...at first glance
At first glance, hiding behind all the tall, stately Norfolk pines that line the Esplanade, it's hard to know what Esperance is really like or where the downtown might be. We can see the Esperance Bay Yacht Club from our mooring and a clock tower nearby, but other than the large loading dock, jetties and some beach areas, Esperance is well hidden until you get a street or two off the Esplanade and search it out.
We tied up at a small dock near the yacht club, had a quick look around and headed to where we thought the downtown might be. Dempster Street, the main drag, parallels the Esplanade and is a long block away to the west, cleverly concealing the heart of the business district. We were searching for the Visitor's Info Center which we finally found at the far end of the Esplanade in the midst of the Historic Museum Village, a melange of craft shops and boutiques housed in early 20th century historic buildings. We picked up our requisite maps and brochures, got the locations of the supermarkets and laundromat from the friendly lady there, and headed back towards the downtown. It's not a big town, so getting around on foot is pretty easy.
We found all the necessary places. West End Soapy is a 24-hour laundromat that will serve our needs perfectly … as soon as we can round up 24 one-dollar coins for the machines. There's a large, well-stocked Woolworths (Woolys) which unfortunately does not deliver. There's a smaller IGA closer to the yacht club which does not deliver either, but upon inquiry, would make an exception. The manager offered to drive us and our groceries down to the yacht club when we were ready. How nice was that? And I can one up that offer. As we were leaving the IGA, a woman who had overheard our conversation stopped us and asked if we were yachties. We admitted that we were. She explained that she and her husband are yachties part of the year (their yacht is in Cairns on the opposite side of the country) and she offered us the use of a car for a day for provisioning and fuel. Just like that … “If you need a car, let us know. Here's my number.” Wow! Think Esperance might be a friendly town?
On our way back to the boat (you can't do too much on your first day ashore), we scoped out Taylor's Beach Bar, a highly recommended shore side restaurant for dinner one night and then wandered through the small, but lovely Don Mackenzie Waterfront Gardens. Mackenzie arrived in Esperance in 1947 to fish and subsequently developed a tug service and island cruise business which has contributed to the community and continued to grow with his family still at the helm.
We learned more about the elaborate Taylor Street Clock Tower, which we can see and hear from the boat. It was scheduled for completion at the end of 2013 as a community project, but it doesn't appear to be quite done. Two statues and two clock faces still need to be installed. It's impressive, nonetheless. The statues, all made from bronze, as well as the mechanical four-face clock, were all cast and machined here in Esperance. During the day, the clock's melodic peals drift sweetly on the air announcing each quarter hour.
Back aboard, I poured through our new library of brochures and made up a list of things to do and nearby places to visit. There's the museum and a “boutique aquarium”, a Sunday farmer's market and a walk down the long, historic tanker jetty and possibly the Great Ocean Drive. Simultaneously, David was making up his own list of what needs to be repaired, what chores need doing and what supplies he'll require. We'll negotiate later on a balance between play and work. Right now … time to watch the sunset on the foreshore.