The incredible desert-like landscape of the Big Drift sand dunes in Victoria, Australia is nothing short of breathtaking. The 2km walk to reach the Big Drift sand dunes is a straightforward trail in Wilsons Prom. Although, the climb up onto the dunes does feel a little demanding and tiresome at times. Still, Big Drift in Wilsons Prom is definitely one of the most incredible places to visit in Victoria and easily one of Australia’s best sand dunes.
In this guide, we’ll look at what and where the Big Drift sand dunes in Victoria are. We’ll give a brief description of the walk and then cover how to get to Wilsons Prom and the Big Drift. Afterwards, we’ll discuss some other spectacular walks to do in the area, as well as other awesome sand dunes to visit in Australia, before finishing with a suggested packing list and some bonus tips.
For more information about hiking in Wilsons Prom, check out our guides on the Southern Circuit (coming soon) and Squeaky Beach. Otherwise, for an overview of how to spend the weekend at Wilsons Prom, check out our Wilsons Prom: The Complete Guide To Hiking and Camping Guide.
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What Is Big Drift?
The Big Drift is a huge inland sand dune in southeast Victoria, Australia. There’s a short walk to reach the expansive Big Drift that’s straightforward to follow and signposted well. Sunset is a particularly good time to visit the Big Drift. The golden sand glows brightly in the orange hues thrown from the sky. The ripples of the windblown dunes appear more prominent as deep shadows are cast where the light no longer hits. Certainly, a highlight of the Big Drift Walk is to find a nice soft patch of sand to sit and watch as the sun eventually dips behind the coastal forest. It’s a very beautiful spectacle.
The desert-like landscape of the Big Drift is vast. There’s very little in the way of shade and the whole of the Big Drift is very exposed. So, summer in particular can feel very harsh, with nighttime in winter feeling bitterly cold.
The sand dunes are quite unusual though. They are not actually joined to any beach or sat on the coastline. Nor are they situated in the desert or outback. In fact, they’re completely surrounded by bushland. This vast inland sand dune is pretty impressive and, believe it or not, is way down the pecking order of most people’s Wilsons Prom itineraries. We found it to be the perfect way to kick off our weekend here.
As well as Big Drift, there’s also a Little Drift at Wilson Prom. Little Drift is another set of sand dunes in Wilsons Prom, just a smaller version of Big Drift. The sand dunes of Little Drift are not as steep as at Big Drift, but the expansive views are just as good, with the Little Drift sand dunes reaching down onto the coastline of Wilsons Prom. The Victorian sand dunes at Little Drift are reached via a 20 minute walk from the main entrance car park.
Where Is The Big Drift?
The Big Drift is located in the sublime Wilsons Promontory National Park. More commonly known as simply, Wilsons Prom or The Prom, no visit is complete without a visit to the Big Drift.
The Big Drift is one of the most spectacular sand dunes in the state of Victoria. Heck, perhaps even the whole of Australia. The vast sand dunes cover a substantial area of Wilsons Prom and can be found towards the upper part of the peninsula, close to the main entrance of the national park.
About Wilsons Promontory National Park
Wilsons Prom lies southeast of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia. The beautiful Wilsons Promontory National Park is made up of 50 square kilometres (50,000 hectares) of reserve and actually forms the southernmost part of mainland Australia. Wilsons Prom is known for its exceptional beaches, beautiful coastal trails and abundance of wildlife.
Wilsons Prom and the Big Drift sit within the region of Gippsland, with the peninsula projecting into the Bass Straight.
Big Drift Walk Overview
The Big Drift Walk is a simple 4km out and back trail in Wilsons Prom. The hardest part of the walk is the final ascent up onto the sand dunes themselves. It’s a steep climb and it’s easy to lose your footing in the soft sand. It feels a little like walking the wrong way up an escalator. But stick with it, it’s not a far reach to the top and onto the firmer ground of Wilsons Prom’s Big Drift.
The Big Drift Walk should take around 2 hours, although this depends a lot on how long you spend exploring the Victorian sand dunes. Given the vastness of the sand dunes, it’s recommended to keep a very close eye on where you’ve walked, so as not to get lost!
Photography is particularly good at sunrise and sunset and so very good news if you’re staying in Wilsons Prom rather than visiting as a day trip from Melbourne.
