A half-day walk for anyone of moderate fitness wanting to escape the crowds, get a different view of the Three Sisters, and who isn’t afraid of stairs. The walk can be extended to a full day walk depending on your starting point, or to include over-night hike options for experienced hikers.
Start/Finish: Glenraphael Drive, Katoomba
Distance: Approx 9km (+0.5km each way to where we left our car)
Time: Approx 4hrs
The geological feature in Jamison Valley known as ‘Ruined Castle’ (circled in red below) is visible from Echo Point Lookout as a little rise between Mt Solitary (which rises up directly in from of you from the middle of the valley), and the Narrowneck Plateau which has a ridge extending into the valley from the right.
Our New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) Walking Track Guide suggested the walk would take 6 hours, and rated it medium/hard. This didn’t faze us; along with the description of walk it sounded just what we were after. The SV Map had a slightly more conservative estimate of 5 hours to complete the walk. You’ll note from the graph above that we weren’t exactly racing along (camera-in-hand syndrome) and we did it in 4hrs, so… mind you, we didn’t really stop as we climbed back up the steps. Just one or two photos on the way. Yep, have a cruisey walk then race up the cliff at the end (with, ahem, the aid of the handrails). Makes perfect sense.
Glenraphael Drive was very easy to find; it was once we got there that the fun started. Yes, we have asked the MINI to pretend it’s a 4wd before and it’s done admirably well to date, but the further we went along this unsealed road, the larger the ruts and holes got! Fortunately there was a spot we could park on the side of the road which turned out to be only about 500m from the start of the Golden Stairs, so it wasn’t too bad.
You need a 4wd to drive the pock-marked Glenraphael Drive
The puddles on Glenraphael Drive were getting bigger
We were looking forward to getting down into the valley – it was incredibly windy on the ridge tops. It had blown in overnight; a cold wind too, for all that it was a bright, sunny day.
The Golden Stairs are steep, though on average possibly slightly less so than those of the Giant Stairway, but more than the Furber Steps. The signs advise to allow half an hour to walk the 800m to the bottom where the steps meet the Federal Pass Walking Track, that more or less follows the old tramway put in when coal was being mined in the area by pick and shovel.
NSW NPWS signs at top of Golden Stairs
Signs at top of Golden Stairs
As on the other stairs in the area there is a handrail for a lot of the way down. I shudder to imagine what it would have been like to climb up and down, in all types of weather, for people back when the area was being explored and mined (late 1800’s I think). Apparently the stairs got their name from a Salvation Army Officer who was known to sing a hymn on the way back up, after holding services for the miners below.
A reminder to engage your brain when bushwalking
Taking in the view t Botting’s Lookout
The steps can be wet and slippery – thank goodness for the handrail
Nearing the bottom of the Golden Stairs
Colourful new growth on a fern
A particularly spiky plant about to flower
Almost at the bottom of the Golden Stairs
Federal Pass Walking Tack is wide and flat at the bottom of the steps, perfectly matching what we expected to find from an old mining tramway given our experience around Walhalla in Victoria (see here and here). It doesn’t remain like this the whole 3.4km to Ruined Castle, so you will need to watch where you put your feet, but does remain reasonably level, as it follows the base of the cliffs. As you follow the path out along the base of the cliff and into the valley, the forest changes from a dark rainforest with a high canopy and moss-covered rocks littering the forest floor, to a much more open eucalypt forest with ferns and then grasses as the dominant ground cover.
Golden Stairs meets Federal Pass Walking Track
Federal Pass Walking Track, heading towards Ruined Castle
The moss covered rocks are beautiful but remind me that the original path would have been a challenge to make
Bark on a fallen tree slowly splitting and falling away
Ferns, lichen & moss on a boulder
Plants growing on a boulder by the path
Federal Pass Walking Track to Ruined Castle
Fungi makes a ladder up a dead tree trunk
Back in what felt like the subtropical rainforest section
Blue fruit on the forest floor
Ground ferns, tree ferns & ferns on trees
New growth, ready to unfurl
A more open section of forest. Maybe there’s been a landslide here in the past
Tangled flowers from a vine above add a splash of colour to the path
Wild flowers starting to bloom
Looking up at the cliffs of the Narrowneck Plateau
The texture of this bark reminded me of a sheep’s fleece
Federal Pass Walking Track
Right before the turn off to Ruined Castle we came upon a couple of NSW Parks rangers hard at work preparing foundations for public toilets. That was a double surprise! We don’t often see park rangers doing things in a park while we’re out on our walks (normally staff wearing Park uniforms are seen behind desks or cash registers at information centres) despite evidence that work has taken place (at some point in the past). For once we had a chance to talk to – and thank in person – the people doing the hard work!
