By: Tatum Stafford
Whether you’re an experienced bushwalker or enjoy a casual stroll, there are hundreds of walking trails, tracks and pathways across Esperance that are primed for walkers.
From peaks and wetlands to islands and national parks, it can be an overwhelming to decide where to begin in a town that is packed with nature to explore on foot, like Esperance.
So if you’re looking for guidance on length, time, difficulty and highlights of each walking trail in this picturesque town, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Here are 10 Esperance hikes worth adding to your bucket list.
12 epic long-distance hikes in WA »
1. Stokes Heritage Trail, Stokes National Park
|Start and finish||Benwenerup Campground to Stokes Picnic Area|
|Length and time||6.4 kilometres return, 1.5 - 2 hours|
|Suitable for||Families with young children, animal lovers, history buffs and bird-watching enthusiasts.|
The Stokes Heritage Trail features one of the State’s most picturesque estuaries. The Estuary Mouth is a great spot to view abundant birdlife; best observed from the trail’s various observation decks.
The simple trail offers walkers the chance to view native fauna such as kangaroos, emus and honey possums. There are also an array of ancient Zamias on display, and interpretative signage along the trail detailing the history and formation of the Stokes Inlet. Skippy Rock, Shoal Cape and the Moir Homestead Ruins are other notable attractions on the trail.
2. The Great Ocean Pathway, Esperance
|Start and finish||Esperance Bay to Twilight Beach|
|Length and time||12 kilometres, half to full day|
|Suitable for||Majority of ages and fitness levels, as the walk can be completed in short sections. Also great for budding photographers, as there are many scenic views to capture.|
The Great Ocean Pathway is one of the most iconic walks in Western Australia. Stretching along the spectacular Esperance coastline, the trail runs from Esperance Bay to Twilight Beach, with highlights including the pristine Blue Haven Beach, Tanker Jetty and the countless ocean views you’ll earn along the way.
The pathway is on a bitumen track that is shared by walkers, runners, cyclists and prams; before it becomes insulated by coastal bush for a gentle climb up Twilight Beach Road. The trail can be accessed from a number of carparks along its length to provide a variety of distance and scenery options.
3. Twiggy's Landing and Shearwater Lookout Walk, Woody Island
|Start and finish||Woody Island Visitors Centre to Shearwater Lookout|
|Length and time||1 kilometre return, 30 minutes|
|Suitable for||Most ages and fitness levels, though some bushwalking experience is recommended. Great for bird-watching enthusiasts.|
Woody Island is an ‘A’ class reserve within the Recherche Archipelago – and the picturesque Twiggy’s Landing walk is a great way to soak up views of the surrounding islands.
The walk starts at the Woody Island Visitors Centre and leads you past the clearing to the Shearwater Lookout, where you can view flesh-footed shearwaters (medium-sized seabirds) who nest in their burrows at dusk in the summertime. Shearwater Bay is also a prime spot for snorkelling, so don't forget your gear.
4. Island Top Walk Trail, Woody Island
|Start and finish||Woody Island Visitors Centre|
|Length and time||2.1 kilometres return, 1 – 1.5 hours|
|Suitable for||Most ages and fitness levels, though some bushwalking experience is recommended.|
The Island Top Walk Trail climbs to a lookout that provides sweeping views of the Recherche Archipelago and mainland.
The trail includes a gentle climb to the summit, travels through a mix of coastal shrublands and tall trees, and includes interpretive signs that provide helpful insights into the island’s natural environment.
5. Len Otte Nature Trail, Cape Arid National Park
|Start and finish||Thomas River Road|
|Length and time||1 kilometre loop, 1 – 2 hours|
|Suitable for||Most ages and fitness levels, though some bushwalking experience is recommended. Great for fauna and wildflower enthusiasts.|
The Len Otte Nature Trail was designed and established in 1979 by Len Otte, who was the first resident ranger at Cape Arid National Park. Notably, this walk is the first nature trail in any Western Australian national park.
The trail surface consists of pavements made up of exposed granite and gravel as it winds through thickets up Belinup Hill. The walk is a brilliant showcase of a variety of plants in the area, including yellow hibbertia, scarlet honeymyrtle and golden banksia. Walkers can also enjoy sweeping views across the heathland to Thomas River and Yokinup Bay.
6. Kepwari Walk Trail, Esperance
|Start and finish||Lake Wheatfield carpark|
|Length and time||7 kilometres return, 2.5 - 3 hours|
|Suitable for||Majority of ages and fitness levels – also suitable for families with young children. Great for bird-watching enthusiasts.|
Kepwari is the local Aboriginal word for ‘place of moving water’, and the Kepwari Walk Trail is designed as an educational experience about Esperance’s wetlands - including why they are under threat, and how you can help protect them for future generations.
There are two bird hides located on the trail that are peaceful spots to quietly observe wetland waterbirds. There are also information displays and other rest-stop facilities that allow you to sit back, relax and soak up the tranquility of this natural display.
7. Frenchman Peak Walktrail, Cape Le Grand National Park
|Start and finish||Base of Frenchman Peak|
|Length and time||3 kilometres return, 1 – 3 hours|
|Difficulty||Difficult – a high level of fitness and bushwalking experience is required.|
|Advice||Do not attempt to take short cuts, as the rock is deceptively steep, especially on descent. This walk is not recommended in wet or windy weather.|
Nestled in the south-west corner of Cape Le Grand National Park, Frenchman Peak is 262 metres high and was discovered in 1870. A large cave near the peak’s summit is thought to have formed by wave action and underwater currents 40 million years ago, when the peaks of Cape Le Grand were largely submerged.
The Frenchman Peak Walktrail is made up of wooden boardwalks, gravel paths and steep granite rock. There are a series of trail markers bolted into the granite that guide you to the summit.
Once you reach the peak’s summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the southern coastline; stretching from Lucky Bay to the south, Woody Island and the Recherche Archipelago to the west, and national park heathlands to the north and east.
8. Mt Arid Walktrail, Cape Arid National Park
|Start and finish||Mt Arid carpark (accessible through Yokinup Bay)|
|Length and time||4 kilometres return, 3 hours|
|Difficulty||Difficult – a high level of fitness and experience is required.|
|Suitable for||Very experienced bushwalkers with specialised skills, including navigation and emergency first aid.|
|Advice||Tracks are likely to be very rough, very steep and unmarked. Be aware of weather conditions before setting off, as you can only access the start point during low tide.|
The start of the Mt Arid Walk Trail is only accessible by four-wheel-drive. As you enter Yokinup Bay via Thomas River Road, you’ll need to complete 20 kilometres of beach driving, and then park at the Mt Arid carpark.
The hike is a challenging two kilometre steep climb to the summit. The trail is narrow and mostly unmarked, and it can be difficult to follow over granite rocks and loose gravel – so walkers need to be careful as to where they place their feet.
However, the payoff for this tricky climb is worth it, as you can expect spectacular views across the Recherche Archipelago at the summit.
9. Tagon Coastal Trail, Cape Arid National Park
|Start and finish||Western end of Yokinup Bay to eastern end of Kennedy Beach|
|Length and time||14 kilometres return, 4 – 6 hours|
|Difficulty||Difficult – a high level of fitness and bushwalking experience is required.|
|Suitable for||Great for bird-watching enthusiasts.|
|Advice||Tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signage may be limited. Trail is unmarked.|
The Tagon Coastal Trail is a moderately difficult walk within Cape Arid National Park. The trail winds through rocky headlands, and provides great vantage points for migratory whale-watching from July to October.
Depending on the time of year, walkers may need to wade through a river to access the start of the walk. The walk takes you up a moderately steep incline over exposed granite. Walkers are encouraged to follow the tide line when the trail is unmarked along the beach, but the main walk trail surface consists of rock material including exposed granite, gravel and beach sand. Some parts of the track may become eroded after heavy rain, so take care during wetter months.
Fortunately for bird-lovers, a number of species including Hooded Plovers and Oyster Catchers are visible and often spotted along the trail.
10. Peak Charles Trail, Peak Charles National Park
|Start and finish||Base of Peak Charles|
|Length and time||6.2 kilometre loop, 6 – 7 hours|
|Difficulty||Difficult – a high level of fitness and bushwalking experience recommended.|
|Advice||Tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signage may be limited. Beyond the lookout there is no easy way up the final rock slops to the summit, and no route is recommended. Route requires some exposed rock scrambling and steady footing on steeply angled slopes.|
The Peak Charles Trail to the summit consists of three sections – Mushroom Rock, Central Ridge and Peak Charles Summit. Visitors are free to select which sections they complete, depending on levels of fitness, how equipped they are and weather conditions.
The Mushroom Rock trail section has a moderate incline and is well-defined, but has no markers. It takes you through open woodland, and some high stepping onto rocks is required. Mushroom Rock itself is one of the many intriguing rock formations on Peak Charles’ slopes. Allow around half an hour to complete this incline.
The Central Ridge trail is a little tougher as it includes a steep incline, rough and unstable surfaces, and is very slippery when wet. Allow around an hour to complete this incline.
The final leg is the Peak Charles Summit. This section is particularly challenging, as it requires frequent rock scrambling, features a very steep and exposed incline, and contains rough surfaces. You must be able to lift your own weight several times, there are no markers, and you must be able to find and assess appropriate hand and foot holds. Allow an hour and a half to reach the summit.
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Last updated May 2020