In praise of Cape Le Grand

By David de Vos, Parks Ambassador

It’s the middle of October. The south west is damp and the wheat just loves it with the endless fields showing endless gold. Midas-touched is a fair description.

There’s the blackest of blacks too. Look at them – Angus with glistening hides, up to their hocks in grass.

Angus cattle in Esperance

Angus cattle in Esperance

Of course, the gold and black of agriculture disappear as you get close to the coast. But there’s another color to mention – an electric, blue-green flash between the hills. Is it turquoise or aqua or teal? No, I’ll go with cyan!

Welcome to Cape Le Grand National Park, 45 minutes from Esperance, with heathlands, granite peaks, the whitest beaches in Australia and fringing shallows in the color called cyan. The tropics are envious.

Noongar aboriginal people had thousands of years to take in the beauty. Yet this southern coast is marked with the names of explorers who saw it through European eyes, and not always in happy circumstance.

1792. Two French vessels L’Esperance and Recherche are hit by a violent storm. Their commander, Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, an admiral, is looking for another Frenchman, the Marquis de La Perouse. You will know these names from geography class. Then, a sailor, up a mast, sees possible sanctuary on the shore. Remember, in France the Revolution is still young, and our hero is recorded as Citizen Le Grand. So, the cape gets his name.

1802. It’s the turn of the British to be storm-struck. Matthew Flinders and the Investigator find shelter at a place Flinders will gratefully call Lucky Bay. Now, more than two centuries on, Lucky Bay is my first stop in the park. That blue-green flash between the hills is leading me, and I’m not the only one to be seduced. The best caravan park in the country is packed with caravans. The weather is magic and they overlook the country’s best beach, as voted by the resident mob of grey kangaroos. Apparently.

Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park

Anyone familiar with the south coast will know that “spectacular” is an adjective liberally used to sell it. In the case of Cape Le Grand National Park, it belongs!

Cape Le Grand is not just coastal. Inland there is rolling heathland where pygmy possums live with the aforementioned western greys. Banksias are thick, and wildflowers add spots of colour. The air is clean off the Southern Ocean. Pristine, you’ll find, is another adjective for these parts.

And yet Cape Le Grand is not just for looking at. It’s a place for swimming, bushwalking, fishing and if you are not daunted by massive granite outcrops, you can climb!

Frenchman Peak, Cape Le Grand National Park

Frenchman Peak, Cape Le Grand National Park

To my mind this perfect park could be a little more perfect, and French-friendly, if, in honour of that eagle-eyed, citizen sailor in 1792, we dropped one “e” in its name and call the place Cap Le Grand National Park!

Sunset, Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park. Photo Credit: Richard Smyth - Wild Earth Images

Sunset at Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park. Photo Credit: Richard Smyth – Wild Earth Images