The Lake Hillier-Middle Island Scenic Flight
You may have heard of Australia’s Pink Lakes, and you have probably seen pictures of a beautiful pink lake and most likely this was Lake Hillier, on Middle Island, in the Recherche Archipelago near Esperance, Western Australia. Being on an Island 150 kilometres away from the nearest major town makes access to see this natural wonder of the world difficult. There is only one regular service to see Lake Hillier, and this is the Lake Hillier-Middle Island Scenic Flight departing several times a day from Esperance Airport which can be booked with Scenic Flight Booker.
This Scenic Flight is fast becoming a “must-do” attraction in Western Australia with people from across the globe travelling to Esperance to see the phenomenon. What surprises many who take this flight though is just how much else there is to see on this 1 hour and 40 minute flight. Many travel agents and tourists alike have told me after taking this flight that they came to see Lake Hillier, which is magnificent, but it really is just the icing on the cake of a breathtaking flight.
After meeting the pilot and receiving the safety briefing at the Esperance Airport Terminal, we were escorted to the aeroplane and strapped in ready for our flight. The aircraft was perfect for the task, with a high wing, each passenger gets a seat next to a huge, bubble-window, giving panoramic views.
After taking off, there is a short transit across rolling fields of farmland towards the town of Esperance. The first thing that gets pointed out to us is “Pink Lake” also known as Spencer Lake, which up until about 10 years ago was also a pink colour, but has since turned a milky white. Many tourists are disappointed as they mistake this lake for Lake Hillier, not realising they have to take a flight to see the pink lake in all the pictures.
A quaint seaside town bordered along the waterfront Esplanade by towering Norfolk Pine trees, Esperance was named after a French ship of the same name which, commanded by Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec, sheltered from a storm in the area in 1792. While the area was explored by British navigator Matthew Flinders who named many of the islands and bays including Thistle Cove and Lucky Bay, and numerous whalers, sealers and pirates operated in the area, the site of Esperance was not settled until the 1860s when the Dempster brothers were granted 304,000 acres of land in the area and established the beginnings of the town.
The flight gives a great view of the town, the remnants of the slowly collapsing 80+ year old jetty and the modern-day Esperance Port. After getting a good look at Esperance, the plane sets out over the bay towards Cape Le Grand National Park. On the way we pass over Woody Island, one of the 105 islands and over 1200 “obstacles to shipping” of the Recherche Archipelago. Woody Island is the home of Woody Island Eco Tours and accommodation which is served by a ferry from Esperance.
Reaching the far side of the bay and the start of the Cape Le Grand National Park, the first thing you notice is the giant monolith of Mount Le Grand (345m tall) and oddly shaped Frenchman Peak (262m tall and named after the hat French troops of the 1800s wore). Continuing around the coastline, your first glimpse of the whitest beaches in Australia will take your breath away!! First Hellfire Bay, and then the large horseshoe shape of Lucky Bay showcase turquoise water so clear that you can see all the way through to the reefs below and any sea life lurking beneath the waves. The water makes way for the Geoscience Australia Certified “Whitest Sand in Australia” beach of Lucky Bay, a beach popular with tourists for its friendly Kangaroos combined with beautiful vistas.
After some great photo opportunities over the bay, the flight continues along completely deserted beaches to what is my favourite spot in the area; Victoria Harbour, Wharton Beach and Duke of Orleans Bay. If you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, these beaches are definitely worth a visit despite the 80-odd km drive to get here!! At this point I think it is worth mentioning, that particularly on a nice day, you will spend the entire flight looking down thinking “wow that looks like a great place to go swimming or fishing.” And I can confirm, every one of those beaches along the flight route is great!! If you don’t have an off-road vehicle, don’t worry, Esperance Eco Discovery Tours do an excellent off-road beach tour in their custom 4x4 vehicle. Check out combo deals at www.scenicflightbooker.com/esperance to see options to package this with your Scenic Flight.
After some great views of the Duke of Orleans Bay area, the aircraft heads for Middle Island. It is about a 15 minute transit across the water from here where you will often see ocean life, numerous reefs, and islands and you marvel at just how the early explorers ever navigated through the 1200 “hazards to nautical navigation”
And then, growing ever larger in the front window, there it is….Middle Island!! Initially hidden by the 185 metre tall Flinders Peak, Lake Hillier slowly reveals itself as we fly closer and the surreal bubble-gum pink colour of the lake becomes apparent. Considered to be due to the presence of the organism Dunaliella Salina, the water stays this pink colour all year round. With the green trees, white sand, and turquoise waters of the Southern Ocean only metres away, it is truly something to behold.
The aircraft does several laps of Middle Island, giving the passengers on both sides great views of Lake Hillier. As we fly around, the pilot points out various features and regales everyone on board with some history of the island, including John Flinders time here and Black Jack Anderson, Australia’s only known pirate who was based on Middle Island in the 1800s.
After filling our camera memory cards with once in a lifetime photos, we say goodbye to Lake Hillier and fly past Cape Arid, following the vast deserted beaches of Yokinup Bay. If you are lucky enough to be taking this flight between June and October, this is where you will be almost guaranteed to see pods of Southern Right Whales as they migrate along the coast to the warmer breeding grounds of the Kimberley in the far north of Western Australia. The crystal clear water is perfect for whale-watching from the aeroplane, and the whales can clearly be seen kicking up sand on the sea floor with their tails as they frolic in the bay. Before the flight heads for home, we are treated to more beautiful coastline, beaches, bays and sparkling water along the way.
If you are looking to take this flight, I cannot recommend it highly enough. However don’t leave it until your last day in Esperance!! The weather along the south coast of Western Australia can be very changeable, so book your flight in for the first day you can in Esperance, that way if the weather is not so good, you can reschedule. I know many people who have left the flight until the morning they leave, and then missed out as that day was not suitable for flying!! The added bonus of going on your first day is that you get to see all the amazing beaches and get ideas of beaches to visit while in the Esperance region. You can book this flight and see Esperance package tour and accommodation deals online at https://scenicflightbooker.com/esperance
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