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Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit: The Complete Hiking Guide

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit: The Complete Hiking Guide

The Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit is a glorious hike visiting some of the national park’s most remote and pristine coastal paths and beaches. This traditional multi-day hike can even be smashed out in a day, as we discovered. Covering some of Wilsons Prom’s best beaches like Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay, you’ll find each will take your breath away. The secluded beaches’ beauty is amplified by the effort it takes to reach them, especially if like us, you choose to hike this fantastic trail in a day. 

In this guide, we’ll look at where the Southern Circuit in Wilsons Prom is, as well as how to get there. We’ll give a brief trail description of the day hike. But, we’ll also include information on the multi-day hike and extended Southern Circuit hike too, which heads all the way down to South East Point and to the lighthouse before heading back up via Little Oberon Bay. Lastly, we’ll look at other amazing hikes in Wilsons Prom, different accommodation options and what you should take with you. 

For more information about hiking in Wilsons Prom, check out our guides on Mount Oberon, the Big Drift and Squeaky Beach. Otherwise, for an overview of how to spend the weekend at Wilsons Prom, check out Wilsons Prom: The Complete Guide To Hiking and Camping Guide.

The Southern Circuit in Wilsons Prom is a fantastic multi-day hike showcasing some of the most remote and breathtaking parts of this incredible national park. Although traditionally walked over 2–3 days, camping at pristine beach spots like Wilsons Prom’s Sealers Cove and Little Waterloo Bay, we found this excellent 34km trail can also be completed in a day. If you’re short on time and love a challenge, that is.

Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay on the Southern Circuit in Wilsons Prom can only be accessed on foot. That means this part of the Wilsons Prom peninsula receives far fewer visitors than the areas around Tidal River, which is Wilsons Prom’s main hub.

Although the walk to Sealers Cove is a somewhat popular out-and-back trail in its own right, you’ll find the sublime beaches of Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay to be almost deserted. And boy do they benefit from being harder to reach too. Truly, the beaches passed on the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit are easily some of the best I’ve seen in all of Australia!

Where Is the Southern Circuit?

The Southern Circuit is found to the southeast of Wilsons Promontory National Park. The national park covers the southernmost tip of mainland Australia in the region of Gippsland, Victoria. Wilsons Prom and the Southern Circuit hike are just a few hours east of Melbourne, making this a perfect weekend trip.

Sealers Cove on the Southern circuit hike Wilsons Prom

How to Get to Wilsons Prom

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 an overnight stay.

To drive there, 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 the entrance, it’s around another 35km down to the car park for the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit.

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 Sydney and NSW or Melbourne and wider Victoria, the best way for accessing 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

Overseas Visitors

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.

Wilsons Prom from the Southern Circuit with Refuge Cove and Sealers Cove

Where to Park For the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit

Parking is found at the Telegraph Saddle Car Park, just a few kilometres from Tidal River. We’d read online that the car park opens at 8am. But, the car park was near full when we arrived at that time. There is no monitoring system for the car park, no gate that closes, or anyone on duty (as far as we could tell) and so if you wanted to start your day earlier we think it would be more than possible.

Of course, many of the already parked cars probably belonged to some of the overnight hikers already out there staying at Sealers Cove or Little Waterloo Bay campgrounds.

Map of Telegraph Saddle Car Park

Hike Overview

The trail description below briefly describes completing the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit in a day. Truth be told, Dan and I had planned to complete the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit as a multi-day hike. We’d been looking forward to waking up at Sealers Cove and relaxing at Little Waterloo Bay. But, our visit coincided with the closure of the campgrounds. So, keen not to completely miss out on this part of Wilsons Prom, we decided to smash out the Southern Circuit, and hike a massive 34km in a day. It was completely worth it.

Beginning at Telegraph Saddle Car Park, the Southern Circuit hike in Wilsons Prom first passes Sealers Cove, before continuing to Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay. Then, the trail cuts back across to Telegraph Junction, passing between Mount Wilson and Mount Boulder, before returning to Telegraph Saddle Car Park.

If you’re completing the full 3-day overnight hike or the extended version, then from Little Waterloo Bay, you have the option to continue down to the South East Point of Wilsons Prom, where you’ll see the lighthouse. Then you’ll cut back up to Telegraph Junction, swing out west to Little Oberon Bay, before finishing further north at Tidal River. From Tidal River you can then walk back to Telegraph Saddle Car Park, or take the free shuttle bus (peak season only). You can check a map for this extended 55km Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit here.

