IMAGINE walking down Australia’s whitest beach, admiring the contrast of white sand against the piercing blue of the waters of Lucky Bay, in the Cape Le Grand National Park.
Kangaroos hop past, bravely close, eyeing you carefully as they bound by leaving their distinct prints in the sand.
You look up at the stretch of beach, trying to focus on what looks like some sort of van in the distance before your nostrils flare at the familiar scent of coffee.
It’s not a mirage, but the Lucky Bay Café, parked up and serving coffee right on the magnificent shores of Lucky Bay.
It’s easy for Doc Reynolds to remember when he and his wife, Robyne, officially opened the Lucky Bay Café for business as it was a memorable day in more ways than one.
“We opened the day the Dockers played in the grandfinal,” Doc recalls with a laugh.
“It was also the start of the school holidays, in September, 2013, and we’re now heading into our fifth season.”
Doc and Robyne are no strangers to the business world, as they have been running cultural tours in the Esperance region for many years.
It was their experience from those tours where they saw the opportunity for a coffee van.
“People would see my clients having damper and billy tea in the Cape Le Grand National Park and were always asking if there was anywhere they could get a cuppa and something to eat,” Doc said.
As it turned out they ended up looking for another income stream, as business slowed when the global financial crisis hit.
At the time they had two tourist companies, so they reduced back to one and explored the idea of having a coffee van.
“We crunched some numbers and realised that at the time, the Cape Le Grand National Park was getting about 120,000 visitors a year and the majority of those people were visiting Lucky Bay,” Doc said.
“So Robyne and I decided we would look at the opportunity and then we decided to pull back on the cultural tours and start the Lucky Bean Café.”
Being staunch advocates for their region, Doc said they were committed to sourcing as much locally as they could for their new business.
They had their van designed and made in Esperance by a local sheet metal company and invested quite heavily in the equipment needed to ensure they were well-prepared.
Doc said there were a few hassles obtaining the commercial operators’ licence needed for operating a mobile food van, but once that was sorted, they were set.
Given their location, they only operate the café seasonally, parking up at Lucky Bay from mid-September through to the end of April/early May.
“It took us a while to get ourselves established and now, people expect us there and look forward to coming out to enjoy a coffee and something to eat while sitting on the beach looking out to the crystal-clear waters of Lucky Bay,” Doc said.
“Being remotely located on the beach, people won’t come out if the weather is cold and wet but that’s just something we have to deal with and generally when it’s like that, we just won’t go out there.
“But we try to be out there most times.
“We’re a necessity now in the park, people expect to see us there.”
The Reynolds offer Australian-grown and roasted coffee, from Coffee Works Mareeba, Queensland, but are currently looking at sourcing from a local Denmark coffee roaster, Ravens Coffee.
Then there is freshly baked damper, bush jam (made from quandongs) and a variety of muffins including bush-flavoured muffins, all handmade by Robyne.
“We offer some unique coffees as well as the usual, we’ve got the joeycino and babycino, which are secret recipes designed to ensure that people get an authentic Australian experience on Australia’s whitest beach,” Doc said.
“As far as I’m aware, we’re the only remote coffee van in Australia where you can enjoy a coffee while on the beach, watching the kangaroos.
“It’s an iconic Australian experience and I think us being traditional owners adds to that authentic experience.”
There’s no doubt they have met plenty of characters during their time operating the Lucky Bay Café and meeting new people is something they truly treasure.
Doc said most tourists were just genuinely surprised to see a coffee van on the beach, so they would quite often buy a coffee initially and then come back later for an ice cream or something after exploring the beach.
“People walk down the beach and see us, ‘bloody hell, it’s a coffee van!’, so we cater for the impulse buyers,” Doc said.
“Although some people tend to think the van is like a Tardis and that I’ve got a never-ending supply of everything in there, bait, fishing gear, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.”
Coffee on the beach is certainly a standout, but it’s also clear that visitors relish Doc and Robyne’s obvious passion for the area and their warm, welcoming personalities.
“We enjoy the quality of life and Australia and the world comes to us,” Doc said.
“We have a sticker on the van that says, ‘there are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met’ and that’s what life is about – making friends and it’s easy to do in the serenity of the surrounds.
“Our main aim was to create a unique Australian remote experience for visitors while they see what’s been recognised as Australia’s whitest beach.
“We just try to enhance the experience for them by offering something unexpected.”