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Sealers Cove: A walker's paradise

Sealers Cove 

Sir, “Mountain Climber” is right; there should be some limit to the extension of tourist roads. At the beautiful Sealers Cove last January we found the usual beer bottles, chaff, discarded footwear, rotting potatoes, mouldy bread, and, of course, rats. The walker, however, knows how to treat the beauties he has reached by the sweat of his brow.
—Yours, B.R Keith, Geelong

Perhaps someone was paying attention to this letter that appeared in The Argus (the newspaper predecessor to The Age) on 9 April 1938. Today Sealers Cove is indeed a walkers’ paradise, only accessible by boat or by foot, and without the tourist roads that Mr Keith lamented.

Its pristine beauty shows no remnants of the rubbish reported back in the 1930s and is a testament to the care that dedicated walkers take of this highly regarded and secluded location.

Sealers Cove is found in one of Victoria’s most prized and loved national parks: Wilsons Promontory National Park. It is nestled on the eastern side of the Prom, across from Tidal River. However, it is also one of the Prom’s lesser-known locations, due to the lack of car access. This has limited visitor numbers so that it is one of the least crowded locations on the Prom. It is a top destination for hikers, often nominated as one of the best walks in the state, as it rewards visitors with a natural beauty that includes a spectacular golden beach sheltered from prevailing winds; crystal clear turquoise waters; and an abundance of wildlife.

Visiting Sealers Cove today, with its blissful quietness interrupted only by the sounds of native fauna and lapping waves, belies its bloody past. Inhabited by Indigenous people for many thousands of years, this site changed overnight when the first Europeans, George Bass and his crew, sailed into the cove in 1798, seeking shelter from a storm. Bass named it Sealers Cove and it became a major location for the sealing and whaling industries, with its abundant animal life providing a ready source for fur skins and oil. However, the large-scale slaughter that took place led to a drastic decline in seal numbers so by the 1850s, Sealers Cove became instead a site for the logging of timber. At the time of the census in 1854, there were 61 people living at the cove, 53 men and 8 women. Indigenous people were not included in that census.

Timber production also declined once most good timber was removed, finally ceasing in 1906. When Wilsons Promontory became a protected site in 1908, thanks largely to the efforts of the Field Naturalists Club, the cove began to return to its natural state. The only remnants that now remain of those industries are some stumps sticking out of the beach where a jetty once stood, and old sections of tramline, which were used to transport timber.

From the Telegraph Saddle carpark, which is 2.5 km from Tidal River, the track to Sealers Cove is approximately 10 km. It ascends up to Windy Saddle, where there are spectacular views, before heading downhill to the coast. Walkers will need to allow 2 to 3 hours each way for the trip. Birdwatchers and plant lovers will need to allow more time to take lots of photographs!

For those keen on escaping civilisation for a bit longer than one day, there are a limited number of camping sites, with toilet facilities, at a shady campground adjoining the beach on the southern end of Sealers Cove. The maximum stay allowed is two nights and permits are required. These are obtained from the Tidal River Visitor Centre or online. Book in advance so you don’t miss out!

The track to Sealers Cove was closed for two years following floods in 2011. The track is now better than ever and incorporates an impressive boardwalk as well as unforgettable scenery.

So next time you are flicking through a travel brochure, contemplating where to go next, forget about the trip to a theme park or to a crowded, noisy tourist trap. Think instead about Mr Keith’s wise advice in 1938 about the joy of reaching a destination by the sweat of your brow. Keep in mind that in this case your destination is a quiet, golden beach.

Is Sealers Cove on your ‘bucket list’ yet?

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Sealers Cove