Esperance, Western Australia

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Western Australia
Andrew Street, Esperance, 2012.JPG
View of the Esperance CBD, 2012.
Australia Western Australia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates 33°51′40″S121°53′31″E / 33.86111°S 121.89194°E / -33.86111; 121.89194 Coordinates: 33°51′40″S121°53′31″E / 33.86111°S 121.89194°E / -33.86111; 121.89194
Population12,145 (2018) [1]
Postcode(s) 6450
Time zone AWST (UTC+8)
LGA(s) Shire of Esperance
State electorate(s) Roe
Federal Division(s) O'Connor
Mean max tempMean min tempAnnual rainfall
21.8 °C
71 °F
12.0 °C
54 °F
620.3 mm
24.4 in

Esperance is a town [2] in the Goldfields–Esperance region of Western Australia, on the Southern Ocean coastline approximately 720 kilometres (450 mi) east-southeast of the state capital, Perth. The urban population of Esperance was 12,145 at June 2018. [1] Its major industries are tourism, agriculture, and fishing.



European history of the region dates back to 1627 when the Dutch vessel Gulden Zeepaert, skippered by François Thijssen, passed through waters off the Esperance coast and continued across the Great Australian Bight. [3]

French explorers are credited with making the first landfall near the present day town, naming it and other local landmarks while sheltering from a storm in this area in 1792. The town itself was named after a French ship, the Espérance, [4] commanded by Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec. Espérance is French for "hope".

In 1802, British navigator Matthew Flinders sailed the Bay of Isles, discovering and naming places such as Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove. Whalers, sealers and pirates followed, as did pastoralists and miners, keen to exploit the free land and cash in on the gold boom in the gold fields to the north.

The first European settlement of the Esperance townsite area was by the Dempsters, a pioneer family of Scottish descent, in the 1860s. [5] The Dempster brothers, Charles, Edward, Andrew and James, were granted 304,000 acres (123,000 ha) of land in the area, first settling in 1864. They initially brought sheep, cattle and horses overland from Northam, but in 1866 they shipped stock to the Esperance area from South Australia. They built Esperance's first landing, but only one ship made the Adelaide to Esperance voyage in the first year. [6]

Once other settlers started taking up land on the Esperance coastal plain, a small settlement developed, serving as an important link in the Overland Telegraph between Albany and Eucla. [7] A telegraph station was opened in 1876, although the formal gazettal of the townsite did not occur until 1893. [8]

The town jetty was also built through the 1890s, following the discovery of gold in the eastern goldfields region. At this point, Esperance became the "gateway to the Goldfields." [9]

The population of the town was 985 (623 males and 362 females) in 1898. [10]

After visiting the town in 1898, Western Australian Premier John Forrest pledged to construct a railway line between Esperance and the Goldfields. However, due to a perceived threat that Adelaide merchants would take Goldfields trade away from Fremantle merchants via the Esperance port, Norseman was connected by rail to the Goldfields and Fremantle, but the line was not extended to Esperance. [11] A railway line between Coolgardie and Esperance was eventually completed in 1927. [12]

The Mallee area approximately 100 km (60 mi) north of the town began grain production in the 1920s, and by 1935 the construction of a second jetty, tankers jetty, was completed. [13] After a rail link had been established between Salmon Gums and the Esperance port in 1925, the wheat harvest rose from 1471 tons that year to 4376 tons in 1929 and more than 15,608 tons two years later. [14]

Large-scale agriculture was introduced to the Esperance sand plain by an American syndicate, in partnership with the state government, in the 1960s following the discovery that adding superphosphate fertilisers containing trace elements to the poor soils made them suitable for cropping and pastoral activity. [15] Despite early difficulties, the project eventually became a success and large areas of land were cleared during this time. [16]

The population of the town in 1968 was approximately 2,700. [12]

In 1979, pieces of the space station Skylab crashed onto Esperance after the craft broke up over the Indian Ocean. The municipality fined the United States $400 for littering. [17] The fine was paid in April 2009, when radio show host Scott Barley of Highway Radio raised the funds from his morning show listeners, and paid the fine on behalf of NASA. [18] Skylab's demise was an international media event, with merchandising, wagering on time and place of re-entry, and nightly news reports. The San Francisco Examiner offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of Skylab to be delivered to their offices. Seventeen-year-old Stan Thornton scooped a few pieces of Skylab off the roof of his home in Esperance, caught the first flight to San Francisco, and collected the prize. [19]