NSW Park Rangers hard at work (photo taken on our way back)
The second surprise was that they were putting in loos. Maybe the overnight walk to Mt Solitary (an extension of this walk – advised for experienced walkers only. Someone required rescuing from there a day or two before we did our walk) is more popular than we realised.
A comment made in the NSW NPWS walking track guide book is there is some rock scrambling required on the path up Ruined Castle (see also here, about half way down the page). Now, either they’ve smoothed the path somewhat or we were supposed to bring our own rocks – I’m not sure which. I’ve done more rock scrambling around various beach heads. The path up is pretty obvious and not that tricky. If you stick to the path and don’t climb up the ‘castle’ there isn’t any ‘rock scrambling’ required.
I was rather disappointed to see building materials had been choppers in to build steps up the side of the hill. Are we causing that much erosion? Or are we intent on making everything boardwalk grade?
Walking up to Ruined Castle, past bags of NPWS building supplies
The numerous NPWS bags appear to be full of wood to make steps to climb up Ruined Castle
Is this the rock scrambling bit?
Rocky, but no scrambling required as yet
At the top of the short rise the track winds its way between the banksia trees and rough-barked eucalypts on top of the ridge leading to the ‘castle’. Most of the way along the ridge you can’t actually tell how far away you are from the formation. We followed the path through them and around the other side of the boulders making the formation known as ‘Ruined Castle’ before picking a spot to have lunch.
The path along the ridge to Ruined Castle is pretty smooth
Passing under part of the ‘ruins’
The boulders are much more erroded on their exposed side
Ah-ha! the Ruined Castle takes shape
The path continues around the back of the formation
A good spot to stop for lunch
If you want a clearer view, you will have to some ‘rock scrambling’ but that’s not necessary to this point
At Ruined Castle, wondering where Stephen had got to…
Picking your way down the other side is trickier than climbing up. The path is steeper and the loose dirt and litter (leaves, twigs, gum nuts, pebbles) between the rocks can make your footing less certain. It was good to make it down to Federal Pass without any slips.
Borderline rock-scrambling on the descent from Ruined Castle
Steep and a bit slippery coming down this section from the Ruined Castle
One of our many types of wattle
Ruined Castle track (on the Mt Solitude side) meets Federal Pass Walking Track
More acacia flowers
On the return trip we found more new facilities for hikers – shelters in clearings below the main track, and completed toilets. Evidence that the two Park Rangers had been hard at work for a while.
One of a couple of new shelters built by NWS NPWS Rangers near Ruined Cast just off Federal Pass Walking Track
Nice work on this shelter
In a case of being at the right place at the right time, we were privileged to witness a male lyrebird’s display, performed on a fallen tree not far from the path. I recorded most of it on my camera…I just don’t know what happened to it! Stephen got a couple of photos, but I wish I could share the performance with you.
When we reached the bottom of the steps again we didn’t go straight back up but decided to see what the Federal Pass track is like between this point and Scenic World. We just went a short way – going all the way to Scenic World and back would have added about 2hrs to the walk – enough to see that, as on the side of the steps, the track narrows and seems to become a more typical, undulating path through the rainforest, not one you can reliably push a pram along.
Federal Pass Walking Track from Golden Stairs back to Scenic World or Furber Steps
There wasn’t a hymn going through my head as we started back up the Golden Steps. I think I was just focusing on keeping up a steady pace. The sign at the bottom gave an indication of 45min for the climb (as opposed to 30min for the descent). We managed to shave 15min off that which was I reasonably pleased with, as we don’t live or regularly train anywhere hilly.
No hymns today, just a focus on breathing as we climb up the Golden Stairs
Still a ways to go
Taller people may need to duck
Narrow, but still plenty of room to walk single-file past the cliff face
Looking back to Ruined Castle between Narrowneck Plateau and Mt Solitary
Cliffs of the Narrowneck Plateau from Golden Stairs
Three Sisters from Bottings Lookout, almost back at the top of Golden Stairs
The top of the Golden Stairs is in sight
Then it was time to hold onto (or remove) hats again before they were blown back into the valley as we emerged from the forest onto the exposed ridge and walked back to the car. It was a really enjoyable walk.
