On the far south eastern coast of Western Australia, Esperance (the Bay of Isles) is an incredibly welcome sight to travellers who have just made the long trek across the Nullarbor. On the other hand, if your heading that way make sure you soak in your stay, as this is going to be your last glimpse of a modern seaside town for some time.
200 kilometres south of Norseman and 187 kilometres east of Ravensthorpe (see South West Corner), Esperance's wide, white beaches,spectacular coastline, and stunning setting overlooking the unusual 100 or so islands of the Recherche Archipelago, have led the town to become a popular holiday resort. Although most flock here to rechargetheir batteries on one of the area's glorious beaches, a tour around the bay's islands is a must. The islands are not only home to severalcolonies of New Zealand fur seals, Australian sea lions and penguins, but a host of other wildlife including sea eagles and the beautiful Cape Barren goose. Some tours include snorkelling and scuba diving, enabling visitors to appreciate the equally abundant wildlife below the waterline. Others even offer a stay at the wildlife sanctuary on Woody Island.
On dry land, Esperance's awesome coastline is best seen via themagnificent Great Ocean Drive. Drivers or fit cyclists (FrogandToad recommends a motorcycle) which follow the 39 kilometre loop road beginning at the southern end of town, will be treated to some of themost impressive scenery anywhere on Western Australia's south coast.Along the way the are many lookouts ideal for photo opportunities, aswell as several secluded swimming beaches, and the strange looking Pink Lake.
Further out of town, a number a national parks encompass some more ofthe area's brilliant coastline. Sixty kilometres east of Esperance, the Cape Le Grand National Park is the most accessible and popular, not only for it's pristine swimming and fishing beaches (Lucky Bay, Hellfire Bay, and Thistle Cove), but for it's great walks and views from Frenchman's Peak. Another sixty kilometres further east of Cape Le Grand, the very remote Cape Arid National Park marks the beginningof the Great Australian Bight. Access is available via a gravel roadonly, but those that make the trip will be rewarded with somedeserted beaches, good bush walking, and an abundant array of floraand fauna. Both parks offer convenient camping facilities and colourfulwildflower displays in Spring.
The Nullarbor Plain
Crossing the Nullarbor Plain is undoubtedly one of Australia's great touring experiences. From the point where the well maintained and sealed Eyre Highway begins at Norseman, it's a 1208 kilometre journey before it reaches another real town of any size (see Ceduna in Outback, South Australia). The only signs of civilisation on the long stretches of perfectly straight road are a series of roadhouses, providing fuel,essential services, food, and generally several forms of accommodation. The largest gap is about 200 kilometres, so motorcyclists may need to carry extra fuel. Travellers should also be aware of wandering kangaroos and emus, especially at dawn or dusk, as well as the many time changes youwill encounter along the way.
Halfway between Esperance and Coolgardie, Norseman is an oldgold mining town on the cross roads of Western Australia's great inlandhighways. The town is a welcome sight for those coming from SouthAustralia, and for those heading that way, the ideal place to preparefor your journey. There are a number of good places to stay, and several friendly pubs serving refreshing ales.
The first fuel stop is 191 kilometres east of Norseman, at Balladonia. The roadhouse offers both camping andhotel/motel styles of accommodation, as well as a good feed in the colourful cafe. Past Balladonia, the 182 kilometre trip to Caiguna includes one of the longest stretches of straight road anywhere inthe world (146.6 km). At Caiguna, The John Eyre Motel providesall the accommodation and eating options.
65 kilometres east of Caiguna, Cocklebiddy is a tiny settlementis serviced by the Wedgetail Inn Hotel Motel. Home to CocklebiddyCave and the world record for the deepest cave dive ever, the townshipalso provides 4WD access to the incredible 75 metre limestone cliffs which line the Great Australian Bight. At the Bight, the Eyre BirdObservatory provides board for bird watching enthusiasts in the oldEyre Telegraph Station.
Back on the Eyre Highway and 93 kilometres from Cocklebiddy, theMadura roadhouse represents the next pit stop. 116 kilometrespast Madura, the roadhouse at Mundrabilla is also a comfortable place for a rest, offering both a caravan park, and a hotel/motel.