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Wilsons Promontory National Park, also affectionately known locally as Wilsons Prom, is a stunning coastal peninsula which makes up the southernmost tip of mainland Australia. Wilsons Prom is popular all year around but gets especially busy in summer which can sometimes make it difficult to plan an overnight stay in the area with only limited accommodation available in Wilsons Prom. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to show how it’s possible to see Wilsons Prom on a day trip, with this Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip itinerary.
If you’re looking for other day trip ideas, check out my Melbourne to Yarra Valley day trip itinerary.
How to get to Wilsons Prom from Melbourne
The best way to get to Wilsons Prom is by car. Melbourne to Wilsons Prom entrance is a 2.5 hour drive without stops.
Travelling to Wilsons Prom on public transport for a day trip would not be possible as there are no direct routes. But there are a few options for day tours from Melbourne if you would prefer not to drive yourself.
This 10-hour tour from Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip covers all the main sites in the National Park for just $93 USD / $135 AUD per person.
Note: there is no petrol station on the Wilsons Prom peninsula. Your last chance for fuel before entering the park is at Yanakie, before the park's entrance. Make sure you have enough fuel to last the whole day in the park.
Best time to visit Wilsons Promontory
The best time to visit Wilsons Prom is undoubtedly during the warmer summer months. The more predictable summer weather is perfect for long hikes and enjoying the beaches that Wilsons Prom has to offer.
However, summer is also the peak season for WIlsons Prom so it is by far the busiest, to the point that a camping ballot is used for overnight visitors during the summer holidays and peak weekends to avoid the park becoming overcrowded.
If possible, I would absolutely suggest visiting on a weekday during the warmer months, this way you will be able to almost guarantee good weather and avoid the weekend crowds.
If you’re unable to visit during the week, I would say the best time to visit Wilsons Prom is during the shoulder seasons or off-peak season. In spring or autumn, there is still a good chance you’ll get great weather but without the peak summer crowds.
I visited Wilsons Prom in June, which is technically the winter in Victoria, Australia, and I was lucky enough to have clear, sunny weather for the day. It was around 15 celsius so not quite warm enough to sunbathe and swim in the sea, but definitely warm enough in the sun to be comfortable on hikes and only take a light jacket.
Wilsons Prom entry fee
When I googled this question initially, there was a lot of incorrect information online. The truth is that there is no entry fee for WIlsons Prom. Obviously if you plan to camp or stay onsite overnight then you will need to pay, but for a Wilsons Prom day trip, there is no entry fee to enter Wilsons Promontory National Park.
What to bring for a WIlsons Prom day trip
If you’re only visiting for a day trip, then you don’t need all the camping gear, extra clothing and overnight equipment. But I do recommend the following:
Good walking shoes. Hiking shoes are probably best but good trainers are suitable for the walks in this itinerary too.
Sandals for the sand dune walking
A hat and sunscreen for sunny weather
Water and snacks
A light jacket, especially a windbreaker jacket for the breezy dunes and summit walk
A picnic and picnic blanket for lunch with a view (optional)
Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip itinerary
What time to leave for a Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip
2.5 hours is a pretty long way to go each way for a day trip, so to maximise your time in the park, I would aim to leave as early as possible.
Also consider if you are visiting during the autumn or winter like I did, the sun sets around 5-5.30pm, so your daylight hours are more limited.
I left Melbourne at 7am and arrived at the park's entrance around 9.45am.
At the Wilsons Prom National Park entrance, you will need to leave a mobile number and details with the park ranger on the entrance. You can also collect a visitors map here. There is only one way in and out of the park so you’ll leave the park the same way too.
The Big Drift
Walk time: 30 minute each way/ 1 hr round trip
Total time: around 2-2.5 hours depending how much time you want to spend on the dunes
First stop of the day on your Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip itinerary is The Big Drift. The Big Drift are huge inland sand dunes (note that there is no beach access and the dunes are surrounded by bush).
