We pulled Lil’ Beaut up to the sand and sat there. And stared. Moments went by without measure. Pure white sand lay brilliantly illuminated by the sun on the expansive beach. The brilliance extended far out into the water. Crystal clear waves lapped gently on the shore. Where the gentle slope reached down into the ocean the water reflected brilliant blue and grew darker as the depth of the water increased.
This sand is made of ultra-fine quartz making it smooth and heavy. It squeaks under our feet as we are drawn towards the water. Waves sparkle with sunlight as the water glides back and forth picking up very little of the heavy sand.
Maybe it was the absolute white of the sand or the cerulean blue of the water, together their beauty was deep, deep enough it seemed to reach inside to one’s soul. The arch of the waves pulled up sorrow inside and took it away as the lucid waves glided back out to the sea leaving behind peace.
Resupply in Esperance
After having completed the long trek across the Nullarbor towards Western Australia we turned left towards Esperance and its white-sand beaches. We wanted to take respite from the approaching heatwave. We stopped in Esperance, population 12 K, for supplies and to purchase a national park pass. “National” park passes are purchased separately in each state.
National Park & Traveling Tip: The Western Australia (WA) park pass is half price with RAC roadside assistance membership (similar to AAA in the USA).
With our fuel, water, and food supplies topped up, we headed out of town again, this time toward Le Grand National Park. Le Grand lays claim to the whitest sand beaches in Australia. We felt the white sand even compared to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil, one of the most beautiful places we have seen.
Where are the whitest sand beaches in the world?
I’m not sure that anyone knows where the whitest sand beaches are. I googled this question and found a few lists of the “whitest beaches”. Most were written by individuals who were writing about the beaches they had visited. I wanted to ask them all if they had been to Le Grand.
We have visited some of their “best”: Palawan, Boracay, Jervis Bay, even South Beach Florida made it to some lists. We loved all of these beaches, they were all beautiful. For us, Le Grand left them all behind and, for now, it is one of the most beautiful beaches we have been to.
Many claim that the Guinness book of world records lists Hyams Beach, NSW as having the whitest sand. Trouble is, the Guinness Book does not even have a “whitest sand” category. Having visited Hyams beach, we still think that the beaches along the coast around Esperance and out to Le Grand are whiter and the waters a brighter blue.
Is there anything better? Maybe, but isn’t that the fun of travel? We never know what we are going to stumble upon. And how does one measure this anyway? The ocean changes its mood and colors with the passing wind and clouds so it just depends on the day you go.
Purported to be the best beach in the area we wondered if Lucky Bay could hold up to her rumors. We smiled with delight upon our first glimpse of her. Lucky Bay is gorgeous.
As we strolled down the beach, feet squeaking on the sand and splashing through the clear waves, we looked at a commotion to our left. A couple of kangaroos, ostensibly a mom and her offspring, had gone up to a van parked on the beach. The kangaroos were checking out the tourists.
We watched for a while until the roos hopped on down the beach. We were also headed that way to check out the nearby campground. Before turning off inland I figured out where the kangaroos were headed. There was a van on the beach with all its doors open and clothing hanging out the open hatch in the back. The owners were nowhere in sight.
This is common here in Australia, leaving things unlocked or wide open while you go off to play. It’s an honesty-based culture. What a difference from walking down the streets in Rio de Janerio watching what we believe was a robbery right in front of us. Today, it seemed there might be thieves on the loose here in Australia. They were hopping their way towards the open vehicle.
I followed the roos and tried to shoo them away. They showed no fear reaching out their noses to sniff my hand to see what I was trying to give them. Another guy on the beach stopped by, he didn’t know who owned the vehicle so he suggested that we close it up. As soon as we closed the doors the roos were no longer interested and moved on.
The white sand beaches in this region of Australia are dotted by mountains of granite and gneiss. These mountains are more like really large boulders than mountains. They are unique in that each hill seems to big one big individual rock.
Among these mountain rocks is one called Frenchman Peak. It is so named because it is shaped like a Frenchman’s hat. Personally I think it looks more like a Hershey kiss, but that could be because I haven’t had chocolate in a while.
Frenchman Peak is a popular hike in Le Grand National Park. There are stunning 360º views from the top which rises 262m (860 feet) above sea level. The smooth sides of the massive granite boulder would be dangerous to climb if it were wet. But on a dry day, the rough surface has great traction making ascent and descent possible without climbing equipment. It is a hot climb up the side of the barren rock with no shade.
At the top, the peak dips over creating a large cave with a cool breeze and spectacular views.
Le Grand Beach
From Esperance to Le Grand National Park is 68KM via the highway. A drive on the beach from Esperance to Le Grand is only 32 KM but it requires 4WD. We took the highway but did drive Lil’ Beaut out onto the sand to spend a hot day in the ocean breeze.
The south end of the beach where we parked ends with large granite hills. We hiked the edge of one of the granite hills along the waterline in search of caves. The steep rocks follow smoothly down the sides of the hills and down below the blue waterline. If we were to slip here we would probably roll right into the water. With hardly any loose rocks or jagged edges the worst part of a slip would be getting back out of the water. We would most likely have to swim all the way back to the white sand beach. But the surface was dry and our shoes did not slip as we followed the hills around to a few caves along the water’s edge.
Parking on the beach is recommended for 4WD only, Lil’ Beaut is not 4WD and she weighs 3.5 tons. We tested the sand and the beach midway between the shore and the sand dunes was quite firm from all the traffic. Our mistake was parking just to the right of the “roadway” on the dune side. We felt our tires slip so we turned her off to see how deep in trouble we got ourselves.
