Cape le Grand was named on 16 December 1792 by French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteaux. He named the cape after after Ensign Jacques-Bertrand le Grand (1763-1798) (and later Lieutenant and Captain) of the 1791-1793 expedition vessel, L'Esperance, who bravely scaled the mast during a severe storm, guiding the two vessels Esperance and Recherche through the reefs safely into Esperance Bay.
The names of Lucky Bay and Rossiter Bay recall a memorable incident in Australia's exploration by its European settlers. It was at Lucky Bay that, during his exploratory expedition from east to west in 1841, explorer Edward John Eyre and his Aboriginal assistant Wylie were saved from starvation when they accidentally came across English Captain Rossiter and crew of the French whaler Mississippi at Lucky Bay. Lieut. Matthew Flinders sheltered from a storm at Lucky Bay on 9 December 1801 and gave it its name for that reason, but doubtless Eyre would have deemed it lucky too.
Coastal Trail: A 15km long hiking trail follows the coastline from Le Grand beach, passing through Hellfire Bay, Thistle Cove, Lucky Bay and ending at Rossiter Bay. The trail is well signposted and information boards along the way point out the significant flora, fauna and cultural features. Most people take 6-8 hours to complete the whole length, though less ambitious hikers may opt to take on just one of the four sections. Each section takes about 2-3 hours except for the short section from Thistle Cove to Lucky Bay which you can easily walk in 30mins. The two sections from Le Grand Beach to Thistle Cove are the most difficult as the headland necessitates negotiating varying inclines and descents. The other two sections from Thistle cove to Rossiter Bay are more easy going as the terrain is flatter and the Thistle Cove-Lucky bay section is easy and short enough to be suitable for children. The start or end point of each section is accessible by road, enabling you to have someone drop you off and pick you up and the other end.
Le Grand Heritage Trail: 1 km circuit, allow 40 minutes, easy. Starts from Thistle Cove car park along Coastal Trail to Lucky Bay.
Bird Sanctuary: 400 m return, allow 15 minutes, easy stroll from Rossiter Bay car park.
2hr return, 30-45 mins up: A popular climb as it's not too hard to reach the 262m summit, though a reasonable amount of fitness and balance is needed to traverse the constant incline and scamper over obstructing boulders. Markers from the bottom show a general path to follow up the side with the gentler incline. The lower half is more or less flat (albeit with an upwards slant) but the upper reaches requires some scrambling around and over rocks. Strong winds may cause some difficulty and extra caution is needed in the rain as the moss covered surface gets very slippery. It's a good idea to take water, wear a hat and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
Frenchman's Peak summit view
Mount Le Grand
3hr return, 1 hr up: Slightly higher than Frenchmans Peak at 345m, but a far more challenging climb as there are not any defined paths to the summit. A pair of caves on the eastern side are worth exploring and, of course, the view from the top worth the climb. The most direct access is from Hellfire Bay.
30 mins return: At 180m this one is a mere bump compared to the other peaks. The trail starts at the Lucky Bay campsite and winds its way up the very gentle hill and is pleasant walk in the evening.
The abundant marine life in the crystal clear waters and a few wrecks attract divers to the region, though the frigid waters and turbulent current of the southern ocean might deter the feint hearted.
Sanko Harvest wreck
Sanko Harvest wreck, (12km of south of Hellfire Bay). The second largest diveable wreck in the world and the largest on the Australian coast. The 33,000 tonne Japanese tanker hit a reef in 1991 and after spilling its cargo of fertilizer and deisel into the bay was declared unsalvagable and scuttled. The sunken 174m long ship has broken into 3 peices that lay at a depth of 13 to 44m. The hull is covered with kelp, anemones, sponges and sea tulips though it is still possible to access the ships bridge, engine room and the tower cranes. The site was declared a marine sanctuary in 1994 for its resident schools of blue groper, red snapper and the occasional seal or dolphin. The turbulent southern ocean and strong winds make it a dificult dive though around April is said to best time to dive as the winds are a little lighter.
Islands of the Recherche Archipelago
Numerous scraggly islands and small granite domes with their heads barely above water that are part of the Archipelago, lay within the park. Underwater granite walls, boulders, caves and reefs can be explored. The largest are Ram and Mondrain islands.
Two camping grounds are situated at Cape Le Grand National Park, one at Lucky Bay, and the other at Le Grand Beach (see map). Facilities include septic toilets and showers. A camping fee is charged. Firewood is scarce in the park and you should bring a portable gas stove.
Boats are best launched at Lucky Bay. Small boats can also be launched from Cape Le Grand Beach. Launching at Rossiter Bay is not recommended. These beaches are notoriously treacherous for vehicles and it is easy to become bogged in the most innocent looking wet or dry sand. Ask the ranger about surface conditions and tides.