The area around the town has some of the most spectacular beaches you will ever see. People rave about Cable Beach in Broome,
but is does not compare to the beaches between Esperance and Orleans Bay.
I would even go as far as to say that the area includes the most beautiful stretch of coastline in W.A.
There are some good campsites near Esperance (within about 70-90Kms each side) Some are CALM sites, others like Quagi are council sites.
All are very nice.
Off the coast of Esperance lies the Archipelago of the Recherche. Here 100 islands and 1,500 islets stretch along the coast for some 200 kilometres.
The sea has been harvested for creatures such as the southern rock lobster, saucer scallops, abalone, shark and pilchards.
Few of the islands are habitable but one close to Esperance, Woody Island, has catered for overnight accommodation.
Between July and November, southern right whales can be seen in the waters around Esperance. The whales visit this area to give birth. Australian
sea lions and New Zealand fur seals are also plentiful in this area and their breeding colonies here are the largest in the state.
While nature has put on possibly one of the most spectacular areas in the state for you to marvel at, there are also some man-made attractions
that are worth checking out while you explore the area.
The Museum Park Period Village can be found between The Esplanade and Dempster Street in Esperance town.
Markets are held on Sundays between 8.30am and 12.30pm. There is an interesting collection of historical buildings
including the old railway station, former doctor's surgery, a school master's house, a church and a private home.
The village is a collection of relocated historic buildings but also includes a cafe, art gallery, craft shop
and the Visitor Information Centre. The village and Visitor Centre are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm. on weekdays and
9.00am - 2.00pm on weekends.
Another interesting place to visit is the Esperance Museum. The museum was established in 1975 and can be found at 6 James Street.
Here you will find a large collection of local memorabillia including a 1951 coal-fired locomotive, items recovered from shipwrecks
and some rather unremarkable looking pieces of Sky Lab that fell to Earth near Balladonia in 1980.
There are also some Aboriginal artefacts, some antique musical items, old communications equipment and agricultural machinery.
The museum is open from 1.30pm to 4.30pm, Thursday to Sunday during the summer season. You can contact the museum on 08 9083 1580 or visit their
website. The museum generally closes during winter but may open
during school holidays.
On Taylor Street you will find Adventureland Park and a Miniature Railway that operates on weekends from October to April during the hours
of 9am to 4pm. The railway is quite extensive with its own station and railway engines sheds. To find out more visit the
Miniature Railway Facebook page.
Located in the Port Authority park is the grave of Tommy Windich.
Tommy was an Aboriginal guide and tracker who worked on expeditions with John Forrest
as well as Alexander Forrest and Charles Hunt.
Tommy was born in the Albany area but was working near Esperance when he fell ill and died. A plaque on Tommy's grave pays tribute to him.
There are many other attractions that make the area a magnet for tourists including the Great Ocean Drive, Pink Lake, wind farm,
d'Entrecasteaux memorial and the Stonehenge replica.
Pieter Nuyts sailed past the area in 1627 on the Gulde Zeepaard (Golden Seahorse). Dutch records state the following about the exploration:
'In the year 1627, the South Coast of the Great South land was accidentally discovered by the ship Gulde Zeepaard.'
On September 28th 1791 the
French ships L'Esperance and Recherche,
left Brest on an expedition to explore the south coast of Australia.
They were caught in a storm off the Australian coast during December 1792 and sought shelter in a bay that was named after the ship L'Esperance.
The French explored the coast until January 3rd 1793 naming many features including Cape Le Grand (named after Citizen Legrande.)
The ships than sailed east to Tasmania.
Mathew Flinders mapped the coastline in 1802
and named both Thistle Cove and Lucky bay.
Edward John Eyre explored the area in 1841
after crossing the Nullarbor.
The region was known by the Aboriginal people as Gabi-Kylie, which is supposed to mean 'the place where water lies down like a boomerang.'
A popular area with whalers and sealers in the early years, the coastline was dotted with temporary settlement sites that these men used during
the off season. There was early conflict with local Aborigines as the whalers were prone to kidnapping Aboriginal women and much hatred was
generated due to this practice.
The area was settled in 1864 (one source quotes 1863 but we believe 1863 is the date the Dempster Brothers first explored the area and the
later date is the date they arrived with stock. The leases were granted in 1866.) by the Dempster brothers who brought sheep, cattle and horses
down from Northam. They took up over 300,000 acres and were encouraged by new liberal land regulations that allowed land to be taken up and
worked rent free for 4 years.