Big Drift Route Map & Stats
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 4km
- Time: 1–2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 100m
- Difficulty: Grade 2
- Trailhead: Stockyards Campground
- Map: Wikiloc
Big Drift Walk
The trailhead for the Big Drift Walk begins from Stockyards Campground located close to the entrance to Wilsons Prom. From here, follow the management track and signposts all the way to the steep climb up onto the Wilsons Prom sand dunes. As previously mentioned, the climb up the slippery soft sand is hard work, but it’s a short distance up onto Big Drift and well worth the effort. As you can imagine, returning back down is great fun, but perhaps remove your shoes first, as they will quickly fill with sand.
Once up on the Big Drift sand dunes, the views are truly superb. You’ll find numerous footprints and popular routes that cut across the vast landscape. Follow these to good viewpoints, but feel free to explore your own paths. Just be mindful that it’s super easy to get lost out on the Wilsons Prom sand dunes. With that in mind, either keep the entrance in sight at all times; remember points of interest you might pass, such as trees or debris in the sand; or keep a record of your walk using GPS, which you can then use in reverse to return.
The Big Drift is wonderful to photograph. Indeed, sunset is particularly beautiful so expect to see a fair few people out on the dunes enjoying the incredible sight.
To return, just retrace your steps to the entrance of the dunes, slide back down the hill and rejoin the management trail back to Stockyards Campground.
Wilsons Prom and the Sand Dunes at Night
The sky theatrics at the Big Drift sand dunes in Victoria doesn’t end at sunset. Dan and I actually camped at Stockyards Campground and it was easily the BEST star gazing we’ve ever experienced. Hand on heart, the night skies we saw overhead camping in Wilsons Prom were some of the best we’ve ever seen! The sky was unbelievably clear and to distinctly make out the Milky Way with the naked eye was incredible. As too was spotting Jupiter and Saturn. We were well and truly awestruck.
There is such little light pollution at Wilsons Prom and on a clear night, the sky really comes alive. If there wasn’t already enough to enjoy at Wilsons Prom, this really is the icing on a very delicious cake.
Getting to the Big Drift
Wilsons Promontory National Park is a 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne. The distance is 200km. Although not impossible to visit as a day trip, the journey length plus the wealth of things to do at Wilsons Prom means you’ll likely want at least one overnight stay.
To drive, take the M1 Monash Freeway to join the M420/A440 South Gippsland Freeway towards Meeniyan. Then, take the C444 Meeniyan–Promontory Road to enter Wilsons Prom. Entry is free.
From Sydney, you’ll be looking at a drive time of around 11 hours with a whopping distance of 995km. Dan and I travelled down to Wilsons Prom as part of a wider road trip. We stopped off at Kiama, Jervis Bay, Batemans Bay and Eden to name just a few notable places en route.
Whether coming from NSW or Melbourne and wider Victoria, the best way for accessing the Big Drift in Wilsons Prom is by car. No scary 4WD roads either, a 2WD is more than sufficient. If you don’t have access to a car, consider hiring one. If we ever need to hire a car, we typically use RentalCars.com
If you’re travelling to Melbourne (or Sydney for that matter) from overseas, we recommend using Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money with international travel.
On arrival at the national park, be sure to grab a map from the gatehouse as you drive through.
Where to Park For the Big Drift?
To access the Big Drift Walk, you’ll need to park at Stockyards Campground which is close to the entrance of Wilsons Prom. Once you’ve entered the national park, Stockyards Campground requires a sort of u-turn a little past the main entrance. All very straightforward.
At Stockyards Campground, you’ll find an amenities block here for the campers, which is acceptable to make use of.
Wilsons Prom Accommodation & Camping
Most visitors to Wilsons Prom will choose to stay at the Tidal River Campground. This Parks Victoria-run campground is the most popular and well-equipped campsite in the national park. Tidal River Campground is also right on the seafront of Norman Beach, which is another wonderful place to enjoy a sunset in Wilsons Prom.
The best campsite option for early or late access to the Big Drift is Stockyards Campground. This is actually where we stayed. Stockyards Campground is located at the entrance of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Staying here was wonderful and quiet, feeling fully immersed in nature but with all the luxuries of an amenities block.
