Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, kangaroos stopping by your campsite and 360-degree views make Western Australia’s Cape Le Grand National Park well worth discovering

Words by Claudia Bouma      Photography by Chris Bouma 

Tucked away on the southern coastline of Western Australia is a small piece of paradise with picture-perfect clear blue bays and soft sandy beaches. Cape Le Grand National Park is relatively small but its captivating beauty more than makes up for that.

Only a stone’s throw from the town of Esperance, Cape Le Grand is one of the few places in Australia where you can see kangaroos sunbathing on the beach. The park can be seen in a day but you can easily spend a long weekend here without getting bored – there’s swimming, fishing, surfing and boating to enjoy, or you can simply relax on the beach.

For the more adventurous, you can explore the 15km coastal walking trail. Choose from relaxing short walks or more challenging ones: they’ll all reward you with excellent coastal views.

Our family of five certainly wasn’t disappointed, although when we first decided to attempt the hike up Frenchman Peak (262m) – Cape Le Grand’s second-highest peak – I was having my doubts. Not that anyone else was: 14-month-old Hannah was giggling away in the pack on my back, four-year-old Shannon jumped around with excitement, and 20-month-old Chantelle looked up at me with big blue eyes that conveyed complete trust.

Hubby Chris had camera gear instead of kids, which made me realise that the job of a photographer has many advantages – especially when you’re about to attempt to scale a mountain with three children under the age of five! But being the stubborn Dutchie that I am, I wasn’t going to complain. We were going to get up that mountain one way or another.

My stubbornness paid off. Less than an hour later, we sat on top feeling like we had conquered the world. With views in every direction, the entire park seemed to lie at our feet. It was enough to make us forget the difficult hike. We sat there feeling a collective sense of achievement – the kids were especially proud.

Straight ahead were the turquoise-blue waters of Lucky Bay; to our right we marvelled at the white sand of Le Grand Beach and in the far distance was the town of Esperance.

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Better still, for the next 10 minutes we were the only people on top of Frenchman Peak, so named by explorer (and later mayor of Perth) Alexander Forrest in 1870, in reference to the outline of the hat worn by French troops in the 1800s.

Our peace was eventually disturbed by a young guy in his 20s who had jogged up the mountain in record time; he disappeared after taking one short look at the 360-degree vistas. He obviously wasn’t here for the views.

Back at our campsite at Lucky Bay the three kids met Mum Kangaroo and Baby Kangaroo, who had made one corner of our site their temporary home. We all enjoyed being a family of seven for as long as it lasted!

There’s plenty of wildlife around the area, although the kids weren’t quite sure about the big goanna we came across at Thistle Cove. They decided to admire him from a safe distance, with the option of climbing on top of the picnic tables if he decided to come too close.

The sunsets here are simply breathtaking. Chris had the time of his life capturing them in the different bays and on the beaches, particularly at Thistle Cove, where the rock formations make for a captivating skyline. Similarly, Hellfire Bay is beautiful – one of the most beautiful bays I have ever seen in my life – even though it doesn’t sound too inviting! Then there’s Le Grand Beach, which seems to go on forever, and Rossiter Bay, which is not to be missed. It really is a mecca for the keen photographer.

I would also encourage anyone to spend one night at Lucky Bay Campground, even if camping isn’t your thing. Imagine waking up to the sound of the waves lapping at the nearby beach, and having breakfast while gazing at the brilliant white sand and the turquoise waters.

Cape Le Grand is the ideal getaway for families with (young) kids: they never get bored of building sandcastles, chasing seagulls and looking for shells. As for the hike up Frenchman Peak, it isn’t compulsory but you really should give it a go. If we could do it, you don’t really have an excuse!

The Details

Where // Cape Le Grand National Park is 50km east of Esperance in the south-east of Western Australia, accessible via sealed road. Esperance is a (long) day’s drive from Perth (720km).
Where to stay  //
In Esperance: Contact the Esperance Visitor Centre for a complete list of accommodation in town. The town is set up for tourism with hotels, motels, self-contained units and B&Bs.
In the national park: Camping is the only accommodation option. There are two campgrounds: Lucky Bay and Le Grand Beach. Both have a camp kitchen. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and no bookings can be made. Drinking water is provided at both campsites but is in limited supply. Solar-heated showers are available at both sites. Generators are permitted 8am-1pm and 5pm-9pm. Camping fees are $9 per adult per night ($2 for a school-aged child under 16; $6 adult concession).
Contact // For more about Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park, ring the Esperance Visitor Centre on 1300 664 455 or see visitesperance.com
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