Spoiler alert: Prepare for stunning images and a serious case of wanderlust!
Ever since the first time I lived in Melbourne, visiting Wilson’s Promontory National Park has been high on my to-do list, sadly working too much got in the way and I had to wait a while year before I would actually get to see this masterpiece of nature. I’ve travelled all over the world and explored countless national parks now, but this one will remain one of my absolute favourites and I can’t wait to share it with you. A perfect city escape for a weekend, you’ll find Wilson’s Prom down on Mornington Peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of Victoria where you will also find Phillip Island. You’ll need a car to reach it, so if you don’t already have one then hire one with friends – it’s cheap as chips compared to the UK (try Budget, they’re my favourite company to hire with over here). With a small group, the weekend can cost almost nothing once you’ve shared out hire care, fuel and food costs, I think in total I spent about $60-70 for a whole weekend of activities, food and drinks.The drive there takes around three hours so set off early to make the most of the day, you’ll be camping at Tidal River which is a great campsite with bathrooms/showers, barbecues, plenty of spots for your camp (although book before to ensure space during peak season) and all kinds of wildlife wandering around including huge wombats that come right up to you in the evenings. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from a stunning river, marshland and even a beach which is beyond perfection at sunset. Take my advice – head down there at sunset with your gang and a few beers – it’s breathtaking. Once you arrive, best to head straight for the office at the campsite to get your permit and then find a spot to camp – always best to get this done quickly in daylight so you can secure a good spot. If you’re anything like us, we were aiming to be close to the barbecues/toilets but far from families with young children so we wouldn’t disturb anyone later on.
Once you’ve set up camp, it’s time to start exploring so hopefully the weather is on your side! Wrap up warm and head for Mount Oberon – the summit is the perfect place to get your first impressions of the park and the hike isn’t too tough. It’s around 3.4km on a gravel road at an easy-medium grade uphill – we saw plenty of elderly people and children manage it fine so don’t be put off just be sure to take plenty of water. The climb took us around 40 minutes, for others it took an hour depending on ability, and when you reach the top the view is more than worth it. Prepare for spectacular 360 degree views across three beautiful beaches including the famous Squeaky Beach, and in the other direction the sand dunes. It’s windy at the top so be prepared with layers and make sure you take your camera!
Next up is my favourite part of the trip – the Big Drift sand dunes! Almost at the entrance to the park, you drive along a treelined road almost into the middle of nowhere. Then after parking up, head a bit further on foot before you discover the trail becomes sandier. Climb the steep, sandy hill and you’ll find a little piece of heaven in the rolling, endless sand dunes. Stretching as far as the eye can see, and completely untouched, they warp your sense of distance and perspective in the most magical way. It’s easy to forget the beaches and mountain are just a few kilometres away. Fantastic for photos and exploring, but don’t forget to keep an eye on where you are – it’s easy to get lost and forget the way out of these dunes.
Of course you can’t visit Wilson’s Prom without getting up close and personal with some of it’s beautiful beaches. The most well known – Squeaky Beach is beautiful no matter what the weather and the sand really does squeak! Other ones worth visiting are Picnic Bay, Little Oberon Bay and Leonard Bay. If you’re in the mood for beach walks – pick up a great leaflet from the Tidal River campsite offices with a list of the best walks/hikes to do in the national park. They list the gradients/distances/difficulty and what you need to take with you so you can be totally prepared. We would have loved to have done the three bay walk but sadly the weather went crazy and we had bad storms on our second day that prevented us.
Around the campsite alone there are several small walks and beautiful spots to explore before you set up the barbecue. Make sure you take a walk early evening to experience Tidal River campsite in all it’s natural beauty. Stroll along the boardwalk in the shadow of mountains set against the glassy, still waters, walk alongside fields of gold in the setting sun. It’s just beautiful and shouldn’t be missed.
So after a long day of exploring the park, taking stunning photos, climbing mountains and running around sand dunes – it’s about time for a beer. How about taking that beer to the next level? Fill a bag with drinks and put on your warm layers, then walk through Tidal River campground to Norman Beach, just east of the campground. If you time it right for sunset, you’re in for a spectacular show as the waves roll in towards the beach tinted pink and purple against the setting sun. A perfect place to sit with your very best friends enjoying a beer and with some good music playing in the background. Moments like this are why I came travelling.Make the most of the barbecues and cook up a feast – you’ll all be starving after that day of adventures and then pitch up some seats to sit and enjoy the stars. Hopefully you have a drier night than we did – unfortunately the heavens opened and the campsite flooded that night so we didn’t have much fun packing up the next morning and couldn’t do much in the park the next day. But we were glad we had crammed so much into the first day so we could go home happy. Definitely one of my favourite Melbourne experiences and in my opinion, better than Great Ocean Road/Grampians.