For starters a sampler: Two minutes in Wilsons Prom.
“I just can’t process this…”
I turned to my friend and said. I was in a little bit of shock I think.
Earlier we had been stuck in gridlock traffic back in Melbourne yet now three hours later we stood alone on a beach. A beach so majestic, brooding and spellbinding I was actually looking out for Jane Campion and a film crew. It was all a little surreal. We were 240 kilometres and a million miles away from Melbourne.
Wilsons Prom walks.
Wilsons Promontory is a Marine National Park in the South Gippsland region of Victoria. It is also the southern most tip of the Australian mainland – interesting fact. ‘The Prom’ protects more than 50,000 hectares of pristine beaches, shaded rainforests, mighty mountain peaks and rugged offshore islands and the menagerie of creatures living within.
Whist Wilsons Prom could probably be done as day trip from Melbourne we don’t recommend it. The cost of the chiropractic treatment needed for the driver would far outstrip the money spent on petrol. The roads in the 100 or so kilometres before the Park are windy and deserve respect and attention. Moreover you will want to stop, or even stay, en route as the beauty of the region unfurls around you. Stunning Inverloch would be a top spot to spend a night or two outside of the Park or you can choose from a variety of accommodation options at Tidal River, the National Park’s only village.
From Tidal River an impressive network of Wilsons Prom walks ripple outwards in every direction. Some short and easy others multi-day affairs for the serious hiker.
Regardless of your outdoor experience the Prom has something for everyone. The common denominator of its appeal being natural beauty on a truly epic scale.
Perhaps it was just me?
I had never been to Wilsons Prom before. My friend had been a few times however not in many years. But yet there it was, etched on his face. That ‘look’. It’s a look you can get when tasked with a job so enormous you just don’t know where to begin. And enormity here on Darby Beach is the appropriate word.
We’d only happened upon this moment by chance. Stopping the car at one of the first parking bays in the Wilsons Promontory National Park. We’d hopped out – “for a look” – and to stretch the legs after a long drive. As is our want we just kept walking. Poked ourselves in the direction of one of the tracks fanning out from the car park and went for a wander.
The rewards and impact on both of us of this little stroll were incalculable.
Of course we had things in our favour such as pleasant, if very breezy, summer weather nor any expectations whatsoever as to what we were going to discover. There were plenty of moments too where we almost turned back before the beach yet we kept going. We both tend to be ‘I-wonder-what’s-around-that-next-corner’ type blokes. And thank goodness we are.
The solitude, bombast and beauty of Darby Beach will stay with me, and my friend, for a long, long time.
Eventually however we made the call to leave and explore elsewhere. After all Darby Beach hadn’t even been on the plans for the day. But that’s something I always love about exploration and is a mantra of mine when I travel.
Plan to change your plans!
So reluctantly we decided to head back and head on. And guess what? It just got better!
It is only about another three kilometres along the road towards Tidal River before you reach the turn off for Whisky Bay. The omens boded well for us as we rounded a crest on the road and descended towards the coastline ahead. From our spot on high it was if fingers of sunlight were leading us towards our next stop.
A rather accurate sign told us that the beach lay 294 metres from the car park. Or something like that, the sign is way more detailed than I am. When we got there our jaws dropped much like the sun in the sky was beginning to do. It became all-to-apparent that Darby had been the entrée, Whisky Bay the main.
Again, due to luck rather than planning, the tide was perfect. We were greeted by a shimmering watery sheen atop golden sands. This mirrored surfaced reflected magnificent, burned-orange boulders at both ends of a gently curving bay.
I wondered if I had somehow died and gone to heaven, an odd thought for an agnostic! I just could not comprehend being part of such beauty mere hours after battling fumes, congestion and impatience on a packed Melbourne freeway.
Click an image to enlarge.
My biggest regret. (One that you can benefit from!)
One of the main reasons for visiting the Prom was to research-for and write this post. So along with possibly the world’s dorkiest sunhat I was laden with heavy camera equipment and a tripod. And I made a big mistake! I spent waaaay too much time with my right eye squinted looking through a view-finder or trying to ensure I had the horizon level on my Canon 5d whilst shooting video.
Luckily towards the end of our day I caught and called myself out for doing this. I was capturing the moment but wasn’t ‘in’ it. I realised I wanted my own memories of this ethereal experience rather than just capturing them to some memory card. In a better-late-than never kind of way I eventually downed the camera. Please don’t make this same tardy mistake.
I remember sitting down, finally taking off my shoes and nestling my feet into the gloriously smooth sand. I chatted with my friend about this and that and we both stared out to sea. In one piece of outstanding foresight we both supped respectfully from a, by now, rather warm beer. It was bliss.
In that moment, at that place time seemed to stand still. The only time-keeper was mother-nature. She didn’t use a clock face to prompt us home but the gradual setting of the sun. Even in February as the skies darkened and began to glow the temperature fell away quickly. We got the hint – it was time to leave.
If you live in Melbourne and can choose when to visit keep an eye on the weather forecast. A fine day will deliver vibrant colours, clear panoramas, bright white sands and crisp azure waters. Just perfect for some fantastic Wilsons Prom walks. It is also significantly cooler at the Prom than in the city. Perhaps by as much as four – five degrees. So layers are always a good idea. The wind also whips in from the sea keeping things fresh even in summer. So if you can visit on – what is supposed to be a fine day – then your experience will probably be better than on a dull/ rainy day.
My buddy and I are already planning our return for later this year. There’s so much more to see. We’ll make some plans for sure – Norman & Squeaky Beaches, the Big Drift sand dunes, Mt Oberon summit climb – all must-sees at some stage. But part of the wonder of this place is its diversity and the glimpse it gives the visitor back to another time. A time where we weren’t atop the food-chain but were just another menu option on it. It feels primordial here, otherworldly.
It really is that special. Thank the heavens it’s protected.
“Nature has enough for our need, but not for our greed ” – M. Gandhi
All video & photography © Saxon Templeton
Official Title: Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park spanning 505 km².
Location: South Gippsland, Victoria. 240km or roughly three hours drive by car from Melbourne. Much longer, and a lot more tricky, by public transport. More details.
Accommodation: Camp sites and cabins available at Tidal River. Book well in advance in peak seasons such as summer and school holiday periods. General store, tourist information and cafe also available. ‘Free camping’ in the park is not permitted. Overnight-hike camping permits start at $10.30 per person/ per night^. More info.
Petrol: Last chance to fill up is at Yanakie. Six kilometres from the entrance of the Park. Closes 6pm. (Thanks Mark Wrigley for the tip!)
Considerations: If you are driving in the Park around or after sunset be alert. This is a prime time for critters to join you on the asphalt. Knock off some speed as a precaution. It’ll help both of you should you bump in to each other – or not, hopefully!
Be Respectful: You are reasonably likely to meet animals and/ or insects that fly, flutter, crawl, hop or slither at some stage in the Park. Remember that you are in their home and not the other way around. Just enjoy the moment and use caution when necessary, whichever seems more appropriate at the time.
More Information on Wilsons Prom:
^ Prices subject to change. Correct as at Feb 2017.
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