On 14 February 1991, the bulk carrier Sanko Harvest sank off Esperance, leaking 700 tonnes of bunker oil and 30,000 tonnes of fertiliser into the surrounding waters near the Recherche Archipelago; the wreck later became a marine sanctuary and dive site. [20]

In January 2007 Esperance experienced a storm with wind gusts of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) which brought 155 mm (6 in) of rainfall within 24 hours, causing significant flooding. More than 100 homes were damaged, several boats were destroyed, trees were felled, 35 m (115 ft) of bridge on the South Coast Highway, (the main road linking Esperance to Perth), was washed away, and power was cut from thousands of homes. The Western Australian Government declared the area a "natural disaster zone". [21] At least 37,000 sheep were killed in the storm. [22]


Esperance experiences a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csb) with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. It is subject to wide variations in the weather, from hot summer days when northerly winds arrive from the interior of the state, to cold, wet winter days with southerly winds from the Great Southern Ocean. Annually, the town has 85.5 clear days.

Climate data for Esperance
Record high °C (°F)46.9
Average high °C (°F)26.2
Average low °C (°F)15.7
Record low °C (°F)8.3
Average precipitation mm (inches)26.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 1mm)
Average afternoon relative humidity (%)58585858596160575857585858
Source: [23]


Esperance Port

Grain loading at Esperance Port Esperance WA 1.jpg
Grain loading at Esperance Port

Esperance has the only port in the south-east of Western Australia – the Esperance Port Authority completed a A$54 million upgrade in 2002. The upgrade made the port one of the deepest in southern Australia, capable of handling Cape-class vessels (up to 180,000 tonnes) and fully loaded Panamax-class vessels (up to 75,000 tonnes).

Exports for the year ending June 2005 were 7,694,155 tonnes, including 1.8 million tonnes of grain, and 5.5 million tonnes of iron ore which is railed from Koolyanobbing.

Lead and nickel contamination

In 2007, the deaths of thousands of wild birds alerted residents to a toxicity hazard which was found to be the unsafe transport by truck and rail of lead ore from Wiluna for export by ship. When elevated levels of lead were measured in a number of adults and children, as well as in water tanks, a multimillion-dollar cleanup was paid for by the state government. The miner, Magellan Metals, was banned from exporting lead through the port. [24]

A parliamentary inquiry presented its report in November 2007. [25] Before long, additional concerns were raised about pollution caused by nickel dust escaping from exported ore. [26] In October 2008, the Esperance Port Authority banned the export of nickel after emission targets were exceeded twice, but the ban, which threatened Western Australia's $8 billion nickel industry, was overturned by the newly elected Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett. [27]


Esperance is renowned for its white sandy beaches and aqua coloured waters. Castletown E - Beach Chaplin 3.jpg
Esperance is renowned for its white sandy beaches and aqua coloured waters.

Near the town itself are numerous beaches, offering surfing, scuba diving, and swimming. Also nearby are a number of salt lakes, including Pink Lake, which gains its rosy hue from red algae living within its waters. Esperance is also home to the Cyclops wave, said to be the world's heaviest wave with massive amounts of water unloading on shallow reef. Cyclops is featured in the surfing films Billabong Odyssey, and the Bra Boys documentary.

There are five major national parks near the town. A major nearby tourist attraction, 20 minutes away from the town centre, is the Cape Le Grand National Park, which offers a picturesque coast of largely granite terrain and sheltered white sand beaches. The park is a popular spot for recreational fishing, as well as four wheel drive enthusiasts and hikers.

Esperance also has a number of wind turbines supplying electricity to the town. [28] Esperance had the first electrical wind farm in Australia, built at Salmon Beach as a research facility in 1987.

In late 2007, a television advertisement promoting one of the newer Ferrari cars was filmed on Esperance's foreshore, to be shown overseas.[ citation needed ]

In October 2020, a surfer who was a member of the local community in Esperance was killed by a shark at Wylie Bay near the town. [29]


There are five primary schools in the region: Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School, Castletown Primary School, Esperance Primary School, Nulsen Primary School and Esperance Christian Primary School. There are also two secondary schools: Esperance Senior High School and Esperance Anglican Community School. [30]

The Anglican school won an appeal in December 2009 against a State Government condition that limited it to grades 8–10; the school can now educate years 8–12. [31]

South Regional TAFE also has a campus in the town.


