This cape is simply le grand experience
Leaving Esperance after refuelling, collecting mail and exploring, we were on the road again heading for Cape Le Grand National Park and then on to the turnoff to Cape Arid NP.
It is only 63km to the entry of the Cape Le Grand NP from Esperance, so there’s plenty of time to check out both camp sites in the park.
The drive from Esperance is by sealed roads to all locations with the exception of a two-wheel drive unsealed road to Rossiter Bay which is regularly graded. Here you will find a small parking lot and a picturesque walk.
WA National Parks promote the trails in this area as “a walk on the wild side” and how true that is.
The Cape Le Grand Coastal Trail links many of the park’s coastal sections between Cape Le Grand Beach (western entrance to park) and Rossiter Bay (most eastern end) and includes a hike up Frenchman Peak (262m and yes, that’s right, it’s not Frenchman’s) with panoramic views of the park and islands of the Recherche Archipelago.
On all the trails, many of them just a short stroll from the campground or car park of Hellfire Bay, Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove, you will enjoy exceptional flora, spectacular granite formations, snow white sandy coves and magnificent views to the Great Southern Ocean.
Thistle Cove was named after John Thistle, the master of Matthew Flinders ship, HMS Investigator and it was here in January 1802, while circumnavigating Australia, they found fresh water.
From Lucky Bay campground there is a walk to Flinders Monument commemorating his safe anchorage there in 1802.
“The holiday or annual All Parks Pass are good value for the traveller”
Cape Le Grand campground behind the sand dunes and Lucky Bay campground areas have excellent amenities of camp kitchens, gas barbecues, picnic tables, toilets and water for about $10 a person a night, with concessions for seniors.
These sites operate on a first-come, first-served basis and, as with most Western Australian National Parks, have camp hosts to collect camp fees and give valuable information about the area.
The holiday or annual All Parks Pass and are good value for the traveller. More information on the parks web site parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au
The rolling heathlands have brilliant wildflowers and are home to pygmy possums, kangaroos (some you will find leisurely hopping or just sleeping along the sheltered bays), colourful birds feasting on the nectar and lizards scurrying among the granite boulders and dense thickets of banksia.
Cape Arid National Park is 120km east of Esperance and lies on shore from the eastern end of Recherche Archipelago.
From Cape Le Grand head to Condingup where there’s a great free camp next to the hall, and then Boyatup, which is sealed. From there it’s on to a minor two-wheel drive good dirt road to the national park.
The roads are excellent although very dusty as you travel through sand heaths, mallee and low granite hills with Russel Range and Tower Peak (600m) in the distance.
It was first named Cap Arride by French Admiral D’Entrecasteaux in 1792 but Flinders anglicised it to Cape Arid in 1802.
In the 1870s, the area, although remote, was promoted as having beautiful grassy plains and land cheap to buy.
There are ruins of homesteads and buildings around Thomas Fishery and Pine Hill.
Thomas Fishery is an historic site where, in the 1870s, a whaling station was established.
Hill Springs came about at around the same time when William Ponton ran sheep. He died in 1909 and, along with hardship and isolation, his family was forced to abandon the homestead. This wonderful wilderness is home to more than 1000 species of plants and 160 bird species with several threatened or endangered.
The most accessible campground is at Thomas River where in peak season, camp hosts will welcome you.
There are excellent, reasonably new facilities due to a fire that went through and destroyed most of the flora and all the old amenities.
The campground has individual level campsites, some with incredible views over vegetation to the bay.
Other campsites are at Thomas Fishery, Seal Creek, Jorndee Creek and Mt Ragged. Fees apply and also operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
A local farmer who holidays at Thomas River regularly suggested we return in late winter and spring to see migrating whales passing by. They come in so close to shore to de-barnacle on the large boulders that you can almost touch them.
There is 4WD beach access to drive all the way up the beach of Sandy Bight to Seal Creek and the other campgrounds.
Cape Arid NP forms an almost continuous nature conservation area all the way to the South Australian border. You can also access this diverse park by walking trails near the coast on the Tagon Coastal Trail to Dolphin Cove and Len Otte Nature Trail.