About the Prom
Wilson's Promontory is the southern most part of the mainland of Australia. It juts out into Bass Strait, the narrow stretch of sea separating Victoria (Australia's smallest mainland state) from the Island state of Tasmania. Most of the Promontory (or peninsular) is contained in Wilson's Promontory National Park, one of Victoria's largest and oldest national parks, affectionately known to generations of Australians as The Prom.
Most of the Prom is an ancient granite mass, which was thrust up by movements in the Earth's crust during the Devonian Period - 379 million years ago. The granite mountains that form the Prom's spectacular scenery are connected to the mainland by the low and narrow Yanakie Isthmus.
During the most recent ice age, the Prom formed part of a mainland bridge to Tasmania, which allowed Aboriginal people to reach what is now an Island state. About 10,000 years ago, the climate warmed, the ice melted and Bass Strait again become submerged. At this time, the Prom was an Island until the winds and tides deposited the sands which became the isthmus.
The fierce weather of Bass Strait has eroded the granite into the well rounded mountains of today and shaped the many granite boulders which are a feature of Prom scenery.
There is archeological evidence of Aboriginal occupation in dating back at least 25,000 years ago and for at least 6,000 years there has been a substantial Aboriginal presence at the Prom. These early people were probably the ancestors of the Kurnai and Bunorong people, who are now regarded as the traditional owners of the land that they call Yruk or Wanoon.
The Prom was first sighted by Europeans in January 1798, when explorer George Bass sighted the Promontory from his wale boat the Tom Thumb. He named it after a London friend Wilson, and visited a sheltered cove which he named Sealers Cove. He thought that it would be ideal for the needs of sealers and whalers harvesting the rich resources of the area. "There's plenty of fresh water to be got... and wood enough to boil down any quantity of blubber..." As David Meagher and Michele Kohout put it in A Field Guide to Wilson's Promontory "The European exploitation of the Prom had begun".
Although sealers probably did not use the cove that much, whalers were based in Sealers Cove and Refuge Cove and both seals and whales were hunted in Bass Strait, considerably reducing their numbers.
A timber mill exploited the timber near Sealers Cove and the Yanakie run covered most of the isthmus from 1850, grazing sheep and cattle. Cattle grazing continued on the mainland of the isthmus until leases were phased out in the 1970s.
The lighthouse on South East Point was built in 1858-9 to guide the increasing number of ships sailing through the dangerous waters of Bass Strait.
Thanks to the lobbying of three prominent naturalists of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (John Gregory, Arthur Lucus and George Robinson) a temporary reservation was secured in 1898. After much lobbying, part of the Prom was permanently reserved in 1905,and the Park celebrated the centenary of this founding in 2005. Along with Mt Buffalo National Park, the Prom is the oldest National Park in Victoria.
The original tourist resort was based at Darby River, but after the use of the Prom as a training area for troops during the Second World War, a camp was established at Tidal River, which became the tourist resort of today.