It’s an easy 2 hour cruise from Norseman down to Esperance, the latter being one place we’d consistently heard about as we headed west. Named for a French ship ( “Esperance” ) that explored the south west in the 1700’s, this city is famous for the beauty of its beaches. And they are, indeed, spectacular !

Readers will no doubt notice that we got a bit, ah, carried away with beach pics and videos this blog – with good reason. We were absolutely dazzled by the city beaches, located on Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive – (not to be confused with Victoria’s Great Ocean Road ) but even more impressed with those at nearby Cape Le Grand National Park – Lucky Bay, Thistle Cove and Hellfire beach were all stunning ( the latter especially warm, too ) but our personal favourite was Wharton Bay, just outside the park. While it’s not possible on all WA beaches, a few of these allow you to drive right on the beach ( though not camp there ). We enjoyed quite a few occasions with the van on the beach, sliding door wide open just soaking up what was a postcard like vista – the sand pure white and the water a pristine turquoise. Easy to see why the place is so popular and the park campsites booked out months in advance. We’d heard lots of hype about this area but it absolutely lived up to every story we’d heard. Just magnificent – not to be missed if one comes this way !

West beach, Esperance.
Selfie, Observatory Point, Esperance.
Beautiful Twilight Bay beach, Esperance.

Amazingly picturesque, Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park.
First view of famous Lucky Bay beach, Cape Le Grand National Park.
Thistle Cove, Cape Le Grand National Park.

Lois, Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park.
Thistle Cove, Cape Le Grand NP.
On select beaches 4wd vehicles are allowed.
Our favourite, Wharton Beach, just outside Cape Le Grand NP. Morning tea “on” the beach.
Morning tea, Wharton Beach.
Time to stop looking and dive in. Still able to swim and it was almost May ( equates to October in Canada ! ).
Bumped into this lovely German couple at Wharton Beach. They had rented this 2007 Toyota “Troopie” for 6 months for $25,000 AUD. A reliable, “go anywhere” vehicle ( it had 675,000 kms on it ). Renting is NOT cheap for a long stay in Oz. Six months may indeed be the point where shipping your own vehicle makes more sense ( we are telling ourselves that ! ).
Reliable, and can go anywhere – but the toilet was rudimentary. Emergencies only……!
Classic Aussie windmill, near Cape Le Grand NP.

Albany is almost 5 hours drive west of Esperance and was our next port of call, but not before a stop and hike in the Porongorups National Park ( scenic, but hard work, hikers are well-rewarded with a beautiful cantilevered glass skywalk at the top). Our expectations were measured for this historic city once famed for whaling, but it surprised us. There’s also some interesting history, a quaint downtown, and a spectacular “walk” suspended over the edge of a sheer precipice right on the ocean’s edge- known locally as “The Gap” – definitely not for the virtiginous !

A massive fire between Esperance and Albany. The smoke was everywhere and forced us to drive an extra 100kms to escape it while camping at night.
Parked at the Porongurups National Park and this beautiful bird just landed right beside us !
Balancing rock, Perongurups National Park
The last part requires some scrambling !
Porongurups NP, cantilevered skywalk. View went for miles. A pretty tiring hike to the top.
Porongurups NP, skywalk
The Gap, Albany.
Rock bridge at “The Gap”, Albany
The Gap, Albany
The Gap.
The Gap, Albany
Silo art, Abany

During our last visit to WA in 2016 we’d just missed catching up with my cousin David so we were determined to connect this time. David and Vicky are lucky enough to call Margaret River home, an area famous for great wines, and great beaches among other things – and just 4 hours from Albany. It’s on a fairly convenient loop to Perth – not direct, but not too far out of the way and with the advantage of some beautiful national parks to travel through en route. The combination of giant Karri forests and rocky coastal foreshores made for an enjoyable drive, albeit with visibility at time hampered by some heavy rains. Denmark and Walpole were a couple of the prettier places en route. David and I spent time catching up on family news and what had gone on in each others lives in the 40 plus years since we’d seen each other –  it was certainly great to get together again !

South west coastal scenery, near Walpole
Our run of perfect weather had ended, here wild camped with 3 others in wet conditions near Walpole
The rain continued all the way to Margaret River, kaiboshing our sightseeing plans there 😞.
Poured raining in Margaret River…..
….but managed to catch up with my cousin, David, and his wife Vicky, this time. I’d not seen David in over 40 years.
David with Lois, his house, Margaret River

Perth, WA’s capital, was just a few hours north now, so rather than take the direct freeway route we ambled up the more scenic ( but slower ) coastal route though Bunbury, Busselton and Mandura. Like many big sprawling cities you are suddenly “in” Perth before you realize it. Big, yes, but easy to navigate around and we really enjoyed our few days there. As the last city of any size before we would head north there was a lot of running around for us to do in Perth. Besides it’s obvious sights -nearby “Freo” ( Fremantle ) and it’s harbour and markets, the Swan River, and beautiful Kings Park, we needed some “van” matters attended to – a recall from Mercedes ( easily dealt with by MB Perth ) and a service matter with our fridge, also quickly and easily handled by the Vitrifrigo service agent near Fremantle. After the sights, some overdue shopping ( always fun in the big cities ! ), a couple of important items from Bunnings ( Australia’s equivalent to Home Depot ) and Costco and we felt we were now set for the long trek north – along with plenty of others we’d met who were all heading in the same direction !

Perth, finally. First stop, Mercedes Benz to have a recall completed on the vehicle. In extreme circumstances it could roll forward while in “Park”. Felt we should get that dealt with !
Next stop, the Vitrifrigo service centre in Fremantle. The very helpful owner, John, confirmed our fridge was actually working just fine. Compressor fridges are not always “frost free” we learned !
Fremantle ( “Freo” to locals ) is a beautiful port city near Perth with tons of history and beautifully redeveloped old buildings, some dating back to convict times…….
….and which are often turned into boutique sidewalk cafe’s
Contemporary architecture/sculpture – “Surfer”, Cottesloe beach, Perth
Perth skyline from Kings Park
Driving though Kings Park, Perth
All over Kings Park, touching memorials to Australia’s fallen servicemen and women. Some, not even in their twenties.

We continue to be astounded by the number of people on the road in WA – and all are headed the same way as us – north !

Till next week……