The entrance to the Big Drift is via the Stockyard Campsite which is immediately by the entrance. In fact, you have to go back on yourself a bit. Once you pass through the park's entrance, turn immediately right behind the park lodge and onto the other side of the road as if you’re exiting the park. The Stockyard campsite entrance is immediately on your left. This also means when you leave The Big Drift you have to enter the Park again through the Park barrier, just let the ranger on duty know you’ve already been in once and they’ll let you through.
The car park at Stockyards Campsite is free, but it’s small, which is why I suggest stopping here first. The walk from the car park to the dunes is approximately 30 minutes or 2km. At first it’s on a grassy track, but the last 10 minutes is on sand and can be difficult to walk in.
To access the dunes, there is a steep uphill scramble up the side of the dunes to get to the top. This is definitely not an accessible site for those with mobility issues. This is also the reason i suggest doing this first thing in the day, it’s much cooler than scrambling in sand in the midday heat!
Once you reach the top of the dunes, remember where your entry point was! It is easy to get lost in the dunes and it took us around 20 minutes to find the same point to exit the dunes again!
The dunes really are breath-taking and such an unexpected sight in Victoria. They cover a huge area so even if it’s busy, you can still find a spot for yourself. If you have kids, be sure to bring a boogie board as there are some awesome steep slopes for sand surfing which a lot of children (and adults) were doing!
Make sure you have a hat and sunscreen for visiting the Big Drift in the summer, there is almost no shade and the dunes are very open to the elements. It can also get windy up there.
Drive the length of Wilsons Prom
Total time: approximately 30 minutes from park’s entrance to Tidal RIver
Okay so you can’t actually drive the full length of the park as the southernmost tip is only accessible by foot. But around two thirds of the way down the peninsula is the main hub of Wilsons Prom - Tidal River.
After you’ve visited the Big Drift, head back through the park’s entrance and follow this main road until you reach TIdal RIver. This drive really is spectacular, make sure you soak in all the scenery!
From huge granite rocks and boulders, to dense bush and views across the huge lush basin, with glimpses of the sea on either side of you.
The road is windy, but it’s all part of the reason why this trip is my favourite road trip in Victoria!
Tidal River is the place to stop if you need to top up on water or refreshments. It’s also the location of visitors’ centre if you’re looking for more information about the National Park.
For overnight hikers and campers, this is also the base where you would register and park.
Mount Oberon Summit Walk
Walk Time: 2 hours round trip (we did it in slightly less as we walk fairly fast)
Total TIme: 2-3 hours depending how long you want to spend at the summit
Just before the entrance to Tidal River, there is a road on the left which leads to Telegraph Saddle Car Park (you can put this into Google Maps to get there). This car park is where you’ll park to access the Mount Oberon Summit Track.
Although it sounds daunting, the Mount Oberon Summit Track is actually a very easy, doable walk for a Wilsons Prom day trip, with a return time of around 2 hours. The walking track is mostly gravel and there are plenty of passing places and areas to stop on the way up.
There are plenty of Wilson Prom day hikes in this area, Mount Oberon is the most famous, but if you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, opt for the Mount Bishop summit. The starting point and car park for this walk is labelled on Google Maps as Lilly Pilly Gully Car Park and it’s a little further back on the main road outside of TIdal River. The track is steeper, particularly at the end to reach the summit, but still doable in 2-3 hours return.
Walk time: 5 minutes each way from the car park to the beach
Total time: 30 minutes - 1hr depending on if you stop to eat or spend some time enjoying the beach
Now your two longest walks of the day are over, you can enjoy the rest of the day with some short strolls, beautiful beaches and amazing views as you slowly work your way back north along the Wilsons Prom road. Although if you are looking for more Wilsons Prom day hikes, click here for a full list of options.
Squeaky Beach is possibly the most famous beach on Wilsons Prom because of its squeaky white sand, crystal clear blue water and huge granite boulders, oh and the sand is squeaky!!
The car park entrance to Squeaky Beach is well signposted off the main road, or you can use Google Maps.
Once you’re in the car park, the beach is just a short 700m walk from there. The path is flat and gravel but gets sandy towards the beach so access does get a bit tricky if you have mobility issues or a child’s pram.
The beach itself is large, with plenty of space and you can walk among the boulders. Being set back in a bay, the water is fairly calm too without any large waves on a normal day.