Digging our way out of trouble
Our rear dualies were digging in. Trin dug them out with his hands and a small shovel and we tried it again. Lil’ Beaut moved forward but was gradually getting deeper again. As we dug her out a second time a friendly Australian behind us walked over and asked if we needed a tow.
“We might. We’ll give her one more try here first,” I replied.
Trin started her up with the Australian couple and me behind the bus to push – she just needed a little extra help. This time Trin turned the wheel to the left and got her back on the hardpacked sand. Out she came and back onto the track. We thanked the couple and found a firmer spot to park.
We spent the day enjoying a few swims, and an ocean breeze. It was a perfect day to relax and write. I opened the back windows wide and the breeze blew right through with a perfect view of the water. A great place to read a book on the bed in the back.
Not quite out of the water
At the end of a beautiful day on the beach, we packed everything up and latched all the cupboards ready to head off to our little secluded camping spot. Trin put the key in the ignition and pushed down on the clutch. It went all the way to the floor with no resistance. He checked the fluid and saw that it was low. Trin poured in what little amount we had and pumped the clutch, it remained soft. It appeared we might be stuck on the beach after all and we knew we needed to get off the sand before high tide.
Saved by Serendipity
There are people we meet that sometimes just seems like it was meant to be. When we were touring The Great Ocean Road we met Robert in the parking lot of a grocery store. We ended up at his house getting our awning fixed the next day. He didn’t know it at that time, but he helped us out again today. He had told us how Coasters could be started up in first gear and then pushed through their gears much like a motorcycle.
Concerned that starting Lil’ Beaut up in first would be too jerky and loosen the sand digging us in again we decided there really was no other choice. We braced for it and gave it a shot.
In many diesel vehicles, the first gear is very low. Some people call it the get-out-of-trouble gear for when you really need maximum torque. For everyday driving, most drivers skip the first gear and use the second to get these vehicles moving from a stop. When Trin cranked up Lil Beaut on first gear the lurch was so subtle, she started right up and gently moved forward as if she were designed to be started this way. Trin turned her around on the sand and we headed up the ramp to the safety and glorious firmness of bitumen. What a relief!
Back to Esperance in fourth
Instead of camping in the bush we drove all the way back to Esperance cruising on fourth gear. An hour later we pulled into the parking lot of Southside Auto Centre. Everything in town was closed so we tucked in for the night until the shop opened the next day.
In the morning we spoke to Rick, the shop owner. He bears a striking resemblance to Liam Neeson. I have a very particular set of skills, if your car has a problem, I will look for it, I will find it, and I will kill it.
Turned out the clutch slave cylinder was on the blink and needed to be replaced. He said he could get a new slave cylinder in overnight and that we could park Lil’ Beaut out back till the next day. He even gave us a loaner car at no extra charge to use while we waited.
I always enjoy a day or two at the library so that is what we did. It gave us two extra days to catch up on some reading and writing. We are so thankful that Lil’ Beaut did not breakdown on the Nullarbor. I sent Robert a message and thanked him for getting us out of a spot.
Our plans are flexible enough and a breakdown or two are expected along the way. A little trouble doesn’t have to be a disaster. I love the honest businesses here in Australia. People seem to care more about providing a service and helping someone else out than they do about just another dollar. Rick was another example of this doing what he could to fit in our repair, letting us live on the property and borrow a car. Australia is a great place to be.
While in Esperance
Generally, if Trin and I see a crowd we go the opposite direction. We love the great outdoors and nature at its most raw, but we also like to socialize, just in small groups or with individuals.
But for one specific reason while in Esperance we planned to spend a day in a crowd. It was Australia day and we wanted to spend the day celebrating a country we have come to love.
Vendors filled Adventureland Park near the pier in Esperance. Activities swirled around filling the air with voices and laughter. Miniature railroad tracks traced the circumference of the fairgrounds and a miniature steam engine pulled children around in miniature train cars. The engine was a real steam engine with real coal fueling its heat. The conductor shoved in coal using a garden trowel and waited for the water to boil hot enough for the steam to start flowing. They blew the whistle and pulled out of the miniature station.
We wandered around looking at all the wares offered by vendors: handmade jewelry, local honey, freshly-made hot donuts and many other artisans lined up under tents. At one end of the park, old engines were on display. Men from the rotary club were pouring kerosene into one of the engines while its pistons kicked in and out. One of the men turned and said, “this thing will be 100 years old in just four years and it is still going strong. It can still go all day long on just three liters of kerosene.“
Live music played for most of the day. We sat to cool off under the tents just as Rachel Vibart took the stage. She had a low soothing voice with inflections that made each song felt. She performed barefoot. Barefoot is normal here in Australia. It is not uncommon to see folks walking downtown or even in the bush with bare feet. It’s perfectly acceptable here to walk into a store with no shoes or even spend a day at the park not even taking a pair of shoes with them from the house. It is part of the essence of freedom here. We enjoyed Rachel’s songs so much we stayed for her entire set.
At 1 PM a ceremony was held to welcome and celebrate four new immigrant Australians. At the end of the ceremony, everyone stood and sung the national anthem. It was moving.
The Great Ocean Drive
Before leaving the area we drove along the Great Ocean Drive, not to be confused with the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. This drive is all about the cerulean blue waters and beautiful beaches.
Maybe your next opportunity will be cerulean blue
Retired from Corporate America at the age of 43 along with her husband Trinity. In 2016 they sold their home to begin a nomadic life of slow travel. Bonnie writes of their experience on the road in each country. Subscribe to follow her stories here.
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