Heralded as having among the finest beaches in Australia, Esperance packs a coastal punch that’s hard to beat. Add one of the most enchanting stretches of oceanside road you’ll ever set wheels on, and for reasons that will become obvious, Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive will leave you wanting to drive on and on.
The Great Ocean Drive starts just a few kilometres from Esperance, so first of all grab a coffee at one of the town’s cafés and settle in to the first section, stopping in at West Beach, Blue Haven Beach, Salmon Beach, and Fourth Beach. Marvel at the polished granite boulders and formations rising from the water, and watch out for schools of salmon running along the coast between December - February.
For expansive views of Esperance Bay and Twilight Beach, call in at Observatory Point. Keep an eye out for dolphins and migrating whales (June-October) – often only a hundred metres or so from shore.
Esperance is fringed by a limestone reef, creating a ribbon of protected swimming holes at many of the beaches along the Great Ocean Drive. Twilight Cove, with its calm waters and impressive granite island accessible by sandbar from the beach, is the pick of the best. This section will take you past Nine Mile Beach to the protected Ten Mile lagoon, which also offers some pristine snorkeling and swimming. If you don your flippers and mask, keep an eye out for the Leafy Sea Dragon among the kelp and seaweed fringes of large rocks.
Once you reach Eleven Mile Beach, the Great Ocean Drive turns inland through the town’s pastoral hinterland. When you reach Barook Road, take the turn and drive into a rare craft beer find - Lucky Bay Brewing Co. Pioneering a form of truly local beer making, their beers use raw instead of malted barley. Importantly, this lets the brewing team source their barley from the farms surrounding Esperance, which goes straight into creating a raft of hand-crafted local beers. A noteworthy brew is the ever popular Sandy Hook Pale Ale.
The final stage of the Great Ocean Drive returns into Esperance via Pink Lake; contrary to its name the lake has returned to a whiter colour in recent years, but still offers bushwalks and a thriving habitat for local birdlife.
End the Great Ocean Drive back in Esperance, with a walk through the town’s acclaimed museum village, with its galleries, craft shops and restored heritage buildings. The bi-weekly farmers’ markets trade local honey, fruit, vegetables, and homemade breads and craft goods on alternate Sundays.