Duke of Orleans Bay Ultimate Guide

Duke of Orleans Bay, affectionately known as ‘The Duke,’ is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. Sandwiched between the Cape Le Grand National Park and Cape Arid National Park, the area is often mistakenly overlooked by visitors. This common oversight has meant that this sensational stretch of coastline in Western Australia has managed to preserve its original charm and is wonderfully quiet, even in the height of summer.

The Dukes’ remote location and the sheer volume of excellent beaches close to Esperance have kept visitor numbers here to a minimum. However, their loss is most definitely your gain. Anyone who has visited the area is awe-struck at the incredible beaches, the fantastic scenery, and the activities on offer. This is one of Australia’s most sensational destinations, and visitors return time and again. 

How to get to Duke of Orleans Bay

The Duke of Orleans Bay is located on the southern coast of Australia, around 70 km east of Esperance. The bay and the surrounding beaches are all accessed via the 22km long Orleans Bay Road, which connects the town of Condingup with the coast. It’s a sealed road to the Orleans Bay Caravan Park and the car parks of the respective beaches. The road is easily accessible for 2WD vehicles, but you’ll need a 4WD to drive onto the beach and explore off-road.

To reach Condingup and Orleans Bay Road, you must travel eastbound from Esperance along Fisheries Road. It’s 70 km by road from Esperance to Condingup and a further 22 km to Duke of Orleans Bay. The total journey of 92 km should only take you just over an hour to complete.

Esperance to Duke of Orleans Bay Map

Best Things to see and do at Duke of Orleans Bay

Life and almost all of the best activities at Duke of Orleans Bay revolve around the beach. There’s a whole range of different beaches in the area, from the huge Wharton Beach to plenty of tiny secluded coves. The wealth of beaches means that the area caters to almost all water-based activities, so expect to spend much of your time in or on the water.

Swimming – There are plenty of sheltered areas for safe swimming, including at Duke of Orleans Bay and the neighboring Wharton Beach. While the tides in the area aren’t particularly strong, just be mindful that none of the beaches are patrolled. 

Surfing / Body Boarding – The best and most accessible beach for surfing and body boarding is nearby Wharton Beach. It has consistent waves throughout the year, although the surf is small by Australian standards. It’s an excellent place for both learners and kids to surf. There are other surf beaches further afield in the Cape Le Grand National Park.

Snorkeling – There’s some good snorkeling around the headland, with the area around Little Wharton particularly rewarding. You’ll need to bring your own equipment as there’s nowhere to rent equipment locally. The shop at the Duke of Orleans Caravan Park has some limited accessories.

Fishing -The waters of the Duke of Orleans Bay are teaming with fish. Whether fishing from the beach, a boat, or off the rocks, you’re almost guaranteed to land something here. If you don’t catch anything, you’re doing something seriously wrong.

Hiking – There are some excellent short hikes in the local area. You can hike up nearby Mount Belches for sensational panoramic views of the surrounding areas. Another popular hike is to the 3 sisters on the eastern side of the headland. 

Off-roading – It’s permitted to drive on all the beaches around Duke of Orleans Bay. You’ll need a 4WD to access any of the beaches, but once on them, the going is easy. It’s both fun and possible to follow the coast east from Duke of Orleans Bay through to Membinup Beach and beyond.

Sailing / Boating – There’s a beach boat ramp at the southern end of the beach, making it an easy spot to get out onto the water. The relatively calm waters make it an enjoyable place to explore on the water, and the fishing is off the chart.

View from the headland back along on the beautiful beach at the Duke of Orleans Bay.
The perfect peaceful setting of Duke of Orleans Bay

Other Attractions Close to Duke of Orleans Bay

We’ve already touched on a number of the other beaches in the area as great places for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Let’s take a closer look at each of these, as well as a few other attractions nearby:

Wharton Beach – Considered by some to be the best beach in Australia, Wharton Beach has it all. It offers excellent expanses of powdery soft white sand, crystal clear waters, and relatively few visitors. Add to the mix a beach that provides safe swimming and good entry-level surfing, and you’re onto a sure-fire winner. Access to the beach is easy, and you can bring your vehicle onto the beach, providing it’s a 4WD. There are limited facilities here, with public toilets and a picnic area.

Thistle Cove – A beautiful small cove close to the center of the headland. It’s very sheltered by the large protruding hammerhead peninsula, perfect if the wind is blowing in from the west. Access is via a narrow path at the east end of the beach. 

