With its magnificent beaches, it’s no wonder than Esperance is a popular holiday destination, whether you’re travelling from elsewhere in Western Australia or have just crossed the Nullarbor. But how dog-friendly is Esperance? Read on to find out about what you can do while holidaying in Esperance with your pup.
Dog-Friendly Beaches in Esperance
Esperance is luckily a great destination to visit the beach with your dog, as most of the beaches around Esperance are dog-friendly, other than the western end of Twilight Beach (in between the car park and the rocks to the east of the Surf Life Saving Club), plus the beaches in nearby national parks, such as Lucky Bay.
Some of the beaches allow dogs off-leash at restricted hours, such as West Beach that only allows dogs off-leash between 5-8am and 4-8pm, and on-leash other hours. Similar restrictions apply to the beaches along the town foreshore, with dogs only permitted off-leash during the same hours on the stretch between the Tanker Jetty and Chaplin Street in Castletown.
However, at the other beaches I visited it just states that dogs are allowed, with no mention of needing to be on-leash. Presumably because these beaches are outside the town boundaries, dogs are allowed off-leash.
The other dog-friendly beaches on the western side of town include Blue Haven, Salmon Beach, Fourth Beach, Ten Mile Lagoon and Eleven Mile Beach, accessed along the Great Ocean Drive.
To the east, head to Bandy Creek Beach, on the eastern side of the Bandy Creek Fishing Boat Harbour, or the westernmost part of Wylie Bay, at the end of Wylie Bay Road.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Esperance
While a few of the popular sightseeing options around Esperance are out of bound for four-legged friends, including visiting Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid National Park, or heading out on an island cruise, there’s still plenty of terrific dog-friendly options available.
1. Stroll Along the Foreshore
The town centre of Esperance lies right next to a beautiful foreshore and it’s possible to stroll all the way along it. Starting from the Taylor Street Jetty near the Southern Ports area (which is not accessible to the public), it’s possible to keep walking for nearly 5km to the far end of Castletown Quays Beach.
Along the way you’ll pass by stretches of beaches, multiple jetties (at least one that dogs can walk out on), and through parks dotted with picnic tables and other amenities, as you follow the footpath along the foreshore. Look out for the Lighthouse Sculpture (near the Taylor Street Jetty) and the Whale Tail Sculpture (in the James St Precinct).
It’s the perfect place for a stroll with your pup, whether the whole length or just one part. The section between the Tanker Jetty and Chaplin Street in Castletown is off-leash between 5-8am and 4-8pm. From 8am to 4pm dogs should be on-leash, plus at all times in the area west of the Tanker Jetty (although I noticed locals have a relaxed approach).
2. Take the Great Ocean Drive
One of the must-do sightseeing options in Esperance is to drive along the Great Ocean Drive tourist route, looping around the western side of town along the magnificent coastline. At 40km long, it’s easily done in 1-2 hours, but you could also spend a whole day.
The biggest attraction along the way are the many gorgeous, white sandy beaches the drive meanders past. Along the way you’ll find the pet-friendly West Beach, Blue Haven, Salmon Beach, Fourth Beach, Ten Mile Lagoon and Eleven Mile Beach.
It’s also worthwhile stopping at the Rotary Lookout, the starting point for multiple walks, including to Lovers Cove (see more below). Dogs are also welcome to join you at Observatory Point, a top spot for whale watching, or on a visit to the windfarms.
3. Visit a Windfarm
As its not connected to the rest of the WA power grid and is a rather windy location, Esperance was home to both the first research windfarm and the first commercial windfarm in Australia. It’s possible to visit both as a side trip on the Grand Ocean Drive, with no restrictions on pets joining you.
Closest to town is the Salmon Beach Windfarm. Since being decommissioned, only one out of the six turbines remains, accessed by a short walking trail, with multiple information panels along the path.
Further west out of town, detour up to the Ten Mile Windfarm. This windfarm has only recently been decommissioned – it previously supplied nearly 30% of the town’s power along with the adjacent Nine Mile Windfarm.
On a windy day when the turbines are noisily spinning, like when I visited in 2021, it’s a little disconcerting to walk beneath them! There’s a walking trail around some of the turbines, although they are gradually being removed.
4. Watch for Whales
Every year Southern Right Whales can be seen migrating along the Esperance coastline. If you visit between June and October, you have a chance to spot these giants, either frolicking off the shore or resting in Esperance’s protected bays.
Head to one of the higher vantage points for your best chance to spot a whale. Observatory Point along the Great Ocean Drive is one of the highest points around and pets are allowed. Climb the stairs up from the carpark – small dogs may need to be carried. Note that the steep access road to the carpark is not accessible to caravans.
