Wilsons Promontory National Park (“The Prom”)


Wilson’s Promontory is a huge national park roughly 3 hours drive from Melbourne and it sits at the most southern point of mainland Australia. There are so many different hikes in this amazing park that you’ll want to stay at least 4-5 days here to get the best of it. There are coastal views, mountain views, beaches, tropical hikes, sand dunes, and even plenty of Aussie wildlife! This national park is hugely popular and accommodation gets booked out fast so plan ahead. Apart from the Great Ocean Road, this place is probably the second most popular jewel of Victoria’s natural wonders but it can be a bit full on when trying to plan a trip here. I’ve included our experiences in this guide to hopefully help break it down.

When we travelled: Jan 5-8, 2021

Cost: FREE! This amazing park is free for everyone to enjoy. The only costs to consider are accommodation and food.

How many days do I need?

This national park is HUGE and there are SO many hikes to do. The time you need here depends on how many hikes you want to do and if you want to fit in a few easy afternoons at the campsite or hanging out at the beach. Toby and I spent 2.5 days here and we just managed to fit in all the hikes we wanted to do, but it was a very tiring few days trying to see it all. I’d recommend spending at least 4-5 days to make it feel more like a relaxing holiday.

Sample Itinerary

This was our trip itinerary when we went. As mentioned, I’d recommend spreading it out. We had super tired jelly legs by the end of our trip.

Day 1: (1 hike)

  • Left the hotel at 9am, parked at Tidal River Campground around 10am
  • Three Bays Walk – took 5 hours, finished around 3pm
  • Late lunch at the Tidal River Cafe/visitor’s centre
  • It rained after lunch so we called it an early day, otherwise we could’ve fit a short hike in
  • Dinner at our hotel

Day 2: (3 hikes)

  • Left the hotel at 8am, arrived at Prom Wildlife Walk at 8:45am
  • Prom Wildlife Walk – spent about an hour here, finished around 9:30am
  • Tongue Point – parked at Darby River carpark, took 3 hours – finished around 12:30pm
  • Lunch again at Tidal River Cafe/visitor’s centre (gotta love those burgers)
  • Mount Oberon Summit Walk – took 2 hours, finished at 4pm
  • Dinner at our hotel

Day 3: (2 hikes)

  • Left the hotel at 8am, arrived at Tidal River Campground at 8:50am to take the shuttle bus to Telegraph Saddle
  • Mount Oberon Summit Walk – arrived at Telegraph Saddle 9:15am, took 2 hours, finished at 11:30am
  • Took shuttle bus back to Tidal River Campground and had a quick snack
  • Big Drift – started at 12:45pm, finished 2pm

When to visit?

The ideal time to visit is during spring or summer when it’s warm and sunny so you can enjoy some lazy days on the beach. We visited in January 2021 which was in the middle of a Melbourne summer. Unfortunately the weather was pretty cloudy when we went but even with the gloomy weather the hikes were still beautiful. Despite COVID times the campsites were still pretty booked out but there weren’t that many people on the hikes with us which was kind of nice.

Getting Around the Park

This national park is HUGE and you’ll need a car to get around to the start of different hikes. Unfortunately there’s no bus service inside the park so you’re on your own within the park.

Check out the park website for more information regarding walks and track closures. It’s also handy to download their Park Map to know your way around.

Where to Stay? Accommodation Options

Outlined in red is the entire Wilsons Prom national park

A) Staying Inside the Park: Camping

There is only one place to stay inside the national park and that’s at the Tidal River Campground. There are cabins/roof accommodations available or tent sites here. Because this is the only place to stay within the entire park, it is extremely competitive and gets booked out MONTHS in advance, or even a year if it’s during holiday season. The accommodation is arranged directly through the parks website and may be one of the cheaper options. These days they have changed the booking system to a ballot system so you really have to plan ahead if you want to stay within the park. More info on the website here: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/where-to-stay/ballots-and-peak-season-bookings/tidal-river-summer-ballot.

B) Staying Outside the Park: Campgrounds, AirBnb’s, Hotels…etc.

*Note: Tidal River Campground is where the main visitor’s centre is and also where a few popular hikes start. It is roughly a 30min drive from the entrance of the park (near Big Drift) to the Tidal River Campground, which means that any place you stay outside of the park will be at least 30mins drive to the visitor’s centre.

Stockyard Campground: The second closest campground to Wilson’s Prom is Stockyard Campground which is situated at the entrance of the park. Booking is also via the parks website here.

AirBnB’s: If you look early enough, there are tons of privately owned AirBnB’s or luxury accommodations close to the entrance of the park (near Big Drift on the map). The map on the right outlines the national park in red and there are at least a dozen accommodations available on Airbnb. Some of these are more expensive than others, but if you prefer to have a more relaxed luxurious holiday rather than camping, then this is the option for you.

Hotels: Apart from AirBnB’s, you can also look into the small neighbouring towns near Wilson’s Prom. When we did out last-minute trip, all the campsites and Airbnb’s were booked out but luckily there was one last room available at the Fish Creek Hotel in the town of Fish Creek. It was about a 45min drive to the entrance of the park every morning (I’ve marked it on the map above). The hotel was average but we were just happy to have found a place to stay to be honest.

