Esperance is a long, long way from Perth. Seven and a half hours southeast, to be exact, and that’s not counting bathroom breaks. Why include such a faraway coastal town on your Western Australia road trip if it’s 450 miles from your most likely start/end point? Two words: Lucky Bay.
The crescent-shaped beach is part of Cape Le Grand National Park, just east of Esperance. It’s famed for its bright white, silky-fine sand, turquoise water, and—most importantly—mild-mannered western grey kangaroos that sunbathe on the sand. We’ve met a number of Australians who speak longingly of Lucky Bay, although most of them admitted they’d never been. That’s how big this particular beach looms in the Ozzie conscience.
The 45-minute drive from Esperance to Cape Le Grand is scenic and pastoral. Look for emus in the bushes starting about 25 miles from the park’s entrance; they like hanging out near the herds of cattle. The park itself is a real looker with its gneiss peaks, undulating heathlands, and splashes of colorful banksia. Visitors come here to swim and snorkel in the sheltered bays, cast a lure off the rocks, and picnic in the company of marsupials.
Unfortunately, our day trip to Lucky Bay got rained out. Not just a sprinkling, either—an angry deluge that sent us scurrying back to the car for cover. There were no ‘roos on the beach, but we spotted two, wet and quivering, in the bush. They seemed as annoyed by the rain as we were. The sand at Lucky Bay was indeed white and fine and the water a dazzling shade of turquoise, but Australia has dozens of white-sand beaches; this was no more spectacular than others we’ve visited. We were also surprised to see heaps of seaweed washed up on the shore; somehow, most of the images online fail to depict this. But hey, the upside to visiting Lucky Bay during a torrential downpour: We had the beach all to ourselves and when the rain finally chilled, we were treated to a lovely rainbow.
Of course, there is more to Cape Le Grand than Lucky Bay. Other highlights include Hellfire Bay (great for pics although the waves seemed too violent for swimming) and Frenchman Peak (a two-hour hike with an 860-foot incline and a large cave at the top). For you exercise freaks, the Le Grand Coastal Trail extends 9.3 miles from Le Grand Beach to Rossiter Bay via Hellfire Bay, Thistle Cove, and Lucky Bay. It takes a full day and covers rocky headlands, coastal heath, and all them purty beaches. The trail is marked by rock cairns, wooden pegs, and pruned vegetation. That same trail is carved into four shorter legs for folks just seeing a taste of the area: The easiest walk is from Thistle Cove to Lucky Bay and takes one hour; the most challenging runs from Le Grand Beach to Hellfire Bay and lasts three hours.
A standard one-day park entry fee is $13 AUD per vehicle (around $10 USD). If you’re road tripping around WA and will be hitting up several parks, purchase a four-week holiday pass instead for a flat $46 AUD ($36 USD).
Le Grand Road, Esperance, Western Australia, Australia; +61-8-9083-2100.