The flower of a native pea species
Not sure what type of bush this is, but it was lovely
Just because you’ve done something once before, doesn’t mean you can do it again – without directions, at least.
Which is how we came to be walking by some very nice houses on Kia Ora Parade (with some other locationally challenged walkers) wondering which turn we should/shouldn’t have made to get to the 1000 Steps. But lets rewind a bit and I’ll explain…
It’s not long now until we’re off to Wilsons Prom to walk down to the lighthouse. My office day job provides, as you might imagine, ideal training for a 20-24km hike (probably to be repeated 3 days in a row, unless we’re too knackered on the middle day). The slightly downhill 3km walk home of an evening has also really helped to boost my confidence.
Even so, we though a bit of extra practice wouldn’t go astray.
We’ve been meaning to go back to One Tree Hill and the 1000 Steps for quite some time. The last first and last time we were there was before the ‘new’ Lyrebird track was (re)opened. Today seemed like a good day. Pity neither Stephen or I remembered to pick up Glenn Tempest’s “Daywalks Around Melbourne” in case we couldn’t remember which track to take, based solely on our memories of our walk from a couple of years back.
This section of the Dandenong Ranges Nation Park must be one of the most visited of Victoria’s parks. The 1000 Steps car park at the bottom of the hill (Fern Tree Gully end) is very large, but always full. I’ve never been by and not seen cars parked for hundreds of metres up the sides of the road. As suggested by Glenn Tempest, we have always (that is to say both times now) parked at the top at the One Tree Hill car park. Compared to the crowd at the bottom, it’s like hardly anyone seems to know about it. And yet it’s only about 100m (if that) from the end of the 1000 Steps track. Go figure.
Car park at One Tree Hill
Just a small section of the packed 1000 Steps Car Park (not the clearest photo, I grant you)
Just going up and down the 1000 Steps (or Lyrebird) track with half of Melbourne’s population (well, not quite half) is not our idea of a great afternoon, so we like to extend the walk so we can look around, enjoy the bush and get to clock up 10km without collapsing (as I think could be on the cards if we did the same distance just going up and down the ‘Steps).
So after finding a park (not hard), changing into our hiking boots (there’s a convenient seat nearby), we walked to the top of the hill to start our walk along Tyson Track. It’s pretty steep going down, even if it doesn’t look it in the photo.
One Tree Hill Picnic Ground – there’s also car parking outside the gate.
Can’t say you weren’t warned
Walking up One Tree Hill
One of the huts at the top of One Tree Hill
Heading down Tyson Track
The bush down the western slopes of One Tree Hill is drier, with less understorey than in the lush and protected gullies, and with grasses as the majority of the ground cover. Numerous tracks crisscross the park. Some follow a level grade as much as possible, and some tracks are very steep (through not as steep as the Telecom Track in Walhalla, thankfully). The tracks are generally wide, gravel-surfaced and well maintained, and it’s not unusual to come across a number of other walkers or hikers and there are signs of mountain bike riders using the tracks, too. In fact, this section of the National Park reminds me of Toohey Forest, just south of Brisbane.
Tyson Track – Despite the shade, you still need to wear a hat
Outlook Rd – Typical bush covering the western hillsides
View Track – Gravel paths are great until they get steep and shallow – then it’s like marbles on concrete. It’s steeper than it looks.
View Track – This is actually much steeper than it looks. We were glad we didn’t slip down here
Arbor Track – Didn’t expect to come out at Himalaya Road…
Google maps calls Himalaya Track “Hatherly Grove” as that’s the name of the street at the other end – as we found out
Belview Tce – You’ll pass plenty of other people from barely shod casual walkers, to fitness fanatics, to bushwalkers like us
Something I’ve never seen in Toohey’s Forest though is one of these fellows, who was just to the side of The Boulevard (track) as we tried to find our way back up to Belview Terrace.
Echidna in defensive mode
Having descended from the top of the hill, walked some streets while slightly ‘locationally challenged’, climbed almost the whole way back up again while doubling back due to a poor choice of track at Himalaya Road, we eventually found the path we originally intended to be on (Belview Tce).
