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 Fly Esperance (at the time called 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 Fly Esperance currently costs $425 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!
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.
What can I expect from a scenic flight in Esperance?
You should arrive at Esperance airport 15 minutes before your flight time. Esperance airport is tiny, so you just need to head to the flight operator’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
Have I convinced you to take an Esperance scenic flight? Let me know!
Pin it for later!
Ana11/11/2019 at 2:42 pm
What amazing photos!! The more you post about Australia the higher it goes on my bucket list
suzystories11/12/2019 at 6:32 am
Mountain Flying06/17/2020 at 1:36 pm
It’s really an exceptional experience we had when we visited few time back.. The scenery was magical from above; the Arial view of the place is just breath-taking. The pilot was great and he had really good sense of the geographical structure. I have seen similar information at one place, you can also see on u-flywanaka.co.nz/.
Wayne Featherstone08/04/2021 at 6:10 am
It is an amazing place. I was share a fisherman out of Esperance in the late 70’s-early 80’s. Ok fishing is hard work, but cruising around these islands/islets/reefs was an unbelievable experience in good weather. In bad weather it can get a bit scary but was still an experience to remember. Hey we survived . I
In really bad weather we would run for a safe anchorage to ride out the Southern Ocean storms, sometimes for quite a few days at a time. Going ashore and exploring was a real buzz. Looking for Black Jack Anderson’s Treasure (never found anything),climbing Flinders Peak and tracking down the old sealers camp ( found that one) and walking around Lake Hillier on Middle Island, Always being alert because the islands are loaded with Death Adders, we saw many but were able to survive unscathed.
Other good islands that were great to check out were Dawe Island in the Eastern Group…The anchorage here here was a great place to do some excellent handlining for some great table fish, squid by the millions & the biggest Green Lipped Abalone I’ve ever seen. Mondrain Island, Woody Island of course,
Salisbury Island where Shipwreck Survivers of a Adelaide to Albany got ashore waiting to be rescued.
Nth & South Twin Peaks Islands…wow sailing between the two islands towering peaks to the anchorage, Sea Eagle nests in the cliffs…we would stop, wave a fish around they would see it from way up there and swoop down as we threw it into the water..We also dived in shallow water near the Sea Lion Colonies with our hooker (air compressor with hose), they would come around swimming right up close, looking and getting all excited.This was a bit nerve wracking because of these guys are White Pointers (Great White Sharks) fav food, everybody had there eyes peeled, if the seals suddenly disappeared it was time to get out of the water ASAP.
Sorry to rave on so such, I am 67 now and left Esperance and moved to the East Coast many years ago. I still miss the place and those times. I was was reading your blog while I’m stranded in The Philippines ( another amazing place) and it took me back to that time and place.
If anyone out there ever gets to that part of the world….hang around, ask some locals what is great to do and see there. I am sure you will love it. I did for seven years and decades looking at my photos and remembering.
suzystories08/08/2021 at 7:02 pm
Hi Wayne, wow what an amazing time you had around Esperance and the islands! Sounds like you certainly have plenty of awesome stories to share – ever thought of starting a blog?! I’m really glad my brief encounter around those parts brought back some great memories. You must be much braver than me with all the diving and the daredevil activities you mentioned!
I had really hoped to climb Flinders Peak when we were in the national park, but the weather didn’t cooperate when we visited. I’d love to go back sometime as I imagine the views are incredible.
Hope you’re keeping well in The Philippines (it’s on my list to visit!) and sending good wishes your way. Take care, Suzy