Views of Little Waterloo Bay

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit Map & Preview

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 35km
  • Time: 8.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 860m
  • Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Trailhead: Telegraph Saddle Car Park
  • Map: Wikiloc

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit Walk

The Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit begins from the Telegraph Saddle Car Park. The hike from Telegraph Saddle Car Park to Wilsons Prom’s Sealers Cove is predominantly downhill. After a small initial ascent, the trail leads down through a dense rainforest landscape before reaching a final boardwalk as you arrive at Sealers Cove Wilsons Prom. And what a sight Wilsons Prom’s Sealers Cove is as you begin to spy it through the trees. It’s a little patch of paradise.

The boardwalk as you enter Sealers Cove can be quite slippery when wet, which can be fairly often at Wilsons Prom. And definitely pretty much all the time in lush, dense rainforest. Take care with your footing. Even the sections with a wire mesh covering the planks offer little help with grip. I should know, I slipped right at the end.

Dan at Sealers Cove in Wilsons Prom

Sealers Cove Wilsons Prom

Arriving at Wilsons Prom’s Sealers Cove is a jaw-dropping moment. It’s absolutely stunning. After catching your breath, and pinching yourself to believe such a place exists, turn right and walk along this Wilsons Prom beach toward the Sealers Cove campground. This is the first campground you’ll stay at if completing the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit as a multi-day hike.

The trail toward Refuge Cove continues from this campground. But first, you’ll need to cross a small creek. Checking tidal times is essential unless you’re happy to wade chest height across. As it was winter for Dan and I, we were not so keen on that idea. Our ankle depth dip was enough. Luckily for us, the sun was out and drying our icy feet was not too much of a challenge.

Dan crossing Sealers Cove Wilsons Prom toward Refuge Cove

Refuge Cove Wilsons Prom

The walk from Sealers Cove campsite to Refuge Cove is a further 7.5 km. The path is very straightforward. Hugging the coastline, the trail leads you back up through the bush. Every so often the path opens up, offering little windows to the views around you. Before long you’re descending down into Refuge Cove. Wilsons Prom’s Refuge Cove is another super picturesque bay of golden sand, surrounded by that same dense Wilsons Prom forest that greeted you at Sealers Cove. We even met a young wombat on the trail, which made my day!

Refuge Cove has a real castaway feel. Like you’ve just washed up from the sea. Untouched, golden sand beach, thick forest teeming with wildlife and not a high rise for miles. We hardly encountered anyone on the trail at Refuge Cove, which added to the remoteness. Perhaps winter is the perfect time to hike the Southern Circuit in Wilsons Prom. Two beaches in and we were well and truly sold on this hike.

Again, if you’re multi-day hiking the Southern Circuit, then it’s possible to camp at Refuge Cove in Wilsons Prom too should you decide.

Beck walks along Refuge Cove in Wilsons Prom before Little Waterloo Bay

Little Waterloo Bay

Upon leaving Refuge Cove, the trail again climbs back up along the coast for another 6.7 km to Little Waterloo Bay. At Little Waterloo Bay, a stunning white sand beach awaits. It’s a complete contrast to the golden sands of Wilsons Prom’s Sealers Cove and Refuge Cove. We stopped for a quick and very late lunch here. The sun had already begun to disappear behind the tall forests enveloping Little Waterloo Bay. Time was not on our side in winter.

The powdery white sand was being enjoyed by just one other person. He sat quietly reading in his own little patch of paradise, after setting up camp for the night. What an experience, camping at Little Waterloo Bay looks outstanding.

Dan walks at Little Waterloo Bay

Little Waterloo Bay Back to Telegraph Saddle

But, we, on the other hand, needed to power back to Telegraph Saddle Car Park. The route is very straightforward from Little Waterloo Bay, just predominantly uphill along the Little Waterloo Bay Walking Track to Telegraph Saddle Junction.

From Telegraph Saddle Junction, you’ll find offshoots to other walks around the Prom. You’ll need to take the trail on the right and head north along the Telegraph Track, all the way back to Telegraph Saddle Car Park. This section is the final 12km of the day. As you can imagine, it’s the hardest too! Fatigue is quickly setting in, and the final 6km of the uphill road does, unfortunately, feel fairly uninspiring.

