Location and Access
Cape Le Grand National Park lies 50km east of Esperance, encompassing 31,800ha along Western Australia’s rugged south coast between Mount Le Grand and Cheyne Point. The park is easily accessed by a 30-minute scenic drive along good sealed roads from Esperance and is well signposted from Fisheries Road on the outskirts of town. Within the park, all the main bays and beaches are connected by bitumen roads, except the tracks to Rossiter Bay and Dunn Rocks, which are unsealed.
The park’s coastline is scalloped by turquoise bays, bookended by rocky headlands that enclose white-sand beaches. Inland, the park protects undulating heath-covered sandplains interspersed with swamps and freshwater pools. The south-west section of the park is dominated by massive outcrops of 600-million-year-old granite that form a distinctive chain of peaks – Mount Le Grand (345m), Frenchman Peak (262m), Boulder Hill and Mississippi Hill (180m). Within these massive hills are caves and tunnels thought to have been formed by wave action and underwater currents some 40 million years ago, when they were submerged by seas that were 300 metres higher than now. Offshore, the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve protects 105 granite islands and more than 1500 islets for 50km into the Southern Ocean.
The Natural Environment
A Mediterranean climate bathes the park in warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Across its length, the park straddles both temperate and arid climatic zones, resulting in a great diversity of plants and animals, of which many are found only on this part of the coast. Moderately reliable rainfall (of about 620mm annually) supports heathlands and dense thickets of banksia, melaleuca and grevillea that thrive across much of the park’s sandplains. These, and a multitude of spring wildflowers, are a source of nectar and insects that are the foundation of a food chain that supports small native mammals and flocks of honeyeaters and wattle birds. Western grey kangaroos and emus also inhabit the park. The coves and rocky foreshores offer feeding and resting places for Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals, while further out to sea humpbacks and southern right whales can often be seen on their seasonal migrations.