A guide to Wilsons Promontory National Park, with a focus on the many bushwalking trails which explore the park. Wilsons Prom is known for its stunning coastal scenery, spectacular beaches and diverse wildlife.

Wilsons Promontory (or “The Prom”) is my favourite National Park in Victoria, with some spectacular bushwalks, unspoilt beaches, lots of wildlife and great coastal views. The only downside of the park is that its natural beauty and relative proximity to Melbourrne means that it gets really busy on holiday weekends, especially in summer – so for the best experience, try and avoid these times!

The 505 km² (125,000-acre) national park is a peninsula to the southeast of Melbourne in the Gippsland area, within which is the southernmost point of mainland Australia. The lighthouse on the south-east corner of the peninsula is the southernmost lighthouse on mainland Australia and has operated continuously since 1859. The park offers a wide range of bushwalks, including multi-day hikes. Wilsons Promontory National Park contains the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria, and it has been designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve due to its outstanding conservation, recreation and wilderness values.

Bushwalks from Wilsons Promontary Road (Northern Section)

The northern section of Wilsons Prom has a number of short and easy bushwalks to beaches on the western side of the park, and more challenging routes on the eastern side. The Wilsons Prom Northern Circuit is a demanding loop walk that generally takes 4-6 days to complete. For any overnight walks in the northern section of Wilsons Prom, you must (1) call the park office on 03 8427 2122 to obtain an overnight hiking permit and (2) complete a Hiker Self Assessment Form [PDF].

Squeaky Beach0.8kmEasyIconic location with “squeaky” sandMap
Whisky Bay0.8kmEasySmall, sheltered beachMap
Picnic Bay1kmEasyBeautiful bay with intertidal rock poolsMap
Darby Beach2.2kmEasySand track to small & exposed beachMap
Cotters Beach3.9kmEasyEasy trail to windswept beachMap
Millers Landing Nature Walk4.2kmEasyWoodland to southern-most stand of mangroves in the worldMap
Vereker Outlook5.4kmEasyPanoramic views to Darby Saddle, Corner Inlet & Cotters BeachMap
Tongue Point (from Darby River)7.7kmEasy/ModerateGreat views. Steep decent out to point.Map
Darby River to Darby Saddle10.5kmEasy/ModerateExposed trail (one-way) with views & sheltered coveMap
Tongue Point (from Darby Saddle)11.9kmEasy/ModerateForest and spectactular coastal scenery
Five Mile Beach36.4kmModerateEasiest route in remote northern section of parkMap
Wilsons Prom Northern Circuit58.9kmHardPart trail and part bush-bashing in remote section of parkMap
MG 7820 A bushwalking guide to Wilsons Promontory National Park

Darby Beach

The longest beach in Wilson’s Promontory, Darby Beach is picturesque but subject to strong currents and surf, and not great for swimming. The beach reached via a short, sandy bushwalking track which follows the Darby River from a carpark on Wilsons Promontory Road.

Length: 2.2km (approx)
Grade: Easy

93 070 A bushwalking guide to Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilson Promontory Northern Circuit

This is the hardest bushwalk in Wilsons Prom; the northern part of Wilsons Promontory is mostly classified as a wilderness zone and tracks range from basic to non-existent. The Northern Circuit passes Five Mile Beach, Johnny Souey Cove, Three Mile Beach Tin Mine Cove and Chinamans Beach.

Length: 60km (approx). Allow 3-5 days.
Grade: Very Hard (indistict to non-existent track, navigation skills required)

Bushwalks from Tidal River

Tidal River is the main visitor hub of Wilsons Promontory National Park, and has a range of accommodation (see below). A number of short bushwalks start from here; you can also start the multi-day Southern Prom Circuit from here – although Telegraph Saddle Carpark is the more common starting and finishing point.

Loo-Errn Track2kmEasyBoardwalk along Tidal estuarine wetlands
Pillar Point3.8kmEasyOutcrop of granite boulders; spectacular views of Norman & Squeaky BeachesMap
Norman Beach Loop4.5kmEasyHighest point between Norman Bay and Leonard BayMap
Tidal Overlook Circuit4.7kmEasyLoop walk from Visitor Centre. Great views of Mt OberonMap
Drift Track (Big Drift)4.8kmEasy/ModerateInteresting dune landscapeMap
Lilly Pilly Track5.5kmEasyHeathland, eucalypt forest warm temperature rainforestMap
Squeaky Beach6.3kmEasySweeping coastal views on way to iconic locationMap
Mount Oberon6.4kmEasy/Moderate360-degree view of the park from summit. Steep climb.Map
Mount Bishop6.8kmEasy/ModerateRocky summit with spectacular views over west coastMap
Little Oberon Bay ^9.2kmEasyCoastal views on the way to beautiful beachMap
Three Bays14.1kmEasy/ModerateSpectacular bushwalk connecting three beaches + viewsMap
Oberon Beach Loop ^20.9kmModerateLoop along western beaches; walk along TT not so nice Map
Refuge Cove Loop ^41.4kmModerateAll the beaches of the Southern Circuit (2 days)Map
^ These bushwalks form part of the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit

Bushwalks from Telegraph Saddle

While many of the bushwalks from Telegraph Saddle can be done as “out and back” day hikes or overnight bushwalks, the most popular option is to do the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit. This 2-4 day loop takes in all of the spectacular bays beaches in this areas, as well as the Lighthouse.