Slightly surprised at the appearance of a police 4wd coming up the track (yes, the paths are that wide and no, I doubt they’d need to put it in 4wd to get up that track… well, maybe to get around some of the corners lower down) we continued down hill again until we reached the 1000 Steps car park and picnic ground. There are public facilities there and even a cafe now.
Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground
Now, I understand and fully support the principle that what you take into a national park you should also take out. That’s good, proper and the responsible thing to do. But when you buy something at a cafe, you would expect them to have a rubbish bin, wouldn’t you? Apparently not in this case. Again, I understand why – they don’t want to attract birds/possums/rodents etc and encourage unnatural habits – but there’s not even an inside bin. Which isn’t to say that the cafe staff don’t dispose of rubbish left on tables by people who ‘didn’t see’ the signs… Anyway, we took our rubbish with us – it’s not like there was a lack of space in our backpacks!
And so here we were. The infamous 1000 Steps (of which I hear there are somewhat fewer than 1000 – I wasn’t counting though). Last time we battled our way up the old, narrow, steep, slippery track with half of Melbourne’s population who are trying to get fit and a couple of bus loads of tourists on top of that. What was the new track going to be like?
Start of the 1000 Steps
I think I’ve been told that groups preparing to walk the Kokoda track come here to train. Have I mentioned that the old track is steep? The recent works done around this lower end of the park really emphasise our history on the Kokoda Track. There are information plaques along the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps track – but with the human traffic it can be hard to take it in. Having large, dedicated areas down the bottom that you can read before or after your climb seems a good idea. It also gives you something to reflect on while you’re struggling up the hill.
One of the new Kokoda Memorials at the start of the 1000 Steps
And here it is – the spilt. Lyrebird (new 1000 Steps) on the left, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps) on the right.
Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka 1000 Steps) vs Lyrebird Track (aka the new 1000 Steps)
We came to try out the new path, so that’s what we chose. I was surprised at the number of people still heading up the old path. It hasn’t been wet lately – I wonder if that makes a lot of difference? You won’t catch me going up there in the wet. Even with a handrail, those old, mossy, sloped steps do not make me feel safe. In comparison, the steps of the new track – though not as wide as we’d expected – are level, deep and moss free.
The new path is 700m longer than the old one (2.5km vs 1.8km), although both are rated as ‘Steep’. And since you get a choice between stairs and path on the Lyrebird Track, after a short while I found the track was definitely easier! As long as you keep to the one line and be aware that you’re sharing the path, it’s pretty good. But still quite a way up. And these signs along the way don’t help. I’ve no idea what they’re measuring. The track is 2.5km long, but the post at the top says 15oom… it’s not elevation – the top of the track is not quite 500m above sea level.
Looking back down the hill
It’s a popular place to be
750m? To or from what?
I didn’t know the top was just at the top of this rise
There’s always a crowd at the top
Mission accomplished we left the sweaty masses behind and wandered up the last 100m (if that) of the track back to the One Tree Hill car park. By this stage lunch on top of the hill was sounding really nice (we only stopped for a quick snack at the cafe below) and as previously mentioned, there are open and sheltered picnic tables as well as BBQ’s and facilities up top here too.
One of the shelters at One Tree Hill Picnice Ground
One Tree Hill Picnic Ground – there’s also car parking outside the gate.
Fortunately not a total fire ban day today – this was taken walking out of the park
Unfortunately I’m still having issues with embedding our Garmin details, but if you’re interested in a good walk around the Dandenongs, please check it out here – and don’t forget to take a copy of your walk directions with you!
And so, after some wet weather and one good days’ walking so far, our Wilsons Prom holiday continues…
O is for Oberon – today Oberon Bay and Mt Oberon were our goals.
The track to Oberon Bay starts, very conveniently, between the Visitor Centre and General Store at Tidal River. Our walk started pretty wet and windy (again). After passing behind Norman Beach, the rain eased up slightly and our cameras saw some more action as we walked around Normal Point to Little Oberon Bay.
Track behind Norman Beach
Crossing an outlet to Norman Beach
Looking back towards Tidal River along Norman Beach
Rain closing in again
Little Oberon Bay is stunning. Of all the beaches we saw and of the four we walked on, Little Oberon was by fast the loveliest. White silicon sand, turquoise water, orange rocks, green shrubs – gorgeous! The only downside is that the beach is pretty steep, so I don’t know that it would be a patrolled beach in summer; if not, I wouldn’t recommend swimming there.
