(Telegraph) – First and foremost, I’ve come for the kangaroos. They might not be Australia’s most famous wildlife experience — this is, after all, a nation where you can take selfies with quokkas and swim alongside whale sharks — but the lure of sharing a patch of white sand with a mob of sunbathing roos is unusual enough to pique my interest.
The place where it’s possible is called Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park, a 45-minute drive from the remote seaside town of Esperance, itself 435 miles south-east of Perth. It’s a long way to come for a day on the beach, but we’re far from the only people on a kangaroo pilgrimage.
Seaside animal encounters are Instagram gold (witness the swimming pigs of The Bahamas and South Africa’s penguin-filled Boulders Beach) and the photo sharing app is flooded with snaps of Lucky Bay and its furry hoppers. As we arrive at the 31,800-hectare national park, an eight-hour drive from the nearest major city, I’m surprised to find a queue of about 50 cars waiting to pay the entrance fee. The ranger tells us Lucky Bay will be the busiest spot in the park, mostly thanks to its bouncing resident.
Fifteen minutes later, when we pull up in front of the beach, it’s evident that Lucky Bay offers more than just sand-loving marsupials: it’s also gob-smackingly beautiful. The sweeping two-mile stretch is bookended by granite bluffs and lapped by aquamarine waves. Further out, the ocean is dotted with small islands. Underfoot, the sand is pristine, the colour and texture of icing sugar, so fine that it squeaks as you walk. If I were a roo, I’d spend my days here too.
Four of them are in attendance today: two sunbathe on the rocks just off the beach entrance path, while another pair, mum and joey, lope through the dunes and amongst the 4WDs parked on the beach. All seem unfazed by the myriad people who have come to gawk at them. Sometimes they glance around at the adoring faces of tourists who, for the most part, stand at a respectful distance. Some people encroach too close, trying to stroke the creatures as though they were pets, but the roos are nonchalant: they casually hop away or give a weary look, waiting patiently so they can get back to the serious business of sleeping in the sun.
While seeing the quirky beach inspired my visit, there’s only so much time you can spend watching a roo doze in the sun. We make our way to Thistle Cove and then Hellfire Bay, both also in Cape Le Grand National Park, and it becomes apparent that while Lucky Bay might enjoy the big reputation, it’s not the only beauty here. We dip our toes in crystal-clear water, stroll along deserted stretches of coast, and hop across granite rocks. Then we exert ourselves climbing 262-metre Frenchman’s Peak to take in the panoramic views of the national park and Recherche Archipelago islands. Occasionally a 4WD rolls past but for the most part we enjoy blissful seclusion.
The next day, we venture by ferry boat from Esperance to Woody Island, just over nine miles offshore and one of more than 100 islands in the archipelago. There’s a campsite available, but this island is just 240 hectares in total –perfect for a daytrip. From the cruiser, we spy white-bellied sea eagles gliding above us and sleeping sea lions lounging on uninhabited islets. At Woody Island, we hike through coastal scrub and groves of eucalypt, melaleuca and sheoak, with the sapphire ocean always peeking through the foliage and the sound of waves breaking in the distance. Before the ferry arrives to return us to town, we feast on fresh fish and chips, and watch kids snorkel, swim and jump off a pontoon in the small bay.
Back on the mainland, the Great Ocean Drive beckons. Not to be confused with the Great Ocean Road in the east of the country, this 25-mile scenic loop is to the west of Esperance. A friendly local has given us the inside scoop on the best swimming spots: Twilight Beach, Blue Haven and Eleven Mile are his top picks but this scenic route unveils beautiful beach after beautiful beach, all them strong rivals to Lucky Bay. At the end of our short getaway, I’ve learnt my lesson. Come for the sunbathing kangaroos, but do not miss the rest of this pristine region.