Published: Monday, 27 September 2021

They say there is nothing like being with nature to clear your mind and reboot your body and soul. If you’ve been yearning to disconnect from everything for a while, why not explore the paradise island off the coast of Esperance?

Woody Island in Esperance is a playground for nature lovers. A nature reserve and a wildlife sanctuary, it is one of more than 100 islands and islets that form the Recherche Archipelago. This chain of islands expands from Esperance to the Great Australian Bight.

Woody Island is distinct from the archipelago’s other islands because it is abundant with tall woodlands, thus its name. Similarly, it is the sole island open to the public – locals and tourists alike. The absence of predators on the tiny island will allow you to easily get up close and personal with its docile native wildlife.


How to Get to Woody Island

From the Taylor Street Jetty in downtown Esperance, you can take a boat ride to the island through Woody Island Eco Tours, the official and only operator of the island’s activities and facilities.

While the straight voyage to the island takes only about 30 minutes, the trip usually takes longer, as it makes stops along the way – Galapagos Islands style – to point out some of the wildlife residing around the island. Therefore, before you reach the destination, you are guaranteed to spot sea lions, white-bellied sea eagles, dolphins, and fur seals.

However, if you decide not to book the Woody Island ferry, you can still visit the island on your boat since moorings are available in Shearwater Bay. Just make sure to coordinate with any of the tour operator’s staff in advance and check out the Woody Island map before heading off.


Exciting Experiences on Woody Island

The eco-wonderland appeals to both daytrippers and overnighters hankering for an island escape. With numerous scenic delights to explore, it is considered a Shangri-La for those seeking adventures on land and in water. While in the region, we also recommend adding some things to do in Esperance to your travel bucket list.

Here are some enjoyable pursuits to indulge in on the island:


Marvel at the Underwater World

image of people snorkeling at Underwater World in Woody Island.

Underwater World, off the Esperance coast. Image by Tourism Western Australia.

The crystal-clear waters of Shearwater Bay provide great visibility for underwater adventures. The area’s vibrant corals, colourful fish varieties, and blue starfishes are best seen with a snorkel.

Navigate your way underwater by following the Woody Island Snorkel Trail, which can be accessed from the Shearwater Bay beach or the swimming platform. You’d be lucky if you can have a rare sighting of the famed leafy sea dragon, come across the sunken dinghy, or witness a sea lion gliding around unbothered.


Engage in ‘On the Water’ Activities

Couple boarding a boat on Woody Island, Esperance.

On the Water activities, Woody Island. Image by Tourism Western Australia.

If snorkelling is not your thing, swimming, kayaking, or paddleboarding is just as fun. Keep in mind that you need a prior arrangement with the tour operator if you wish to bring a kayak or a paddleboard.

And then there’s beach fishing, too.

Try reeling in a herring or a squid from either the main jetty or the Skinny Dip Bay. Catch only what you can manage to eat though. Take note that spearfishing is banned in the area.


Go on a Nature Walk

Woody Island walking trail. Image by Tourism Western Australia.

Woody Island boasts a trio of marked walking trails that ranges from easy to moderate. Take in the magnificent views while walking under the canopies of towering eucalyptus and she-oak trees.

  • Island Top Walk Trail: This moderately difficult route weaves through patches of coastal shrubs and giant trees before reaching the summit, giving you panoramic views of mainland Esperance and the other islands making up the Recherche Archipelago. Perfect vantage points are the huge rock outcrops and the viewing platform located halfway to the top. This one-hour trail is a century old and was established to prevent sheep from being poisoned by the heart-leaf poison bush.
  • Twiggy’s Landing Trail: Beautiful vistas from the island’s southern side can be enjoyed through this 40-minute, moderately easy trail that concludes at the rugged Twiggy’s Landing. If you are a birder or a bird enthusiast, this trail will give you a field day, as this will guide you to the mutton-bird or shearwater rookery and the spots where the Cape Barren geese and the nesting burrows of other seabirds are found.
  • Skinny Dip Bay Trail: The small, private, and rocky Skinny Dip Bay can be accessed from the island campground. If you want to take a quick dip without the crowds, prepare yourself for a 40-minute walk to and from, past a telephone tower and water tanks.

You can also choose a guided bush walk to the summit. With a guide with you on the almost two-hour hike, you’ll be able to get insights about the island and the archipelago while having close encounters with fairy penguins, bandicoots, lizards, wallabies, and different species of birds.

Of course, the island is dotted with a diverse range of wildflowers as well, such as pink fairy orchids, bottlebrushes, and honey myrtles. You can discover more about the island and its flora and fauna by visiting the interpretive centre.


Stay Overnight Under the Stars

Drone photo of Woody island accommodation.

Got Woody Island camping plans?

If you fancy sleeping to the sound of wildlife and waking up to the colours of sunrise, the eco-playground offers various accommodation options. Since the island is growing in popularity and intrepid holidaymakers scramble to book ahead of the peak season, it can sometimes be difficult to score a Woody Island accommodation.

Fret not as Esperance Bay Holiday Park, close to the Esperance town centre, hosts different stay options for all types of travellers. Aside from sites for tents, camper trailers, caravans, and motorhomes, the park also features cabins, heritage chalets, and holiday units.

Pick whatever suits your taste and budget.


Simply Sit Back and Relax

Couple relaxing on Woody Island, Esperance.

Woody Island, off the Esperance coast. Image by Tourism Western Australia.

While activities are aplenty on the island, you can choose to just sunbathe near the jetty or hang out at the waterfront kiosk and bar overlooking Shearwater Bay. Either way, take the time to intentionally embrace the island’s stillness and slowness as well as its sights and sounds.

Whether you are looking for a day trip or an overnight stay, Woody Island makes for a relaxing interlude any day of the week.

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