IF YOU FANCY a little bit of paradise, a visit to Cape Le Grand National Park, on the southern coast of WA, may be for you. Imagine waking up to crystal clear waters and a sparkling white beach, with the sun promising you another beautiful day.
The beach at Lucky Bay has been rated Australia’s whitest, and even the kangaroos appreciate the sun and sand. Add to this a campground with solar-heated showers, fresh drinking water, camp kitchen and the most incredible views – all for $9 per person per night – and you can understand why people keep going back.
It was a glorious morning, with the sun enhancing the azure blue of the waters, when we rolled into Lucky Bay campground with our three young kids. We knew fortune was smiling on us when a couple in a beat-up old Holden decided to pack up their gear and leave so we could camp in their spot, right on the corner, with an amazing view of the bay and some space for the kids.
The campground is basically one large caravan area next to the beach. There is also a large shaded tent section and one group area. No sooner had we set-up our tent when a mother kangaroo decided our little bush home was the perfect place for a bit of a rest with her joey. The kids thought it was great to extend our family with another two members.
For a bit of variety you can also set-up camp at the campground at the Le Grand Beach, which has the same facilities as Lucky Bay. These campsites are set-up differently and provide you with more privacy, so they are definitely worth checking out. There are nine individual caravan sites, four camper or tent sites and one group site. Le Grand Beach is the place for the keen 4WDer, with a 22km stretch of beach that takes you all the way to Wylie Beach (close to Esperance). It is recommended that you carry recovery gear because this beach drive can be a bit tricky.
Once you’re set-up it is only a hop and a step to the beach, where you can enjoy fishing and boating, as well as swimming. Boats are best launched at Lucky Bay, but smaller vessels can also be launched from Cape Le Grand.
From the Lucky Bay campground you can follow the short track to the Flinders Monument. On January 10 1802, Matthew Flinders was trying to navigate his ship, the Investigator, through the rocks, reefs and islands when he discovered a sheltered bay, which he fittingly named Lucky Bay. The monument commemorates the safe landing of Flinders and the naming of the bay.
WALKING THE BAY
Of all the walking you can do in the area, the must is the climb at Frenchman’s Peak. The peak was named by Alexander Forrest in 1870 and refers to the hat worn by the French troops in the 1800s.
It is a two or three-hour return walk from the car park below the peak. With most of the track straight up the rocky incline, this is a challenging walk. Some people thought we were crazy to attempt the hike with a four-year-old, two-year-old and a 14-month-old (in the backpack), but we made it to the top. It was worth it to see the incredible 360° views of the national park. On a clear day you can see as far as Esperance. It is a good idea to start the walk early, especially on a hot day. It is not recommended to attempt the climb in wet or windy weather.
There is a three-part 15km coastal trail for the beach and bush walker who likes to stay on more level ground. The first leg, from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove, is a relatively easy 45-minute trek. From Thistle Cove to Hellfire Bay is a more demanding two-hour hike. The longest section of the walk is from Hellfire Bay to Le Grand Beach; this is a difficult walk suitable for experienced walkers only, and takes around three hours one way.
You can also walk from Lucky Bay to Rossiter Bay, which is around two-and-a-half hours of medium walking. Whatever you decide, each walk will reward you with excellent coastal views.
The sunsets along this beautiful spot in south-west WA are quite breathtaking. My husband is a professional photographer and he had the time of his life capturing the sun sinking under the water on the different beaches. Thistle Cove, in particular, has interesting rock formations that make for a captivating sunset. Hellfire Bay may not sound too inviting, but is one of the most beautiful and picturesque I have ever seen, and Le Grand Beach seems to go on forever.
This really is a mecca for the keen photographer, so make sure you catch a number of sunsets before you continue on your travels.
Cape Le Grand NP is a wonderful place for a family with (young) kids. The beaches are safe for playing in the sand or getting your feet wet without having to worry about freak waves and dangerous undertows. Wildlife is abundant, with kangaroos sunbaking on the beach and goannas checking out different picnic spots. You do have to watch out for snakes, however, because they like warm and sunny places as much as we do.
The nice thing about Cape Le Grand is that everything is so close together. In one day you can visit each of the different bays and beaches. The trouble will be pulling yourself away from each magical place, where you can sit and enjoy the beauty for hours.
We did some beach driving at Lucky Bay and Le Grand Beach and the sand was nice and hard. It is advisable to check the driving conditions before you get onto the beach because things can change from day to day.
There are usually lots of people around and you are unlikely to feel lonely at any of the campgrounds. You can meet people from all over Australia and the world – it seems Cape Le Grand NP is no longer WA’s best kept secret. Fires are not allowed, but it doesn’t stop you from meeting your neighbours and sharing travel experiences over a stubbie or a glass of wine. We met the camp hosts, who invited us into their van and were more than willing to tell us everything they know about the park.
When the time comes to say goodbye to Lucky Bay, make sure you spend some time in Esperance, which some claim is home to Australia’s best beaches.
Our stay in Cape Le Grand NP came to an end far too soon and the kids would have liked to take our visiting kangaroo and her joey with us, but we’ll be back one day.