Know Before You Go: Tips For Hiking Wilsons Promontory National Park
Wilsons Promontory National Park is a thing of rugged beauty. It’s the southernmost part of mainland Australia, and is located a mere two hours from Melbourne. With abundant wildlife and a mesmerising, accessible coastline, it’s easy to understand why it’s such a popular destination.
The Prom, as it’s affectionately known, boasts some of the most scenic views and beaches in the state. Tucked away in hidden coves and bays, many are only reachable by foot or boat. As a result, hiking is – predictably – an incredibly popular way to explore the area, which is considered by many a must-see when visiting this part of Australia.
There is a litany of day and overnight hikes around The Prom, with the Sealers Cove loop one of the most spectacular. A moderate hike on well-maintained tracks, often overlooking the ocean, it can be easily completed in two or three nights.
The hike takes you from Telegraph Saddle car park and snakes its way down through temperate, ferny forests to Sealers Cove. In another time, Sealers Cove was a settlement used for logging and sealing (until the seal population was all-but wiped out). Now, it’s a sweeping cove with tranquil, inviting water frequented by dolphins and the odd seal.
Designated campgrounds are located at picturesque, uncrowded beaches where you can happily splash around. Be aware, however, that in order to reach the campground at the far end of the beach, you’ll have to cross a creek that could be a trickle or a deluge, depending on the tide. Be sure to check the tide times before setting out for your safety.
With a ranger’s hut, which is manned throughout the busier months for the purpose of checking permits, the campsite’s other main inhabitants are a gang of possums that descend the trees in the evening to try and liberate food from unsuspecting hikers. Your best bet is to safely secure all food if you value a good night’s rest — and plan on eating the next day.
From here, the path leads you to the granite cliff tops at the entrance of the cove with a view out over the ocean and back along The Prom’s rocky coastline. Slowly, walk down to Refuge Cove. As boats are permitted to anchor here, there are two defined camping areas; one for boaters and one for hikers.
Whaling ships used to use the cove to escape poor weather and old whale bones can still be found as a result. Similarly, competing in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race have been known to shelter here from time to time.
At the time of writing, water availability at Refuge Cove was limited, so it’s best to check the website before you set out.
The following section is possibly the most difficult. Leading up Kersops Peak, it has a spellbinding view well worth the sweat, before descending down to Little Waterloo Bay campground – a small camping area with bright, white sand.
Your Sealers Cove journey concludes by heading inland and either walking back to the car park or going via Oberon Bay and the eastern coast to The Prom’s main campground at Tidal River. It only adds around 6km but, thankfully, avoids the steep road to the Telegraph Saddle car park.
The Nitty Gritty
The Sealers Cove loop is a solid 35.5kms (or 40.4kms if you walk back to Tidal River), which means a certain level of fitness and experience in overnight hiking will serve you well. As it’s a popular hike, the campgrounds get very busy, so be responsible and take your rubbish with you. Drinking water is located at each of the main overnight hiking campsites, as are drop toilets, but remember to bring toilet paper and something to treat the water with – just in case.
Unfortunately, you can only stay a maximum of two nights at each campsite and groups can be no larger than 12 people. Where total fire bans are in effect, you cannot use camping stoves, meaning you may have to carry some non-cook dinner alternatives if you’re hiking in the summer months.
Pay Your Way
Overnight hiking is not free and you have to book to avoid overcrowding. A cost of $13.40 per person, per night is payable online when booking. Drop into the park office at Tidal River to pick up your permit on arrival and return it once you have finished so park staff know you’re back safe and sound.
A free shuttle bus runs during the warmer months that can drop you off at Telegraph Saddle car park and there is a separate overnight hiker’s car park where you can leave your vehicle.
And, as always in Australia, please beware of snakes. They like The Prom as much as we do.
Hiking Wilsons Promontory is a rewarding and unique way to experience some of the best Victoria has to offer at one of Australia’s most treasured national parks; a genuine return to nature.
(Lead image: Gary Moore via Visit Victoria)