Cape Le Grand – The Rugged Beauty of Western Australia’s South Coast
Australia's Esperance and Cape Le Grand - A "must do" on your bucket list!
Powder white beaches and turquoise waters.
From the world’s second largest dive-able wreck to some of the country’s best rock fishing locations. I explore the stunning location that is Esperance and Cape Le grand
I was ready to cover ground from Perth, all the way through the Golden Outback and down to the stunning beaches of Esperance and Australia’s South Coast. I was all set to write about the whole journey. After seeing the indescribable (though I will try anyway) beauty of Cape Le Grand, on the edge of Esperance, I soon realized that would have to change.
Esperance is around 10 hours from any major city. There are smaller towns located within a few hours drive from here, but it is not on any major route and not the type of place that you happen to drive past on your way anywhere else.
It can be quite a pain to get to because of its isolation, yet thousands of tourists flock here every year, and it’s easy to see why.
Esperance is one of those towns that has a relaxed vibe and a never-ending sea breeze. It’s almost impossible to come here and not romanticize with the thought of retiring to live life as a surfer.
It’s the sort of place where I have to remind myself that I’m a travel writer in my 20s and I don’t even know how to surf.
Built on the back of the fishing industry, Esperance itself is quite unimpressive. Despite giving off a great vibe, the township is quite standard, and the beach that runs alongside town is downright dull.
It only takes a 2-minute drive over the hill and to the South edge of town, however, to see just how much this small town can offer.
The scenery from the high vantage point shows the rugged, island spotted beauty that Western Australia’s South Coast is known for with sand so white it’s painful to look at.
It’s a preview of what’s to come as we head out of Esperance towards the famous Cape Le Grand National Park.
Heading to Cape Le Grand
Esperance is situated on Western Australia’s Southern coast and is on the Easternmost point of this region before the coast starts to head north into the Great Australian Bite.
The bite is so named because it looks like someone got hungry and took a giant chunk out of the bottom of the country. It’s where the arid desert meets huge cliffs that fall hundreds of meters into the rough sea that runs uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica.
The Great Australian Bite is a ferocious and beautiful place, but somehow the landscape before you get there seems to benefit from the placement and cool weather, without the same unforgiving ferocity. This is where you’ll find Cape Le Grand.
After a half hour drive from Esperance, you’ll find signs directing you into Cape Le Grand National Park. It’s easy to see why they have chosen this area to conserve, as there is no way of getting away from the beauty of the rolling hills that lead into a unique sort of coastal scrub and down to the white powder beaches.
Driving into the national park, the road directs you past a manned booth where an entry fee is applicable. It can be easy to get annoyed with having to pay a fee to get in, but after seeing the beaches and scenery that it holds, it becomes clear that it is worth it for the sake of protecting this area.
It soon becomes apparent that there are a lot of choices on where to go, so it makes sense to start with the first turn off, which leads to the suitably named Cape Le Grand Beach.
What to do in Cape Le Grand National Park
For lovers of scuba diving, this area has a lot to offer whether you want to dive from the shore or by boat.
I haven’t personally dived in this area, but as an avid scuba diver myself, I have it on good authority that the sites around here are nothing short of spectacular.
The Recherche Archipelago of small islands that dot Cape Le Grand’s horizon is known for its reefs, underwater caves and impressive granite cliffs that sit below the surfaces.
Dive locations along the archipelago are recommended only for experienced divers due to technicality and currents. You might also want to consider that the depths lend themselves to someone who has an advanced open water qualification, rather than open water divers who are limited to 18 meters.
If colossal Japanese tankers are more your style, then perhaps you’d like to dive the Sanko Harvest which is claimed to be the second largest diveable wreck in the entire world. With the ability to dive into the engine room and even past tower cranes, this is another site for experienced divers only.
There are plenty of amazing places that can be found by diving from the shore, and all the dive sites around Cape Le Grand are best dived during April when the currents are at their weakest. Considering that April is the beginning of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere and that Esperance is one of Australia’s Southernmost coastlines, it is advisable to wear a thicker than normal wetsuit or possibly even a drysuit.
It genuinely makes me sad to think that I went all this way without taking my diving equipment and didn’t have a buddy to go with me. It’s certainly something that I’m planning to do soon.
Australia’s best fishing seems to be the very far North coastline where many tropical fish can be caught during a relaxing day parked on the beach or the thrill of rockfishing in the untamed waters of the cold South. Cape Le Grand is where you’ll find the latter.
Of course, there’s many a relaxing day to be had fishing off the pristine beaches of Cape Le Grand Bay, but if you’re looking for more excitement, Hellfire Bay has several anchor points in the rocks and cliffs where you can safely tie-in.
Herring, Skippy, Bream, Flat Head, and Salmon are just a few of what can be found in abundance from the rocks or the beach.
I’m personally not much of a keen fisherman, due to my inability to catch anything so I turned my attention to what else the park has to offer.
I love to kayak, so seeing those perfectly flat bays without having my kayak was almost heartbreaking. Next time I come to Esperance, I’m going to make it a dedicated trip so I can load my faithful Landcruiser with diving gear, and I’ll load my windsurfer and kayak on the roof rack.
One thing that I was able to do without bringing any gear was to climb Frenchman Peak which is a very steep climb to reach the peak 262 meters above. The effort is more than worth it as you will be rewarded by stunning panoramic views of such a beautiful part of the world.
There are also several campsites within Cape Le Grand which can be used for a small fee. Be sure to call ahead, however, as school holidays or the summer break will likely leave them full.
I’m not the biggest fan of camping right next to other people and prefer my space, so I decided not to camp in the park.
When I go Back
All in all, it was very rushed trip for what is such a stunning part of the world. I originally had business further up North and realized I could squeeze in a bit of time in Esperance, so I rolled with it.
I’m already planning my next trip back, and this time I will be coming fully prepared and with plenty of time up my sleeve