It's true, Esperance is long way from anywhere, a dot on the far south-eastern coastline of Western Australia, a state which itself is remote enough. So the ideal way to experience this place is to arrive by sea; after all, the first Europeans came that way.
A Dutch seaman was first, in 1627, and then, in 1792, while sheltering from a storm, Frenchman Bruni d'Entrecasteaux named it after his ship, Esperance, meaning 'hope'.
In the early days the bays of Esperance were thronged with whalers, sealers and pirates. Then came pastoralists with huge land leases, and miners seeking treasure from the goldfields around Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie to the north.
Today's town, with a population of around 10,000, welcomes visitors lured by the pristine salt-white beaches that lead into gemstone-blue waters. Whether you come with a swimsuit or an SLR camera, Esperance delivers jaw-dropping scenery and ultimate seclusion.
Other highlights include whale spotting and wildflowers in season, island tours, diving, fishing, and several national parks ideal for hiking. The local museum has pieces of the US space station, Skylab, which crashed nearby in 1979, making the small town world-famous for a short while. Plus, the town even has its very own Stonehenge.
The Port of Esperance is a busy cargo port servicing the inland areas to the west and north. Iron ore, nickel, grain and other heavy materials are shipped from here and there can be space issues, in which case your ship will anchor and tender ashore. Free shuttle buses take you to the town centre.
As this is a busy cargo port, there is a shuttle bus into the town where you'll find the tourist office, shops and cafes, ATMs and banks, car hire and other facilities.
Have fun noticing local car number plates. Every council area in Western Australia has its own prefix for cars registered in that region. In Esperance it is E.
Be careful collecting shells in shallow water or on the beach as they might contain live 'occupants'. The blue-ringed octopus is very dangerous. Not all beaches are patrolled or have flags so do watch out for 'rips' (strong currents) when there is a big swell.
Picking wildflowers is prohibited throughout the state. If bushwalking, be alert for snakes, wear a hat, and use sun-protection creams.
By Shuttle: There is a free shuttle bus into the town from the port or tender jetty.
By Rental Car: Avis car hire (manual vehicles to 4WDs) is available on the Esplanade.
ATMs and currency exchanges may be found throughout the town at banks and also in shopping centres as well as many hotels. Withdrawals will be in Australian currency, usually in $50 and $20 notes. For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. US dollars are not accepted, but credit cards are generally welcome.
Esperance is a seaside tourist town hosting families, so you will find all the regular takeaway and fast food chains. However, do try to enjoy some of the freshly caught local seafood or some good country cooking.
Because of the panorama across the bay to the archipelago of islands, many eateries take advantage of the views that are located toward the waterfront.
Local southern wild abalone is harvested and processed in the area, but it's not available on menus, as it all goes to export.
Taylors Beach Bar -Tearooms:
This funkily restored 1930s' cottage is raved about for its great waters' edge position, as well as the casual atmosphere, friendly staff and 'pub prices'. Veranda tables are in hot demand, as you'd expect. Fish and chips are always a winner, but the pork belly is also popular. (Taylor Street Jetty, Taylor St., Esperance' +61 8 9071 4317; Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday)
The Pier Hotel Bistro: Whether you try the veggie or fish burgers, steak sandwiches or schnitzels, lunch there is affordable and easy. You can order a beer or glass of wine and enjoy the great views over the bay while you eat. (The Esplanade, Esperance; +61 8 9071 1777; Open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Onshore Cafe: Locals love this place for the variety of salads, soups, open sandwiches and wraps. Fresh muffins appear every morning, and the coffee is delicious. In fact, everything is made on the premises, and plenty of it is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan. (105 Dempster St., Esperance; +61 8 9071 7505; open for lunch Monday to Saturday)
Ollies Cafe Lounge: The hardest thing here is making a decision, as you are spoiled for choice. Five-spice calamari is hard to beat, or you can settle for a roasted pumpkin and soft fetta tart, or a luscious cake or two, temptingly displayed in the glass-fronted cabinet. (51A The Esplanade, Esperance; +61 8 9071 5268; open for lunch Monday to Saturday until 3 p.m.)
Coffee Cat: This bright red, beachside coffee van has many fans who adore the coffee. Little bites make this not exactly a lunch spot, but it's worth the stop. (1 the Esplanade, Tanker Jetty Headland, Esperance; +61 417 968 177; open for lunch Monday to Friday until 2 p.m.)
Mermaid Leather (yes, you read that right) is made and crafted by the only commercial tannery in Australia specialising in quality fish leather. Colourful and creative, it is environmentally friendly, using what otherwise would be residual waste from the local fishing fleet. This is artisan work, so prices vary widely, from a sample pack of different kinds of fish leathers -- barramundi, shark, groper, snapper -- to dried and dyed fish scales, coasters, key chains, clothing and accessories.