Sealers Cove ^19.8kmEasy/ModerateBeautiful beach with campsite.Map
Waterloo Bay ^23.7kmEasy/ModerateBeautiful beach with campsiteMap
Lightstation via Telegraph Track ^35.4kmModerateMost direct route to Lighthouse via interior of parkMap
Telegraph Saddle Loop ^37kmModerateSome of the best parts of the Southern CircuitMap
Lightstation via Waterloo Bay ^40kmModerateMore scenic route to south eastern corner of Wilsons PromMap
Southern Circuit60kmModerate/HardLong loop covering the entire southern section of parkMap
^ These bushwalks form part of the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit
MG 7960 LR A bushwalking guide to Wilsons Promontory National Park

Waterloo Bay

A day-walk or overnight hike (camping at Little Waterloo Bay). The most direct way is from Telegraph Saddle via the Telegraph Track; this route is not the most scenic, but Waterloo Bay and Little Waterloo Bay at the end are two spectacular beaches.

Length: 23.7km via Telegraph Track (alternate track via Sealers Cove closed until 2024)
Grade: Moderate

Wilsons Prom Lightstation

The Wilsons Promontory Lightstation has three bookable cottages – which makes it possible to visit mainland Australia’s most southerly lighthouse as an overnight trip without carrying any camping equipment. You can get there via the Telegraph Track, or Waterloo Bay.

Length: 37-40km
Grade: Moderate

mg 7954 lr A bushwalking guide to Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory Southern Circuit

It’s a bold statement, but I’d say this is the best bushwalk in Victoria (and one of the top ten in Australia). The 2-4 day bushwalk traverses Sealers Cove, Refuge Bay and Waterloo Bay on the way to the Lightstation, returning to Tidal River via Oberon Bay. It passes some spectacular lookouts and stunning beaches.

Length: 60km
Grade: Moderate/Hard

Where to stay in and around Wilsons Prom

Tidal River has 484 camping and caravan sites, including powered sites as well as huts, cabins and units. It makes a good base for the large number of day hikes in Wilsons Promontory. Bookings are essential (Wilsons Prom Overnight Hiking bookings).

There’s also a smaller campground – Stockyards Campground – near the Wilsons Promontory entrance gate which is a little less busy, but bookings are also essential here year-round. It makea good base for the northern bushwalks, especially in the cooler rmonths. (The open grassy campground contains shelters, a camp kitchen and picnic tables.)

Southern section accommodation

There are a number of campsites along the Wilsons Promontory Southern Circuit hike, which must all be pre-booked at least 24 hours in advance (links below are to the Parks Victoria campsite information and booking page).

Sealers CoveSheltered campsite behind beachToiletsCreek60
Refuge CoveCamping area behind secluded beachToiletsCreek60
Little Waterloo BayCamping area near beachToilets, tablesCreek60
Oberon BayCamping area near beachToiletsTank40
Roaring MegInland bush campsite near South PointToiletsCreek40
Halfway HutInland bush campsite along Telegraph TrackToiletsTank30

As well as the campsites, there is cottage accommodation at the Lightstation. Doonas can be hired, which means you can do an overnight trip carrying just your food and water.

  • Banks Cottage – self-contained cottage for 2 guests. Availability is very limited.
  • Shared Cottage – shared lounge, dining and bathroom facilities with fully equipped kitchen. 20 bedrooms sleeping 2-4 people in bunk beds.

Northern section camping

The northern part of Wilsons Promontory is classified as a wilderness zone, and has few facilities. There are five overnight hiking campsites on the northern wilderness, but they cannot be booked online. Anyone doing an overnight hike in the northern section must complete a Hiker Self Assessment Form and get a hiking permit by calling the office. You can stay in any of the campsites for a maximum of two nights.

Barry CreekGood water source.NilCreek8
Lower Barry CreekSmall forest clearing. Space for 2-3 tents.NilCreek8
Five Mile BeachSpace for max 5 tents. Water across the estuaryNilCreek12
Tin Mine CoveSpace for 10 tentsNilCreek (poor quality)18
Johnny Souey CoveSpace for 1-2 small tents. Nicer boaters camp nearbyNilCreek (unreliable)6

Yanakie is the closest town to Wilsons Promontory, and has a number of cottages and some motels and hotels – although these get booked out over summer. I’ve stayed at Black Cockatoo Cottages, which is a few minutes from the park entrance and makes a good base for day walks.


