Wilson’s Prom is a true revelation for the traveller who leaves the caffeine high of Melbourne seeking a more sedate pace. Very few places in this part of the world can you be in the midst of nature such a short distance of a cosmopolitan city. Your travel style suits Wilson’s to a tee! Plenty of wild beaches, hiking and wildlife. The luxury comes from a self contained cottage maybe, on the edge of the Prom as there are few options in the park itself.
I would suggest somewhere like the ‘Wilson’s Prom Retreat’ in Yanakie some five minutes drive from the park for somewhere to rest your head each evening with stunning sea views. Hiking abound at Wilson’s, from overnight hikes to a quick wander from the car park. There’s something for everyone. My personal favourites are Squeaky Beach where the sand literally squeaks under your feet, and the walk from Whiskey Bay to Picnic Bay. If you want a little altitude, head up the 585m Mount Oberon for some picture perfect 360 degree views. What struck me about Wilson’s was the wildlife. From the road you can see OZ’s big 4. Kangaroos (hundreds of them), Koalas, Echidnas, and huge Emu. The best part of all, they are wild, in their natural habitat. Be sure to pack a warm layer however as in October the weather can blast the coastal region of the park even when the sun is shining, the wind can really howl!
A gentle introduction to the park
Wilson’s Prom lies a leisurely and picturesque 220 km drive from the bright lights of Melbourne passing through delightful little towns and the rolling, lush farmland of Gippsland. If you are making this drive during your first day of the four, drive slowly and sample some of what this area has to offer. It is well within the realms of possibility to take a longer route from Melbourne via Phillip Island, another one of Victoria’s major attractions. From Philip Island, take the B460 road which provides you with several opportunities to drive along the coast on quiet roads. Just remember to take a map (or GPS app for your smartphone, although signal may be patchy).
If you arrive at dusk or during the night, drive carefully as the local wildlife such as kangaroos and wombats, are prone to jumping out in front of you. You are entering their territory, where you are the stranger and they are free to roam so always be mindful of this.
My accommodation recommendation, using the information you gave me, fits nicely into the lower end of your $50-100 budget per person, per night. During October the supremely peaceful ‘Wilson’s Prom retreat’ costs $60 pppn and gives you a lot of space for your money and panoramic views to die for!
Wilson’s Prom has an area of 50,000 hectares, is the oldest National Park in Australia and lies on the southernmost tip of mainland Australia. It is said that the area has been inhabited for some 6,500 years so wherever you go, you feel like you are walking in the footsteps of history. Recent history also shows itself here in the park. The Australian commandos trained here during the second world war giving you an idea of the wild terrain you will encounter.
If you have given yourselves a full four days exploring the park then on your first day I would recommend taking a drive from your retreat in Yanakie to the gates of the park where the friendly rangers will provide you with maps and information on the park. Drive all the way to Tidal River where the visitor’s centre and most of the park’s facilities are situated. If you really can’t resist a little walk on the beach then stop off at beautiful Whisky Bay to feel the wind on your face and smell the ocean.
At the visitor’s centre you will of course find hundreds of other people and vehicles as this is the end of the road but use the opportunity to get weather updates if you plan on hiking, fill up water bottles and buy any supplies you forgot.
From here, get your bearings by taking a hike up the 580 metre Mount Oberon, near to the visitor’s centre. It’s 3.5 km to the summit and should only take an hour. The path is more of a vehicle track so is not too challenging for the family but there are some cliff edges that deserve some caution. Take a warm layer as the summit is exposed and it’s location makes it prone to cool winds from the sea.
From the top you will be rewarded with far reaching views of the whole Prom and is a great way to get some photos of all the little places you’ll explore later in the trip.
If the weather is nice, take a packed lunch and sit atop the peak marvelling at some of the most stunning scenery in the whole of Australia.
After having seen those beautiful beaches from the summit you may be desperate to get down to the ocean so head back to the car and drive to the main road passing the turn-off to the visitor’s centre on the left. A short distance later you will see a left turn to Squeaky Beach.
Park up and take a stroll down to the white sands and sparkling sea jumping over (or wading through) the outlet stream and heading left along the beach itself. Most people stay to the right without jumping over the stream meaning you guys should get the majority of the beach to yourself at this time of year!
Here you will marvel at the unique squeaky sands that makes this place special. The sand is made of tiny round quartz grains which literally and audibly squeak when you walk on them.
You can choose to relax here on the beach for the remainder of the day if the wind is still or you may decide to keep on walking.
In this case, retrace your steps along the beach towards the car park. Take the track to the left which takes you into the brush though beautifully eerie vegetation and up onto heathland.
The path connects Squeaky beach and Picnic Bay and is an easy 40 minute walk.
Picnic Bay is a picture perfect crescent shaped beach with turquoise waters and white sands….I can hear you cooing already! 🙂
You will of course have to retrace your steps back to the Squeaky Beach and collect your car but there is also a car park at Picnic if you choose to drive around.
A word of caution. The beaches are beautiful for sure but they usually have rocky headlands which do look inviting to clamber up. However, the ocean can be a cruel mistress here and the waves hitting these headlands are huge. People have in the past, sadly, been swept away from these rocks.