The brothers built a homestead that still exists today. It is located at 155 Dempster Street and is listed on the National Estate.
The building is privately owned but can be viewed from the street.
In April 1870 an expedition across the Nullarbor to Adelaide, led by John Forrest,
stopped briefly at the Dempster property before continuing on
what was a very successful mission reaching Adelaide in August. Forrest said of the Esperance plains: 'If water could be procured on the table
land, it would be the finest pastoral district of Western Australia.' Prophetic words as it turned out.
Soon after Forrest's departure, Campbell Taylor established a farm called Lynburn that was the first settlement east of Esperance.
In 1876 the telegraph line reached the area and a repeating station was built.
In 1879 a police station was also erected and one of the first investigations was into the murder of John Moir by two natives. Moir had arrested
the two men in connection with thefts but they had assistance is getting their chains off and killed Moir when his attention was elsewhere.
The following year John Dunn was also murdered and the culprits were captured and sent to Albany for trial.
When gold was discovered around Kalgoorlie in the 1890s, Esperance became an important port with many prospectors passing through on their
way to riches or ruin. The route from Esperance to Coolgardie was quicker and easier than that from Perth and William Moir was one of the first to
see the possibilities this offered. He started bringing in goods for transport to the booming goldfields.
The town was named after the French frigate L'Esperance. It was gazetted in 1893. (Esperance is also said to be the Dutch word for hope.)
By 1894 the first school had been established and the first jetty followed in 1895. In the same year the Esperance Chronicle began printing
newspapers and the following year the Esperance Times set up in opposition. A brewery opened in 1896 but a rail link from Perth to the
goldfields was completed and took much of the business away from Esperance as it was now easier to travel by rail all the way to Kalgoorlie.
A railway to Salmon Gums was completed in 1925 and two years later the link to
Norseman was finished meaning that a rail link now went all
the way to Kalgoorlie and from there to Perth but by this time Esperance had reverted to a quiet rural community.
The area was initially opened up for farming in 1912 but the soil proved to be very poor and by 1935 more than three quarters of the farms
had been abandoned. Many people saw the area's potential and an agricultural research station was developed and the first experimental
crops sown in 1950.
An American company negotiated a deal with the Government to open up 1.5 million acres but when the first crop failed in 1957 they began
to hand back or sell land and eventually control passed to another company.
With the introduction of fertilisers and trace elements in the 1950s the land around Esperance became hugely productive and from 1950 to
1964 the number of farms increased from just 40 to 570. Farming remains one of the main stays of the region.
In 1961 a plan for a better and larger port was proposed and this was to bring even more commercial possibilities to the region. Unfortunately
for the town's residents it was also to bring lead poisoning to the town in 2006 when dust from lead shipments contaminated water supplies
etc. due to inefficient handling.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
A load of bull.
One of the most valuable Santa Gertrudis breeding bulls in the country was owned by Orleans Farms. The bull lived in a paddock
next to a sheep dip and one one occasion after plentiful rain the sheep dip overflowed.
The bull drank the contaminated water and died but long after his death he was still fathering many offspring. This was because
his sperm had been collected and stored for Artificial Insemination.
On February 14th 1991 the Japanese owned, Panama registered bulk carrier Sanko Harvest hit a reef off Esperance and sank. Fuel oil from the tanker
was responsible for the deaths of a number of marine animals including seals from nearby colonies. A large effort to clean up the oil contained the
damage and six months later there were no reports of drops in fish stocks in the area.
By the winter of 1992 all evidence of the wreck had vanished beneath the waves. The wreck was gradually colonised by sea life and became a popular
dive site. Luckily the long term effects of the sinking were minimal but without the early work to clean up the oil, the results could have been far worse.
The accident was primarily due to human error. The Captain (Korean) Mr. Kim was undertaking his first voyage as Captain of such a vessel. He
decided to take a route that was not a usual shipping lane and he did so at night.
At the inquest into the sinking Justice Sheppard found that the conduct of the Master and the Second Officer was 'grossly negligent' and said it
was 'necessary to emphasise the heinousness of the shocking piece of navigation which led the vessel to the rock on which it eventually foundered'.
He referred to a 'frontal assault' on the Archipelago, and said that the course chosen was 'perilous enough in the daytime. At night it was folly
bordering on madness!'.
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