Wilsons Promontory

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Wilsons Promontory
Wilsons prom 3.jpg
Looking south from Mount Oberon on Wilsons Promontory towards the southern tip of the Australian mainland.
Australia Victoria relief location map.jpg
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Location of Wilsons Promontory in Victoria
Location Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
Coordinates 39°02′S146°23′E / 39.033°S 146.383°E / -39.033; 146.383 Coordinates: 39°02′S146°23′E / 39.033°S 146.383°E / -39.033; 146.383

Wilsons Promontory, [1] also known as Yiruk and Wamoon in the Gunai and Boonwurrung languages respectively, [2] is a peninsula that forms the southernmost part of the Australian mainland, located in the state of Victoria.


South Point at 39°08′06″S146°22′32″E / 39.13500°S 146.37556°E / -39.13500; 146.37556 is the southernmost tip of Wilsons Promontory and hence of mainland Australia. Located at nearby South East Point, ( 39°07′S146°25′E / 39.117°S 146.417°E / -39.117; 146.417 ) is the Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse. Most of the peninsula is protected by the Wilsons Promontory National Park and the Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park.

Human history

Erosion damage caused by the March 2011 floods, as viewed southwards towards Lilly Pilly Gully in March 2012. Erosion Damage, Wilsons Promontory, Australia - Mar 2012.jpg
Erosion damage caused by the March 2011 floods, as viewed southwards towards Lilly Pilly Gully in March 2012.
Tidal River as viewed from the summit of Mount Oberon. The settlement of Tidal River is visible in the bottom-right corner. Wilson's Promontory - Tidal River from Mt Oberon - Dec 2004.jpg
Tidal River as viewed from the summit of Mount Oberon. The settlement of Tidal River is visible in the bottom-right corner.

The promontory was first occupied by indigenous Koori people at least 6,500 years prior to European arrival. [3] Middens along the western coast indicate that the inhabitants subsisted on a seafood diet. [4]

The promontory is mentioned in dreamtime stories, including the Bollum-Baukan, Loo-errn and Tiddalik myths. [5] [4] It is considered the home of the spirit ancestor of the Brataualung clan - Loo-errn. [6] The area remains highly significant to the Gunai/Kurnai and the Boon wurrung people, who consider the promontory to be their traditional country/land. [5]

The first European to see the promontory was George Bass in January 1798. [7] He initially referred to it as "Furneaux's Land" in his diary, believing it to be what Captain Furneaux had previously seen. But on returning to Port Jackson and consulting Matthew Flinders he was convinced that the location was so different it could not be that land. Bass and Flinders recommended the name Wilsons Promontory to Governor Hunter, honouring Flinders's friend from London Thomas Wilson. Little is known of Wilson except that he was a merchant engaged in trade with Australia. [8]

Seal hunting was conducted in the area in the 19th century. [9] Shore-based whaling was also carried out in a cove at Wilsons Promontory from at least 1837. It was still underway in 1843 at Lady's Bay (Refuge Cove). [10]

Throughout the 1880s and '90s a public campaign to protect the area as a national park was waged, including by the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria. [11] The promontory has been a national park, to one degree or another, since 1898. Wilsons Promontory National Park, also known locally as "the Prom", contains the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria. Until the 1930s, when the road was completed, it was accessible only by boat. [11] The site was closed to the public during World War II, as it was used as a commando training ground. The only settlement within Wilsons Promontory is Tidal River which lies 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of the park boundary and is the focus for tourism and recreation. This park is managed by Parks Victoria. [12] In 2005 a burn started by staff got out of control and burnt 13% of the park, causing the evacuation of campers. [13] In 2009, a lightning strike near Sealer's Cove started a fire that burned over 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres). Much of the area had not been burned since 1951. [14] The fire began on 8 February, the day after "Black Saturday", where an intense heat wave, combined with arson, faulty electrical infrastructure and natural causes, led to hundreds of bushfires burning throughout the state of Victoria. Although the fire burned to within 1 kilometre (0.62 mi), the Tidal River camping area and park headquarters were unaffected. The park reopened to the public one month after the incident and the burned areas quickly regrew. [15] Despite the damage, the natural beauty of the area remained largely intact. [16]

In March 2011 a significant rainfall event led to major flooding of the Tidal River camping area. The bridge over Darby River was cut, leaving no vehicle access to Tidal River, leading to the evacuation of all visitors by helicopter over the following days, and the closure of the southern section of the park. In September 2011 public access to Tidal River was reopened following repair of the main access road, and the bridge at Darby River. All sections of the park south of Tidal River were closed while further repairs of tracks and footpaths were undertaken. The park was fully re-opened by Easter of 2012.

Tourists may choose basic or glam, cabins or camping (powered/unpowered) if they wish to stay inside Wilsons Promontory National Park. Many however choose to stay in accommodation just outside the Park in Yanakie, where they can still view the Wisons Promontory mountains and scenery and be only minutes from the Park's free entrance.

There are overnight hiking tracks [17] with two key circuits, one in the north and one in the south. The southern circuit is more popular with overnight hikers with several camping areas suited to wild camping. Camping is only allowed in the designated areas to reduce damage to the bush.

