We have spent the last three nights at Tidal River on Wilsons Promontory, the most southerly part of Victoria. The National Park here covers over 500 square kilometres (including offshore islands) and has always been one of my favourite bush walking venues. Over the years, I have walked to every remote camping location on the Promontory. These walks have varied from simple overnight walks to four and five day trips.
‘The Prom’, as it is called by us locals, is famous for its magnificent scenery and its diverse flora and fauna. It has over 700 native plant species, 30 varieties of mammals, 180 species of birds along with an unknown number of snakes and other reptiles. It is very rich in nature and history.
George Bass sighted the Promontory on January 2 1798 from a small whaleboat as he explored the southern coast of Australia. Whalers and sealers used the waters around the Promontory until the 1840s by which time a saw milling settlement was operating at Sealers Cove. Tin was discovered in the northern area of the Prom. A lighthouse was built by convict labour by 1859 and the track to the lighthouse is still the backbone of the walking tracks on the Prom. The area became a National Park in 1905 although it was used as a commando training base in WW2.
The ‘base rock of the ‘Prom’ is granite which weathers in a cubic fashion and erodes into rounded rocky outcrops. Once an island, the Promontory is a result of drifting sand accumulating in the sheltered water that separated the island from the mainland. It is thought this connection occurred about 100,000 years ago. The Promontory is one of the highest points on a batholith (a huge igneous rock deposit) which is 300 km long and, at times, 50 km wide. It once linked Tasmania to the rest of Australia.
The major administrative and accommodation site on the Prom is Tidal River. It is located at the end of the road and 30 km south of the National Park entrance. There is no town here, just a ranger station, camp ground and general store. There are a number of accommodation options ranging from smart holiday units to humble cabins and powered and unpowered camping sites. We are staying in one of the newish holiday units.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked in to our unit which has a bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom. These units have lots of space and have large westward facing windows. In winter the sun comes in through the windows making the lounge room cosy warm. I suspect that in summer, they would be exceptionally hot and they do not have air conditioning.
After settling in, I went for a walk along the beach at Norman Bay (Tidal River Beach) and took some photos of the late afternoon and sunset sky. The beach is about 1 1/2 kilometres long and connects to the start of a walking track that leads around to Oberon Bay and then to the Lighthouse Track.
The weather on our first morning (second day) was very crisp and we were thankful that our accommodation unit had an effective gas heater. After breakfast, we took a walk along the boardwalk that follows the Tidal River to its mouth and enjoyed the views of the mountainouls backdrop.
After lunch, Jill dropped me off at the bridge over the Tidal River and then drove on to meet me at the very pretty Squeaky Beach where I would finish my afternoon walk. This beach’s name come from its sand grains being eroded to a very round shape and as you walk along the beach it makes a squeaking sound under your feet.It was a 3km walk around the headland and then along the beach to the track leading up to the Squeaky Beach carpark.
Along the way to Squeaky Beach, I found some spectacular views of rugged coastal headlands.
I’m certainly not as young ands fit as I was when I bush walked around the ‘Prom’ and I was happy that Jill could drive me on to Picnic bay, the next beautiful beach on this western side of the Promontory. This saved me another few kilometres of walk
We reached Picnic Bay late in the afternoon. Here, a regular stream of waves roll on to this semi circular beach. There was no one else there except for a couple of surfers. I waited for then to catch a wave but they looked happy enough to sit outside the surf break and stay there.
I walked along to the lookout that overlooked the beach and then followed the track down to the beach itself. The beach was only about 300 metres from the car park, and I think it dropped about 100 metres in height along its length,.I was really steep enough for me.
Back at Tidal River, we were pleased to find some of the wildlife for which the Prom is famous – a wallaby, wombat and a few birds that were looking for a feed near a couple of campers who were cooking an early dinner.
For our dinner, we cooked a microwave meal of curried sausages and rice and enjoyed a couple of nice gasses of chilled wine. The next morning was quite crisp and we were grateful for the gas hedger in our unit to keep us warm until the sun was high enough to shine into the windows..
The morning, (Day 3) Jill drive me back along the main road to the Darby River. The river rises below Mount Latrobe, part of the Latrobe Range in the north of the Promontory and flows generally west by southwest before reaching its river mouth and emptying into Darby Beach. Near the road bridge, there is a large area of wetland with many acres of reed and other wetland vegetation.
From the Darby River bridge, I walked along the track to Tongue Post – a rocky headland on the west coast of the Prom. At first, the track climbs gently from the Darby River Carpark and over Darby Hill, an ancient sand dune, before hugging the windswept headland.. Over the saddle, the track flattens out and follows the contours of a hill covered in s dense coastal heath and jewelled with stacks of weathered granite. I walked for a bit over an hour (may 2 1/2 kilotres) to an overlook above Fairy Cove where I deiced to return back to the carpark.
The Prom is joined to the mainland by a sandy ismuth. From this track, I could get a good view of Darby Beach and some of the sand dunes on the ismuth.
After lunch back at our holiday unit, we re-traced our steps along the board walk by Tidal River. Its amazing how different light can make such a difference to my photographs.
The track ends near a bridge over the river and this is the starting pointer a number of walking tracks.
Walking back to our holiday unit, we passed a number of Banksia trees that were alive with birdlife. I managed to get a couple of photos of a Galah and a Wattle Bird that were feeding on the banksia flowers.
Our day was completed by the golden sunset on the 850 metre high Mt Oberon that looks over Tidal River.