Cape Le Grand National Park
Lying to the east of Esperance on Western Australia’s rugged south coast, Cape Le Grand National Park boasts undulating heathlands, imposing granite peaks and scenic bays with evocative names such as Lucky Bay, Hellﬁre Bay and Thistle Cove. Rocky headlands and sandy beaches are edged by aquamarine water, with the islands of the Recherche Archipelago dotting the horizon.
From Esperance via Fisheries Rd, Merivale Rd and Cape Le Grand Rd
Spring to autumn
770 km south-east of Perth; 50 km south-east of Esperance
DEC Esperance (08) 9083 2100
31 801 ha
Esperance (08) 9071 2330, 1300 664 455
Featured Activities in the National Park
Walk the Le Grand Heritage Trail to see scenic views and historic sites
Listen for the whistling of the wind, if conditions are right, at Whistling Rock
Climb Frenchman Peak for breathtaking views
Watch for sea-lions and fur-seals on the foreshores
A look at the past
The international names of the park’s natural features serve to remind modern-day visitors of the coast’s history of early exploration. Cape Le Grand was named in 1792 by Admiral D’Entrecasteaux in honour of Le Grand, an ofﬁcer on one of the ships in his French expedition. Le Grand’s ship was called L’Esperance. Lucky Bay was given its name in 1802 by a thankful Matthew Flinders who found shelter there from a summer storm. In 1841 Edward Eyre, after making his arduous journey across the Nullarbor with his faithful Aboriginal companion Wylie, was so relieved to see the American whaling ship Mississippi that he named the bay Rossiter, after the ship’s captain. Mississippi Hill at Lucky Bay was named after the ship. Frenchman Peak was named in 1870 by Alexander Forrest who thought its shape resembled a Frenchman’s cap.
A string of sandy beaches nestled between rocky headlands makes up the coastline of this park. Inland the landscape gives way to extensive heath-covered sand plains. In the south-west there are imposing granite outcrops that form a chain of peaks, including Mount Le Grand, the highest at 345 metres, Frenchman Peak and Mississippi Hill. Within these massive hills are caves and tunnels thought to have been formed some 40 million years ago when the area was under water.
Native plants and wildlife
The broad sand plains that cover much of the park sustain a variety of plant life, including several banksia species that form dense thickets. There are also magniﬁcent wildﬂowers in spring.
Small native mammals, such as southern brown bandicoots and honey possums, live on the sand plains; easier to spot are the emus and kangaroos. The latter will venture into the campsites looking for food and have even been seen lying on the beach at Lucky Bay. The coves and rocky foreshores offer feeding and resting places for Australian sea-lions and New Zealand fur-seals, while further out to sea southern right whales can sometimes be seen.
Western Australia’s southern coastline can get wet and windy in winter so this park is best enjoyed in the warmer months. Popular activities include camping, four-wheel driving, bushwalking, ﬁshing, boating, swimming and photography.
Beach and bushwalking
There are trails of various lengths but the Coastal Trail (15 km one way, 6–8 hours) is a great way to experience the park’s stunning shoreline. It winds from Le Grand Beach on Cape Le Grand’s west side to Rossiter Bay in the east, taking in Hellﬁre Bay, Thistle Cove and Lucky Bay. Alternatively, the trail can be broken into four shorter sections: Le Grand Beach–Hellﬁre Bay (2–3 hours, difﬁcult), Hellﬁre Bay–Thistle Cove (2 hours, difﬁcult), Thistle Cove–Lucky Bay (30 minutes, easy) and Lucky Bay–Rossiter Bay (2–3 hours, medium difﬁculty). Frenchman Peak walk (3 km return, 2 hours, difﬁcult) is demanding and is not recommended in wet or windy weather. Less taxing is the signposted Le Grand Heritage Trail (1-km circuit, easy), which takes in some of the park’s most scenic areas and historic landmarks.
The waters of the Southern Ocean offer great ﬁshing for salmon, black bream, whiting, mulloway, shark and blue groper. Boats are best launched at Lucky Bay, but small boats can also be launched from Le Grand Beach. If in doubt, ask the ranger about weather conditions and tides.
Although most of the roads within the park are sealed, 4WD enthusiasts will enjoy taking the 27-kilometre beach access track into the park from Wylie Bay, just east of Esperance. The track ﬁnishes at Le Grand Beach.
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