Geography and wildlife

Swamp wallaby at Wilsons Promontory Wilsons Prom Swamp Wallaby.jpg
Swamp wallaby at Wilsons Promontory

Coastal features include expansive intertidal mudflats, sandy beaches and sheltered coves interrupted by prominent headlands and plunging granite cliffs in the south, backed by coastal dunes and swamps. The promontory is surrounded by a scatter of small granite islands which, collectively, form the Wilsons Promontory Islands Important Bird Area, identified as such by BirdLife International because of its importance for breeding seabirds. [18]

Tidal River is the main river in Wilsons Promontory. The river runs into Norman Bay and swells with the tide. The river is a very fascinating color, a purple-yellow. This is due to the large number of tea trees in the location, which stain the water with tannin, giving it a tea-like appearance. Darby River is the second major river, with extensive alluvial flats and meanders. It was the site of the original park entrance and accommodation area from 1909 to the Second World War. [19]

Wilsons Promontory is home to many marsupials, native birds and other creatures. One of the most common marsupials found on the promontory is the common wombat, which can be found in much of the park (especially around campsites where it has been known to invade tents searching for food). The peninsula is also home to kangaroos, snakes, wallabies, koalas, long-nosed potoroos, white-footed dunnarts, broad-toothed rats, feather-tailed gliders and emus. Some of the most common birds found on the promontory include crimson rosellas, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and superb fairywrens. There are also many pests, including hog deer, foxes, feral cats, rabbits, common starlings, and common blackbirds.

As the Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park and Corner Inlet Marine National Park have been established, the area holds a variety of marine life and coral reefs. In recent years, after a long disappearance, due to illegal hunting by the Soviet Union with help by Japan, Southern right whales started to return to the area to rest and calve in the sheltered bays along with Humpback whales. Killer whales are also known to pass the area, and dolphins, seals, sea lions, and penguins still occur today.

The peninsula is also home to two large sets of dunes, the Big Drift and Little Drift. They are not very well-known but sometimes visited by hikers and suitable for sandboarding. [20]


Wilsons Promontory has an oceanic climate heavily influenced by the Roaring Forties, bringing summer temps far below what is the norm. Winters are dominated by low-pressure systems and high rainfall.

Climate data for Wilsons Promontory
Record high °C (°F)41.4
Average high °C (°F)20.3
Average low °C (°F)14.0
Record low °C (°F)5.6
Average precipitation mm (inches)50.7
Average precipitation days9.88.911.814.817.718.819.319.417.616.013.311.8179.2
Source: The Bureau of Meteorology [21]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilsons Promontory National Park</span> Protected area in Victoria, Australia

The Wilsons Promontory National Park, commonly known as Wilsons Prom or The Prom, is a national park in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia, located approximately 157 kilometres (98 mi) southeast of Melbourne.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tidal River (Victoria)</span> River in Victoria, Australia

The Tidal River is a perennial river of the West Gippsland catchment, located in the Wilsons Promontory region of the Australian state of Victoria. A permanent camping ground which the river flows passed to the south is also called Tidal River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South East Point</span> Southerly tip of Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, Australia

South East Point lies on the southerly tip of Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, Australia. It commands sensational views of Bass Strait and is a major landmark for all ships travelling between the southern Australian ports and the Pacific Ocean. South East Point is the site of the Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse. The only access for visitors is a full day hike from the Tidal River camping ground.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Port Phillip</span> Bay in Australia

Port Phillip or Port Phillip Bay is a horsehead-shaped enclosed bay on the central coast of southern Victoria, Australia. The bay opens into the Bass Strait via a short, narrow channel known as The Rip, and is completely surrounded by localities of Victoria's two largest cities — metropolitan Greater Melbourne in the bay's main eastern portion north of the Mornington Peninsula, and the city of Greater Geelong in the much smaller western portion north of the Bellarine Peninsula. Geographically, the bay covers 1,930 km2 (750 sq mi) and the shore stretches roughly 264 km (164 mi), with the volume of water around 25 km3 (6.0 cu mi). Most of the bay is navigable, although it is extremely shallow for its size — the deepest portion is only 24 m (79 ft) and half the bay is shallower than 8 m (26 ft). Its waters and coast are home to seals, whales, dolphins, corals and many kinds of seabirds and migratory waders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mornington Peninsula</span> Peninsula and region of Victoria, Australia

The Mornington Peninsula is a peninsula located south of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It is surrounded by Port Phillip to the west, Western Port to the east and Bass Strait to the south, and is connected to the mainland in the north. Geographically, the peninsula begins its protrusion from the mainland in the area between Pearcedale and an area north of Frankston. The area was originally home to the Mayone-bulluk and Boonwurrung-Balluk clans and formed part of the Boonwurrung nation's territory prior to European settlement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Port</span> Body of water

Western Port, commonly but unofficially known as Western Port Bay, is a large tidal bay in southern Victoria, Australia, opening into Bass Strait. It is the second largest bay in the state. Geographically, it is dominated by two large islands; French Island and Phillip Island. At the time it was renamed, its position was west of other known ports and bays, but Western Port has become something of a misnomer as it lies just to the east of the larger Port Phillip and the city of Melbourne. It is visited by Australian fur seals, whales and dolphins, as well as many migratory waders and seabirds. It is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international significance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gippsland Lakes</span> Lake network in Victoria, Australia

