The southernmost tip of the Mainland has been named Wilson’s Promontory. It is a rugged cape dressed in a soft green, surrounded by inviting water. The cape is stretching out its mass in the Bass Strait in the state of Victoria. Long ago when the water was higher, there was a narrow strip of landmass, like a bridge here, leading to Tasmania. That is not the case today. In stormy days, ferocious waves move over the water and a journey across the strait with the ferry Spirit of Tasmania can make anyone seasick. In 1898, the area got its status as a national park. Since then, the park has been saved from exploitation and has instead expanded its borders on several occasions. Today, Wilson’s Promontory National Park spans over an area of about 50,000 hectares. The waters around the park are also protected as a marine park. This makes the corals, seaweed and seals able to survive here. Wilson’s Promontory is, to a large extent, still unspoiled wilderness.
The Prom is Victoria’s oldest and most beloved national park, located less than three hours from Melbourne. It is a wonderful place to walk, swim and surf. With its rocky coastline, dramatic nature and fine sand, the Prom is a popular place for families and friends on a daytrip. Many choose to camp on one of the immensely popular campsites. Tidal River is the only township within the park, where there among other things are plenty of tent sites only a stone’s throw from the sandy Norman Beach. Here, the animals have become accustomed to humans and it is not uncommon for them to seek contact in exchange for a bite to eat. However, this is not allowed, so resist the temptation to get too close to the wombats that move about in the bush.
If camping is not for you, increase the comfort and rent a cabin within the park. The most beautiful and exotic place to stay at is at the tip of the headland next to the lighthouse. Here are cottages to rent, suited for those who can walk a few dozens of kilometres. There are many cool hikes to embark on in the park depending on your enthusiasm, experience and fitness. One of the shorter hikes is the Mount Oberon Summit Walk. Work your way up the steep trail and become richly rewarded at the top of the mountain with stunning views of the landscape. If you like challenges and can walk for several succeeding days, try The Great Prom Walk. During a four-days hike, you’ll have the chance to discover many of The Prom’s gems during daytime and you get to sleep under the starry night skies.
Sights and experiences
Tidal River is the hub of Wilson’s Promontory and thus a given starting point. Here you will find a Visitor Centre with information about various hikes within the park and a small shop that sells odds and ends. In the evenings, movies are displayed at the outdoor Tidal River Open-Air Cinema. For specific information, please contact the Visitor Centre. In the immediate vicinity is a campground and a short walk away you will find Norman Beach, a beautiful and wide beach near Mount Oberon. After you become acquainted with the beach, hike up the mountain to get a better view of the beach. Test the Mt Oberon Summit Walk which is three and a half kilometres long and on average takes about an hour one-way trip. Start walking from the parking lot at Telegraph Saddle and remember to bring a large bottle of water. It’s steep and there are almost no shady areas to protect against the sun. Once on the top it can be windy and chilly, but the view of the cape is magical.
Lilly Pilly Gully is not far from Tidal River. Go for an “easy” walk of almost six kilometres while watching the vegetation shift around you. Through the rainforest that leads to heaths, which then becomes lower shrubbery and finally a forest of eucalyptus. This trail is well suited for those travelling together with slightly older children. Look for wild animals along the way. Go on foot towards the Squeaky Beach, one of the finer beaches in the area. The sand contains a large part of quartz which makes it squeak when you step on it, hence the name Squeaky Beach. A little further north is Picnic Bay and Whisky Bay which offers slightly smaller beaches surrounded by rugged granite blocks.
One of the most popular hikes spanning over several days is The Great Prom Walk (visitvictoria.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Outdoor-activities). You can choose which parts you want to see, making the hike between 35-50 km. Expect the walk to take between three and four days if you don’t want to rush your way through. Start walking from Tidal River, climb up the Windy Saddle and descend to Sealers Cove. From there, follow the coast along Refuge Cove and climb along the steep trail to Kersops Peak and onwards to Little Waterloo Bay. Head over to Wilson’s Promontory Lighthouse located at the end of the headland. To get back, walk through the forest along Telegraph Track.
If you are an experienced surfer, you can try the waves at one of the beaches, such as Norman Beach. However, keep in mind that the waves can be very high and there are no lifesavers nearby. Surfing without experience is not recommended. If you do not have your own car, you can discover Wilson’s Promontory by going on a one-day or several-day trip. For example, Bunyip Tours can take you to both The Prom and Phillip Island (wotif.com/things-to-do/2-day-phillip-island-wilsons-promontory-national-park-trip.a190601.activity-details) or only the Prom all the way from Melbourne (wotif.com/things-to-do/wilsons-promontory-national-park-full-day-trip.a190627.activity-details).
Good to know
There is a Visitor Information Centre along Ring Road in Tidal River, within the national park. The Centre has accessibility options to make it easier for wheelchair users to get around. Make this your first stop in the park to get more information about what there is to do. Buy the brochure Discovering the Prom, which is invaluable if you are going to stay for a long time and especially if you intend to embark on a several-days walk. The Centre is open daily between 08:30 and 16:30 and it takes about half an hour to drive here from the park entrance.
Warnings and preparations
It works fine to visit the area all year round but count on crowds if you come during Easter or peak of the summer. If you have the opportunity, it is worth planning your trip, so you can experience the park when it is less crowded. Make sure you get permission if you plan to embark on a longer hike. Book this through Parks Victoria (parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/wilsons-promontory-national-park/things-to-do). Remember to bring enough food for the hike as there is limited opportunities to shop within the park. Some parts of the park can be closed off for visitors due to maintenance. Stay up to date through Parks Victoria’s website to avoid disappointments.
Access to transport is essential for discovering the national park (wotif.com/Car-Hire). A convenient way is to rent a car together with others and share the cost. Or, take the free bus serving between Tidal River and Telegraph Saddle during the summer and Easter. Between November and April, they also run on weekends. A time schedule is available at the Visitor Centre. During this period, the parking at Telegraph Saddle is closed.
There are 484 campsites at Tidal River, near the Visitor Centre (parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/wilsons-promontory-national-park/things-to-do/tidal-river). Within walking distance of Norman Beach and a minute from the local store, this is a top location. Twenty of the places have electricity to fit a caravan. During summer, Easter and other long weekends it is imperative to book in advance. From Christmas to the end of January, a raffle will decide who gets a spot.
The campsites are extremely popular and are booked up at a furious pace, so book early via Parks Victoria (parkstay.vic.gov.au/wilsons-promontory-national-park). There is a toilet, shower, kitchen and a laundry room on site. There is also drinking water available and a BBQ area. However, there is no fuel so make sure you bring this. Access to parking is available.
Take the chance to rest your head in an exciting place. At the end of the headland is Wilson’s Promontory Lightstation, built in 1859. Here are several fully equipped cabins now available for rent via Parks Victoria (parkstay.vic.gov.au/wilsons-promontory-national-park). This is the southernmost part of the country and getting here is no easy match. You must carry your own luggage and bring all necessary food. Plus, you must take all rubbish with you when leaving. Either you can follow the trail from the parking lot at Telegraph Saddle (20 km one-way trip). Or, take the even more beautiful coastal trail. You start at Tidal River and walk via Oberon (24 km one-way trip). Once you are there, an unbeatable view over the bay awaits. For those who prefer a slightly more accessible or even a central accommodation option, you have to be quick to book in (hotelscombined.com/Place/Wilsons_Promontory.htm).