“Ohh you’re going to Wilsons Prom in winter? You’ll freeze!!”
The fourth year mid-year university break is an interesting one. Three weeks in the widwinter to relax (lol) after almost twenty weeks of hospital placement, remind your family that you exist, make some sort of study plan for fast-approaching finals, and hopefully do something good for the soul. Although some students are game to fill the three weeks with overseas travel, it just seemed like too little time for me. There seems to be just too much ~life stuff~ that needs attending to this time around. So, what were the options?
I knew I wanted to go back to Tasmania for the Winter Festival and see my friends and family, but it left a week to spare in Melbourne. Did I want to hang around the share house on tippy-toes while my housemates were still in exams? Errm, not really (sorry). The fresh air and outdoors were calling. Having already explored the Grampians and Great Ocean Road in recent months, there was one place left on my mind: Wilsons Promontory National Park. Lucky for me, there were two amazing gals who were also down for the adventure and we began scheming. Little did we know, the handful of days would bring panoramic views, starry skies, and an unforgettably sour wombat encounter.
DAY ONE: A SALVOS IN KOO WEE AND TOILET PAPER CAMPFIRES
It was finally the day to depart. We squeezed camping gear, a surfboard, and ourselves into the car, fuelled up and headed East. A questionable Spotify playlist and some near-death experiences later (is a road trip complete without these?), we had arrived peckish in the town of Koo Wee Rup. We had apparently forgotten a lot of basics such as sun protection, drinking water and metho for the Trangia… so the quick stop in Koo Wee developed into >1hr of Woolworths and desperately trying to find a hat in winter (thank you Salvos).
Eventually we arrived at the first place we had booked to camp: Bear Gully. Bear Gully Campground is not actually within the boundary of Wilsons Promontory National Park but about an hour outside. Being just away from Wilsons Prom meant that we had cool views across the bay of the Prom and were not restricted by National Park rules i.e. we could have a campfire. The campsite was deserted so the lush grassy plots were all ours and we got to work on lighting the fire.
With a fire pit full of logs and s’more ingredients begging to be used, the pressure was on to get a campfire going. Having had a brief downpour only an hour or so beforehand, all the available kindling was decidedly moist. After a brainstorming session we decided the only flammable thing we could use was the roll of toilet paper. Surprisingly, it actually worked really well.
Once the flames were strong, warmth began to radiate from campfire and the comforting crackling noise soon followed. It was then when we were able to begin cooking, realise we had left basically all the cutlery at home, make s’mores, and enjoy a warming Baileys as the cold crept in.
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DAY TWO: MOUNT BISHOP, SQUEAKY AND AN AUDACIOUS WOMBAT
Waking up the next morning was hard. The night was bitterly cold and my sleeping bag didn’t seem to quite be up to the challenge. We decided to pack up camp and hit the road to search for some surf. The drive to the chosen beach was gorgeous. Still being early in the morning meant that an eerie fog wrapped itself around the picture-perfect emerald hills of Gippsland. We wound along tree-covered roads and towards the waves.
Unfortunately… when we got there, there was not a wave to be seen. Anywhere. So we had to jump back in the car and head to the next campsite. The hour-long drive took us *finally* into the Wilsons Promontory National Park. The granite mountains were even more beautiful in the flesh and the turquoise blue bays made us momentarily forget that it was winter. Even on the road into the campsite we saw wombats, kangaroos and emus; a reminder that we weren’t in the city anymore!
We decided to stay at Tidal River which is a central area on the Prom with well-kitted-out facilities. We fired up the barbecues and made some egg and bacon rolls to fuel our day of adventure. The lovely ladies at the Tidal River Information Centre gave some amazing hiking recommendations and we were keen to squeeze in as many as possible.
When you think of Wilsons Prom, the iconic walk that comes to mind is Mount Oberon, and to be honest, it was the only one we definitely knew we would do. So it was refreshing to discover another walk which apparently had similar epic views over the coastline: Mount Bishop. We laced up the hiking boots and began the energetic hike. Forty-five minutes later, we had reached the summit and our jaws dropped. The summit overlooked white quartz beaches, granite mountains, and winding bitumen snaking through forests. It was breathtaking. Looking out along the expansive blue sea was a treat to the eye after a semester of suburbia.
With the first hike of the trip accomplished and our expectations more than met, we decided to head down to one of the beautiful beaches we had scouted out from the summit. Squeaky Beach is a beautiful stretch of quartz sand which squeaks underfoot. With bright blue water and large burnt-orange boulders at one end, it was everything beautiful about coastal Australia. A quick walk across the point and we arrived at Picnic Bay which was overflowing with golden evening sun and plenty of sea spray. Picnic Bay wasn’t as strikingly beautiful as Squeaky Beach, but with fewer crowds, it felt a lot more special.
With the sun setting at 5:00pm, we had to head back to camp and start on an early dinner before the dark made it impossible. The BBQ meal we cooked was satisfying — there is something about camping which makes you appreciate every meal a lot more than at home. Now that the campsite was well and truly dark, we headed back to the tent for an early night.
That was when we noticed something. Something… strange.
Peering back at us from the tent was a large gaping hole. It didn’t look like your average rip, it was a decidedly large and round punctuation in the mesh. It didn’t look human, that’s for sure. We decided that there wasn’t all that much we could do and began unpacking the sleeping gear. That’s when we were overwhelmed by a pungent smell. Wafting out of my sleeping bag was something that was instantly recognisable as urine, but it sure as hell didn’t smell like any urine we were used to. We looked at each other, and as if we all had a simultaneous lightbulb moment, whispered “wombat” in unison. As in some kind of bizarre horror film, we turned around, and the furry face of a wombat was protruding into the tent. We screamed, it ran away, and we were left kind of confused.