Flora & Fauna

Wilsons Promontory National Park is home to a wide range of wildlife species, including kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, emus, and a wide range of small marsupials – it’s one of the few places in Australia where I’ve seen a koala in the wild. Wilsons Promontory is significant because it is one of the few areas in Victoria where the rivers and streams are largely unmodified by
drainage and engineering works and free of introduced fish and aquatic weed species – about half of the 40 known species of native freshwater fish in Victoria occur at Wilsons Promontory.

Wilsons Prom beaches

Wilsons Promontory National Park has a number of beaches along its coastline: in total, there are over 30 beaches within the park’s boundaries, and most of them can be reached by foot – although some require a long bushwalk! Some of the most popular and picturesque beaches are:

Norman Beach at Wilsons Promontory

Norman Beach

This is the most popular Wilsons Promontory Beach (especially in summer), being located at Tidal River. The picturesque beach is 1.6km in length and has prominent granite headlands at both ends – the southern end is quieter, and is passed by the Oberon Bay Walking Track.

Distance: <100m from Norman Beach Carpark
Facilities: Campground, Toilets, Water at Tidal River (northern end)

Darby Beach at Wilsons Promontory

Darby Beach

The longest beach in Wilsons Promontory, Darby Beach stretches from a steep granite headland at the southern end of Darby Beach to the mouth of Shallow Inlet in the north (the northern half of the beach is called Cotters Beach). It’s a pictuesque beach but not great for swimming, with over 30 large rips spaced every 300m.

Distance: 2.2km return from Darby River Carpark
Facilities: Toilets (at carpark)

Sealers Cove in Wilsons Promontory

Sealers Cove

Arguably the most spectacular beach at Wilsons Promontory (although it has lots of competition for the title!), Sealers Cove sweeps around for 2km and is fairly protected and calm. The beach can be reached by boat or a bushwalk from Tidal River or Telegraph Saddle, and there’s a campground at the southern end.

Distance: 20km return from Telegraph Saddle or 48km via Refuge Cove
Facilities: Toilets & water from creek (at campground)

Refuge Cove at Wilsons Promontory

Refuge Cove

There are two beaches within Refuge Cove – Refuge Cove North, which is the larger of the two beaches, and Refuge Cove South, a smaller and even more protected beach. Both are very photogenic and a great place for a swim – but can only be reached by boat or a long bushwalk. There’s a campground at Refuge Cove South.

Distance: 32km return via Sealers Cove or 37km via Telegraph Track & Little Waterloo Bay
Facilities: Toilets & water from creek (at campground)

A brief history of Wilsons Prom

Wilsons Promontory is known as Yiruk and Wamoon by the Aboriginal people who lived in the area, with archaeological evidence showing habitation going back 6,500 years before European colonisation. The European history of the Prom began on the morning of 2 January 1798, when George Bass and his six companions (on their whaleboat expedition from Port Jackson to Western Port) sighted the ‘high, hummocky land’. On their return journey, they were forced to shelter in a small, quiet bay which Bass named Sealers Cove. On his return to Port Jackson, Bass recommended to Governor Hunter that the name of the promontory be called Wilsons Promontory, in honour of Flinders’s friend from London, Thomas Wilson (little is known of Wilson).

During the 19th century seal hunting and shore-based whaling was conducted in the area, until it become economically unsustainable (as all the seals had been killed). From the mid 19th century the area was used for cattle grazing, with G.D Smythe of Alberton taking out an annual grazing license for 19,200 acres on Waratah Bay in 1849. In the 1860s John and Will Baragwanath applied for and obtained the Sealers’ Cove Run for cattle grazing, and there were many other leases (or Runs) across the promontory. Sealers Cove was also the site of a timber mill in the 1840s, when all the large trees around the bay were logged.

In 1887 the Government proposed to alienate the whole of the promontory to settlement, but lobbying by the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria and the Royal Society of Victoria resulted in the Victorian Government temporarily reserving the area as National Park in 1898. This was made permanent in 1905, with the original settlement in the Park being on the Darby River site where a chalet existed. However, part of the promontory (the southern sector of Yanakie Isthmus) remained as farmland until 1969 when it was incorporated into the National Park, and some cattle grazing was allowed in this area until the 1990s.

Cattle grazing at Wilsons Promontory
Mustering cattle on the beach at Darby River, c.1950

When to visit Wilsons Promontory

The best time to visit Wilsons Promontory is over summer, when rainfall is lowest and the warmer weather allows swimming – but this is also the busiest time and accommodation quickly books out over the school holiday period. Late summer (after the holiday period) and autumn is a good time for bushwalking, and the climate is fairly mild so you can walk year-round.

Getting to Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory National Park is 225km south of Melbourne, or about a 3 hour drive. There’s no public transport to Tidal River – you need to drive, or you can book a tour out of Melbourne. Tidal River is the hub of Wilsons Promontory, and has a Visitors Centre (open from 9am to 4pm, 7 days a week) as well as a cafe and General Store (which stocks basic supermarket items, a range of souvenirs and camping gear). There’s no fuel available inside the national park, with the nearest petrol station and major town being at Yanakie, 37km north of Tidal River. 

More information

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