Wilsons Promontory National Park is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Victoria. The peninsula extending out into the ocean is the southernmost point of mainland Australia and is characterised by rugged mountains, pristine beaches and an abundance of unique wildlife.
It’s one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne, but to really enjoy the national park it’s best to plan at least three days there. I had never made it to Wilsons Prom myself, despite living in Victoria my whole life. But I recently managed to sneak in a trip for almost a week and I was so glad that I did.
I’ve put together this travel guide to Wilsons Prom to help you plan the perfect road trip to the beautiful peninsula, including the best walks and beaches that you should cover on your trip.
About Wilsons Prom
Wilsons Promontory is a peninsula southeast of Melbourne and the southernmost point of mainland Australia. The entire 505 sq km area is designated national park and looked after by Parks Victoria.
Affectionately known as simply “the Prom”, the area is known as Yiruk and Wamoon by the Aboriginal people who inhabited the area. It’s thought that the Koori people inhabited the Prom as far back as 6500 years before European arrivals and it still holds spiritual importance to those communities today.
The Prom is best known for its spectacular coastal scenery and hiking trails, as well as, white sand beaches and an array of native animals. It’s a popular holiday destination for locals and foreign tourists alike.
When to visit Wilsons Prom
I would say that there’s never a bad time to visit Wilsons Prom.
However, the most popular time of the year to visit is in summer when the temperatures are warm and there’s less rainfall. However, it can get a bit crazy down at the Prom during these months, with a crowded campground and exorbitant prices.
I visited in the middle of winter, which, although cold overnight, was not as bad as you might think. I had incredibly clear days and got to enjoy the place in relative peace. If you’re thinking about visiting in winter, I would suggest making sure that you take warm clothing and try to go when there’s a clear weather window. If you get lucky with blue skies, it can actually be a great time to visit.
Otherwise, I would recommend shoulder seasons like spring or autumn, when crowds are still low, but the weather is warmer than winter.
It’s important to remember that Wilsons Prom weather can change dramatically every hour. You can have clear skies and sun one minute and then rain the next, so you should take the forecasts as just a general prediction rather than accurate reports.
How to get to Wilsons Prom
Wilsons Promontory National Park is 225km from Melbourne or around 3 hours drive.
There is no direct public transport that will get you to Tidal River in Wilsons Prom. The closest you can get by V-line bus service is Fish Creek.
The best option of getting there is to do a road trip to Wilsons Prom with your own vehicle or a hired one.
As most of the accommodation options are limited to camping, it’s a popular trip for caravans and campervans, as well as, rooftop campers and other overnight set-ups.
If you prefer not to hire a car and still want to visit the Prom, there are day trips from the city which you can join.
What you need to know before you go to the Prom
Tidal River is the main hub of the national park. It’s around a 30-minute drive beyond the entrance gate and on the west coast of the peninsula.
The Visitors Centre is open from 9am to 4pm (to 4.30pm during summer), 7 days a week. This is where you’ll find park rangers available to answer any questions that you have. You can also pick up plenty of brochures and maps of the national park here.
This is also where you need to check-in for your campsite or accommodation in Tidal River. You must check-in, even if you’ve pre-booked your site online prior to arriving. If you’re visiting in low season or mid-week it’s also possible to pay for a site on arrival at the Visitors Centre.
The entrance gate to the national park is open from 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week. Day visitors need to leave the park before 5pm.
You can download the brochures and Wilsons Prom maps from the Parks Victoria website here if you want to plan your trip more closely.
There is no fuel available inside the national park and the nearest petrol station is at Yanakie, 37km from Tidal River.
Phone reception is actually very good inside the park, although in summer it can be patchy with all the crowds.
Entrance to the national park is free for day use. The only fees that apply are for staying the night inside the park. Overnight camping and accommodation can be booked on the Parks Victoria website prior to arriving or at the Visitors Centre in Tidal River.
If you plan on doing any overnight hiking you need to obtain an overnight hiking permit from the Visitors Centre prior to beginning your hike. This is around $13.60 per night. There is also a designated overnight hiking carpark in Tidal River.
During the summer months and Easter holidays, there is a free shuttle bus that runs between Tidal River and Telegraph Saddle Carpark. The carpark is closed to the public when this bus is operating. The timetable is available at the Visitors Centre.
Most of the day walks and trails described in this post are well marked with an obvious trail to follow. There are signs at most junctions with distances and average times.