Tjaltjraak Boodja Park – The land surrounding Duke of Orleans Bay is a designated nature reserve and has just been named the Tjaltjraak Boodja Park. You can see the rich flora and fauna of the area here, with plenty of blooming wildflowers during the spring months.

Cape Le Grand National Park – Just a few kilometers west of Duke or Orleans Bay is the spectacular Cape Le Grand National Park. It’s home to countless beaches and bushwalking trails. Access from the east is somewhat limited, so you’ll only be able to reach several of the eastern beaches. You’ll need to drive past Condingup and back towards Esperance to access the more popular central and western parts of the park.

Victoria Harbour – If the beach at Duke of Orleans Bay isn’t remote and quiet enough for you, why not try Victoria Harbour in the Cape Le Grand National Park? This pristine beach is simply spectacular and sees very few visitors. There’s some good surfing here and on the neighboring beaches.

Condingup Vineyard – This up-and-coming vineyard is located just opposite town. During the summer months, its doors are open 12-4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. You can visit the shop and sample some of the vineyard’s excellent wines. It’s a good stop on the way to or back from The Duke.

Condingup Country Club – Just north of town is the 18-hole, par 72 Condingup Country Club golf course. There are also tennis courts, a bowling green, and a clubhouse within the grounds. If any of these sports are your thing, it’s worth stopping by.

View along the 4.5 km expanse of sand that is Wharton Beach near Esperance.

Where to Stay at Duke of Orleans Bay

There are a few options for staying at or close to the Duke of Orleans Bay. Be aware that bush camping is prohibited here, and you’ll be fined $100 if caught. 

Duke of Orleans Caravan Park – This is the only accommodation option at Duke of Orleans Bay. It’s a well-run park offering a range of accommodation options. The park caters for both campers and caravans with powered and unpowered pitches. It also provides park homes and chalets if you’re pursuing a little more comfort. There’s a range of facilities within the park, with showers, a shop, a kitchen, plus areas for the kids to play. You’re welcome to use the facilities at the park for a small cost, even if you’re not staying.

Membinup Beach Camp – Around 5 km east of Duke of Orleans Bay is the basic and rustic campsite of Membinup Beach. It’s accessible by 4WD along the beach or by 2WD along the Daniels Road. Facilities are at a minimum here, so you must come prepared. However, the setting on the beach is spectacular. There’s a good chance outside of school holidays that you’ll have the place all to yourself. 

Condingup Tavern – Slightly further afield is the Condingup Tavern in the small town of Condingup. They have several comfortable rooms to rent, plus a restaurant and a shop. It’s a 15-minute drive to the coast from Condingup. 

Condingup Airbnb – There are several local properties listed in Condingup on Airbnb. Like the Condingup Tavern, these properties are a 15-minute drive from Duke of Orleans Bay. This could be a good option if you like your privacy and comfort and don’t need to be right next to the beach. 

Where to Eat at Duke of Orleans Bay

The remote location of Duke of Orleans Bay means that local places to eat are in short supply. However, the good news is that there are a couple of options available:

Duke of Orleans Caravan Park – The local caravan park has a kitchen that serves hot meals to day visitors. It’s often the catch of the day or whatever’s available, but it’s usually pretty good. If you’re staying at the park, there are also BBQ facilities onsite. You can cook your catch or buy fresh fish from the onsite shop. 

Condingup Tavern – The closest option for a proper sit-down meal is the Condingup Tavern in Condingup. It’s a popular spot for day-trippers who stop by for lunch on the way or dinner on the return leg. The Condingup Tavern is open from breakfast until late. It receives many positive reviews online, although the prices aren’t the cheapest. There’s also an attached shop to stock up on any required provisions.  

View along the deserted Duke of Orleans Bay Beach

Best Time to Visit Duke of Orleans Bay

One of the very best things about the Duke of Orleans Bay is that it is seldom busy. Therefore, the usual considerations about crowds don’t apply when you’re considering when is the best time to visit. Nor is the cost of a visit. Given the limited accommodation options available and the relatively small difference in cost between the low and high season, cost isn’t a significant factor. The more considerable consideration with accommodation should be around availability. However, as long as you’re organized and plan ahead, you shouldn’t have any issues arranging accommodation. That just leaves the weather.

This part of southern Australia is blessed with a beautiful year-round climate. While the winter isn’t particularly appealing on account of a higher frequency of wet days and mild temperatures, the spring, summer, and autumn are all great times to visit. We’d recommend the summer, as the hot, long days are perfect for enjoying the beach and surrounding areas.

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