Driving in a straight line for an hour and a half without seeing another vehicle. Is this the great Aussie outback? Nah. Just a normal part of the road trip from Perth to Esperance WA (Western Australia).
I grew up in Esperance. 750 km south east of Perth, Western Australia. My roots are there. And my mum. And my little brother. Who is way taller than me by the way. But likes drinking wine as much as I do. So the night we arrived we did a bit of wine tasting, as you do.
Whale watching in the Aussie outback
The next morning I was seriously thinking about getting up, but frankly my body wasn’t responding, when we got the call. Whales. Cavorting just off the beach.
Erghh. My niece and I groaned and put on some warmth over our PJs and headed for the beach.
Worth it! The last time I saw whales was when I was doing the boat handling unit of my Yachtmasters course, off Fremantle, before my sailing adventures really began. It was my turn at the wheel driving the TAFE catamaran. Distracted by the whales spouting I almost failed the ongoing assessment.
The first time I saw whales was when I was in primary school. At the whale factory in Albany Whaling Station on a primary school excursion. But that’s a another story.
The whales off Castletown beach seemed to be resting, perhaps just waking up like my niece and I. It looked like a mother and baby closest to the beach. Felt like 30 metres away.
At first glance they just looked like rocky outcrops. Really. Then when I looked closer I could see the mini islands moving. And spouting water. Amazing. When I’m sailing I reckon any day with dolphins is a perfect day already. Any day with whale sightings is perfectly excellent.
Frenchmans Peak, Esperance WA
The next day we decided to climb Frenchman Peak. (We all call this Esperance WA icon Frenchmans Peak.) We climbed it as kids. It’s just a tiny bit scary as an (um older) adult. But sooo satisfying. I never admitted to being fit, just up for it. And the view from the top is, of course, spectacular!
Three things you have to do
When you visit Esperance WA there are three things you always have to do. Climbing Frenchmans Peak is optional. But:
- You have to go to at least one Op Shop. I can’t get enough natural fibre white or light shirts for sun protection when I’m sailing. I scored big time with a linen and a cotton number at $5 for both. Bargain.
- Coffee at the Taylor Street Tea Rooms. Going by different names these days it’s still right there on the beach next to the port. The coffee is still good, and it’s still one of the best spots to have it.
- Drive around the beaches. I traveled all the way to north Queensland as a teenager before I realised Esperance has some of the most spectacular coastline in Australia. And in my personal sailing adventures it still rates as totally magnificent next to Thailand’s Phang Na Bay. Esperance just has the isolation advantage. It’s not crowded or full of trash. We’re talking about Southern Ocean water coming from Antarctica. Clean, achingly blue and cold.
A little bit spooky
So…driving back. (You gotta love a two way road trip.)
My niece had remarked Esperance looked like it had been flushed with money, now down on its luck.
In fact Esperance and the next town Ravensthorpe (only 185 km away, but not in a straight line. Not counting Munglinup – Google it) had the same feel. The last mining construction boom has run its course. The big nickle mine there was built at the height of the cycle. The massive cost overruns, partly due to the skills and supply shortages of the boom, linked with falling commodity prices chimed the death knoll on the mega project.
Then Newdegate. Like a town with no people. Seriously. We drove through in the middle of the day and didn’t see a living soul. Didn’t help having a particularly creepy bit of War of the Worlds as the soundtrack. Something about taking blood from the living… shiver.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my take on the Aussie outback is like in the remote desert. But the world is getting smaller, so maybe my road trip to Esperance was a bit Aussie outbacky after all?
Hey and BTW did I tell you sharing is sexy? Feel free to share this story if you like it…
Urban legends from the Aussie outback
Road trip to Malacca, Malaysia