Food Options (a little limited)

There is only one place to get food within the park and it’s at the visitor’s centre at the Tidal River Campground. It’s a canteen/cafeteria style that serves fries, burgers, sandwiches, sausage rolls, wraps…etc. Nothing gourmet, but not bad. We actually quite enjoyed the burgers and ended up getting them for lunch everyday after our morning hikes since we didn’t plan our meals ahead of time. There’s a very small amount of grocery items you can get but it was pretty pricy. The visitor’s centre closes at 4-4:30pm so there are no options for dinner within the park.

Outside of the park there are small rural towns nearby where you can find small grocery stores, pubs, and restaurants, although when we went, most places were closed at night and the places we did find were pretty overpriced with average food. We stayed at Fish Creek Hotel during our trip and we had our dinners at the hotel pub. The beers were good but the food was meh.

If you’re camping and/or planning on cooking, do your grocery shop before heading down because the small town shops have limited options and are usually more expensive. Make sure your accommodation has a fridge to store your food items for the duration of your trip.

Hikes to Do

There are a LOT of different hikes to do at Wilson’s Prom. It took me a long time to narrow down which hikes to go on in the limited 2.5 days we had here especially since they all looked amazing. We managed to cram 6 hikes during our stay and although we had a fantastic time, it was also super tiring and I wish we had more time to chill out and relax a little more. After many hours of googling and scouring online travel itineraries, these are the top 6 hikes we chose based on popularity and scenery. (You can check out the full list of hikes on the parks website or download the parks guide pdf – there are 25 listed hikes on the website!)

Map from Parks Victoria website. I’ve outlined the walks we did.

Three Bays Walk: Squeaky Beach, Picnic Bay, Whisky Bay

Difficulty level: Grade 3 (walking track was relatively easy, some inclines and uneven foot path)
Distance:
12.4km
Time:
advertised as 4hrs return, but it took us closer to 5hrs with a few minor rest breaks
Starting point:
Tidal River Campground

This walk connects three beaches and gives you views of both forest and coast. It drizzled on and off all morning but it was still a beautiful hike nonetheless – plus, it was entertaining watching Toby rock his emergency poncho 😂. The hike starts at the Tidal River Campground. Parking is at the visitor’s centre and you’ll have to make your way through the campground to the back to get to the start of the hike. (There’s a conveniently placed public toilet here just before the start of the 5hr hike.)

At the start of the hike is Tidal River which was a shallow murky river beside the campground where a few families were splashing around the water with floaties and enjoying the morning. You’ll cross the bridge and walk through an uphill forested road to get views overlooking Norman Bay, where the Tidal River joins. On this hike you’ll come across 3 beaches: Squeaky Beach, Picnic Bay Beach, and Whisky Bay Beach. Squeaky Beach is the most popular beach in Wilsons Prom and it’s named due to the squeaking sounds you make as you walk barefoot across the white sand. It was a bit too cold for us to go barefoot so we didn’t get to hear the squeak – we’ll have to come back in better weather next time! We were lucky enough to have the famous Squeaky Beach to ourselves because of the weather. The best part of the hike was meeting a blonde wombat on the track!!

Prom Wildlife Walk

Difficulty level: advertised as Grade 2, but the path was super flat and easy, should be Grade 1
Distance:
2.3km
Time:
45mins return
Starting point:
Prom Wildlife Walk carpark

This cute little trek is not much for scenery but it’s great for getting up close to some native Aussie wildlife. Although it’s advertised as 45mins, you can make it as long or short as you like. We took a little longer because we went a little off track and stalked some emus. The whole walk is flat bushland with a narrow loop dirt track. We saw plenty of kangaroos and a family of emus. I was really hoping to see more blonde wombats like the one from the day before, but no luck.

Tongue Point (from Darby River)

Difficulty level: Grade 4 (some uneven footing on the path but it wasn’t particularly difficult, I’d probably give it Grade 2 overall but a few steep inclines makes it Grade 3)
Distance:
3.8km
Time:
advertised as 4 hours return, but it only took us 3 hours
Starting point:
Darby River carpark

This wasn’t listed as one of the “must go” hikes in my research but the pictures looked so nice that we decided to go anyway – I’m so glad we did because it ended up being one of my favourite hikes in Wilsons Prom! The hike starts at the Darby River carpark (there’s an option to start from Darby Saddle which is inland and takes an extra hour which we didn’t do because we were saving our strength for other hikes of the day). The walk started with a very tiring sharp incline that made me regret everything, but the magnificent views over the winding Darby river made it all worth it. It’s only 10mins to get to the top (although it felt much longer), but once you get to the top the rest of the trek was relatively cruisy with minor ups and downs through bushland. As the views open up to the coastline, you can start appreciating why the narrowing strip of land stretching out towards the sea is called Tongue Point. The hike ends at the tip of Tongue Point where there are great big boulders covered in bright orange lichen. We sat on these boulders for a good 20 mins just chilling out and enjoying the views of the waves crashing against the rocks below us before heading back.