Turquoise water at Little Oberon Bay
Gorgeous colours – Little Oberon Bay
Stephen at Little Oberon Bay
The water looks very inviting
Little Oberon Bay
Flood damage in this area of the park
Continuing on around the next corner is Oberon Bay. A much longer, less sheltered bay, with yellow sand. Not quite as picturesque, but a much shallower beach and better for swimming – not that I had any desire for a dip; I’d prefer not to experience hyperthermia which was what the wind was promising!
If you cross Growler Creek and continue on down Oberon Bay there’s another camping area. While not deep, I still found the best way of crossing the ‘creek’ (it is still a creek at when it meets the ocean?) while getting the least wet – yes, despite wearing hiking boots and gaiters, I still wanted to avoid getting overly wet with salty water.
We lunched by Growler Creek after passing another couple coming back – the only two other people we saw along this walk. Like so many people we see out walking, they weren’t carrying anything. From Growler Creek it’s over 6km back to Tidal River – that’s 12km+ they’ve come without even water – that’s pretty silly. Water is the primary reason why Stephen and I each wear a backpack, even though we sometimes may not drink more than a quarter of what we take.
Today we were joined for lunch by a hopeful raven (most likely Corvus coronoides), but it got no satisfaction from us.
Despite the weather looking like it was closing in again, we were spared too much more rain on the walk back. We took the short path out to Norman Point, but the sun was not in the best position to get great photos.
The rocks at Norman Point
View at Norman Point
Bare Rock, green scrub and blue ocean
Reminds me a little of Girraween NP
Instead of heading straight back to the car when we reached the Tidal River camping area, we deviated slightly and followed the loop road around the back of the school camping area to check out the Wilderness Retreats – the 5 or so ‘safari-style’ tent/cabins they have as a deluxe camping option. While far more comfortable looking than the small cabins for two located closer to the Visitor Centre, we still think there are some major draw backs to staying in-park compared to staying at somewhere like Black Cockatoo Cottages just outside the park. (Comparison at the end of the post.)
Vic Parks Wilderness Retreat front
Vic Parks Wilderness Retreat side
Walking back to the car parked near the Visitor Centre, we saw many wombats! Wombats clock on from 3:30pm it seems. And there was a nice kookaburra, too.
Wombat with earrings
We arrived back at the General Store at 3:45pm ready for a post walk icecream! Just in time, too – despite the sign saying they close at 4pm, they locked the door to all comers at 3:50 – not a minute after Stephen went in. The next three people who turned up were a bit confused and disappointed! Fortunately they seemed to know people who were already in the shop buying things. Too bad if not!
I wonder if this ‘hospitality’ is the same during the peak summer months?
Here are the map and stats from the Oberon Bay walk. This is from Stephen’s garmin because I didn’t reset mine between walks, and so recorded not just both walks we did today, but the drive back to the cottage afterwards. A lesson for next time.
While I was waiting for Stephen to come out of the General Store, I couldn’t help but notice how lovely Mt Bishop looked in the afternoon sun…
Mt Bishop, late afternoon
So it wasn’t until about 4:30pm that we headed up to the Telegraph Saddle (Mt Oberon) carpark to then walk up to the summit of Mt Oberon to take sunset photos – arguably the most iconic photos taken of the park, possibly along with the orange stained rocks of the beaches and Tidal River.
Tidal River earlier in the day
Rocks in Tidal River
Being winter, we realised that we didn’t have much time to waste getting up there. The sign at the carpark says the road is 3.4km; the walk notes on our map said 6.5km return and to allow 2hrs. With sunset just after 5:30, it sounded like we might be cutting it fine! So, after one photo at the start to the road, the camera went back into my pocket; time to focus on walking. Steel springs! It was a quick march the whole way. I arrived at the top of the road in 45min; hot and red-face – but before the sun had set!
Telegraph Saddle Carpark below Mt Oberon
Starting the climb up Mt Oberon
The end of the road, but there’s further to go
(Incidentally, the distance is roughly the same as that we walk home from the city each night, which takes us roughly 35min… but home isn’t 347m above the city!)
