Camping in Esperance gets you close to the whitest sand I’ve seen in Australia. As well as water so clear and insanely blue, it almost doesn’t look real. Just looking at the ocean in Esperance is a joy. You almost can’t believe it can look so picture perfect.
The whole coastline in and around Esperance looks like this and is really unique. It’s also very far from a lot of places. So make the most of it by planning to spend a few days camping in Esperance town before getting out to the surrounding places (and the best beaches) in Cape Le Grande National Park and the Duke of Orleans Bay.
Read on for my guide to camping in and around Esperance.
Where: South Coast, Western Australia
Getting there: 7.5 hours drive South East of Perth
Getting to Esperance
Esperance is located on the South Coast of Western Australia. It’s the furthest destination away from Perth, just before the Nullarbor (the longest stretch of straight road which connects Western Australia to South Australia).
People mainly get here by driving 7.5 hours from Perth. Or flying into Esperance Airport, hiring a car and driving 20 minutes into Esperance town.
It’s also a popular stop on any South West road trip from Perth. And if you are doing such a trip I would say it’s worth travelling further to include Esperance in your plans.
It’s like no other place in looks and is so spread out it’s less populated. As a result, it has a special charm to it where you can feel like you have parts of the beach all to yourself.
Camping in Esperance town has its benefits as a base for exploring the nearby beaches along the Great Ocean Drive. This includes Twilight, West Head and Fourth beaches. Then there’s the Lucky Bay Brewery Co. on the outskirts of town.
After a few days here you’ll then want to explore further East. To Cape Le Grand National Park and Wharton Beach in the Duke of Orleans Bay. Because when people say Esperance, I learnt they are actually talking about all the beaches and places over a huge stretch of coastline. Including driving up to 100km and just under an hour out of town, to get to some of the best spots.
This means you really need your own vehicle to get around Esperance and fully enjoy it. The town is a good place to stock up on anything you need plus a couple of cafes and places to eat out. But you can’t come all this way and miss getting out of the town to fully experience the beauty of Esperance.
When to visit Esperance
Everyone travels to Esperance for the beaches so I would recommend visiting during the Summer months (Dec-Feb). Early Spring and early Autumn are quieter times when the weather will still be good but beyond April it gets cold and the water, less inviting.
I camped in Esperance in late April and the weather was already a little cooler than I expected. There were also a few overcast and rainy days. Turns out the South Coast has wet Winters, compared to say New South Wales where it’s drier during the winter months.
Camping in Esperance
The location of Esperance and its surrounding beaches is very picturesque. With beaches along the Great Ocean Drive just outside of town, Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grande National Park, as well as local favourites in The Duke of Orleans Bay.
So when people refer to Esperance, it actually spans a much larger area along this stretch of Western Australia coastline in between Esperance town and Arid National Park. This means camping outside town actually (in my opinion at least) allows you to experience the very best Esperance has to offer.
I recommend either basing yourself in Esperance town and travelling out each day or choosing to split your time between the town and further afield. Here’s a list of the different areas you can camp in.
Camp in Esperance town
Although cheaper and a good, clean place to base yourself, Esperance Bay Holiday Park is surrounded by a slip road which does create noise through the night. So base yourself here if you’re not going to spend much time there and want to save some money. Otherwise, I’d opt for the other campsite along the foreshore.
If you don’t mind staying just out of town and driving in then there are also quite a few options within a 10-20 minute drive of the main high street to choose from.
The best things to do in Esperance
- Spend time at the beaches along the Great Ocean Drive: Make sure you venture out of town to the beaches. Pick your spot along the drive. Twilight Beach is sheltered for swimming. West Beach is good for surfing with three breaks on it. It’s also good for watching surfers from the big benches overlooking the beach.
- Pop to Downtown Espresso Bar for a takeaway coffee: It has the best coffee in town.
- For eco-friendly and lifestyle shops visit the Esperance Museum Village: A 10-minute walk from the main town down Dempster St. these boutique shops are housed in old heritage buildings.