With all this fresh air, you guys could well be shattered by this point so head back to your retreat and watch the sunset over the water with the BBQ sizzling away tantalizingly on the veranda. You are in nature’s playground remember so keep an eye out for the ‘Big ones’, Roos, Koalas and Wombats in your garden.
That completes day one.
Wilson’s is abundant with wildlife, you may have already spotted some of Australia’s most famous creatures from the comfort of your retreat, they may even have kept you awake last night with their mischievous antics!
In a full three months in Australia I saw Emu only here at Wilson’s Prom showing how special this place really is. The wildlife, much like us humans, see this area as a haven to go about their lives in peace.
You’ll find scores of emu, hundreds of kangaroos, koala, wombats, spiky echidnas and a large variety of birds including lorikeets, rosella and sea eagles. You may even be lucky enough to spot possums, bandicoots and yellow tailed black cockatoos.
Toady we’ll combine some easy walks with some of the best opportunities for wildlife spotting.
As you enter the park through the main gates, drive a small distance to ‘Five Mile Road’ and turn left. From the car park after the gates, turn left and follow the path through pretty woodland to Miller’s Landing on the coast. Here you will find the southernmost mangroves in the world.
The track is a loop so when you begin your return you can take the opportunity to walk to Vereker Outlook which gives you some good wildflower spotting and views of Corner Inlet, Darby Saddle and Cotters Beach.
Always keep your eyes peeled for the animals, trust me, they are there but of course they are wary of humans so the more noise there is the less likely you are to see them.
When returning to the car we head to a little known spot where you are almost guaranteed to spot kangaroos and emu and a host of others.
Leave the car park and head down Five Mile Road to the main park road. Turn left and look for a parking area on the left hand edge of the road beside an obvious large square patch of grassland.
When I visited I didn’t see signage but if signs are now in place it’ll be called ‘Woodland walk’.
From here you walk across the grass and into the low brush before emerging onto heathland. In the distance you may notice a grass airstrip. Here, almost immediately you will see the kangaroos!
The emu are a little more secretive choosing to stay close to the bushes so avert your excited gaze from the roos and focus on the edges of the heathland once in a while and those huge grey birds will become visible. It does take a while for your brain to retune and actually register them, they are truly majestic.
The Woodland Walk is a good 7 km round trip which should take about 2 1/2 hours to complete but allow time for lots of photos and lunch with an wild view!
The landscape is not mind blowing on this walk but it’s the animals that are the main attraction.
This should complete your day depending on how long you and the children spend watching the animals. If you have a little more time, you can drive to the end of Cotters lake track (the entrance is on the left as you turn the car around from the Woodland Walk car park and head towards the exit of the park). Park the car up and walk the 1.2 km to Cotters Beach rounding off an exciting day.
Time for a surf!
Today, lets get into the water! Provided by local company Offshore Surf School (my advice is totally unbiased and I am not affiliated with any company I suggest).
Wilson’s is a designated marine reserve and Australia is famous for surfing so why not combine the two for a day looking in on the land from the sea?!
Offshore have a range of activities available so it’s best to take a look at their website and see what takes your fancy. However, surfing is a sport many people say they wish they had tried but never took the chance so my pick would be a group lesson (minimum 4 people) priced at $55 per person for 2 hours with all equipment provided.
A 6 hour set of lessons will cost $160 per person if you really want to expand your skills although bear in mind this is going to be VERY tiring!
Offshore welcome any emails or phone calls to discuss what they offer and you can meet them at the Tidal River visitor centre on the day of your activity as they are based in Inverloch, just out of the park.
At the end of the day you will be exhausted. Being out on the ocean, concentrating on learning a new skill will really take it out of you so please drive safely back to your retreat, grab some hot showers and crack open a cold beer from the fridge. Then you can discuss who was a natural surfer and who was a disaster!
One final hike to finish off your trip
To complete your visit to the park I can suggest a hike along the far South West corner of the Prom along stunning coastline and pristine beaches.
You get views of both mountains and sea the entire way and you stumble upon surreal turquoise waters and rock pools so if you have swimwear and snorkels, bring them along.
You’re looking at a total distance of 10 km, with relatively easy terrain and very little ascent departing from Tidal River visitor centre onto Norman Beach, Norman Point, Little Oberon Bay and then Oberon Bay itself.
When you factor in lunch and swimming breaks, it makes for a perfect last day.
When I researched this hike myself, I found a truly excellent (and long) write-up with detailed instructions which I would suggest you print out and take with you. I’ve posted the link at the bottom of today’s itinerary.
I found this hike gave me a fuller picture of this park’s rugged scenery juxtaposed against the vibrant colours of the sands and sea. The heath covered mountain sides seem to shimmer in the sunlight and the sound of the ocean making landfall with constant regularity makes one realise the power nature possesses and how lucky we are to be privilaged enough to be there.
Before you leave the outskirts of Melbourne, it may be an idea to stock up on groceries at one of the larger supermarkets as supplies in the park itself are limited and expensive. However, buy your yoghurt from a small dairy farm or one of the smaller towns en-route as Gippsland yoghurt is divine!
Driving in Wilson’s Prom from dusk is more hazardous due to the habits of the local wildlife. You WILL see them beside the road at some point, so drive slower, protect them and even grab a close up shot!
See the park from ever angle you can. Hike a mountain, hike the coast, surf on or snorkel under the sea. Get a perfect taste of what there is here. It truly is a revelation.