Wilson’s Prom – The Circuit Hike

Caitlin Adventure, Australia, Featured, Hiking, Oceania, Places 2 Comments

It’s been a while since I first set my sights on the circuit hike at Wilson’s Prom, but finally I managed to get a group together and make it happen – and boy did I get some interest in this one.

Following some initial emails to a targeted group of about five who I thought I would have to work to convince, the group continued to grow right up until the last day to a huge 15 keen hikers. Who would have thought so many people actually wanted to spend their weekend walking long distances and carrying all their camping gear?

But before I get into the detail, here’s our main stats for the weekend:

Total distance – 36km (23 miles)
Total walking time – 7 hours, 52 minutes (excluding the section my GPS ran out of battery…) Lowest elevation – 0 metres
Highest elevation – 343 metres
Total ascent / descent – 1,705 metres

It was the East Prom circuit hike we were doing, taking a clockwise direction from Telegraph Saddle car park through Sealers Cove and on to Refuge Cove for the first day; wandering through Little Waterloo Bay and heading inland back to the car park on day two.


Getting There

Since I haven’t yet ventured overseas on my trip, and I’m still at home in Australia saving my pennies, I was able to get to Wilson’s Prom with my car.


If you’re also fortunate enough to have a car in Victoria, the trip is a piece of cake! Out of Melbourne, you’ll have a drive of approximately 3 hours. Head along the South Gippy Freeway towards Tidal River and you’ll see the turnoff to Telegraph Saddle carpark on the left just prior to arriving at Tidal River. You’ll need to have a brief stop at the campgrounds to grab a pass for your car before getting started.

Public Transport

While driving yourself is by far the easiest way to get there, I’ve found a way for the rest of you, although it’s not so straightforward, and really isn’t particularly inexpensive.

From Southern Cross station, jump on the bus heading towards Yarram, and get off in Foster (for details, refer to the Victorian public transport website). Unfortunately, this is as far as public transport will take you, and from here for the remaining 60km or so, you’ll have to hire a taxi.

It’s probably better to just hire a cheap car for the weekend…

Day One

Although our packs ranged in weight from just a few kilos (for those fortunate enough to have their boyfriends happy to take the load) up to about 20 kilos, we left the Telegraph Saddle car park, getting off to a brisk pace.

Among us we were carrying enormous amounts of water, eight tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, all sorts of clothing in case it was a cold night at the prom (be warned – it can get freeeezing) and enough food and snacks to see us through.

From the car park, we started on the dry dirt track set out along the edge of Mt McAlister. While this section starts off relatively flat, eventually it turns into a steady climb uphill (and here’s where the weight of the bags really starts to be felt).

After an hour or so of climbing, we found ourselves at the Windy Saddle clearing – a great place for a quick break and a group shot or two! By this point, a few of us were already beginning to feel our muscles getting a good workout.

Once you set off again, it’s as if you’re walking a completely different hike.

The temperature has dropped, the ground is now wet and muddy, and rather than being surrounded by the dry plants you had coming up, you now get something more closely resembling a rainforest.

Fortunately, this next section takes you along a downward trending track (with just a handful of inclines along the way) as you make your way into Sealer’s Swamp.

At the start of the swamp, you’ll find a boardwalk had been constructed to get you across. It goes on for a while, but right at the end you’ll come over a final sand dune and you’ll then be at Sealer’s Cove – the first of the beautiful beaches you’ll be walking along on this hike!

For those with limited multi-day hiking experience, you’ll probably be getting pretty weary by this point. So I feel it’s my duty to warn you that the next section, as you move from Sealer’s Cove and on to Refuge Cove (assuming you stay here overnight) is pretty tough, and somewhat unexpected!

As you’ll find is the case between all the beaches, the next stretch sees you climb up pretty quickly to about 135 metres. Even though you’re legs will be begging for a rest by the time you reach the highest point here, the views are well worth it!!

Annnnnd you’ve made it! That’s the end of day one! You’ve now finished about 16.6km of the hike – you’ll be feeling that in the morning.

As you first arrive at Refuge Cove, check out the tribute to the whaling history of the area. My research suggests that the area was originally thought to be the perfect location for whalers and sealers (hence the name of Sealers Cove) but wasn’t overly used. Saying that, you will find there are a LOT of old whale bones to see.

After checking out the site, head on down to the other side of the beach – that’s where you’ll find the campsite.

There’s a small river running past the back of the site (near the toilets) – trust me when I say you CAN drink the water. None of us got sick, but we did come prepared to sterilise it. Also try not to think about the drop dunnies located not too far away (but definitely within smelling distance)…

Day Two

Day two starts off with what I’d say is the toughest section of the entire hike. Similar to walking between Sealers and Refuge Coves, the walk across to Waterloo Bay, and then Little Waterloo Bay sees you head uphill again and again… And again…

The incline is almost immediate, and it feels like it continues on forever. But once again, the views are well worth it.

After cursing through all those changes in elevation (there’s a lot of up and down hill through to Little Waterloo), it’s no time at all before you’re there and it’s time to head inland.

Enjoy the final view of the ocean. It gets hot with little shade for the remainder of the trip back.

This final stretch sees you walk across relatively flat land and on to the Telegraph Track (a dirt access road), until a last push uphill to the carpark. There’s little to see along this section, with my aim having turned to getting home (read: to the pub for a parma).

For a better view of the walk, here’s a little video my friend put together of the weekend…

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