So not only did a wombat barge through our tent even though there was no food but it had the audacity to pee all over my sleeping bag. Thanks, mate!
DAY THREE: MOUNT OBERON AND CHEESY SUNSETS
After a sleeping-bag-less night, waking up for the Mount Oberon Sunrise seemed like a pretty good alternative to lying in the tent inhaling wombat-distilled urea. It was pitch black and the sky was clear of clouds, so the mission was good to go. The track is mostly gravel road so is fairly easy to tackle but the views aren’t remarkable. It isn’t until you reach the very summit that you realise exactly why Mt. Oberon is so famous. From the top you have uninterrupted 360º views down the Prom. Watching the sun rise over Squeaky Beach with cotton candy skies and crisp winter air was something special.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing around the campsite and enjoying some time on the many nearby beaches. An attempt to surf was made but with waves that could only be described as flat, we settled for eating chocolate and drinking tea on the sand. It was nice to just sit back and relax after the busy semester.
When the day started to wind down and sunset loomed, we knew it was time to activate our inner basic b**ches and head for… sunsets, brie and red wine. We packed the essentials into our bags and began walking. We meandered along Tidal River and eventually reached Pillar Point, a rocky pillar jutting out between Squeaky and Norman Beach. Eventually, we reached the lookout just as the sun was beginning to turn into seemingly liquid gold. With a keep-cup of red wine and triangle of brie, we watched the colours change as we reminisced about the time spent on the Prom.
DAY FOUR: DUNES AND TUNES
We woke up well-aware of the sad realisation that it was time to head back to Melbourne. With the tent packed up and car bursting, we tootled back to the big smoke, but of course, no road trip is complete without a detour. It was recommended to us to visit the “Big Drift” which is a series of massive sand dunes near the entrance to the park. They went on and on as far as the eye could see and there was only one other person there when we visited. It was a surreal experience and not what I had expected on the Prom!
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BEST THINGS TO SEE IN WILSONS PROM
Full disclaimed: there are so many beautiful experiences on Wilsons Promontory and there is a 100% chance that I have missed something epic. I have just listed the places we visited that we loved and I can genuinely recommend, rather than listing every possible cool thing there. Hopefully I will be able to get back down to Wilsons Prom soon to check out some new walks and elongate this list!
1. MOUNT BISHOP
This was probably our favourite walk from Tidal River. Mount Bishop is not as popular as Mount Oberon, and we found that to be it’s strength. With few people on the track, we were able to enjoy ourselves and it felt more like a hike. Once you reach the top, there are some boulders to sit atop and soak up the view. I would argue that the view up here is equally as beautiful as Mount Oberon, looking out over Squeaky Beach, Norman Beach, and more.
Distance 3.7km | Time 1.5hr return | Difficulty Easy-Moderate
2. PILLAR POINT
Pillar Point look out is an easy walk from Tidal River with epic rewards. You walk over and along Tidal River, walking through the bushland of the point until you eventually open out onto boulders. From these boulders you can enjoy an unparalleled coastal view. We came here for sunset one evening and it was nothing short of incredible.
Distance 2.8km | Time 1hr return | Difficulty Easy
3. MOUNT OBERON
This is the walk you have probably heard about: the Mount Oberon Summit Walk. This hike is a steady incline up a gravel sealed road until the summit is reached. At the summit, you are treated to panoramic views over the Prom. A visit here at sunrise is highly recommended, with an easy to follow path, it is manageable to do it in the dark before the first rays of light.
Distance 3.4km | Time 1hr return | Difficulty Moderate
4. SQUEAKY BEACH
Squeaky Beach is the Prom’s most famous beach. The bright, white quartz sound ‘squeaks’ as you walk along it, giving the beach it’s name. The beautiful white sand contrasts with the turquoise blue waters of the bay and creates a beautiful, and iconically Australian, scene. Squeaky Beach can be accessed by car or by several small walks. If you decide to walk to Squeaky from Tidal River, it’ll take around 50 minutes.
5. PICNIC BAY
Picnic Bay ended up being one of our favourite spots to hang out. This beach is no-fuss and doesn’t have as many people around. It’s a great place to sit back, relax, and watch surfers trying their luck. Picnic Bay can be accessed from the carpark which is about 400m away. Alternatively, you can tie all the beaches together from Tidal River (Picnic, Squeaky, and Whiskey) in a 6km, 3hr round trip.
6. LOO-ERN TRACK
If you’re looking for a very short walk then look no further than the Loo-Ern track. This board-walked track leaves and returns to Tidal River Campground. I would recommend doing the Loo-Ern track because it is super quick and shows a different side to the Prom (other than stunning beaches), weaving through marshland and river.
Distance 500m | Time 15min loop | Difficulty Easy
7. BIG DRIFT
As you walk from the Stockyard Campsite through farmland and scrub, you don’t really imagine what is lying ahead of you. Eventually, the track opens up to a steep sandy incline, and once you summit it, you will see endless sand dunes. Big Drift is worth seeing because it may not be what you expect to see at Wilsons Prom. These dunes are epic and expansive, and provide something a little different to the traditional Prom experience.
Distance 2km | Time 1hr | Difficulty Easy-Moderate
SOME HANDY HINTS
- Book your campsite in advance to avoid fees or missing out!
- Bring enough food, drink and fuel to last the whole trip because there aren’t many/any shops nearby
- Beware of wombats and your tent!!
- The drive is 3 hours from Melbourne, so make sure you have a decent amount of time at Wilsons Prom so you can enjoy the hikes and surroundings. It is definitely worth spending a few nights here.
Have you been to Wilsons Prom or have questions? Comment below – I would love to hear from you!
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