8 to 14 December 2019
Woodside Beach to Tidal River, 138km
to Cowes, Philip Island, 146km
to Rosebud, Mornington Peninsula, 132km
to Mount Waverley, Melbourne, 75km
“And what exactly does Wilson’s Prom have to offer” Stefan asked as we finally drove towards Australia’s southern most point. We had waited so long for the weather to turn that we were starting to wonder if it was going to be worth it. “Wilderness, walking and wombats” I said. He rolled his eyes at the wombats. “Don’t exist“, he said.
Before we reached the peninsula we took the road to a lookout to get a view of it. It is a pretty remote spot, just one road in and out which only goes as far as the campsite at Tidal River. The rest can only be explored on foot.
It is about 30km from the entrance to the national park to the campsite and the road was pretty spectacular, taking us up, round and through the granite mountains with views down to the pristine white beaches and turquoise coves.
The campsite was unsurprisingly busy given its location in the middle of all this wilderness. At the National Park office when I checked in the Ranger warned me to ensure we kept all food locked in the car overnight to stop the wombats breaking in! She told me that the night before a family had left toothpaste in their tent and had been woken by a wombat trying to claw its way through the canvas. Tempted to leave something out as bait, we set up camp with the view of Mount Oberon and hoped to see one.
Wombats aside, finally a beautifully calm couple of days enabled us to explore the Australian mainland’s most southerly point without getting windswept or wet. Tidal River itself was more of a muddy coloured trickle but the sweeping estuary sand and orange tinged rocks of the riverbed made a great walking trail.
In our camp wildlife encounters were never far away. We had visits from bright blue and red rosellas and above the beach I found this electric blue, tiny Fairy Wren.
Although in the end we chose to heed the warnings to keep our food and toothpaste in the car, at dusk I found this brilliant wombat on the path. What a funny animal! Like a giant guinea pig, it has no neck or legs and it is hard to imagine the experience of being a baby wombat in its pouch. They must bump along the ground as their mother carries them!
We were treated to a great sunset over the islands just a few metres from the tent.
The next day we walked from Tidal River up onto the headland overlooking the ocean,
through the tea trees and shrubs. We were careful not to step on this well disguised skink!
We got great views back down to Norman Beach and Mount Oberon, out to Great Glennie Island and then round the corner to Squeaky Beach.
Winding our way down to Squeaky Beach took us passed spectacular granite rock formations tumbling into the sea. One giant rock looked as though it had been cut straight down its middle.
The beach offered the clearest waters, an encounter with a shark (the safest kind, a dead one!) and, as its name foretold, the squeakiest sand under our feet.
We squeaked the length of the beach to find more enormous, orange hued boulders littering the sand
and returned home the same way to the familiar waters of Tidal River nested under Mount Oberon.
A post dinner stroll to the beach gave us another close encounter with a wombat, too busy drinking from a puddle to worry about me stopping to have a chat with her or him (difficult to tell!)
After the first beautifully warm and sunny days we’d had for ages, we had rain overnight and woke to a thick mist everywhere. We had definitely had the best couple of days on the Prom and it had definitely been worth the wait. Whilst we ate breakfast waiting for the tent to dry off, our friends came to visit again. Turns out rosellas really like trail mix and even made light work of the whole almonds!
We had five nights before our ferry to Tasmania so we headed back towards Melbourne slowly via two of our favourite spots Cowes on Philip Island and Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula. We killed time Christmas shopping, stocking up with festive treats at the last Aldi we were likely to see in a while and visiting the cinema at Rosebud for the second time, this time to see The Good Liar with Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren.
On our way back to our favourite Melbourne B&B at Julia and Bill’s we stopped briefly in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Our planned short walk through the rainforest ferns was made shorter by a fallen tree but gave us time to learn more about the battle of the Kokoda Trail, a vicious WWII fight between a small number of Australian troops against an army of Japanese soldiers in Papua New Guinea.
Despite a thick mist still shrouding Mount Dandenong we drove up to the summit where the cloud had lifted enough for us to get a view of the distant city and take a walk around the English Garden and the Wishing Tree.
But best of all we got to Julia’s in time for her to take me and her schoolfriend, Andrea (who was over for the Christmas holiday) for a walk through her own local wilderness, Scotchmans Creek and Valley Reserve.
And then as an extra special treat, we sat down with Bill and Stefan to watch Stefan’s favourite Australian film, The Castle. Our visit to one of its iconic locations would, however, have to wait until our return to Victoria because we had a ferry to catch and a month to explore Tasmania…