Views of Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit after Little Waterloo Bay

However, we made it and so will you. And we’re so glad we got to see more of this beautiful part of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay all feel like little rewards for your hiking efforts. Since, of course, the only way of reaching these Wilsons Prom beaches is by hiking to them. Such is the beauty of speed hiking, we were able to cover that extra ground to see so much more than originally planned. In winter we found the trail was not overcrowded. We saw only a handful of fellow hikers on each leg we covered.

By the end of the day, we knew hiking in Wilsons Prom was going to be something special.

WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? It’s essentially hiking a trail at a quicker-than-average pace, relative to the person of course. This enables you to cover a greater distance in the time you have. This means you can see more during your travels. For most, it’s more recreational than competitive.

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit Recap

The hike, the beaches and all of the nature in between are so beautiful. If you have time and the opportunity to multi-day hike the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit, then you should definitely consider doing so.

Camping at the remote Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay beaches, only accessible by foot, is truly wonderful. The sound of gently crashing waves just a stone’s throw from where you sleep. Spotting the resident wombats and wallabies as they feed at dawn and dusk. Feeling completely removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Is there anything better? Still, if you only have a day, you’re in for a real treat of a day hike.

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit Weather

Dan and I hiked the Southern Circuit as part of a quick weekend in Wilsons Prom and enjoyed the most glorious weather. We visited in winter and, although we were told wall-to-wall sunshine was quite uncommon, we loved the quietness of the trails and the national park as a whole.

As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for wet weather to cause issues with the tracks around Wilsons Prom, especially along the Southern Circuit. The trail leading to Sealers Cove winds its way through damp Wilsons Prom rainforest at the best of times. So, any extra rainfall can often see this section of the track closed off.

Your best bet is to check on the weather before your visit, just to be on the safe side. You can check the forecast here.

Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit Camping

The traditional campgrounds when completing the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit are found at Sealers Cove and Little Waterloo Bay. Although, you can also camp at Refuge Cove. The campgrounds are basic and so you’ll need to bring all remote camping supplies with you.

If you plan on extending the Southern Circuit down to the South Point, then you’ll find the Roaring Meg campground to be a great additional option for camping in this southern half of Wilsons Prom.

Of course, if like us you choose to hike the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit as a day hike, then you’ll need alternative accommodation options. 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 is also just a short 4km away from Telegraph Saddle Car Park and the trailhead to Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit and Sealers Cove.

Dan and I actually stayed at Stockyards Campground as we’d visited the Big Drift for sunset the night before. 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 discover more about camping at Wilsons Prom here.

Stockyards Campground Wilsons Prom at night
Stockyard Campground

Other Trails in Wilsons Prom

The Southern Circuit is easily one of the best walks in Wilsons Prom. Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay easily rank as some of our favourite beaches in Wilsons Prom too. But, there’s still plenty more to see. Below, we’ll detail some of the highlights we experienced during our weekend stay at ‘The Prom’.

  • Sealers Cove Return: If you don’t have time for the full Southern Circuit, we highly recommend doing the 11km out and back to Sealers Cove. So, you’ll get to experience some of the beauty of this eastern side of Wilsons Prom.
  • The Big Drift: explore the vast inland sand dune to the north of Wilsons Prom. They’re especially good to visit at sunset.
  • Squeaky Beach: an iconic beach in Wilsons Prom, where the sand really does squeak underfoot.
  • Mount Oberon: a short but steep hike to one of the best viewpoints in Wilsons Prom.
  • 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.
Beck sits at the summit of Mount Oberon in Wilsons Prom
Mount Oberon summit

Hiking Essentials

These are our five gear essentials for the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit hike! 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.

You should also pack plenty of water, snacks and lunch if you’re considering completing the Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit in a day. Otherwise, remember all your camping essentials.

Bonus Tips

  • Permit: overnight hikers must obtain a permit before embarking on the multi-day Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit. You can do so here.
  • Check before you travel: poor weather conditions can often affect Wilsons Promontory National Park, leading to the closures of many trails, especially that of Sealers Cove. It’s always a good idea to double-check on the Parks Vic website if the tracks and the campgrounds are open.
  • No dog zone: you’ll have to leave your furry friend at home for visiting Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay, as no dogs are allowed within Wilsons Prom.

We hope you enjoyed this post on hiking the Southern Circuit in Wilsons Prom. Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay are certainly worth visiting. Feel free to bookmark or share this post for future use.

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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