Out of Town Guide: Esperance

Nestled in a crescent-shaped bay along Western Australia’s secluded southern coast, Esperance – or Kepa Kurl, as the local Wudjari Nyungar call it – was once a sandman’s secret. But now it is also increasingly popular with interstate visitors. It’s hardly surprising. Along with its famous candy-pink lake, gorgeous wildflower trails through a UNESCO-listed national park, and beaches rated among the best in the country, the city’s offerings have matured in recent years with new arrivals. excellent dining venues and stylish stays. .

With a paddock-to-table microbrewery, a bush-to-bottle distillery, and a charming cottage village, savvy locals capture the vibe and flavors of the region — making the hour-long plane ride and half from Perth or an epic road trip, all the more enticing.

EAT

Whether you’re new to town or a third-generation angler, you’ll want to gravitate towards shore. That’s what Jane Coole did in 2017 when she opened Taylor St Quarters with her daughter, Sophie McMeikan, restoring the building that housed Esperance’s former hospital and tea rooms. The modern restaurant, with terraces and lawns overlooking the marina, transforms from a cafe and restaurant during the day to a lively cocktail bar and live music venue at night. McMeikan is a baker and her partner, Dean Wood, is the executive chef of TSQ. Together they have raised the bar for Esperance’s food scene. Expect snacks inspired by the region’s coastline and agricultural heritage, like tempura akoya oysters and grilled octopus, plus vegan burgers and karaage tofu bao buns. Accompany them with a glass of Riesling from the Deep South or a Chardonnay from the South West.

The Fish Face seafood restaurant is also the local champion. Owner-operators Craig and Dahlia Adams change their menu daily, depending on what the boats bring in that morning and seasonal vegetables. With Covid-related staff shortages putting an end to their catering service for the time being, the couple are still doing a roaring takeaway business. Drop anchor here for breaded nannygai or snapper and fries, sea bass cod rillettes with Lithuanian-style garlic-rubbed herb bread, blue-eyed trevalla with Parisian sauce or marinated octopus.

Located among the historic buildings of Museum Village, the new Bistro Louis opened its doors earlier this month. The French-style cafe is run by co-owner and head chef Roger Poutet (formerly at Melbourne’s popular Bar Margaux) and is set to operate as a bistro in the evenings with dishes such as coq au vin and steak tartare. For now, however, Poutet — who received much of his culinary training from his French-Swiss father — makes traditional brunches like croque monsieur, freshly topped baguettes and homemade madeleines and pastries.

Perhaps the only thing better than freshly baked sourdough from Bread Local is their lemon cheesecake cruffins. And the banoffé galette. And jalapeno, cheese and mustard rolls. Granted, it’s hard to pick a favorite at this family-run, wood-fired bakery four miles west of Esperance, nestled among the gum trees. The kitchen is run by baker Tiffany Brown and open Friday afternoons only.

If you’re looking to pick up any of the aforementioned breads in town – or any of Esperance’s quality products for that matter – head to Bob & Jim’s General Store. Trading since 1973, this small independent grocer is run by the granddaughter of the original owner and supports Australian artisan producers. Buy Yirri Grove Olive Oil, Kommunity Brew Kombucha, and Holy Smoke Pate and Meats here. Or opt for a seasonal basket.

Long gone are the days when being away from the city meant going without a good coffee. In fact, isolation has been a blessing for Glen and Mitsuko Rollond – the couple behind Cloud 11 Coffee & Tea. Roasting its own since 2017, Glen’s Upward Spiral blends have a strong local fan base and are also attracting connoisseurs from further afield. Stop by the cafe on Dempster Street to try it, accompanied by a pastry or fancy toastie. It’s also where you’ll find Mitsuko’s own chai blend, select teas and its range of handmade ceramics, Mintblue Sea.

TO DRINK

On the outskirts of town is the award-winning microbrewery Lucky Bay Brewing. Growing up on farms in the Wheatbelt, owners Nigel Metz and Robyn Cail are the first in the country to produce their craft beer from raw barley, which they source from the area’s farming community. While their Sandy Hook Pale Ale (which is also available in a one-litre to-go can) and Figure of 8 Island Ale are big on flavor from Esperance, their range also showcases other regions – like their Beaches to Boab Blonde Ale which features Ord River Kimberley Corn. Consume to live music and one of their wood-fired pizzas in the brasserie’s cabana-style restaurant.

Launched in late 2020, Esperance Distillery Co may be the smallest distillery in the country (its 30 liters still only produce batches of 50 bottles), but the father-son team behind the city’s first and only distillery is big. on passion, emphasizing the value of preserving the environment and capturing the taste of Hope. David Price and James McCarthy-Price want to showcase the region’s incredible floral diversity (nearby Fitzgerald River National Park is a UNESCO-recognized biodiversity hotspot), combining local native plants like l vanilla acacia and Esperance wax alongside traditional juniper to create their sublime selection of gin. Stop by the cellar door to try their award-winning Cut and Run gin and Blue Haven gin, as well as their limited-release Eight Islands vodka, which contains botanicals from the ocean, like sea kelp combined with tangerine and lemon zest.

TO STAY

Since returning from Sydney and opening Esperance Chalet Village in 2015, Fiona and Matt Shillington have significantly upped Esperance’s accommodation game. Very stylish A-frame chalets and luxury king cabins and cabins scattered around their 3.2 hectare bush property have their own outdoor setting and fire pits. Inside, you’ll find white interiors, plush furnishings, luxury linens from Bed Tonic, and bath products from Appelles Apothecary. The recently added Creek House – with its bespoke and intimate interior – hosts fine dining events and yoga and wellness retreats. Outside, guests have access to free bikes to get into town and canoes to ride up Bandy Creek, which meanders past the village.

If you really want to get away from it all, Woody Island Eco Tours offers day trips to Woody Island Nature Reserve, located 15 kilometers offshore from Esperance. If you want to relax, soak up a bit of nature, and enjoy island activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and fishing, they also offer luxury retreats in the form of full-scale canvas tents. furnished with private balconies overlooking the sea – with the addition of complimentary champagne on arrival.

TO DO

From the country’s whitest sand beaches – so pure and clean it squeaks – to turquoise-blue bays, lakes and fairy-thread sunsets, there are countless ways to enjoy of the colorful coast of Esperance. Great Ocean Drive is a good way to introduce you to some of the best beaches in the area. Hire a car and drive around the 40-kilometer loop, stopping at spectacular viewpoints and local favorites like Blue Haven Beach and Twilight Cove. Lucky Bay is also not to be missed. Located in Cape Le Grand National Park, this crescent-shaped bay, with its resident host of sunning kangaroos, consistently ranks among the best beaches in the world. In the spring, Cape Le Grand is teeming with colorful wildflowers. Or for serious observers there is the Esperance Wildflower Trail. Alternatively, take the Coastal Trail or hike to Frenchman Peak to combine a walk with stunning views.

To mingle with marine life, take a scenic wildlife cruise with Esperance Island Cruises. Departing from Taylor Street Jetty, the half-day cruise that visits some of the 105 islands of the Research Archipelago gives you the chance to see and snorkel with bottlenose dolphins, Australian sea lions, fur seals from New Zealand and maybe even a whale.

Or book a scenic flight over Lake Hillier on Middle Island. The Instagram-famous bright pink lake, which stretches 600 meters above the largest island in the Recherche archipelago, is considered one of the best examples of its kind in the country. With flight operator Helispirit, now a partner of Woody Island Eco Tours, you can combine it with a day trip to the nature reserve from October to April.

About John A. Provost

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