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The Boonwurrung people are an Aboriginal people of the Kulin nation, who are the traditional owners of the land from the Werribee River to Wilsons Promontory in the Australian state of Victoria. Their territory includes part of what is now the city and suburbs of Melbourne. They were called the Western Port or Port Philip tribe by the early settlers, and were in alliance with other tribes in the Kulin nation, having particularly strong ties to the Wurundjeri people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Division of McMillan</span> Former Australian federal electoral division

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walkerville, Victoria</span> Town in Victoria, Australia

Walkerville Victoria, Australia, is a tiny village on Waratah Bay in southwest Gippsland, about 190 km southeast of Melbourne. The small town, originally known as Waratah, is separated into Walkerville North and Walkerville South. The Walkerville Promontory View Estate is situated inland 2.3 km north of Walkerville North. At the 2006 census, Walkerville had a population of 262.

Sandy Point is a township in south Gippsland, Victoria near Wilsons Promontory. At the 2016 census, Sandy Point had a population of 270, growing to several thousand during the holiday period. It is surrounded by areas of significant natural heritage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shellback Island</span> Island in Victoria, Australia

The Shellback Island, an oceanic island, is approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) northwest of Darby Bay, off Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, Australia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wingan Inlet</span> Body of water

Wingan Inlet is an inlet within the Croajingolong National Park, in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Corner Inlet</span> Body of water

The Corner Inlet is a 600-square-kilometre (230 sq mi) bay located 200 kilometres (120 mi) south-east of Melbourne in the South Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. Of Victoria's large bays it is both the easternmost and the warmest. It contains intertidal mudflats, mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass meadows, sheltered from the surf of Bass Strait by a complex of 40 sandy barrier islands, the largest of which are Snake, Sunday and Saint Margaret Islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darby River</span> River in Victoria, Australia

The Darby River, a perennial river of the West Gippsland catchment, is located in the South Gippsland region of the Australian state of Victoria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilsons Promontory Islands Important Bird Area</span>

The Wilsons Promontory Islands Important Bird Area comprises a loose cluster of 19 small, granite islands, with a collective area of 658 ha, scattered around Wilsons Promontory in the state of Victoria, south-eastern Australia. The three southernmost islands are part of the state of Tasmania. They are important for their breeding seabirds.

The Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park is a protected marine national park located in the South Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. The 15,500-hectare (38,000-acre) marine park is situated off the southern tip of Wilsons Promontory and extends along the coastline from Norman Bay, near Tidal River, in the west around the southern tip of the promontory to Cape Wellington in the east. It extends offshore to the Glennie and Anser groups of offshore islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darby River, Victoria</span> Town in Victoria, Australia

Darby River is a locality in Gippsland in southeastern Victoria, Australia. Located within Wilson's Promontory National Park, it was the location of the original park entrance, ranger station and accommodation centre from 1909 until the Second World War. Often referred to just as The Darby, it was the location of the National Park Committee of Management Rooms from about 1909, a Ranger's cottage from 1913, and the 'Chalet' for tourist accommodation from 1923. The Chalet began as a small 6 room building and expanded to more than 24 accommodation rooms, kitchen, dining hall, bathrooms and the like. During World War Two the area was the site of the Headquarters Camp of the No 7 Commando Training Centre. At this time large numbers of huts and tents were erected and the Chalet was taken over for the Officers Mess. Following the war most of the buildings were removed or fell into disrepair and were demolished. The Ranger's House was moved to Tidal River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tidal River, Victoria</span> Town in Victoria, Australia

Tidal River is a locality in Wilsons Promontory National Park, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, Australia. It contains the main park administration and service centres as well as a permanent camping ground that takes its name from the Tidal River, which flows past the camping ground to the north.


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  2. Clark, Ian; Heydon, Toby (2002). Dictionary of Aboriginal Placenames of Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.
  3. "Wilsons Promontory History". www.aussiemap.net. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
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  8. Scott, Ernest (1914). The Life of Matthew Flinders. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
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  10. Townrow, p. 17.
  11. 1 2 Horne, Julia (2005). The Pursuit of Wonder: How Australia's Landscape was Explored, Nature Discovered and Tourism Unleashed. Carlton: The Miegunyah Press. p. 148. ISBN   0 522 851665.
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  14. Ham, Larissa (27 February 2009). "Firefighters continue to battle Wilsons Prom blaze". The Age. Melbourne.
  15. "Wilsons Promontory to reopen this weekend". The Age . Melbourne. 18 March 2009.
  16. "Wilsons Promontory after the bushfires". The Sydney Morning Herald .
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  19. Garnet, J. Roslyn, (with additional chapters by Terry Synan and Daniel Catrice) A History of Wilsons Promontory, Published by the Victorian National Parks Association
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  21. "Climate Statistics for Wilsons Promontory, VIC" . Retrieved 11 February 2012.