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Esperance Scenic Flight Over Middle Island & Lake Hillier

View of Lake Hiller from Esperance scenic flight tour

What’s the best way to see an island that is uninhabited and home to a unique feat of nature? By air, of course! This post explains all you need to know about an Esperance scenic flight: the incredible sights, what you can expect, and whether it’s worth the investment.

As part of a long weekend away from Perth in Esperance exploring more of Western Australia, we took a trip with Goldfield Air Services to enjoy a scenic flight over Esperance, Middle Island, and Lake Hillier!

How much does an Esperance Scenic Flight cost?

An adult ticket for a scenic flight with Goldfield Air Services cost $385 per adult.

It’s worth noting that for this activity they require a minimum of 2 people to buy tickets in order to fly, so make sure you’re with a friend or book onto a flight with passengers already on it!

Goldfield Air Services scenic flight plane

When should I book a scenic flight in Esperance?

ASAP! If you know when you’ll be there, get booking now. We had planned our trip for a Sunday but put off booking the tickets until it was too late and that day was all booked up! You certainly don’t want to be missing out.

As seats and times are limited (7 tickets available 3 times a day!), you might as well go ahead and get it done. Also, expect that tickets at the weekends to go much quicker than in the weekdays, so it’s best to be prepared.

Check the weather for the time of your visit, you’d ideally want clear skies and limited wind to enjoy the best of your Esperance scenic flight! However, don’t fret about the weather too much. We had patchy clouds and the mainland was mostly overcast, but we still had an amazing time!

As someone who worries about things being perfect:

What will be will be: the experience will be memorable rain or shine.

beach and ocean Esperance

What can I expect from a scenic flight in Esperance?

Getting started

You should arrive at Esperance airport 15 minutes before your flight time. Esperance airport is tiny, so you just need to head to the Goldfield Air Services desk and let them know you’re there.

Don’t bring too much with you, you’ll mainly just need a camera, maybe a small water bottle, sunglasses, and something to chew if you get blocked ears! If you do have a small bag, that’ll be put away at the back so keep your main items on you.

Your pilot will guide you out to the plane and give you a safety briefing. There’ll be assigned seats according to weight distribution, so your pilot will tell you where to hop in, and you’ll get all strapped in. We were lucky enough to have one of us at the back (me) and one at the front in the copilot seat (Kaz)! Best of both worlds. Luckily this also meant no jostling for the best seats!

Next thing you know, you’ll be on the runway and off.

Inside plane for Esperance scenic flight

Flying over Pink Lake

Starting off over the mainland, you’ll pass wetlands around Esperance and the inaccurately named Pink Lake… Which isn’t pink. Confusingly, the lake did in fact used to be pink but it lost its colour several years ago due to a change in salinity caused by humans. Of course, many confuse Pink Lake with Lake Hillier, which is in fact pink and we’ll see later!

Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful view and great introduction to the scenic flight.

Pink Lake in Esperance

Flying over Esperance seafront and port

As we reach the coastline, we’ll see the beautiful turquoise waters and beaches around Esperance come into view. Enjoy hearing from the pilot about the port’s history as you glide over beaches and turn towards the expansive ocean ahead.

Esperance scenic flight over township and beach

Scenic view of Recherche Archipelago

For much of the first half of the 1 hour 40 minute scenic flight you’ll be flying over Recherche Archipelago. With 105 islands and more than 1,200 “obstacles to shipping” there is a LOT to see!

Chez, our pilot, pointed out some notable spots along the way. My favourite was the Platypus – an island named for it’s distinctive shape! It’s around here that one might even be so lucky to see whales or sharks, or other marine life. So keep your eyes peeled!

The Recherche Archipelago, also called the Bay of Isles, has a dangerous past. It was the cause of much distress for explorers attempting to navigate the waters, as you can imagine with so many spots of land jutting through the sea. It’s namesake, the ship Recherche, successfully avoiding destruction in the violent waters following its sister ship the Esperance. Even Matthew Flinders the early 19th-century cartographer commented about how lucky he was to escape the archipelago unharmed during his voyage of the southern coast.

A few years later, the largest island called Middle Island was the hideout spot for Black Jack, Australia’s only pirate! Chosen as a camp thanks to its freshwater and hazardous location, it’s said that Black Jack Anderson is now buried somewhere on the island.

Recherche Archipelago from scenic flight

Orbits around Middle Lake and Lake Hillier

As we approached the above-mentioned Middle Island, Chez ensured we were thoroughly prepared with cameras in arms awaiting the main attraction: Lake Hillier!

Orbiting at least 3 or 4 times on each side so everyone gets a good view, we marvelled at the unusual and vividly bright hues of pink below.