If camping isn’t your thing, you could consider booking one of the Tidal River lodges. There’s an array of accommodation options so I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your trip to Wilsons Prom. You can find out more about accommodation at Wilsons Prom here.
Big Drift Weather
Wilsons Prom and the Big Drift can be visited all year round. Indeed, Dan and I walked to the Big Drift in winter and had a wonderful experience. Bare in mind though, it does get cold out on the sand dunes in the Victorian winter, so remember to pack your layers. But, we would wholeheartedly recommend visiting Big Drift in Wilsons Prom in June and July. Wilsons Prom as a whole is quieter in winter with fewer people, but still just as beautiful.
Of course, there’s much more to see in Wilsons Prom than just the sand dunes of Big Drift. If you’re looking to swim at some of the fine beaches or enjoy warmer nights camping on some of the multi-day trails, then summer will probably suit you better. But, walks like the Big Drift will be much busier.
Having said all that, Dan and I found the sand dunes at Wilsons Prom and the Big Drift are still fairly unknown throughout Victoria. Certainly wider Australia. So, perhaps you’ll not find Wilsons Prom too busy whatever time of year you visit.
You can check the weather forecast for the Big Drift at Wilsons Prom here.
Other Walks & Things to Do Near Big Drift
The Big Drift sand dunes are but a small part of what Wilsons Prom has to offer. Below, we’ll detail some of the highlights we experienced during our weekend stay at ‘The Prom’.
- Mount Oberon: a fantastic hike to arguably the best lookout over all of Wilsons Prom.
- Southern Circuit: an outstanding 34km hike Dan and I decided to complete in a day.
- Big Drift Quad Bike & Sandboarding: yes, the dunes are so good it’s possible to rip around on the quad bike and head on up with that boogie board.
- Squeaky Beach: an iconic beach in Wilsons Prom, where the sand really does squeak underfoot.
- Pillar Point Lookout: A wonderful headland lookout with fantastic views over Norman Beach, another fantastic beach that is safe for swimming.
- Little Oberon Bay: a quiet and picturesque coastal trail leads from Tidal River to Little Oberon Bay. If you’re lucky, you might spot a few wallabies enjoying this beach too.
Other Sand Dunes in Australia
Australia has many incredible sand dunes to visit, just like Big Drift in Wilsons Prom, Victoria. Here are a few we’ve personally visited and highly recommend.
- Walls of China: located in Mungo National Park, the huge sand dunes of the Wall of China are one of the most breathtaking sights in all of NSW, Australia. The location was once a vast inland sea, and there has been discovery of plenty of Aboriginal history dating at least 40,000 years.
- Stockton: just north of Newcastle is the Stockton sand dunes in NSW, Australia. Part of the Worimi National Park and Conservation Area, these are the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere.
- Perry Sandhills: a lesser-known attraction in NSW, but these Australian sand dunes are no less worth a look in. The approx. 1.6 square kilometres (400 acres) of orange sand dunes form striking patterns and ripples as far as the eyes can see.
What to Bring to Big Drift
These are our five gear essentials for visiting Big Drift sand dunes in Wilsons Prom, Victoria! But, they’d work well for any walk at Wilsons Prom. For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a hiking trip in Australia, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and warm clothing if you’re considering a sunset walk to Big Drift.
- Snake watch: during the warmer months it’s not uncommon for snakes to be out on Big Drift, so just be aware.
- Don’t get lost: the Big Drift sand dunes in Wilsons Prom, Victoria are vast. It’s not uncommon for people to have found themselves a little lost out there. Take precautions and either don’t veer too far from the entrance or leave yourself little way markers to indicate the route. Another good idea is to record the Big Drift Walk and have access to the GPS to retrace your steps.
- No dog zone: you’ll have to leave your furry friend at home for the Big Drift Walk as no dogs are allowed within Wilsons Prom.
- Fuel: the last place to refuel before entering Wilsons Prom is Yanakie. So be sure to fill the tank there if you need to.
- Wildlife and driving: Wilsons Promontory National Park is a hive of wildlife activity. This is especially true at dawn and dusk, so please take care as you’re driving.
We hope you enjoyed this post on the Big Drift sand dunes walk at Wilsons Prom, Victoria. Feel free to bookmark or share for future use.
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