The town of ESPERANCE prospered briefly as a supply port during the heyday of the Eastern Goldfields, and was revived after World War II when its salty soils were made fertile with the simple addition of certain missing trace elements. Now an established farming and holiday centre, it makes an ideal base from which to explore the south coast's dazzling beaches and storm-washed headlands. The town boasts a certain laid-back charm that's appealing – most evident in the mornings when the Coffee Kat van (7am–2pm) pulls up in the jetty car park and the locals lounge around in the sun with their takeaway cappuccinos and socialize for a couple of hours.
Dempster Street is the town's main road, where you'll find the visitor centre and various tourist-oriented shops, cafés, art galleries and crafts shops in a dozen historic bungalows known as the Museum Village; the visitor centre's Heritage Walk booklet explains the history of the buildings. Nearby on James Street, the Esperance Museum (daily 1.30–4.30pm; $5) in the historic railway goods shed is a good repository of local memorabilia and is very proud of its Skylab satellite display: it disintegrated over Esperance in 1979 and NASA was reputedly fined $400 for littering.