Sometimes the trip home is all about the quickest and most direct route, and from Esperance back to Perth that is via Ravensthorpe and Lake King. But this involves an awful lot of bitumen. So with a couple of days still up our sleeve before we absolutely had to be back in the office, we decided to take a not quite so direct route home on some gravel roads less travelled. And we found that as the famous quote says, by taking the road less travelled, that made all the difference.
Admittedly, we didn’t get too far on the first day, being easily distracted into Stokes National Park, which is barely an hour’s drive west of Esperance. There is the 2WD accessible Benwenerup campground, but we opted for the alternative 4WD accessible only Skippy Rocks (sometimes referred to as Margaret Cove). The track in is soft and sandy and in places quite bumpy. Still, with sensible driving and lowering of tyre pressures we had no issues dragging the off road campers in.
We had camped in here before but on this occasion were greeted by something new. Whereas camping had previously been free, there was now a $10/adult / $2.20/child camping fee to be paid. And what additional facilities were being provided for this new charge? Track in was still definitely 4WD only, same ten year old drop toilet, no rubbish bins, and no water. Actually, no new anything except the shiny new signs to tell you how much to pay. Maybe we should be grateful that up to now we have been able to enjoy this location for just the cost of our annual national park membership? Though given nothing had changed but the fee, the less generous minded amongst us might be muttering something more along the lines of it seeming just slightly mercenary.
Not that it isn’t worth the camping fee – the natural attractions of Stokes are many. There is easy walking access from the campground to three quite unique beaches. To the east is a bay, protected by a rocky reef, which provides nice calm water for peaceful paddling. Directly to the front are some rocky pools, many of which are tidal, which provide an almost bath-like experience once warmed by the sun. And finally to the west there is a large bay which is more open to the big ocean swells and perfectly suited to more body-boarding-like pursuits. You can’t pre-book, but if you do get lucky and find any empty site, it’s an easy place to while away a few summer days.