- If staying in town: Head to 33 Degrees Bar happy hour with a view and The Pier Hotel for pub food and where all the locals seem to end up.
- Drive to Lucky Bay Brewing Co. for the best pizza, beers and atmosphere: They have firepits for the colder months and live music on Fridays and Sundays.
Camping in Cape Le Grand National Park
This National Park is a 40-minute drive from Esperance and is worth visiting for both the beaches and walks you can do in the park.
Camp at Lucky Bay Campground
There are kangaroos around Lucky Bay Campground and sometimes on the beach, which explains why this place has become famous for the white sand and kangaroo selfie. It’s the best place to base yourself, right by Lucky Bay and a good distance from all the best places to visit in the National Park.
It’s also very popular so you will need to book this one in advance. The campground costs $30/night and you must book online.
You pay per night and pick an available spot once you turn up (and register the spot with the campground hosts who live on site). There are flush toilets and a (solar powered, warm-ish) shower. Bring your own drinking water. Some spots are sheltered, others not so much on a windy day so turn up early to pick the best one.
Things to do in Cape Le Grand National Park
- Visit all the beaches in the park: Lucky Bay, Hellfire Bay and Cape Le Grande Beach (there is also a campground here at Cape Le Grande Beach).
- Climb Frenchman’s Peak: This gets you the best views of the whole park.
- Walk the Cape Le Grande Coastal Trail: This walk runs through the park and is a day hike you can complete in one day (15km one way). Or, you can choose to do sections of it. For example, Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove takes about an hour.
Camping in the Duke of Orleans Bay
This is about an hour from Esperance and is worth travelling out to and camping nearby.
Top tip: Google Maps provides two routes with only a 2-minute difference. Take the top one via Condingup to avoid driving on an unsealed road (which actually takes longer).
Don’t miss Wharton Beach
Based in the Duke of Orleans Bay, Wharton Beach was my favourite beach in the Esperance area. So much so that I kept going back!
Here you can drive on the beach and park up for the day. The access road onto the beach is mainly a concrete path that runs down to the beach and the sand immediately to the left is hard enough for 2WD vehicles to easily drive onto it.
Many camper vans including hired vans drive onto it (although you should always make your own judgement on what you are comfortable doing within both your capabilities and insurance policy). Just be careful not to go too far away from the access road and park up where the sand isn’t too soft or behind the tide line. If you have a 4×4 then you are free to take on the whole beach.
Once parked up, you can enjoy a day on the beach. There is a point break with perfect longboarding waves (when there is swell), or you can swim in the water which is relatively calm and shallow.
Driving onto the beach is a really special experience and a key part of what travelling in Australia is about so don’t miss Wharton Beach!
Camp near Wharton Beach
Orleans Bay Caravan Park is a good place to base yourself and is only a 5-minute drive from Wharton Beach. Prices from $40/night.
There are also a couple of free camping options in the area. These are:
- Condingup Community Oval: This free camp is a 20-minute drive from Wharton Beach. Park up next to the footy oval in a large open grassy area. There are public toilets on site and it had about 10 campers when I stayed with plenty of space for up to around 40 vehicles. If staying here I really recommend popping into the Condingup Tavern. It has a really nice beer garden out back.
- Membinup Beach: This free camp is a 35-minutes drive from Wharton Beach. There are no facilities so you will need to be self-sufficient but there are different areas accessible to 2WD and 4WD. The 4WD track I’ve heard can be quite rough.
I hope this guide will help you navigate the whole area a little more easily than I found it (which involved a lot more driving and back and forth to hunt down the best beaches) and do make sure you do go the extra distance to get out of town. You won’t be disappointed.
Esperance is a long way to come but I believe it is worth it, as do many others. At first glance and on an overcast day I wasn’t really sure what the hype was all about, to be honest but Esperance is a place that grows on you.
The location of Esperance and its surrounding beaches is simply stunning with the beaches along the Great Ocean Drive just outside of town, and the bays and beaches of Cape Le Grande National Park and beyond.