We had a yearning for a short road trip and Esperance was the perfect destination – a short 700Km drive and we were there! Esperance is famous for its white sands, turquoise waters, pink lakes and amazing landscapes. We haven’t been for years, so were determined to do the full on tourist bit.
First, some fun facts: The local Aboriginal name for Esperance is “Kepa Kurl”: Kepa meaning water and kurl meaning boomerang because the water lies like a boomerang. All the bays are curved liked boomerangs and when viewed from the air it is easy to see how it was given this name. The name “Esperance” came from one of the French ships, the Espérance, which took shelter there, together with another ship “Recherche”, after which the Recherche Archipelago off the coast of Esperance is named.
Did you know that in 1979 part of the space station Skylab crashed into Esperance and the council charged NASA $400 for littering. They haven’t paid yet, but a Californian radio DJ, Scott Barley, asked listeners to donate money to clear the debt, and it was duly raised and sent to Esperance shire. Scott was invited to Esperance and received a key to the city. It’s all commemorated at the museum.
Esperance is also home to a full sized replica of Stonehenge – as it was in 1950BC! It’s a fairly remarkable story where a man had a vision, commissioned a local quarry to provide the stones, and then couldn’t make the payment. Rather than see the stones cut up for tiles, an Esperance farmer decided to see the project through on his farm and the result is rather splendid.
It was hard to choose photos. I wanted to show the size and scale of this undertaking. The stones are pink granite, so very hard and will withstand hundreds of years of prevailing weather. Consequently visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with the structures, and weddings and other events take place within the circle.
I could go on but the Facts board kind of says it all if you are interested.
The visitor centre has boards of photographs of the various stages of construction which I found fascinating. I include them in case you like that sort of thing too.
As we were leaving, four ladies dressed as Druids appeared (think toga party, with sheets and flowers), and I so wanted to see what they were going to do. One of them whispered to me that she felt ridiculous, but I assured her that they dress as Druids at the real Stonehenge and she totally looked the part.
I have to say that I thought it might be tacky, but it was actually rather amazing, and we both felt a sense of peace and calm as we sat and gazed at those giant stones.
We visited the local arts Centre, The Cannery, where there was a fascinating exhibition on the Tasmanian cave spider, which measures 18cm across – think dinner plate sized. I’m standing under a replica (I hope!) trying to look nonchalant. No arachnophobia here!
We drove 22kms along the beach, from Cape le Grand to Wiley Bay. It’s much quicker than going by road and usually quite a lot of fun. Our boys both learned to drive on this beach and there are sometimes brumbies (wild horses)hanging around, which are nice to see. You can see that there has been a lot of traffic from big 4WDs along here churning up the sand, meaning we didn’t really enjoy it, although our tiny 4WD handled it like a champ. We didn’t want to go on to the hard sand close to the ocean due to the salt, so were stuck driving in the soft stuff.
I really, really wanted to fly over Esperance, so we chose a morning and we could not have picked more perfect weather – clear skies and no wind. You can see all the boomerang shaped bays, and the white sand and turquoise water is really highlighted.
we were asked to look out for sharks, and I was rather thrilled to spot one. Very close to shore where fishermen were casting their lines. It looks like a tiny dot, but it’s about 3m long.
This is part of the archipelago. One of these islands can be camped on.
This long bay is known as “Lucky Bay” and is now a premier camping spot with bookings needed six months in advance. When we used to camp in the area, we would just turn up and hope we beat everyone else, and we usually did!. We had a most wonderful Christmas at Cape le Grand which is a couple of bays away.
It’s called Lucky Bay because Matthew Flinders took refuge from a summer storm there after he’d navigated the Archipelago, and was desperately seeking safe harbour with night coming and being surrounded by islands and rocks. Nearby Thistle Cove was named after one of his crew who found fresh water there.
We flew over Frenchman’s peak, which doesn’t look that high, but trust me, it’s a strenuous climb.
There’s a lovely formation known as Hammerhead, as it looks like a hammerhead shark. Lots of secluded bays for people to camp in, although it is illegal to do so.
I mentioned pink lakes at the beginning, but the big one, Hillier, flooded so is no longer pink. The pinkness is often caused by the presence of salt-tolerant algae that produces carotenoids, as in carrots, usually in conjunction with specific bacteria, which may vary from lake to lake. It’s the same combination that makes flamingoes legs and prawns pink. The pink lakes in Esperance are suffering from various environmental issues – there is a lake called Pink Lake which is no longer pink as a railway line was built alongside it which caused it to flood, others have had their salt mined, but others, which were not pink are now slowly turning pink. We flew over farmland which is home to what is known as “Rainbow Lakes”, which are a variety of small lakes situated on farmland and can only be seen from the air. I took a lot of photos, but think these show the scale of the lakes and the colours the best. Some of them are like pearl shells, which interested me.
The lake in the photo above was a deep purple colour, which I didn’t quite capture, but you get the idea.
We flew over our accommodation on the way back to the airport. The red arrow shows our log cabin.
We were very close to a fishing harbour called Bandy Creek and we found a brewing company nearby known as Lucky Bay Brewing. Mark enjoyed sampling their wares.
We were on a final drive and found the most amazing glass gallery. It’s the Cindy Poole glass gallery and it specialises in recycling glass such as spirit and wine bottles, giving the resultant pieces an amazing colour.
I was so absorbed in the whole thing that I forgot to take too many photos, so have purloined one from their website, which I think gives a good idea of the colours and style of glass. There’s also a lot of jewellery.
Cindy does a lot of collaborations with other local artisans, resulting in a most interesting gallery. She also runs workshops and I’m definitely going to do one next time I’m there. I was most taken with this wearable art. It’s made from Esperance fish leather, which I had explored as part of the One Year, One Outfit challenge where we had to create garments using only locally grown and produced materials.
I mentioned this dress, which prompted quite the discussion about recycling, upcycling, sustainability, zero waste, and the circular economy, as well as the loss of many of our local industries.
I finish this post with this image, which made me laugh. The lady at the visitor centre said that people often asked if it was true!