Where to stay in Wilsons Prom
Tidal River is the main hub on the Prom. This is where you’ll find the Visitors Centre, general store, takeaway café, Wilsons Prom accommodation and campground.
Staying inside the national park is limited to the accommodation available through Parks Victoria. Camping in Wilsons Prom is the most popular option and there are two campgrounds available.
The first is Stockyard, which is just at the beginning of the Prom near the main entrance. It’s close to the walking trail to the Big Drift sand dunes and is a small area with some grassy sites, a toilet block and a BBQ area.
The main campground is at Tidal River. This is a huge area with 484 sites suitable for camping as well as caravans. Most are unpowdered patches of grass, with just a handful of powered sites available. There are a number of toilet and shower blocks as well as BBQ facilities, laundry and dishwashing areas available to use.
It works on a first come, first served basis and you can pick your own site for most of the year. However, in summer and for most long weekends, it works on a ballot system well in advance. Prices can vary dramatically depending on the season, starting from $32 in the middle of winter to around $60 in summer per night.
You can book through the Parks Victoria website here.
If you don’t want to camp, there are also some great cabins and lodges suitable for different budgets. There are one-bedroom units, budget huts, idyllic cabins and glamping-style tents to choose from. Prices can vary dramatically depending on the season.
You can check out the availability and book them on the Parks Victoria website here.
Accommodation outside the Prom
If you prefer to stay outside the national park, it’s possible to stay at one of the nearby caravan parks and then enter the Prom as a day visitor. This can be a cheaper option if you want to avoid the high prices on the Prom, but these caravan parks also have seasonal pricing so it might not always work out much more economical.
Great caravan park options near the park entrance include:
Prom Central Caravan Park, Foster | Just 20 minutes drive from the Wilsons Prom entrance gate, this caravan park is a great option in Foster. Foster is a major town in the Prom area and is a great base for exploring the South Gippsland coast. They have cabins as well as powered and unpowered sites for vans at reasonable prices. Check the latest prices here.
Toora Tourist Park | A 30-minute drive away from the park entrance, this caravan park is a popular choice in South Gippsland. They have a range of facilities as well as cabins and sites for vans. Check out the latest prices here.
Yanakie Caravan Park | If you want to be as close as possible to Wilsons Prom, then this is the best you’ll get. It’s just 5 minutes from the entrance gate and has a range of cabins and sites for vans. Check their availability here.
Where to eat in Wilsons Prom
In the national park, you’ll be restricted to the general store which has basic food items and the takeaway café next door. There’s not a lot of exciting options available, but if you don’t have cooking facilities in your set-up then at least you won’t starve. Still, it’s best to bring plenty of your own food too, with BBQ facilities available at the campground to use.
No fires are permitted in the park, but you can use gas cookers if you’re camping.
Top things to do in Wilsons Prom
Whether you have one day or a week, there’s plenty of things to do in Wilsons Prom. From white sand beaches to coastal walks, there’s something for every type of traveller there. Here are my top things to do in Wilsons Prom:
Pillar Point Lookout | This is a highly underrated spot which doesn’t seem to make it onto most guides to Wilsons Prom. Just a short 2km walk from the Tidal River campground is this spectacular lookout at the end of a coastal point. It’s an easy stroll but the view from the huge boulder at the end is worth it. This is hands down the best spot to be at sunset and is not as popular as you might expect.
Whiskey Bay Lookout | Halfway along the trail that connects both Whiskey Bay and Picnic Bay, this viewpoint offers a great vista of the two bays.
Norman Beach | Accessed from Tidal River, this is the easiest beach to reach. It’s quite a long stretch of sand and is flanked by two points with Mt Oberon towering in the background. Surfing is popular here at the southern end of the beach.
Squeaky Beach | This is an iconic attraction at the Prom and the most popular beach. Its white sand is so soft that it squeaks as you walk. It’s just 300m from the carpark and is generally busy any day of the year.
Picnic Bay | A 400m walk from the carpark, this beach has rock pools to explore.
Whiskey Bay | A sheltered beach just around from Picnic Bay that is just 400m from the carpark.
The Big Drift
The Big Drift is an incredible area of extensive sand dunes that tower above the coastline in the northern end of the Prom. There is a 2km trail that takes you from the Stockyard campground to the dunes. It’s a stunning spot to watch the sunset.
