Sunset at Tanker Jetty

Supertown Profile : Esperance

Salmon Beach

Western Australia’s #1 holiday destination!  How can you go wrong with some of the best beaches in Australia, with the whitest sands and bluest waters? Esperance is truly a town of the coast.

 

In 1627, Dutch explorer Pieter Nuyts aboard the Gulde Zeepard passed through the Recherche Archipelago but credit for the discovery of the area is given to the French, when L’Esperance and Recherche sailed through the area and sought shelter from a storm in 1792.  In 1802, Matthew Flinders sailed through while mapping the area, naming Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove in the process.

 

The early settlers were sealers and whalers who survived on kangaroo, geese and fish, but Edward John Eyre was the most famous explorer to pass through the area on his way to Albany.  In 1863, the Dempster brothers drove their livestock into the area and took up the first land holding.  With the discovery of gold up north about 30 years later, Esperance transformed from a sleepy town to a busy port that shipped in thousands of fortune seekers from distant lands.  By 1897, there were four hotels, a brewery and two newspapers amongst the town of tents, with the poor folk sleeping on seaweed on the beach.  Farming started in the early 1900s.

 

 

With a population of 14,000 people, it’s not too overcrowded, and there is plenty of fishing, surfing, sailing, sunbathing, kite surfing and other water sports that can be enjoyed.  The area is very lush and clean, and it could quite possibly be WA’s cleanest town due to the strict littering laws in place.  Despite the country town feel, it’s still fully stocked with fast food joints and major supermarkets, but there are only a couple of crappy, dingy pubs, some with skimpies.

 

The foreshore is lined with Norfolk Island pine trees and the port is one of the deepest in southern Australia, capable of handling Cape and Panamax class vessels up to 180,000 tonnes!  The industry is visible from the beach, which also displays a stunning sunrise if you’re up early enough.

 

Next to the Esperance Museum is one of the original wind turbines on display.  The Salmon Beach wind farm was Australia’s first wind farm and it started operation in 1987 but was decommissioned after 15 successful years.  In 1993, the Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm was connected to the Esperance grid, with nine 225 kW wind turbines contributing to the town’s power supply, while the Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm was constructed in 2003.  These two wind farms now run parallel with the Esperance gas turbine power station and have saved 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year they have been operating.

 

 

Esperance is also one of many sites to cop Skylab debris.  In 1979, the space station Skylab entered the earth’s atmosphere, broke into pieces and crashed at various sites in Western Australia.  One of those sites was Esperance and they ended up fining the United States $400 for littering! The fine was paid 30 years later when a radio show host from California raised the funds and paid the fine on behalf of NASA.

 

 

If you’re planning to pass through Esperance, it’s probably best that you organise accommodation as it is not a RV friendly town – no camping or 24 hour parking allowed in any places.

 

Places of Interest

Recherche Archipelago

This 270km string of 105 coastal islands and 1500 islets is the largest group of islands in southern Australia and were first explored by the Dutch in 1627, but it was Matthew Flinders who charted the area for the first time in 1802.  It has a colourful history, setting the scene for the shipwreck of the Sanko Harvest in 1991, which is now the second largest shipwreck that can be dived in the world.  The Archipelago was also frequented by Australia’s only recorded pirate, Black Jack Anderson, who pillaged the area in the 1830s until he was eventually killed by his crew.

 

The Recherche Archipelago is an important aquatic wilderness area that provides a sheltered habitat and breeding ground for a variety of animals, such as seals, penguins, rock wallabies and seabirds.  The area is great for divers and snorkelers and provides a great bounty of abalone, rock lobsters and pilchards to the commercial fishing industry.

 

 

Great Ocean Drive

Enjoy a scenic 40km drive along the coast, past Pink Lake and the Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm.  The views are absolutely beautiful, and include white sand beaches framed by rocky cliffs with the Archipelago visible in the distance.

 

Twilight Beach is a feature of the Great Ocean Drive.  It was voted most popular beach in Australia in 2006 and is a great swimming beach with clear waters, gentle waves and soft white sand.  There are two offshore rocks that protect the beach and there are toilets and outdoor showers are nearby.

 

The Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm was installed in 2003 and is one of Australia’s most advanced wind/gas powered systems and produces more than 25% of the local community’s electricity.  There are nine towers, each stands 46m high and has three 22m blades.

 

Pink Lake

Well… we got there and the lake wasn’t pink, but that was because we were in the right place at the wrong time!