Esperance is at the southern end of the Coolgardie–Esperance Highway and the eastern end of the South Coast Highway, both highways forming a part of Australia's Highway 1.

The town is connected by public transport to Perth, Albany and Kalgoorlie via Transwa coach services GE1, GE2, GE3 and GE4.

Regional Express Airlines has daily flights to/from Perth, arriving and departing from Esperance Airport. The Esperance-Perth route was previously serviced by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines and Skywest Airlines. The Esperance airport is also used for general aviation.

The Esperance Branch Railway is a standard gauge railway line from Kalgoorlie to Esperance, linking the region to the Trans-Australian Railway and the Eastern Goldfields Railway. This is a freight-only railway and no passenger services currently run.


A locally-printed lifestyle, entertainment and news magazine, Esperance Tide, [32] was first published in 2016. It is published monthly, on the first Friday of the month.

The local newspaper for the Esperance region is The Esperance Express , published by Fairfax Media. It is closed, indefinitely. [33]

ABC Esperance is the local ABC station in Esperance, servicing the entire region. It broadcasts a local breakfast show and a co-produced local morning show each weekday from studios at 80B Windich Street in the city. ABC Esperance also has a local news service, produced by local journalists. As well as rural reports, ABC Esperance broadcasts national programs like AM, Conversations, The World Today, PM, Nightlife, Overnights, Grandstand, Saturday Night Country, and Australia All Over, along with a WA-centred weekend early morning and breakfast show, broadcast from either Perth, Albany or Kalgoorlie. Other national ABC services that are available in Esperance on separate FM frequencies include Triple J, RN, ABC Classic FM and ABC NewsRadio.

Notable residents

Twin town

See also

Related Research Articles

Western Australia State in Australia

Western Australia is a state occupying the western 32.9 percent of the land area of Australia excluding external territories. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, and the Southern Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east, and South Australia to the south-east. Western Australia is Australia's largest state, with a total land area of 2,527,013 square kilometres (975,685 sq mi), and the second-largest country subdivision in the world, surpassed only by Russia's Sakha Republic. As of 2017, the state has about 2.6 million inhabitants – around 11 percent of the national total – of whom the vast majority live in the south-west corner; 79 percent of the population lives in the Perth area, leaving the remainder of the state sparsely populated.

Kalgoorlie City in Western Australia

Kalgoorlie is a city in the Goldfields–Esperance region of Western Australia, located 595 km (370 mi) east-northeast of Perth at the end of the Great Eastern Highway. It is sometimes referred to as Kalgoorlie–Boulder, as the surrounding urban area includes the historic townsite of Boulder and the local government area is the City of Kalgoorlie–Boulder.

Norseman, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Norseman is a town located in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia along the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway, 726 kilometres (451 mi) east of Perth and 278 metres (912 ft) above sea level. It is also the starting point of the Eyre Highway, and the last major town in Western Australia before the South Australian border 720 kilometres (447 mi) to the east. At the 2016 census, Norseman had a population of almost 600.

Wheatbelt (Western Australia)

The Wheatbelt is one of nine regions of Western Australia defined as administrative areas for the state's regional development, and a vernacular term for the area converted to agriculture during colonisation. It partially surrounds the Perth metropolitan area, extending north from Perth to the Mid West region, and east to the Goldfields-Esperance region. It is bordered to the south by the South West and Great Southern regions, and to the west by the Indian Ocean, the Perth metropolitan area, and the Peel region. Altogether, it has an area of 154,862 square kilometres (59,793 sq mi).

Merredin, Western Australia Town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

Merredin is a town in Western Australia, located in the central Wheatbelt roughly midway between Perth and Kalgoorlie, on Route 94, Great Eastern Highway. It is located on the route of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, and as a result is also on the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail.

Coolgardie, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Coolgardie is a small town in Western Australia, 558 kilometres (347 mi) east of the state capital, Perth. It has a population of approximately 850 people.

Bullabulling, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Bullabulling is a small townsite located 526 km (327 mi) east of Perth, Western Australia on the Great Eastern Highway in the Goldfields-Esperance region.