Alternatively, head to any of the other lookout points along the Great Ocean Drive, or the Rotary Lookout.
5. Taste the Local Brew
While dogs aren’t permitted at Lucky Bay, the local brewery named after this popular spot is certainly dog-friendly!
Lucky Bay Brewing is located on the eastern side of town on Bandy Creek Road and has a large number of under-shelter outdoor tables, plus more tables scattered on the lawn, that are dog-friendly. We even got asked if our dog wanted his own drink (albeit water).
The brewery is a very local operation, using locally grown barley directly purchased from local farmers. With a long list of beers on tap, I recommend starting with one of the tasting paddles.
Dog-Friendly Walks in Esperance
There’s a wide variety of walks in and around Esperance that allow off-leash dogs – there’s no need to break the rules and visit a national park!
For an easy option, check out my above suggestion of going for a stroll along the foreshore. While the entire length of the walkway is almost 5km, there’s plenty of carparks along the way, so you can easily walk a short section of your choosing.
The Great Ocean Drive can also be the Great Ocean Walk. Alongside the drive runs a shared cycle-pedestrian pathway, extending from the town centre to Twilight Beach, a total of 12km, or just 8km from West Beach. Walk the entire length or just one part, starting from the many beach carparks.
There’s also a side route just before the far end of Twilight Beach, extending through bushland for 4.5km to Pink Lake Lookout. (Although, be warned Pink Lake is no longer pink!)
Alternatively, head to the Rotary Lookout for a selection of shorter walking trails. (Lookout for the sign to Dempster Head and Lookout.) There’s the 20-minute Rotary Loop Walk, or follow the 1.3km trail to Lovers Cove, a secluded beach with no road access. All walks are dog-friendly, although keep them on a leash.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Esperance
As well as being permitted off-leash during restricted hours along the section of foreshore from the Tanker Jetty to Chaplin Street in Castletown, dogs are also allowed off-leash at the Greater Sports Ground on Black Street, as long as the ground is not being used for organised sports or other events.
In July 2023, the new Wildcherry Dog Park was opened. This fenced off-leash dog park is located just off Wildcherry Avenue in Castletown. The fenced park has separate areas for small and large dogs, along with shelter, seating, water, natural agility equipment and a sand pit.
Dog-Friendly Pubs & Cafes in Esperance
One of the most dog-friendly places to dine in Esperance is Lucky Bay Brewing. Alongside their long list of beers to drink, their list of wood-fired pizzas is even longer and look delicious. There’s also some lighter meals such as nachos and bruschetta regularly on the menu. With an early closing kitchen, except on Fridays, head there for lunch or an early dinner.
Another highly recommend local spot is Taylor Street Quarters. Overlooking the water near the Taylor Street Jetty, the restaurant is open from 10am to late, Tuesday to Sunday, also serving up coffee, wine, beer and cocktails.
The outdoor tables and tables along the verandah are dog-friendly, with a dog water bowl sitting next to them. (There’s also a “dog hitching post” across the lawn, although I’d recommend keeping your dog always in your eyesight.)
Other cafes with outdoor dining areas in Esperance are also generally pet-friendly, or there’s also the option of hitting up one of the local “foodie vans”. Head to the Tanker Jetty Precinct for the highly rated coffee from the Coffee Cat, now located in a shipping container.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Esperance
If you’re camping or caravanning there’s plenty of options in Esperance, with each of the six caravan parks around town being pet-friendly, although some exclude pets during the busy summer and Easter holiday periods, plus some may request a pet bond.
Two caravan parks that are pet-friendly year round are the RAC Esperance Holiday Park and the Esperance Bay Holiday Park.
The RAC Esperance Holiday Park is a large, recently renovated park close to the beach on the north side of town. Pets are allowed on all campsites, with up to two pets allowed, plus in the pet-friendly two bedroom cabins. Make sure you include your pets when you make a booking. There is also a dog wash onsite – just the thing for after a visit to the dog-friendly beaches!
Alternatively, head to the Esperance Bay Holiday Park. This park is located just a short stroll from the town centre and Taylor Street Jetty area. Pets are permitted on both powered and unpowered sites (but not inside cabins).
Unfortunately, none of the motels located in Esperance are pet-friendly, but there are some pet-friendly holiday rentals around. One highly recommend option is JJ’s Holiday Cottages, run by the friendly Jenny, with two cottages that are pet-friendly by prior arrangement.
Alternatively, also check out Eco Valley Retreat near Pink Lake. Make sure you contact the owners first before booking, to go over their conditions. However, previous dog owners have loved their stay and I’ve heard reports that they have an enclosure, where you can leave your dogs for the day.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.