Wilsons Promontory – Eastern/Southern Circuit

The Prom always manages to leave its visitors awestruck, is meditative vistas and astonishingly diverse array of landscapes seldom disappointing. We had visited a year ago and taken on the well-worn trails of the Mount Oberon and Lilly Pilly Valley hikes. However, we were left with a hankering to delve deeper into the park’s wilderness, something best achieved by completing one of a multitude of overnight hikes.

Being Essendon and Richmond supporters, unsurprisingly neither of our teams would be playing in the AFL Grand Final, so the newly designated public holiday provided us with the long weekend we needed to complete our intended trek. The plan was to tackle the 3-day/2-night circuit beginning at Telegraph Saddle, descending to Sealers Cove, following the coast to Little Waterloo Bay before returning inland via Telegraph Junction to our starting point. All in all this made for a 36km journey.

As on any springtime weekend in Victoria, pleasant weather was far from certain, and the reports in the lead up to our hike suggested we were in for an onslaught of rain. Undeterred, we made our way from Melbourne, packs and wet weather gear in tow.

DAY 1: 10-11km

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Upon arrival, it was good to see park management had found a solution to the huge overflow of cars usually encountered at telegraph saddle, the point at which many visitors to the park commence their respective adventures. A shuttle system has been put in place whereby we could park our car in a designated bay at Tidal River before jumping on our bus to the saddle.

The hike starts with a steady climb, passing by evidence of the floods that ravaged the park in 2011. The floods closed the trail at the time, and it is testament to the efforts of management that it has been re-opened, landslides and associated damage requiring a big repair job.

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The climb concluded as we reached Windy Saddle, an oasis-like patch of green grass perfect for a quick rest.

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From here the terrain and vegetation make-up shifts quite dramatically. dry, sandy paths turn to thick, muddy trails (our boots would be caked with sludge for most of the trip from here on). Tree ferns and other temperate rainforest plants begin to dominate the landscape. Trickling creeks and views into deep valleys definitely make up for the mud.

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Eventually, the descent leads to a long boardwalk section, which leads you through a pre-historic looking swamp, leaving you looking over your shoulder for dinosaurs. The cool breeze and frog calls provided some welcome respite after our sweaty efforts.

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Finally, the Cove itself comes into view, and as on previous visits, it was utterly idyllic. On arrival, you can’t help but collapse into the golden sand.

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While last time I was greeted by a pod of dolphins, today a rainbow made an appearance to frame the shining turquoise water. Instead of the constant hum of cars, rolling waves are the only sound to disturb those who make the trek to the beach, which is only accessible by foot.

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It is hard to believe given the beauty of the location, that it had such a violent history. The name ‘Sealers Cove’ as expected is a nod to the sealing and whaling that went on in the 1700s and 1800s. Once the seal population dried up, the opportunistic settlers switched their environmental destruction method of choice to logging, further disrupting the fragile ecosystems of the area. Finally, the park was protected at the beginning of the 20th century, starting the journey towards its recovery. Luckily, the only remnants of this bloody history today are the jetty stumps that peak out from the sand at the centre of the beach.

We had scheduled our arrival to coincide with low tide at 5.15pm (you can check online beforehand what time this will occur, or check with park staff). A manageable wade through the shin-deep Tidal River brought us to the hikers campsite, where we settled into the already busy camp (luckily the fernery and some large boulders provide a sense of seclusion despite the traffic).

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DAY 2: 13-14km

The second day is always infinitely more difficult than the first, as fresh legs are replaced by the stiff joints and bent spines that come with a night spent in a tent. Unfortunately, the incursion of a bitey bull ant and the breaching of our supposedly waterproof tent hadn’t helped our cause. Nonetheless, we pushed on, the silver lining being that most of the expected rain seemed to have dried up by morning, no more than a spitting here or there experienced for the rest of the weekend.

The initial climb around the coast towards Refuge Cove revealed further impressive vistas across the glassy oceans, a layer of mist now hanging above the surrounding mountains.

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Refuge Cove itself is home to a boaters campsite, and upon arrival, we took some time to read the engraved pieces of driftwood installed at the camp.

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After cooking up some lunch, it was time to push on, so we said goodbye to the sailing ships docked at the Cove and started what would be one of the more difficult stages of our trek.

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The climb up to Kersops peak was pretty steep and relentless, but rewarded us with yet another remarkable view across the park. It was nice to get a bird’s eye view of how far we had already travelled.

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From here, the stated 1.5 hours remaining to Little Waterloo Bay managed to draw out to a much further timeframe for us. Given this, we were hugely relieved to arrive at the camp, stopping to soak up another sunset over the white sandy beach.

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DAY 3: ~12KM

The final day of our trip was undoubtedly my favourite, not only because of the shower I was holding out for upon finishing, but also because of the incredible natural encounters we were to have.

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After a short river crossing and following the beach via a boardwalk, the track turns inland, through sand dunes and intermittent marshy swamps. The journey to Telegraph Junction then turns to an almost desert-like landscape, a remarkable shift given we had been trudging through rainforest only a day before.

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A friendly currawong seemed to be finishing the trail with us, hopping along between trees as we walked.

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Finally, we reached the junction, from which point the rest of the trail follows a management track. This starts off very flat, but as you approach the Saddle, a steep climb begins, winding up the side of the mountain. There is nothing like busting your gut to finish off an adventure. We reached our starting point, sweaty and jubilant, our celebrations cut short as we began a final sprint, noticing the shuttle bus was about to take off.

As always the Prom was equal parts inspiring and challenging, and the blue skies we were lucky enough to experience provided the perfect backdrop for our trip. No doubt like many others privileged to live just a short drive away, we will be returning again to tackle another of this precious park’s other hiking adventures.

Overnight Hikes Park note – with distances/times

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