Wilsons Promontory or "the Prom" as it is known, is the southernmost point of the Australian mainland, located in the South Gippsland region of the state of Victoria. The Prom is protected as the 50,000-hectare Wilsons Promontory National Park and the seas around the southern end are the Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park. There is another, smaller marine national park in the northern area. The park has about 130 km of walking trails and a number of campsites. The hub of the park is Tidal River where there is a store, visitor center and camping.
Wilsons Promontory was first occupied by Indigenous Koori people at least 6,500 years prior to European arrival. Middens along the western coast indicate that the inhabitants subsisted on a seafood diet.
The promontory is mentioned in dreamtime stories, including the Bollum-Baukan, Loo-errn and Port Albert Frog myths. It is considered the home of the spirit ancestor of the Brataualung clan - Loo-errn. The area remains highly significant to the Gunai/Kurnai and the Boon wurrung people, who consider the promontory to be their traditional country/land.
The first European to see the promontory was George Bass in January 1798. He initially referred to it as "Furneaux's Land" in his diary, believing it to be what Captain Furneaux had previously seen. But on returning to Port Jackson and consulting Matthew Flinders he was convinced that the location was so different it could not be that land. Bass and Flinders recommended the name Wilsons Promontory to Governor Hunter, honouring Flinders's friend from London Thomas Wilson. Little is known of Wilson except that he was a merchant engaged in trade with Australia.
Tourists may choose basic or glam, cabins or camping (powered/unpowered) if they wish to stay inside Wilsons Promontory National Park. Many however choose to stay in accommodation just outside the Park in Yanakie, where they can still view the Wisons Promontory mountains and scenery and be only minutes from the Park's free entrance.
There are overnight hiking tracks with two key circuits, one in the north and one in the south. The southern circuit is more popular with overnight hikers with several camping areas suited to wild camping. Camping is only allowed in the designated areas to reduce damage to the bush.
Flora and fauna
The Prom is approached along the South Gippsland Highway, turning off at either Meeniyan or Foster. The park entrance is 224 km from Melbourne and 29 km from Foster. It is another 30 km from the entrance to the park center at Tidal River. Take extra care when driving into the Prom at around sunset or night as there are usually a number of animals out on the road at these times.
If you don’t have your own transport, you can take an organised tour from Melbourne or Phillip Island or take the bus from Foster run by Foster Backpackers Hostel. There is also a connecting bus to Tidal River via Fish Creek that meets the V/Line Coach service from Melbourne at Foster on Friday afternoons. A return service operates on Sunday nights connecting with the V/Line coach back to Melbourne, with an extra return service operating on Monday public holidays. Contact Viclink on 131 638 for details or see the Public Transport Victoria website.
There are flights from Melbourne Airport to 1 Yannakie Airport. However, flights aren't common, and this airport is more used for scenic flights encircling Wilsons Prom.
Fees and permits
Entry to Victoria's National Parks is free.
Between dusk and dawn, drive carefully and slowly. Kangaroos and other wildlife will be on the road. Be aware that it is gravel road from the southern bit of C444.
It is quite difficult walking, as it's easy to forget that the distances are long, and despite it looking small on google maps, it's a lot larger than it seems. Victoria is also very cold all year around, and wear a jacket or two if you're walking.
- Bush camping. There are 6 camp areas in the southern area and all have toilets and a seasonal water supply. The northern area is a declared "Wilderness Area". It has 5 camp areas but toilets are generally not available. There are no camp areas in the central area. Permits are required for overnight hikes and can be booked in advance or on arrival at the park entrance or at the visitor center at Tidal Creek.
- Hiking. There are a number of short walks, day hikes and multi-day overnight hikes. Fit walkers can make a full-day return hike from Telegraph Saddle to either the lighthouse at South East Point or to South Point. One of the more popular ones are the 1 Prom Wildlife Walk. where you can get really close up to wildlife, which are used to human proximity, including roos, wombats and if you go in the right time; penguins.
- Fishing is permitted in some areas. A recreational fishing license is required. No fishing is permitted in the marine national parks. In some areas line fishing only is permitted.
- Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving. Some of the best scuba diving in Victoria is in the marine parks of Wilsons Promontory - deep, clear and full of interesting marine life. The Prom is also popular for snorkeling.
- Wildlife Coast Cruises, Port Welshpool, ☏ 1300 763 739 (local rate). A four-hour cruise along the northern coast with breathtaking scenery along the sheltered side of the Prom. During June there are regular whale sightings of Humpback and Southern Right Whales during the cruise. Adults $78.
The Tidal River Store sells food and other consumables. Fuel is no longer sold here. The nearest fuel station is at Yanakie.
The Tidal River Store sells food supplies at inflated prices and has a café with takeaways. There are free gas barbecues in car parks at Tidal River.
- 1 Tidal River General Store, 2 Ring Rd, Tidal River, ☏ . 9AM–5PM.
- Huts, Tidal River, ☏ . One-room huts with bunks, stove, small fridge and gas heating - linen and towel hire available on request. $62 per 4-bed hut (peak), $95 per 6-bed hut (peak).
- Lorikeet Units, Tidal River, ☏ . Fully self-contained motel style accommodation. $117.50 per night for 1-2 people (peak).
- Sabrelyn Park, 270 Savages Rd, Waratah North Vic (15 minutes from the Prom Gate), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Fully self-contained 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom cottage that sleeps up to 10. Offering, sensational views, comfortable accommodation & the opportunity to snuggle with an alpaca should the need take you. From $130.
- Bear Gully Coastal Cottages in Cape Liptrap - 4 completely self-contained cottages with 1 and 2 bedrooms. The grounds are spacious. Popular with family reunions and 'Girls Getaways'. Each cottage has been designed to maximise views of the magnificent and ever-changing colours of Wilson's Promontory, and the beautiful Waratah Bay. Bear Gully is a very easy 2½-hour drive from Melbourne. Nestled into the South Gippsland coast between Walkerville South and Cape Liptrap Lighthouse. Cottages have direct beach access with ocean views of Waratah Bay to Wilson’s Promontory and the islands of the Glennie and Anser Groups. or phone +61 3 5663 2364. Location: 33 Maitland Court, Cape Liptrap.
There are 480 unpowered campsites and toilets, showers and laundry facilities. Bookings are essential for Christmas and January holidays and popular long weekends.
There are self-contained cabins and huts with 2-6 beds and large group lodges.
There are a couple of campsites reserved for foreign tourists that are assigned on a daily basis. If you arrive without a reservation and can prove that you are a visitor (e.g. with a passport) you should be able to get a spot even in high season. Try to arrive as early as possible, as the sites usually fill up well before noon.
Go out the way you came in. If leaving the Tidal River area soon before sunset on a nice evening, stop at the Whisky Bay carpark, take the short walk to the beach to sit on the dunes and watch the sun set behind Norman Island (actual position of setting sun varies with time of year).