The three day South East Circuit at Wilsons Prom on the southern most point of mainland Australia is regarded as one of the best multi-day walks in Australia. We booked a long weekend trip, excited by the opportunity to sleep in a remote lighthouse as well as by the promise of secret beaches, granite rocks and forests.
We arrived at Tidal River, the starting point for most walks, late on the day that Trump won the election for President of the United States. We were a group of eleven, including an American citizen. Determined that the polarising “orange man” was not going to spoil our retreat into glorious nature, we banned Trump as a topic of conversation. There are places that politics and Twitter shouldn’t and can’t reach, and Wilsons Prom is one of those.
Instead, we celebrated the enduring power and glory of nature on nearby Squeaky Beach. All was peaceful here: the curves of the tea trees making an entry tunnel to the white sands of the beach, granite boulders tinged red, the sun setting beyond the islands studding the bay.
To the Lighthouse
With a long 23km ahead of us, we were up early on Friday. Packs on, we walked out from the Tidal River camp ground in the direction of Norman Bay and Oberon Bay. After Oberon Bay, we turned inland, following a sandy path through tea tree and heath, away from the sea. We were hungry by the time we stopped for lunch at Halfway Hut.
With new energy after the lunch, break, we followed a fire trail and then single track through heathland in the heart of Wilsons Prom to Roaring Meg, a campsite in the forest. We spied two snakes in the afternoon, a green snake that quickly disappeared, and a tiger snake that was not inclined to move off the path for us.
We could see the lighthouse from afar. We dropped down to a saddle, before climbing a very steep hill up the granite outcrop that pushes into Bass Strait. The National Parks lighthouse staff were waiting to welcome us at the top. Once we’d unloaded our gear onto our bunks, they gave us a tour of the lighthouse, which was built in the 1850s. It was a stunning clear sky and almost windless day, and it felt like we could see all the way to Tasmania.
A family of wombats keep the grass trim. The wombats and shipping traffic provided entertainment as we relaxed in the garden in the late afternoon. After dinner in the well equipped kitchen in the historic lighthouse keepers cottage, we settled in to read the stories of the lighthouse families and the 1951 bush fire.
After saying farewell to the friendly lighthouse rangers, we set off under heavy skies to traverse the high slopes though forests around to Waterloo Bay. Eating our lunch on a granite boulder we could hear a thunderstorm out to sea. We were rewarded for the climb to Kersops Peak by swirling mist and no views. However the weather cleared as we descended to Refuge Cove, our campsite for the second night.
Refuge Cove has a lovely white sweep of sand, and sheltered waters protected by the surrounding high hills and narrow entrance to the ocean. The campsite among trees was bordered by a tannin stained shallow tidal creek. It was an idyllic spot. Once our tents were up, we walked to the beach to explore. A police boat with some (off duty?) policeman on deck was anchored close to shore. I’m not sure what they made of the nymphs in our mob who stripped off for a wash in the chilly sea.
The tides weren’t in our favour for our final day, with high tide right about the time when we expected to cross Sealers Creek. Crossing this sandy creek is easy at low tide, and not recommended at high tide. So we set our alarms for very early, packed up by head torch, and were walking at dawn. Sunrise over the still waters of Refuge Cove was the reward.
We climbed through forests from Refuge Cove, reaching Sealers Cove two hours before high tide. Shoes, shorts and more came off. There were many laughs as we waded across the flowing creek, with water to our waists. We had breakfast where the track from Telegraph Saddle joins the beach.
The long boardwalk through Sealers Swamp is an easy walk beneath palms and rainforest trees. We climbed to Windy Saddle in cool, soft drizzle. The sun came out again for a fast descent to Telegraph Saddle: like horses heading home, I think these hikers could all smell the burgers we later devoured back to Tidal River!
We scrubbed up in the showers at Tidal River before starting the journey home. Great memories and the endorphin buzz that comes from exercise and time spent in Nature, the great healer, in the company of friends.
- Distance 58 km
- Time 13 h 28 min
- Speed 5.9 km/h
- Min altitude 0 m
- Peak 334 m
- Climb 1608 m
- Descent 1803 m
Accommodation: Thursday night at Tidal River (basic huts, or camp), Friday night at the Lighthouse, Saturday night in our own tents at Refuge Cove, Sunday back home. As Wilson’s Prom is popular, early booking is necessary.
Transport: we flew from Sydney to Melbourne in the morning, hired a car and drove to Tidal River, arriving about 5pm on the Thursday. We departed Tidal River early afternoon Sunday, to connect with our evening flights back to Sydney.
The team: Christine, Gai, Jane, Jo, Liz, Marna, Mary C, Mary S, Steph, Yvonne, and the Sole Man!
This walk is a full pack carry, with distance and elevation, as well as tidal river crossing and the possibility of extreme weather, so fitness and good humour are vital.