It all started with an echidna.
There it was: a bashful echidna curled up into a tiny ball in the middle of a dusty red road as we were busy trying to navigate our way back onto the main highway. We slowed down to a halt and I jumped out of the car to catch a glimpse of his spiky exterior as he slowly hobbled into the bushes. You don’t see echidnas in the wild very often and this occasion marked the first of many wildlife sightings in and around Victoria’s cherished Wilsons Promontory, or simply “the Prom”.
As the southernmost point of Australian mainland, the National Park’s idyllic setting makes it the perfect place for scenic walks and secluded beaches. You can do as much or as little as you like during your visit – either way I can guarantee you’ll be pulled in by the Prom’s charm. Wilsons Prom excels when it comes to unspoiled terrain and abundant wildlife, so if you’re looking to get back in touch with nature, you should seriously consider Victoria’s favourite hiking spot.
Upon recommendation from a couple of other campers, we headed to Shallow Inlet campgrounds. The site is located just above the official entrance to Wilsons Prom, so it is a lot cheaper and less crowded then the campsites located inside the park. At $15 a night for two people, we saved more than $70 on accommodation compared to the pricey Tidal Caravan Park in the centre. Having compared the two, I would definitely recommend anyone visiting the Prom to consider staying at Shallow Inlet providing you have a car. The sites are spacious and shaded, with free drinking water, clean loos and a lovely little beach where we saw the most incredible sunset.
If you have your own hiking and camping gear, an overnight hike to Sealer’s Cove is a firm favourite of visitors to the Prom. You need an overnight camping permit for your beach stay, which you can get at the Tidal River Visitor Centre. For us, one full day to explore the National Park called for some thorough research before creating our own schedule.
- Mount Oberon– this seems to be one of the most popular walks in the park and you’ll understand why once you reach the summit. With breath-taking panoramic views over the coast, it’s a good idea to bring a picnic so you can enjoy the best lunch-spot in town. There are varying online descriptions about the difficulty of this walk, but I can confirm there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes attempting the climb. With a gradual incline and some steep steps at the end, it is achievable for anyone with a basic fitness level. There’s a path the whole way and plenty of shade from the high trees. Don’t forget to take lots of candid photos when you reach the top.
Tip: You’re not allowed to drive into the car park during holiday seasons – instead you have to jump on a shuttle bus that leaves from Tidal River every 15 minutes. Try to go in the morning to avoid busier periods/the peak heat time – the bus driver also has a lunch break between 12.45 and 1.15, so there’s no bus running for half an hour!
- Squeaky Beach– it gets its name from the dazzling white sand which, I can confirm, endlessly squeaks beneath your feet as you walk. There are many beaches to choose from in the park, but the visitor centre recommends for people to swim at Norman Bay in Tidal River because all other beaches have a strong rip. People clearly ignore this advice, as there were lots of strong swimmers happily diving into the waves while the less confident enjoyed paddling in the shallow waters. It was a lovely book-reading and sunbathing spot too, but bring your parasol if you’d like the shade as there’s little shelter on offer.
- Whisky Bay– as we were driving back to our campsite, we were drawn in by the name of our favourite spirit, so pulled over for a short walk to this lovely little cover. There’s a meandering boardwalk that leads down to the beach and a small lookout point where you can get a view over the bay. The area was completely deserted when we visited, so if you’re looking for a romantic spot, this is a winner.
That evening at the campsite, we were resting our aching limbs while nursing a glass of red wine, when all of a sudden we heard a rustling in the bushes next to us. I looked over to see two birds hovering above a humongous tiger snake. They are amongst the top 10 deadliest snakes on the planet – which I didn’t know at the time – so I remained uncharacteristically calm and collected as I watched it slither past us. Now I can say that I’ve spotted a venomous snake in the wild, and I don’t intend to do so again – but the choice isn’t up to me!
Next Stop: Phillip Island
Dubbed as one of Melbourne’s backyard playgrounds, Phillip Island really is a child’s paradise. With mini-golf, chocolate factories, go-kart tracks and an entire amusement venue named “A Maze’N Things”, it feels a bit like a prettier looking Blackpool Pleasure Beach upon arrival. However, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that Phillip Island is tailored to the tastes of big kids, too.
You don’t really need to spend more than a couple of days exploring to experience all of the island’s main attractions. Read on to find out my top five things to do!
- Little Penguin Parade – this is what makes Phillip Island relatively famous on an international scale. Every night after sunset, thousands of tiny little penguins (33 cm in height) waddle ashore and head to their burrows to settle in for the night. Phillip Island is home to the largest little penguin colony in the world, making it is a true wildlife spectacle, which unfortunately comes with a price tag. If you want to see the little penguins in all their might (and I highly recommend that you do) General Viewing tickets will set you back $25.10, while the more exclusive viewing platform with Penguins Plus tickets costs $47.20. The Penguin Parade is a not-for-profit organisation, so all of your money goes to a great cause: the penguins themselves. No photos allowed 😦
- Koala Conservation Centre – if you’ve still not got your wildlife fix, head to Phillip Island’s Koala centre to discover its unique treetop boardwalk while searching for these cuddly looking marsupials (not bears!!) Although we didn’t see a huge amount of koalas, we were in really close proximity to the ones that were out and about in the open. Koalas are most active at night, so it’s good to know that these sleepy looking creatures are allowed to rest during the day like they would in their natural habitat. We also got the added bonus of seeing another echidna in the wild, a swamp wallaby lazing under a tree, and a colourful looking Rainbow Lorikeet. The information centre is really informative and tells you all about the additional wildlife that you might be lucky to see outside during your visit.
- Ocean Reach Brewery – a recent addition to Phillip Island’s brewery scene, Ocean Reach is a very small set up with a limited selection of really excellent beers. It has a long way to go in terms of style, but it is well worth a visit if you want fuss-free, no-thrills, good beer.
- The Nobbies – a lovely boardwalk that takes you along the rugged coastline where you can see some spectacular rock formations and Bass Strait views. Keep your eyes open for little penguin burrows which are dotted all over the cliffs – we spotted some fluffy little chicks when we visited! The Nobbies Centre offers visitors the chance to see the (paid) interactive Antarctic Journey – and there’s a really big gift shop and café area which is nice to wander around.
- The Fish Co-Operative – we stayed in the nearby seaside town of San Remo as it was much cheaper and less crowded than Phillip Island accommodation (San Remo Caravan Park). What do fishing villages do best? Fish and chips, of course! I tried flake for the first time (a type of gummy shark) and it was so tender and delicious – so don’t be put off by the fact it’s a shark! It’s maybe a bit pricey compared to the local chippy in Scotland, but you’ve got a lovely harbour side view and freshly caught fish so it’s well worth it.
I hope that gives you a few ideas for your trip to Wilsons Prom and Phillip Island. They are so different from one another, but it’s well worth visiting both places as it’s just a short drive between the two and it gives you a chance to explore a good chunk of Victoria’s coastline in a short space of time. Happy travels!