From the top of the road, there’s one last one effort to make it up to the actual peak – some stairs and steps carved into the rocks behind the transmission towers. This last little effort is a little bit like an easier version of the very top section of Mt Warning in northern New South Wales when you get to the chain section. You think you’re done, then there’s just a wee bit more before you get to the lookout!
But then you are rewarded with an amazing 360 degree view over the park and Bass Strait and of the setting sun. What a view!
Up up up!
Good phone reception here
Catching my breath
Sunset – made it
Made it in time!
Looking south from Mt Oberon
Geo survey trig station
Clouds blowing up the mountain side – time to go
We weren’t the only ones up there. There was a group of half a dozen asian (Japanese?) students who were jumping around as though they were getting a bit cold. Funny that. Fortunately it wasn’t blowing a gale – given the weather of the last couple of days (including gale force winds up to 113km/hr) we were supremely lucky to have such perfect weather.
Careful not to slip on the way down
Don’t rush; don’t want to break a leg.
The light of a shining half moon helped guide us the down the road back to the car.
It was a slow drive back to Black Cockatoo Cottages – maximum speed was only about 60km/hr due to the abundant wildlife. The majority of the wallabies and wombats we saw were happy to keep munching by the side of the road, or turned away as we neared, but a couple of wallabies had different ideas and wanted to cross in front of us. And then there were the deer. Sambar, to be precise.
And the possum sitting on the road with it’s back to us – I didn’t even see it! I saw the swamp wallaby on the other side of the road, but luckily Stephen somehow saw the brushtail possum. It’s dark brown-black fur blending in with the bitumen of the road very well. We came to a complete stop and had even waited a minute before it decided maybe the road wasn’t where it wanted to be and moved off into the bush. Lucky for it that it’s an Australian possum, and not a New Zealand possum…
Despite the wallabies, wombats, kangaroos, emus, possum, deer, rabbits/hares, and an unidentified bird that wanted to swoop across the road just as we were driving by, we made it home without killing anything. Bit of a relief, really.
Fantastic sunrise this morning – and given it was my last opportunity to photograph it, what more inspiration did I need? I grabbed the tripod and got going.
Looks like a nice day ahead – pity we’re leaving!
A blazing sun
I had no idea what the time was, but I’d taken a couple of photos when I heard the dairy farmer next door start his day, so… early enough.
The only drawback with having such a magnificent view from you bed is seeing what you’ll miss if you close your eyes. Pity I couldn’t take these photos from bed! But it wasn’t quite as cold as previous mornings – still cold enough, but again being out of any wind or breeze makes it much better.
I believe that the mark of a really good holiday is that as you leave you’re already asking yourself ‘When can I/we come back?’.
So, would we go back?
Wilsons Promontory National Park is spectacular and beautiful and deserves all the lovely things that are written about it, but (and there’s a BUT)… there’s a lack of adequate services within a reasonable distance of the park.
Basic accommodation and scenery are not all that tourists looking for in a holiday destination. At the moment I really feel that’s all that is on offer if you want to stay somewhere in or close to the national park.
Since visiting the park currently requires you to take your own food supplies with you, it’s good to know in advance where you can buy supplies should you run out, or if you’ve forgotten a key ingredient – or your toothbrush!
From Tidal River, the closest general stores are:
– Tidal River General Store: next to the Visitor Centre (limited stock, overpriced and closes earlier than advertised)
– Yanakie General Store: ~1hr return drive (we didn’t visit but I wouldn’t rely on it to be better than Tidal River. Check opening times.)
– Fish Creek General Store: ~2hr return drive (undergoing renovations when we visited and had very limited stock.)
– Foodworks at Foster: ~2hr return drive (we didn’t visit but it looked to be a larger (and better?) option than the two above)
– Michael’s IGA at Leongatha: ~4hr return drive (fantastic, but not somewhere you’d go just for a litre of milk) (NOTE: take 1hr off return driving time if staying at Yanakie. Add at least 10min per direction if traveling through park after dark.)
There are also no take away food options for dinner after Foster. I don’t know what the cafe may provide in the summer peak – maybe fish & chips? Though by the look of it don’t expect restaurant quality dishes. In low season the cafe closed for the day even before the General Store did.
Should you arrive at your destination and find yourself low on fuel, you can apparently refuel in Yanakie (just on the Park boundary). We made it back to a BP service station in Leongatha to refuel.