Mount Bishop Summit Walk

Difficulty level: Grade 3 (some uneven footing with a gradual consistent incline all the way to the top)
Distance:
7.4km
Time:
2.5 hours return (took us 2 hours)
Starting point:
Lilly Pilly Gully Carpark

This was one of the highly rated hikes in my research but I’ll admit it wasn’t my favourite and it felt like it took AGES to get to the top and back down because of the monotony of the scenery (or maybe because my legs were so tired from the other hikes). Although the journey itself wasn’t the best, the sweeping views of the western coastline at the top were beautiful. You could see the multiple bays all in one view. Now only if we had some sun!

The track starts at the Lilly Pilly Gully Carpark. Follow the path for the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk and about 15mins into the walk you’ll see a sign for a turn off to the Mount Bishop track. From here on it’s dense forest views all the way to the top. When you reach the top you’ll see the beautiful views of the coastline from afar. On the way back, retrace your steps back to the carpark.

Mount Oberon Summit Walk

Difficulty level: Grade 4 (the track itself is wide, paved, and easy to walk on but it is STEEP to the top and there’s uneven rocky steps near the end to get to the summit)
Distance:
6.8km
Time:
2 hours return
Starting point:
Telegraph Saddle Carpark (you can only drive here before 9am with very limited parking spaces, otherwise park at Tidal River Campground and there are free shuttle busses after 9am)

Another hike on many “must-do” lists of Wilsons Prom. Similar to the Mount Bishop hike, the journey up is monotonous and unexciting but the views of the coast at the top are spectacular. The sun FINALLY came out for us after 2 days of cloudiness and lit up the coastline when we reached the top which was fantastic. If you only had time for one summit hike in Wilsons Prom, I’d pick this one over Mouth Bishop because although it’s a more difficult hike, you see more of the coastline at the top.

The shuttle bus schedule in 2021 from Tidal River Campground

The hike starts at Telegraph Saddle Carpark. You can only drive to this carpark if you get there before 9am (double check the parks website incase this time has changed since we were there). There are limited spaces at the carpark so if you want to drive, I’d recommend going early. After 9am, the road to the carpark is blocked off and you’ll have to take the free shuttle bus from the Tidal River Campground that runs every 30mins. We actually didn’t know we could’ve driven ourselves up before 9am and were waiting at the shuttle bus stop at 8:50am to try and catch the first bus up 🤦🏻‍♀️. If you’re planning on doing this hike, I’d recommend trying to drive up yourself to Telegraph Saddle Carpark so you can start the hike early before it gets too busy. When we were heading down the mountain, there were TONS of people getting off the bus to start their hike. The last stretch is a narrow single-file path up rocks and I can imagine that to be a bit of a nightmare waiting to get to the summit. Another benefit is that you can leave on your own time without having to wait half an hour for the next shuttle bus to get back.

Starting at the Telegraph Saddle Carpark, it’s a steep 1 hour incline on a wide paved road. There’s not much to see on the way up so you just have to grind through it until you get to the top. If only there was a shuttle bus to the top – the roads would certainly be equipped for it. You’ll see a cellphone tower when you’re near the top. When you reach the tower, you’ll climb some stairs and go up a rocky path until you finally reach the summit. The last short stretch to the top was pretty brutal on our already jelly legs from the day before, but the view was well worth it! The sun came out and the weather was fantastic. We had a quick rest to take in the views and jogged most of the way down the mountain to catch the next shuttle bus (and also so we could finish sooner to rest our legs 😜).

Summit of Mount Oberon

Big Drift (sand dunes!)

Difficulty level: Grade 3 (most of the track is flat and easy but there’s a SHARP sandy incline at the end)
Distance:
4km
Time:
1.5 hours return
Starting point:
Stockyards Carpark

Who knew that amongst the thick Aussie bushland, coastal views, and white sandy beaches, there was also a large patch of sand dunes! Wilsons Prom has got it all. I’d never been to a sand dune before so I was super excited for this hike. It was everything I imagined! We got sand in every crevice and definitely didn’t choose the right footwear. We had to take off our walking shoes halfway through from all the sand and wish we brought fit flops instead. This place was probably the busiest of all the hikes in this park and there were plenty of people who brought their own boogie boards to surf down the sand dunes. Next time we’ll be more prepared!

The hike starts at Stockyard carpark which is adjacent to farm land and seems to be the last place you’d expect a sand dune to be. Follow the signs and it’s a 20 minute walk through open grassy terrain until you reach the sand dunes. We were unpleasantly swarmed by flies during this part of the walk – I definitely recommend putting on fly repellent before going. The track will expectedly get sandier as you get closer to the sand dune and near the very end of the walk there’s a SHARP sandy incline. This was the toughest part of the hike, as you can imagine the difficulty climbing straight up a sand dune, but when we reached the top the views were AMAZING! It was open air with sand as far as the eye could see. There’s no shade up here, so make sure you’ve applied sunscreen beforehand. The endless sand overlooks thick bushland which is a unique view to see the divide between the dry arid sand and dense forested land.