Capn's Blog

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Camping at the "Prom"

Camping at Wilson's Promontory

Last weekend my boys and I went for an overnight hike and camp at Wilson's Promontory, a national park containing the Australian mainland's most southern point. The "Prom" would be an island, except it is connected to the mainland by an isthmus of sand.

The park is about 200km from Melbourne, and it takes about three hours to drive there. We're about 50 kilometres away, on the isthmus.

The granite outcrops of the mountains are getting closer.

This is a longshot down to one of the beaches on the eastern side, called Squeaky Beach. The shape of the grains of sand mean that it squeaks when you walk on it. Really cool!

The lower parts of the prom are covered in sand dunes and coastal scrub. Every few decades, fire renews the vegetation.

Most people who go to the prom stop at Tidal River, where the road ends. There are many campsites and a shop there, but no electricity. We stopped here to pick up our hiking permit, and we saw this kookaburra on the roof.

Kookaburras are very communal birds, with brothers and sisters and cousins helping raise the young. They like to eat insects, small lizards and snakes. Their territorial call sounds somewhat like someone having a mighty laugh, so it's very cheery to hear them.

There's a shuttle bus from Tidal River to another carpark at the start of our walk. We parked our car, sorted out our stuff, and caught this shuttle bus.

The hike is in three parts:

  • A climb from the carpark to Windy Saddle. The environment is quite dry and gravelly.
  • A descent through wet forest down the mountain.
  • A walk along boards to cross a swamp.

Windy Saddle. We were tired after climbing to Windy Saddle, so we put everything down and had a rest. It was raining, so we covered everything with a poncho. Although this picture doesn't show it very well, the animals keep this area as a short lawn, whereas all around is forest. Because it's between two mountains, it can get really windy here!

The track is gravel in the first third, and dirt most of the way in the second. This area was logged for timber a hundred years ago, but now it's a national park. This big tree crossing our path may have grown before that time.

The final third is the boardwalk. There's nearly 2km of boardwalk across the swamp. At one point I stepped off the boards and onto the swampy land. Big mistake! My shoe was covered in seven or eight leeches, all desperate to climb up my shoe, onto my leg and suck my blood! Bob also got one on his leg, but we got it off before it started to feed.

The swamp drains into a creek. When you get to the bridge over the creek, you know you're nearly there!

Finally we've arrived at Sealer's Cove! This is the view looking north along the beach.

Looking south, plus my thumb. On the far left is a large rock. That's where the campsite is.

Just before the campsite, there's a creek. You have to cross this to get to the campsite. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for high tide. If you're not really careful picking your way across, you can get quite wet! Boys took off their clothes to cross, as the water level was up to their armpits.

Bob having a rest on a rock after crossing the creek.

Setting up the campsite. I'm unpacking the tent and Bob is running around exploring. Tim is sitting on an enormous boulder next to our campsite, taking this photo. You can see his finger, and his shoes.

Here's the tent all set up. Even though our tent is bigger than anyone else's (and heavier too!) it's still dwarfed by the rock next to us.

After everything was set up, we went down to the water for an explore. The sun was just setting. We walked a long way that day!

It was about this time that we struck up a friendship with Phil and his son Michael, who were camping next to us.

Next morning we went down to the sea, and climbed on this large rock, which looks very whale-like. It was a lovely place to have our breakfast. The smaller rock in front of it is about the size of a car, so we had a lovely view.

Time to pack up. I've cleared everything out of the tent, and placed it on the rock in the top left corner. The fly's off, and I'm about to remove the poles. You can see Tim, Bob and Michael.

This is Michael and Phil's campsite. Their tent is very compact, and they've got real camping equipment :-) Phil lent me his ceramic water filter. It means you can filter water wherever you are, and you don't have to carry water like I did! I wish I had a filter like that.

The weather is darker today, and clouds are hiding the tops of the mountains.
It was low tide so the creek was easy to cross. This is looking along the beach and across the creek. The campsite is straight ahead in the trees. I'm glad about the weather because it means it won't be too hot.

The tide going out reveals a large sandy tidal flat. The boys are enjoying exploring. From left to right is Tim, Bob, Phil and Michael.

If you dig in the sand, you can find small blue crabs about the size of a thumbnail. The boys collected several dozen, and imprisoned them in an arena made of shells.

Tim's extending the shells of the arena.

Because the sandy plain is so flat, the water level is just below the surface. You can dig a hole and scoop wet sand out to make walls and castles.

Setting off for home up the beach.

This is where the track meets the sea. Phil is doing his putting-on-the-pack ballet.

Heading home along the boardwalk.

We've finished the first third along the boards, and we're taking a break before heading up the moutain. My boys were very envious of Phil and Michael's hiking poles.

When we got back to the carpark, we thought we'd have to wait for the bus. But Phil gave us a ride back to Tidal River in his car. The thought of an icecream at the end was quite an incentive!

On the drive home, Dad was feeling a bit tired and the boys were a bit hungry, so we stopped at McDonalds. All that camping must have sent Bob a bit crazy!

It seems they really liked the weekend, as they're asking me if we can go camping again soon.


  • Another great area is the Cathedral Ranges. You can camp at the carparks or hike to the top of the range and camp there. There are some great hikes and lookouts around.

    By Blogger Bradley, at 1:00 pm  

  • hey!

    this seems like a great place to spend my free weekend soon. do you think theres bus services from melbourne to prom? and is the southern most point at the prom is easily accesible? thanks

    By Blogger muhammad ibnu hamid, at 8:27 pm  

  • Hi Muhammad,

    There is only one "civilised" place in Wilson's Promontory that you can drive to, called "Tidal River".
    You can stay there (and it's very beautiful) but if you want to go anywhere else you want to go, you have to hike.

    I would suggest doing some more reading about the Prom:

      Parks Victoria Prom website

    I take it you won't have your own car. Which means public transport. And public transport to Wilson's Promontory is sadly lacking. The one bus from Foster to Wilson's Prom gets there late on Friday night, which means you wouldn't have enough time to set up a tent even at Tidal River.

      Links to bus timetable

    I did find one other option: The Foster Backpacker's Hostel seems to have a shuttle bus from Foster to the Prom.

      Rough Guide to Australia - Wilson's Prom

    Be aware that the book may be out of date, so I'd strongly advise ringing up and checking first.

    By "accessible", do you mean "can people go there?" or "can I get there in a wheelchair?". Definitely not the latter! The southern-most point is a 20km (one-way) hike from Tidal River, so unless you are a marathon runner, you are looking at a one night or (better) two night hiking expedition. It's definitely not a walk-in/walk-out day trip.

      Parks Vic map of the Prom"

    The Prom is a truly beautiful place. It is very peaceful, and the nature is amazing.

    By Blogger mjd, at 10:36 am  

  • This a very nice blog, It makes me feel so happy. It also contains very nice and excellent quality pictures. I hope you will post more and thank you for sharing.

    By Anonymous Camping, at 7:42 pm  

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