Chez was amazing at sharing a few more tidbits of info, while also letting us bask in the glorious views. She was also so passionate and motivated with lots of “wows” herself, which is always encouraging! I loved hearing her favourite perspectives of the lake. She pointed out that when the clouds move across the pink water the colour changes constantly. I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, and now I’m glad we got to see it in this unique way!

The water is pink due to D. Salina organism that just loves salt! Even when removed from the lake, the water retains its magical colour. Isn’t nature fabulous?

Middle Island Scenic Flight Western Australia

That’s so cool! Is there another way to see Lake Hillier?

Yes, there is! A 6-hour boat trip will take you from Esperance to Middle Island. On this tour, you can actually walk onto the island and up to the lake itself. You won’t be able to touch the water, though. You’ll be accompanied by a ranger the entire time as it’s the only way to access the island. The ranger will ensure no one misbehaves, as we want to protect this beautiful part of nature.

However, the tour does not operate all that regularly as they’re restricted by the distance the boat can travel. Keep an eye out if you’re interested in this tour!

Lake Hillier Western Australia

Cape Le Grand coastline views

On the return leg of the journey we cruised along at a lower height to appreciate the remarkable views over the coastline. Chez the pilot claimed this to be her favourite part of the flight, and I can completely see why.

Each bay and each changing perspective offered unrivalled beauty. I loved seeing the various beaches and lapping white waves dance along the shores. And to fly over Cape Le Grand National Park and see the famous bays from above was a moment to cherish.

Cape Le Grand National Park from scenic flight

Commentary and helpful information

As I mentioned, a lot of what we learned about Esperance, Recherche Archipelago, Middle Island AND MORE came from the pilot. I can’t emphasise enough how valuable it is to not only have someone safely transporting you around, but also offering their wealth of knowledge for you to learn.

Scenic flight over Esperance coast

Just outstanding natural beauty

If the above details aren’t enough to convince you of taking a scenic flight in Esperance, then surely the beauty of the landscape alone will.

Cmon, what’s the catch. What’s not so great about it?

Is it safe?

Yep! I felt very safe. The pilot gave us a really thorough briefing beforehand and you will have to wear a lifejacket around your waist at all times. As the plane is smaller you won’t fly as high, which also helps you feel safer.

Rest assured, the pilots are EXCELLENT and are so thorough with everything. I’m sure if you have any concerns they’d be happy to help! In fact, Chez, our pilot, asked if anyone had a fear of flying before we got in, which would be your chance to raise any worries.

You’ll also receive headphones to block out the loud engines of the plane, and hear the commentary of the pilot. You can adjust the volume on these, but keep them on otherwise your ears will suffer from the plane noise!

beach from scenic flight in Esperance

Will I get motion sickness?

I won’t lie, such a small plane is bound to have you feeling bumps and turns a lot more than a commercial flight.

Only on the journey back from Middle Island did I start to feel a bit ugh. I put that down to constantly looking through my camera lens and aiming it down. A few deep breaths, a sip of water, and facing straight ahead sorted me out. And, if you’re really not feeling great, there are always sick bags in the seat pocket!

2 hours sounds long. Is it fun the whole time?

I did feel the time drag ever so slightly at times. That’s because it’s a lot of the same views both there and back, and without any new facts to learn when going over the same spots there are a few dry patches. Combined with concentrating on feeling comfortable and NOT sick, I did check my watch more than I’d like to admit on the way back.

Having said that, 2 hours is actually not too long, and the views are changing regularly as you move along the coastline. Put it this way. If you can stay put in a cinema for 2 hours, you can do this flight, right? I’m sure the short-haul flights you’ve experienced haven’t had quite as good scenery, so this is a treat in comparison!

Coastline Esperance scenic flight

Is the Esperance scenic flight worth it?

YES. I can categorically say that an Esperance scenic flight is 100% worth it.

I can understand scenic flights might not be for everyone. The cost is pretty steep if you’re after a budget trip, and if you’re a nervous flyer it would be one of the last things on your mind! However, for anyone who can spare the cash and the time, I can’t recommend it enough.

It reminded me of our whale watching helicopter flight in Kaikoura, New Zealand a few months prior to this trip. Vastly different landscapes, but equally mesmerising. I think we’ve got a taste for scenic flights…

Shores of Esperance from plane

Have I convinced you to take an Esperance scenic flight? Let me know!

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Ana
    11/11/2019 at 2:42 pm

    What amazing photos!! The more you post about Australia the higher it goes on my bucket list

    • Reply
      suzystories
      11/12/2019 at 6:32 am

      yaaaaay!

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