Recently, the state government has passed a bill making Victorian National Parks open to proposals for environmentally sensitive developments like those that exist along the Overland Track in Tasmania and the Milford Track in New Zealand – both of which Stephen and I have completed with the private guiding companies and loved. Despite these stirling examples of sensitive in-park development, the general public either don’t know or don’t appreciate how these private guided walks are operated, and/or they do not trust the government to limit the private interests to developments of just this nature. (I also have some concern about the latter, but until an actual proposal has been made, we won’t know for sure.)
There has been – and still is – a lot of resistance from various groups to the thought of opening up our national parks to commercial development. Victorian National Parks Association (an NGO – not Parks Victoria) are totally against it. Friends of The Prom (FOTP) are organising a rally in November to show their protest against the idea. “Hands off” is their key message. While these groups do a lot of good in raise awareness about national park issues, and the FOTP have certainly done much to help the park recover from recently natural disasters, it does seem that people are assuming the worst about any potential commercial development (i.e. that their beloved parks are going to be trashed by thoughtless, rich interlopers attracted by large hotel chains who are only out to make money from what doesn’t belong to them).
However, with the construction a few smallprivate huts just off existing tracks (as is the case along the Overland Track), walkers like Stephen and I would have the opportunity to see more of the park than is currently within our reach. Small groups (8-10 guests) of guided walkers are not going to trash the park. At an all-inclusive cost of $400-600pp/night (based on 2013/14 season prices charged by the private operators of the guided walks along the Milford and Overland Tracks), this kind of experience attracts people who really want to experience and appreciate the best our premium national parks have to offer, and who don’t care to (or can’t) do the camping option.
With or without in-park development, a modest-sized hotel just outside the park (which would definitely include a restaurant and possibly also a cafe) would also make visiting the Prom easier. I can think of any number of places – not all of them high-end – that have similar arrangements:
Kingfisher Bay Resort – Fraser Island NP (Qld)
Tangalooma Island Resort – Moreton Island NP (Qld)
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge – Carnarvon Gorge NP (Qld)
O’Reilly’s – Lamington NP (Qld)
Freycinet Lodge – Freycinet NP (Tas)
Falls Creek – Alpine NP (Vic)
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld – Grampians NP (Vic)
Halls Gap – Grampians NP (Vic)
Thredbo – Kosciusko NP (NSW)
Ayres Rock Resort – Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP (NT)
Ben Lomond Village – Ben Lomond NP (Tas)
Cradle Mountain Lodge / Chateau – Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP (Tas)
Remember, it’s not just Victorians and 20-something backpackers who want visit. The desire to see the worlds best National Parks is experienced by everyone at some point who has been touched by the beauty of nature. If you were travelling from interstate or overseas and were told to bring all your food for the duration of your stay with you – how would you manage?
One of the pioneers of national parks in Australia was Gustav Weindorfer in Tasmania, who was instrumental in the formation of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. He didn’t just want to protect this place of great beauty and environmental significance, but share it with people. The (and his wife Kate) built a lodge and brought in guests. They didn’t try to hide their find. They understood that the more people who visit and fall in love with a place, the greater the number of people who will then be willing to protect that place, and places like it.
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As mentioned above, this is my comparison table that I hope may be helpful for couples thinking of visiting Wilsons Promontory:
Comparison between Accommodation options we considered at Wilsons Promontory
Ensuite (not sure if this includes a shower) – shower & laundry facility block separate
Full bathroom & laundry facilities within the cottage
Bring all food with you – limited general store in Park
Bring all food with you – nearest general store is ~5min drive at Yanakie
Fully equipped communal kitchen tent.
Fully equipped kitchen in cottage
Bar fridge in sleeping tent, shared full-sized refrigerator in communal kitchen tent.
Full-sized refrigerator in kitchen
Shared BBQ (electric) area.
BBQ (electric) on veranda.
Cost (as at Aug 2013) $302.50 per night
Cost (as at Aug 2013) $140-160 per night
Vic Parks Wilderness Retreat front
Watching the sky from bed – Black Cockatoo Studio Cottage
If/ when we go back, we plan to walk to the Lighthouse and stay a night or two (there’s no minimum stay, but maximum stay is 2 nights – yep, go figure), but otherwise we’d be staying outside the park at in the studio cottage at Black Cockatoo. (I can’t pass up that view!) By ourselves there’s no way we’re going to get to see much of the rest of the park that you can’t do as a return day walk.