To the south of Norseman, from which the Eyre Highway cuts straight across the Nullarbor desert for 1000km into South Australia, is recently developed wheat country. Esperance, on the Southern Ocean, offers the attractions of its rocky coasts, beaches of white sand, offshore islands and coastal National Parks.
Cape Arid National Park
280,000ha.Cape Arid National Park has a varied landscape of sandy plains and heathland, beautiful beaches and rocky promontories. Inland from the coast there are low granite hills, and in the northern part of the park is the Russell Range, with Mount Ragged (594m) as its highest peak.At the east end of the park is Nuytsland Nature Reserve, bordering the Nullarbor Plain. Within the park there are beaches extending for 20km from the mouth of the Thomas River in the west to Cape Arid, above which rises Mount Arid (356m). From the hill there are good views of the varied coastal scenery and the innumerable little islands at the east end of the Recherche Archipelago. Granite promontories shelter the sandy beaches (good fishing and water sports in summer). Occasionally whales and seals can be observed.There are a number of walking trails in the park, and there is also pleasant walking round the inlets and on the beaches.The Thomas River at the west end of the park, Seal Creek and Jorndee Creek can be reached on a gravel road. Mount Ragged can be reached only in an all-terrain vehicle.
Address: Box 234, Esperance, WA 6450, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: spring for wild flowers, summer for water sports and walking. Access from Esperance east on Fisheries Road. The last 19km to the visitor center at the west end of the park (Thomas River) are suitable for all vehicles. Some sections of road within the park are for all-terrain vehicles only. No drinking water. Visitors must take their own water and camping stove (no wood for fires). The nearest place for supplies is Condingup (55km west).
Fitzgerald River National Park
243,000ha.Fitzgerald River National Park takes in a highly impressive stretch of coastal landscape. The Fitzgerald River cuts through the Barren Range near Mid Mount Barren (457m), which lies directly on the Southern Ocean, with sheer rock faces and steep scree slopes.In the river valleys there are forests, and the sandy heathland is covered with mallee scrub and under this a dense growth of shrubs which produce a rich show of blossom in spring.From the Barren Range there are magnificent views of the coast. There are bush trails to the best viewpoints.Many stretches of coast are suitable for swimming and fishing.
Address: Box 234, Esperance, WA 6450, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: spring (wild flowers) and summer (beach activities). Access is somewhat difficult. Mylies Beach and Barren Beach (Picnic area) can be reached from Ravensthorpe or Hopetoun. Gordon Inlet is reached on a road which branches off Highway 1 for Bremer Bay. All the roads in the park are suitable only for all-terrain vehicles, and may be closed in winter. No drinking water except at Twin Bays. Warning: Swimmers should beware of strong currents and sudden giant waves. The edges of the cliffs are crumbly.
Stokes National Park
10,700ha.Stokes National Park takes in Stokes Inlet, long stretches of beach and rocky promontories with dunes and low hills in the hinterland. The quiet waters of Stokes Inlet, into which the Young and Lort Rivers flow, are good for water sports and fishing, boating and canoeing (but not for sailing because of shallows and underwater rocks), and there are pleasant walks along the ocean beaches. On the shores of the inlet and in the neighboring heath and wetlands there are many species of plants and a rich fauna (particularly water birds).
Esperance (pop. 6440) was an important supply port for the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields. The town takes its name from a French vessel, the Espérance, which anchored here in 1792.
Esperance itself has no outstanding features of interest but it lies in beautiful surroundings. Within easy reach are the Pink Lake (the color of which is due to its high salt content) and attractive stretches of coast (for example Twilight Bay) with good viewpoints.The offshore Recherche Archipelago consists of around 100 small islands (bird sanctuaries and nature reserves); the only accommodation for visitors is on Woody Island.
Cape Le Grand National Park
31,000ha.From the granite and gneiss hills in the park there are views of the wide sandy plains with banksia vegetation. Narrow inlets with good beaches attract water sports enthusiasts and anglers.There is a 3km long trail from the parking lot to Frenchman Peak (262m) on the gentle eastern slopes of the hill.The Coastal Track (15km) runs from Le Grand Beach in the west by way of Hellfire Bay to Rossiter Bay, with spectacular views of the coast. This walk can be divided into five sections: Le Grand Beach to Hellfire Bay (3 hours, strenuous); Hellfire Bay to Thistle Cove (2 hours, strenuous); Thistle Cove to Lucky Bay (3/4 hour, easy); Heritage Trail, Thistle Cove (3/4 hour, easy); Lucky Cove to Rossiter Bay (21/2 hours, not too difficult). There are no roads in the eastern part of the park; there is a track to Dunn Rocks (fishing).
Hopetoun (pop. 270) is a quiet holiday resort on the Southern Ocean.
Ravensthorpe (pop. 300) was once the center of a short-lived gold rush.