Kalgoorlie to Esperance

We had planned to stay in Esperance. The small coastal town on the south coast of WA facing the Antarctic Ocean – aka The Great Australian Bight. The problem was that there was nothing available. Seriously nothing! Everything was booked up including caravans and camp grounds. We had to look elsewhere and as it happens that turned out OK. More on that to come however.

The Road South

The trip from Kalgoorlie to the south coast passes several mining areas. It is not as deserted as it looks on (say) google maps. There is a train line (servicing the mine areas) which follows most of the route. The drive can be considered in two parts. First, route 94 to the crossroads town of Norseman. From there we picked up the Aussie circular highway – Route 1, that goes all the way around the continent – and dropped directly south into Esperance. The question has to be: Who’s not going to stop off in a town called Norseman? Eh?


The curiously named Norseman sits about half way between Kalgoorlie and Esperance and is a genuine crossroads town. For Esperance continue south on Route 1. But this is also the start of The Eyre Highway, the 1,600km section of Route 1 linking Western Australia and South Australia via the famed Nullarbor Plain.

Norseman is another mining town (what else in this harsh environment) but where does that name come from? I had no idea before we stopped there as I deliberately didn’t research that question. My first thought was some viking link – however tenuous that may seem. Well the Vikings supposedly reached North America long before Columbus right? But Australia?! And so far inland? No that really would be a stretch. And so it proved. This town is named after an animal. Norseman was a horse!

Statue of Norseman. The horse that the town was named after.

Today there are a number of small goldmining operations in the area but only the Central Norseman Gold Corporation is a major producer. Gold was first found in the Norseman area in 1892, about 10 km south of the town, near Dundas. Then, in August 1894, Lawrence Sinclair,  (together with his brother George Sinclair and Jack Alsopp) discovered a rich gold reef which Sinclair (originally from the Shetland Isles) named after his horse, Hardy Norseman.

Once this area was the second-richest goldfield in Western Australia, next to the Golden Mile of Kalgoorlie. The Norseman Gold Mine is said to be Australia’s longest continuously running gold mining operation. Now the town has a population of about 1,000.

Mural at the visitor’s centre
Norseman Town Hall
Norseman Post Office
The street signs have a horse in Norseman
The Camel Roundabout honours the “ship of the desert” with tin camel sculptures
The centre of Norseman was completely deserted. Well, it was New Year’s Day!


Esperance is a pleasant enough seaside town. We arrived around midday so had some lunch and then took a stroll around the town. The highlights here however lie just outside of town.

Esperance is a working port with beaches and safe swimming areas

If you only pass through Esperance (which we basically did) you have to travel along the Great Ocean Drive. Dramatic cliff top views of some of the best and whitest beaches in WA.

Some of the spectacular scenery and fabulous beaches found along the Great Ocean Drive

It was partly cloudy when we stopped at most of these beaches yet the sea still appeared impossible shades of blue.

I really wanted to spend more time in the area but sadly we could not find accommodation anywhere near. But, we did find some at a place 187 km away (best part of 2 hours drive) in the very small town of Ravensthorpe. And that is where we went next…

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