 

Pink Lake is a salt lake that turns pink when the conditions are right.  The green algae in the lake loves salty conditions and when the water reaches a state of high salinity, high temperatures and lots of light, the algae collects beta carotene, a red pigment that is also found in carrots and sweet potatoes!   Halobacterium also exists in the lake and is pink in colour.  The shades of pink that beautify the lake depend on the balance between Dunaliella salina algae and Halobacterium.

 

Tanker Jetty

Due to foreshore redevelopment, the Tanker Jetty was closed, but we did get to enjoy it during a 5:30am sunrise.  Another feature of the Tanker Jetty is Sammy the Seal, a bit fat blob of a mammal that lingers around the coastline to catch the off-cuts of a fisherman’s catch.  He must have still been sleeping when we came past but we got to see photos of him.

 

 

Mermaid Leather

A tannery that makes leather out of fish and shark skins.  The story of this place is incredible.  Check out our post on Mermaid Leather.

 

Esperance Stonehenge

Kim and Jillian Beale live about 12km from Esperance and their backyard has a complete full-scale replica of the original Stonehenge in the UK.  What does your backyard have other than a Hills Hoist and weeds?

Check out our post on the Esperance Stonehenge.

 

Alimento Café

We really needed a coffee and didn’t want to settle for a long black because we didn’t trust the person behind the espresso machine.  We decided to seek out the best place in Esperance for coffee and while there were a few suggestions, we chose a place that had people lined up out the door.

 

Alimento Café sits humbly without any frills in the centre of town.  Inside is an orange, mustard and chocolate brown décor and a matriarchal woman with a mop of curly hair works behind the counter.  We had faith, and ordered a soy latte and strong latte in a mug for $10… that’s right, $10 for two coffees.  Our expectations were high.

 

 

While we waited for our coffee, we got our first glimpse at a Western Australian newspaper before being presented with two huge mugs of delicious coffee topped with creamy microfoam!  No sugar required – these guys sure know how to make the perfect cup!

 

INFORMATION & ACCOMMODATION

Esperance Visitor Centre – Dempster Street, 08 9083 1555

Blue Waters Lodge YHA – 299 Goldfields Road, 08 9071 1040

 

Portland's Information Centre has a sealing and whaling museum

City Profile : Portland

We arrived in Portland at midday and it was HOT!  As usual, we bee-lined straight to the Visitor Information Centre, which is also the beginning of the Great South West Walk, a 250 km walking track along the coast.

 

Portland was established in 1835 and was the first European settlement in Victoria.  It started off as a whaling and sealing town and is now the only deep water port between Adelaide and Melbourne.  The port offers sheltered anchorage for boats travelling between the two capital cities and specialises in bulk commodities like agricultural and mining products, but there is plenty of good fishing and boating to be done.

 

The Portland bay was named in 1800 by the British navigator James Grant, who sailed the Lady Nelson along the Victorian coast.  Portland was proclaimed a city in October 1985 in the presence of The Prince and Princess of Wales.

 

Once we collected the information we needed, we headed to the Botanic Gardens for lunch, passing the Portland Cable Tram on the way.  This free community service was established in June 1996 and travels 8km around town, with stops at all the major landmarks.

 

 

Points of Interest

The Port

You can’t miss the port – it’s huge!  There are two breakwaters that create a safe haven for boats.  You can drive onto one of them and do some fishing.

 

Portland Strawberries

This place smelt incredible!  You have the option to buy pre-packaged strawberries, but that’s no fun.  Go out the back and pick your own for only $8 a kilo (super cheap!).

At this point in the day, it was scorching hot so we slapped on some sunscreen and our Barmah Hats to prepare for some exposure while we harvested.  Keep your eyes peeled for skinks and butterflies!

 

 

Point Danger

Just south of Portland is a nesting area for Australasian gannets.  Turn off the road once you see a huge pipe and that will take you to Point Danger and the Lawrence Rocks. The area is fenced off to protect the bird colony, but you can still see them from a lookout at the car park.

 

Probably more astonishing than the bird colony is the wind farms in the area.  Giant propellers dotted along the countryside are hard to miss and provide a breathtaking view.

 

 

Cape Bridgewater

We headed over to Cape Bridgewater to check out the Petrified Forest and Blowholes.  There were so many flies, our backs were almost black with them.

 

The formation of the Petrified Forest was originally thought to be caused by a wave of sand engulfing the trees.  It was later discovered that the ‘forest’ was actually solution pipes formed by acidic water solidifying the sand into these trunk shaped formations.

 

The blowholes at the bottom of the cliffs looked pretty cool, but they weren’t blowing while we were there – they’re probably more spectacular during the high tide.  The cliffs are made of black and purple volcanic rock and are constantly changing under the force of the wind and waves.

 

 

Information

Portland Visitor Information Centre – Lee Breakwater Road