Wetland Walk Trail, a 5-minute drive from the center of Esperance. Bush-fringed trails and timber boardwalks weave along the wetlands for 3.6 km (one way) through banksias, sedge lands, and over dune ridges. Along the way, interpretative signs share information about the wetlands, and two bird hides provide a quiet shelter for serious birders and photographers to observe the many water birds. Hikers can complete the return trip in about two and a half hours.

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