The beach really is worth visiting whether you plan to sunbathe and hang out or just for a quick stop to see the landscape. With islands in the distance and the whitest sand I’ve seen in Victoria.
This is also a great spot to stop for a picnic if you’ve brought your own food and picnic blanket along.
There are several stops along the Wilsons Prom road where you can pull over and take in the view at a lookout. These are often marked or you will see a dirt pull-off on the road side.
I loved the view from Glennie Lookout which is right after the Squeaky Beach car park entrance. There is also Norman Lookout a little further along.
Picnic Bay and Whisky Bay
Walk time: 5 minutes/ 700m from the car park
Total time: 15-45 minutes depending on if you go down to the beaches
Right after Norman Lookout is the road to Picnic Bay car park which is also clearly signposted on the road.
There is a separate car park for both Picnic Bay and further along the road for Whisky Bay, but as you’re on a Wilsons Prom day trip and short on time, I recommend parking at Picnic Bay car park as it gives you quick access to the lookout point for both Picnic Bay and Whisky Bay.
This lookout is just 700m from the car park down a gravel track and some steps. It is great if you don’t have time to visit each bay individually as it gives you incredible views of both from above.
You can also access both the beaches from the same track if you have time to do one, or both!
There is another great Wilsons Prom day hike which covers Norman Beach, Tidal Overlook, Squeaky Beach and Picnic Bay which takes around 3 hours over 6km. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip but will definitely do it on a future Melbourne to Wilsons Prom day trip.
The Prom Wildlife Walk
Walk time: 1-1.5hr
Total time 1-1.5hr
This is the last stop an absolute must-do on your Wilsons Prom day trip itinerary. We were recommended to this by a friend and I’m so glad we did because we got to see our first wombat in the wild! And not just one wombat, we actually saw seven! Along with dozens of kangaroos.
The Prom Wildlife Walk is labelled on Google Maps as such and is also well signposted on the main Wilsons Prom road, look out for a large grassy area on your right as you’re driving north out of the park.
NOTE: To guarantee that you see wildlife, you will need to do this walk at dusk, so make sure to check dusk and sunset times for when we visit.
We arrived about 45 minutes before sunset. Park in the parking area off the main road and walk across the open grassy space to reach the start of the walking track. Follow the track through the bush until you reach a large, open grassy area with a view of the mountains.
Here you will see plenty of kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. You can even see emus too, although we didn’t see them on our visit.
The wombats are roaming around in the grassy area as that’s what they eat, they can be hard to spot in low light as they look like large rocks, but once you’ve seen one, you’ll see them everywhere!
Remember: although these animals are obviously used to humans and live in a protected area, they are still wild. Please don’t pet them or try to pick them up!
We spent over an hour here, enjoying the incredible sunset views and amazing wildlife, it really was the cherry on top of the cake for an incredible day!
Driving back to Melbourne
As we visited Wilsons Prom in the winter, we really tried to maximise our daylight there by leaving Melbourne early and arriving early. We had around 7.5 hours of daylight in Wilsons Prom from when we arrived just before 10am, to leaving at around 6pm and driving home to Melbourne in the dark.
Of course, if you’re visiting in the spring or summer, you’ll have longer days and more time to explore at a slower pace than in the winter. It also means to see wildlife on the wildlife walk you’ll be staying later until dusk.
The drive home took around 2.5 hours. If you’re looking for somewhere to stop for dinner on the way, I recommend Howler Brewing Company in Lang Lang. It’s just over half way through your journey and is only 2 minutes off the main highway. They do great beers, burgers, fish and chips, chicken parma, lasagna and nachos!
Wilsons Prom was somewhere I’d dreamed of visiting while I was living in Victoria, due to travel restrictions, it meant we couldn’t take the overnight camping and hiking trip as we had planned to. But when I worked out that it was possible to still see a lot of Wilsons Prom on a day trip from Melbourne, I knew I had to visit.
This trip made Wilsons Prom my favourite trip of our time living in Victoria. The great walking trails, stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, amazing sand dunes, greenery and rock formations were the perfect combination and I highly recommend anyone to take a trip to this beautiful part of Australia.
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