Koolyanobbing, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Koolyanobbing is located 54 km (34 mi) north-northeast of the town of Southern Cross, Western Australia. A subsidiary of Cliffs Natural Resources of Cleveland, Ohio mines Iron ore here. The ore is railed to the port at Esperance for export. Current operations commenced in 1993. The current owner and operator of the lease is Mineral Resources Limited (MRL) who took over from Cliffs Natural Resources in July 2018. MRL currently mine the ore and transport it to the port of Esperance

Eastern Goldfields Railway

The Eastern Goldfields Railway was built in the 1890s by the Western Australian Government Railways to connect Perth with the Eastern Goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

Rail transport in Western Australia

Railways in Western Australia were developed in the 19th century both by the Government of Western Australia and a number of private companies. Today passenger rail services are controlled by the Public Transport Authority through Transperth, which operates public transport in Perth, and Transwa, which operates country passenger services. Great Southern Rail operates the Indian Pacific.

Goldfields Water Supply Scheme Pipeline and dam project in Western Australia

The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is a pipeline and dam project that delivers potable water from Mundaring Weir in Perth to communities in Western Australia's Eastern Goldfields, particularly Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The project was commissioned in 1896 and completed in 1903.

Hopetoun, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Hopetoun is a town on the south coast of Western Australia in the Shire of Ravensthorpe. Located on Mary Ann Harbour, Hopetoun is 590 kilometres (370 mi) south-east from capital city Perth and 160 kilometres (99 mi) west of Esperance.

Shire of Esperance Local government area in Western Australia

The Shire of Esperance is a local government area in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia, about 400 kilometres (250 mi) south of the town of Kalgoorlie and about 720 kilometres (450 mi) east-southeast of the state capital, Perth. The Shire covers an area of 42,547 square kilometres (16,427 sq mi), and its seat of government is the town of Esperance, where about three-quarters of the Shire's population resides.

The Esperance Branch Railway is a railway from Kalgoorlie to the port of Esperance in Western Australia.

Gold mining in Western Australia

Gold mining in Western Australia is the third largest commodity sector in Western Australia, behind iron ore and petroleum, with a value of A$11.9 billion.

Widgiemooltha, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Widgiemooltha is an abandoned town in Western Australia 631 kilometres (392 mi) east of Perth between Kambalda and Norseman in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia. It is found on the southern shoreline of Lake Lefroy.

Beria, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Beria is an abandoned town in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia, located 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of Laverton on the Laverton-Leonora Road.

Buldania, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Buldania is an abandoned town north-east of Norseman in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia. The small townsite, located about 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Eyre Highway, serviced a field which was discovered in June 1896 by Arthur Bell. Despite the high yield of ore which was obtained, progress was slow due to the difficult terrain of the Fraser Range combined with a lack of capital to develop the area. By the end of 1897 it had a population of 51, notably including only one female. By April 1901, this had fallen to 18 and by 1903, the Western Argus noted the area was "unfortunately practically deserted". This was confirmed by an official report in May 1906: "Some 10 or 11 leases have at times been applied for and worked to some extent. All are now abandoned, and the field quite deserted."

2015 Esperance bushfires

The 2015 Esperance bushfires were a series of catastrophic bushfires that burned from 15 to 26 November and affected the Goldfields-Esperance region in the Australian state of Western Australia. During the fires, the Shire of Esperance experienced two significant fires and a complex of fires; 128,000 hectares were burnt by the Cascades fire, 18,000 hectares were burnt by the Merivale fire, and 164,000 hectares were burnt by the Cape Arid complex of fires. On 17 November, during the major run of the Cascades fire, four civilian fatalities occurred in vehicles traveling on Griggs Road in Scaddan. As of 2020, the Cascades fire was equally the worst bushfire in Western Australia in terms of human fatalities along with the Willow Springs/Nannup fire of January 1958.

Main Roads Western Australia controls the major roads in the state's Goldfields-Esperance region. While the region is the state's largest, the major roads are restricted to the region's western and southern edges. From the major population centres of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, Great Eastern Highway heads west towards Perth via the Wheatbelt ; Coolgardie–Esperance Highway leads south to the port of Esperance via Norseman; and Goldfields Highway proceeds north to Wiluna and then on to the Mid West Region. From Norseman, Eyre Highway takes interstate traffic east across the Nullarbor Plain and into South Australia.


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