Mt Oberon Summit
6.8km return | 1.5 hours | Moderate
Mt Oberon is the highest point in the national park at 558m and the most popular day hike in Wilsons Prom. It begins at Telegraph Saddle Carpark and follows a wide trail for most of the way to the top. You’ll be rewarded by 360-degree views of the whole peninsula.
Mt Bishop Summit
6.6km return | 1.5 hours | Moderate
Another spectacular summit, this offers incredible views over the entire western coastline of the Prom. The trail starts from Lilly Pilly Gully carpark and takes you through a beautiful forest before finishing at a cluster of boulders at the top.
14km return | 3.5 hours | Moderate
From Tidal River, you can take the trail behind the Visitors Centre that runs behind Norman Beach and eventually up to Norman Point. From there, you can continue along the sandy track to Little Oberon Bay. This is a beautiful small cove and beach that is a popular little walk in itself.
If you’re up for it, you can continue to Oberon Bay, a further 2km away. This is a vast beach that is a popular stop on the Southern Circuit overnight hike. You simply return the same way you came.
12km return | 3 hours | Easy-Moderate
Starting from Tidal River campground, this walk is a beautiful way to explore the three most popular beaches in the Prom. You have to cross the foot bridge near to the north of the campground and then follow the trail towards Pillar Point. You’ll come to an intersection and you need to turn right to head towards Squeaky Beach.
At the other end of the white sand beach, you’ll find the trail that continues on to Picnic Bay and then further onto to Whiskey Bay. You’ll need to return the same way, if you don’t have a car shuttle arranged.
20km return | 5.5 hours | Moderate-Difficult
This Wilsons Prom walk is usually part of an overnight hike in the southern Prom area, but if you’re fit and leave early, you can do this as a day hike. It’s a walk-in only cove with crystal-clear water and a stunning golden sand beach. There is a decent hill before it continues down to the boardwalk over Sealers swamp to the cove. You return the same way.
If you plan on camping the night at Sealers Cove, you must have purchased an overnight hikers permit from the Visitors Centre.
This is the most popular overnight hike in the national park. The full circuit is around 60km and takes in all the prettiest beaches in the Prom. Most people tackle it in around 4-5 days with good campsites available at overnight stops.
You can also do a shorter 3 day, 36km overnight circuit that is more popular. This takes in Sealers Cover and Little Waterloo Bay.
You’ll need an overnight hiking permit which costs $13.60 per night at the visitors centre.
Find more information here.
I’m hoping to tackle the full circuit later this year!
The northern part of the Prom is a complete wilderness zone and there are no facilities at the campsites on this overnight hike. You’ll need an overnight hiking permit which costs $13.60 per night at the visitors centre.
You won’t find many guides to Wilsons Prom that includes this part of the park. To hike here you’ll need to fill in a Hiker Self Assessment Form before you’re given a permit and you’ll need to be pretty savvy with trail navigation.
Find more information here.
Wilsons Prom 3-day itinerary
If you’re looking for the perfect Wilsons Prom itinerary for a three-day trip then this is it. It’s perfect for a long weekend or mid-week escape.
Head for Tidal River but stop on the way at either Squeaky Beach or both Whiskey Bay and Picnic Bay. Continue into Tidal River and make sure that you check-in at the Visitors Centre and pick your campsite for the night.
Head on a short walk from the campground to Pillar Point to watch the sunset.
Your full day in the park is all about ticking off some popular walks. Head from Tidal River on foot past the Visitors Centre and continue onto Little Oberon Bay, a beautiful secluded beach. Head back to Tidal River for lunch.
In the afternoon, head up to Telegraph Station Carpark and hike up to Mt Oberon, the highest peak in the park. Enjoy the late afternoon sun and the panoramic view before heading back down.
Note: You can switch these walks around and do Mt Oberon in the morning to beat the day trip crowds if you prefer. Then you can do Little Oberon Bay in the afternoon.
Pack up your campsite and head out of Tidal River to Lilly Pilly Gully carpark. From there, hike up to the summit of Mt Bishop for another incredible viewpoint. Return the same way.
Leave Wilsons Prom behind and head back home in the afternoon.
For more national parks and hiking trails in Victoria you might want to check out:
- The Ultimate Travel Guide to the Grampians
- 10 Best Day Hikes in the Grampians
- A Guide to Hiking in the Cathedral Range State Park
For some hiking tips, check out: