By: Kirsty Petrides
With its famous white sand beaches, incredible national parks and all-round natural beauty, a road trip to Esperance is a must-do for every Western Australian.
It’s a big drive though, so if you're planning on going, make the most of the journey by stopping in some of the towns and cities along the way, where you’ll be treated to local producers and winemakers, incredible coastline and amazing national parks.
Here’s your ultimate road trip from Perth to Esperance via some of WA's favourite southern towns - just don’t forget to pack the camera. You’ll definitely need it.
|Distance and days||Approx.2,000kms - we've allowed nine days|
|Why do it?||Cape Le Grand National Park – Cape Arid National Park - Lucky Bay and its friendly kangaroos – Duke of Orleans Bay – Twilight Beach – Middle Island and its pink lake – Albany’s Middleton Beach - Quaint Mount Barker – Hopetoun’s iconic pub – Fitzgerald River National Park - World class wineries and breweries|
|When to go||Dec – Apr: Summer is the best time to go, as the region gets a bit cooler in the winter months. Drier conditions are also ideal for the hiking spots in the great southern region.|
|Need to know||Phone reception is fine in and around the main towns, but everywhere else – including while you’re driving on the long stretches of road – will be patchy at best. Make sure you download maps if using them. Most towns have a petrol station and general store.|
|Vehicle access and safety
||Most of this trip is suitable for two-wheel drives, however if you want to drive right onto some of the Great Southern's premier beaches, you’ll need a four-wheel drive. The exception here is Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park – the sand is so hard-packed, you can drive on it with a two-wheel drive. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the road around Hopetoun and Esperance – there are many kangaroos in the area. Before setting off, read more of our long distance driving safety tips.|
|Member benefits along the way|
Day one: Perth to Albany via Mount Barker (415km)
It’s a long drive, so start nice and early for your journey to Albany. Kojonup, which is a little further than halfway, is a great place to stop for a break with its public toilets and petrol station.
Once you arrive in Mount Barker, grab a coffee and lunch from The Grocery Store café – it's run by a local family who freshly bake all of their healthy (and even vegan) slices, foccacias and wraps, plus brew a great coffee.
Take a stroll along the main drag and stop by George’s Books, Records and Collectables, where you’ll find a huge range of vintage items for sale.
The iconic Plantagenet Wines’ cellar door is right in the heart of Mount Barker if you fancy getting a wine education from an iconic winery; and big-time producer West Cape Howe is also nearby. (Just remember to have a designated driver if doing tastings.)
From Mount Barker you’ve only got another 40 minutes or so to Albany. From Mount Barker you’ve only got another 40 minutes or so to Albany. We’d recommend staying the night once you arrive so you can relax after your big drive and then spend the next day exploring this fascinating coastal city.
Day two: Explore Albany
Spend a day soaking up the highlights and history of Albany. Explore the main town with its fascinating history and architecture. Head to Middleton Beach and enjoy the waterfront, and – time permitting – take a walk or bike ride to the stunning Emu Point. The Bald Head trail is one of Albany's best hikes, and the National ANZAC Centre is well worth a visit.
Day three: Albany to Hopetoun (342km)
Once you leave Albany, you’ll have about three and half hours to Hopetoun, and small but charming town is a nestled on the tranquil shores of Mary Ann Haven. Its worth setting off early in the morning so you have time to explore Hopetoun’s nearby Fitzgerald River National Park – or as the locals fondly refer to it, The Fitz.
Due to its highly diverse flora, the park has been recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – 75 per cent of its plant species are not found anywhere else on the planet. The Fitz itself stretches more than 300,000 hectares, covering beaches, bays and some magnificent hiking opportunities. If you have time up your sleeve, walk a portion of the Hakea Trail or climb East Barren, which offers sprawling views over the park.
Once back in Hopetoun, treat yourself to a pub lunch at the iconic Port Hotel on the main drag – the dishes are huge and the service is warm.
We recommend staying the night in Hopetoun - there is accommodation at The Port Hotel, or if you’re organised and have booked in advance, you can pack a tent and camp at one of the excellent campgrounds in Fitzgerald River National Park.
Day four: Hopetoun to Esperance (235km)
From Hopetoun, you’ve got roughly two hours to Esperance, the majority of which is a long straight along the South Coast Highway. Once you arrive, make a plan for the next few days, because there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Esperance.
Spend the afternoon exploring the city centre, strolling along the 12km pedestrian path that stretches all the way from Twilight Beach to Esperance Bay, and treat yourself to a dinner at one of the many local restaurants in town.
Days five and six: Explore Esperance
Esperance is arguably one of the most beautiful places in WA, so you definitely need more than one day to explore it. Spend your first day exploring the Cape Le Grand National Park with its famous white-sand beaches and iconic Lucky Bay; and your second day at the nearby Cape Arid National Park, with its similarly spectacular scenery and coastline. To get to both these parks, continue driving east of Esperance centre. If you can squeeze it in, check out the impossibly pink lake at the nearby Middle Island.
Day seven: Esperance to Denmark via Ravensthorpe (530km)
Upon leaving Esperance, take the scenic route along Twilight Beach Road – it hugs the coast and offers breathtaking views. The journey to Denmark is on the longer side, about five and half hours, so stop in Ravensthorpe on the way for fuel, a leg-stretch and to check out some of WA’s famous public art grain silos – they are quite a sight to behold.
If you have a sweet tooth or just want to remain energised for the rest of your drive, pop in to the Yummylicious Candy Shack on Ravensthorpe’s main drag – it is a huge chocolate and candy shop stocking every type of sweet you can think of. It needs to be seen to be believed.
Continue on to Denmark, either by dropping back down to the coast or going the slightly northern route that takes you through the Stirling Ranges. Either way, it will be a picturesque drive. We recommend staying the night in Denmark to relax after a big drive, and to provide you with a full day to explore this quaint town.
Day eight: Explore Denmark
Dedicate a day to experiencing everything Denmark has to offer – from its beautiful beaches like Green’s Pool and incredible nature such as Elephant Rocks; to its world-class food and wine scene with picturesque restaurants and cellar doors. Just make sure you have a designated driver.
Day eight: Denmark to Perth via Manjimup (487km)
Heading home at the end of a holiday is sad enough, so break up your journey to Perth with a stop in Manjimup. Not only is this Australia’s truffle hotspot, but there are also endless tall tree forests, fresh produce, an incredible new playground and mountain biking trails as well as an excellent interactive museum.
Taking off on your own road trip?
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Last updated: February 2021