Author: Mrs A
Location: Yanakie, Victoria (just outside Wilsons Promontory)
With a forecast of 39 degrees centigrade on Friday we decided to head away from Marysville and drive to the coast, Wilsons Promontory National Park our ultimate destination for some hiking amongst spectacular scenery. As we are travelling with Miss Tassie we were unable to camp in the park itself, but we checked in to a caravan park in Yanakie, just 30 minutes drive away. The temperature was much cooler beside the water, a great relief.
Saturday morning dawned clear and blue, with the mercury climbing early. We moved into a site right beside the beach with uninterrupted views over to the Prom.
As the water was so still, we decided to take advantage and inflated our pack rafts for a paddle, planning to head for a walk in the national park in the afternoon.
It was while we were out paddling in these serene waters that we suddenly both received messaged on our mobile phones:
Bushfire Advice from Parks Victoria. Wilsons Promontory and surrounding areas. Stay informed re park closure. Check local radio or www.emergency.vic.gov.au
I checked the website. It turned out the whole national park was being evacuated due to an out of control fire…so no walking for us. The evacuation included all campers – so it was fortunate we were not staying in there after all.
Yanakie sits on the edge of the Corner Inlet Marine National Park, part of Bass Straight, the waterway between mainland Australia and Tasmania. It’s a critical waterway for migratory birds and has been designated a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.
After lunch we took a walk along the beach to see what birds were about.
Black backed gulls, silver gulls, black swans, ibis, egrets and herons were the main bird life, enjoying the mudflats at low tide. It reminded us of our time in Omokoroa in New Zealand, the peace and quiet, punctuated by the occasional bird call.
After a couple of kilometres we came across this twisted wood, standing up out of the sand like a marker for something….we had a look and behind it was a footpath. We followed it for another couple of kilometres and wound up right back at the campground. Perfect!
As we turned back, we could see the bushfire smoke spreading across the hills, the afternoon wind fanning the flames and increasing its impact.
By wine-o’clock the fire was quite large and easily visible from where we were camped (at a safe distance).
Sunday morning’s sunrise was quite dramatic as a result, with the air quite obviously smoky. Despite the fact I am breathing quite well at the moment, my throat began to feel the effects of inhaling the ashy polluted air, burning and sore.
We decided to drive over to the other side of the peninsular where there was some breeze, meaning cleaner air.
We checked out Waratah Bay which looked like it had not changed in about 50 years, the main landmark on Google Maps being the Telstra Payphone! It had a lovely beginners surf beach and plenty of sand which stretched on for miles.
From there we had a look at Shallow Inlet, where the tide was going out and kite surfers enjoyed catching the breeze across the water.
We returned for another stroll around ‘our’ beach and then to enjoy the sun set as the wind changed direction and cleared all the smoke.
We checked the Parks Victoria emergency site as soon as we woke on Monday morning, and found the fire was still raging and the park would be closed for the foreseeable future. So, as our last day here we decided to get the pack-rafts out again and explore another part of Corner Inlet.
We rolled our boats up into our backpacks, and hiked a couple of kilometres down the beach before we inflated them.
We then paddled down further into the bay, a very picturesque area full of old boat sheds and unofficial camping sites. There were plenty of birds down here too, mostly not used to seeing people paddling. I imagine most people who visit here stick to visiting Wilsons Prom and rarely make it in to the bay here – I know we probably would not have explored it this thoroughly had the national park been open.
After 7km paddling we are both aching tonight – we are definitely not paddle-fit, and the pack rafts are not as streamlined as our fibreglass double kayak we’d have loved to have brought with us. But we’re so pleased we had these little boats to give us the option to explore the water, their weight and portability giving them a unique benefit.
Our visit to Wilsons Promontory has not quite been the one we planned, but nevertheless has been surprisingly gorgeous. We have really enjoyed the peace and quiet of this location, which has probably been exacerbated by the fires, keeping other visitors away.
We definitely plan to put this area on our wish list to return to in the future (hopefully fire-free next time!), and would recommend Yanakie as a base to explore from, especially if you appreciate bird life and the serenity of the water. Off to pastures new tomorrow…