MAPS AND GUIDES:
Victoria has several well-known iconic destinations for the avid camper and 4WDriver such as the High Country, but there are also plenty of lesser-known gems to be found. One such gem a little-known national park located on the far east coast of Victoria with a funny name called Croajingolong. This park is home to rugged pristine beaches and spectacular coastal scenery, and surprisingly some fantastic camping sites and great 4WD tracks.
With a slide-on camper you can explore the region with ease, and with a Trayon you can enjoy the pristine environment but still have all the essentials. The Trayon has a 110lt tank for fresh water, 90lt fridge for drinks & food, comfortable bed & living arrangements especially if the weather is less than ideal, and even hot water & heating for the often unpredictable Victorian weather.
Croajingolong National Park is located at the far Eastern edge of Victoria and hugs the coastline for 100 km’s. In addition to the spectacular coastal scenery, the park also includes eucalypt forest, rainforest tracts, and heathland. There are also a number of 4WD tracks within the park. The park name is from the local Aboriginal people in the area and it covers around 88,000 ha. The main access point for the park is from the town of Cann River which is about 450km from Melbourne via the Princess Highway.
There are a number of secluded coastal camping spots in the Croajingolong National Park which offer a range of activities including beach walks, birdwatching, boating and fishing. The two main camping areas are Wingan Inlet and Thurra River, with our pick being Wingan Inlet.
On this trip we will start in Cann River and explore many of the highlights of the region, including some camping at Wingan Inlet before finishing in the town of Mallacoota.
Cann River has a hotel, several motels and number of cafes & coffee shops. It is a popular stopping point for people travelling on the Princess Highway between Melbourne & Sydney. The bakery is a favourite of ours and after the obligatory pie & coffee it’s time to head into the Croajingolong National Park and visit our first destination – Thurra River and Point Hicks Lighthouse. The Point Hicks road is bitumen to start with, then changes to well-maintained gravel for a total of 46km.
Point Hicks was first sighted by Lieutenant Zachary Hicks in 1770 from Captain Cooks boat the Endeavour. This is an historical place as it was the first point on the east coast of Australia where the British sighted land and, as such, can be seen as the beginning of modern European society in Australia. There is a 2.2km walk from the carpark to the lighthouse and this is a fantastic place to spot whales at the right time of year (May – July and October – December). The lighthouse which is still manned by a lighthouse keeper was built in 1887-88 to protect the ships that passed by this treacherous stretch of coast. The lighthouse has regular tours which are well worth attending – check the website and plan your trip to coincide with a tour if you can.
There are two camping areas near Point Hicks – Thurra River and Mueller River. Thurra is the largest area and there are range of campsites on offer close to the coast amongst the coastal vegetation. The local lighthouse keeper will come around and collect camping fees. From Thurra campground there are some great walks including the Dunes Walk, Saros Track and the lighthouse walk. The Dunes walk winds through coastal banksias and heathland before opening out into a network of sandy trails through soaring dunes that tower 30m above the Thurra River. Take a board and have some fun sliding down these massive dunes. The Saros Track commences near the lighthouse and offers magnificent views of the coast as you follow the path to view the shipwreck of the SS Saros that ran ashore during heavy fog on its way to Sydney in 1937.
After checking out the lighthouse and perhaps some of the other attractions at Thurra River, head back along the Point Hick Road for about 8km to the turnoff on the right to the Cicada Track. At the start of the track there is a short walking track to Mt Everard which is worth a detour as it provides spectacular views of the surrounding forests and heathlands as well as Point Hicks and the dunes from a large sloping rock face.
A short distance into the Cicada Track is the biggest challenge – the crossing of the Mueller River. Take heed of the warning signs and check the crossing before making an attempt as it can be quite deep if there has been recent rains. The entry and exits from the river are usually steep, slippery and muddy, so only attempt this track with a high clearance 4WD with decent tyres. The Cicada Track continues through tall forested areas, coastal heathlands, and several low-lying boggy areas that may pose a challenge particularly if there has been recent rain. The track eventually terminates after about 20km onto the West Wingan Road – turn right and head to the Wingan Inlet Campground which is a further 11km to the south.
Wingan Inlet is arguably the jewel in the crown of the Croajingolong National Park with large shady campsites, communal fireplaces, water access, and a spectacular walking track and boardwalk to the pristine and wild coast. There are a total of 23 sites to choose from, with our pick the sites near the fireplaces such as no.7 or 8. As bookings need to be made online before getting to Wingan Inlet (no phone coverage here) a good tip is to see what sites are already booked and pick a suitable site away from other groups if looking for some peace & quiet. Expect a visit from one of the resident goanna’s, and local Kookaburra’s are especially friendly. There are numerous other birds nearby including pelicans and oyster-catchers in the inlet.
Wingan Inlet is a fantastic place to launch a boat or canoe to explore upstream to the rapids or down to the inlet. Fishing is also great within the inlet or from the beach with bream, flathead and tailor the main species on offer. Just off the beach there is a series of rock islands which is home to several fur seal colonies, and at dusk the calls of the seals sound like cows mooing in the distance.
There are a number of walks at Wingan Inlet including the spectacular walk to Fly Fish Cove. This walk heads over boardwalks on the edge of the Inlet and through paperbark forest to the ocean beach. Another fantastic walk is to Elusive Lake. The walking track to the lake commences at the small car park on the West Wingan Road 3km back from the campground and meanders gently down to a small sandy beach. The freshwater lake is up to 22m deep in places with no surface water flowing in or out of the lake and water entering and leaving the lake is via rainfall and underground seepage.
After a few days relaxing and exploring at Wingan Inlet its time to head back up the West Wingan Road and back to civilization. The main road heads all the way back to the Princess Highway but if you’re looking for some more adventure there are plenty more forestry tracks to explore and avoid the highway! The Wingan Link Road is on the right about 18km from the campground and heads eastwards through the forest before crossing the Wingan River. A picnic area with tables and a fireplace make this a nice spot to stop for lunch.
From Wingan River continue on the Wingan Link Road for another 2km before picking up the Hard To Seek Track and continuing right up to the Genoa Peak carpark. The walking track to the peak is steep and strenuous but the reward is spectacular panoramic views right across the forests and Mallacoota Inlet.
From Genoa Peak you can head back to the Princess Highway or backtrack 10km back down Hard To Seek Track and continue exploring the forest tracks via Stony Peak Track and Bektka Track. This route brings you out at Shipwreck Creek (named after the 20 odd shipwrecks scattered along this section of the coast) where there is another campground and walking track. From Shipwreck Creek it’s only 12km to the pretty town of Mallacoota which has all the usual facilities such as two supermarkets, fuel outlets, cafes and coffee shops, and a fantastic caravan park right on the Mallacoota Inlet.
Rather than power along the Princess Highway take some time to detour into Croajingolong National Park and explore this unique part of Victoria. There are some spectacular coastal areas to discover and some outstanding camping spots to experience, and plenty of opportunities to explore some 4WD tracks as well as take some great walks. Whether it’s on the way or as a destination in its own right, head to the Croajingolong National Park and particularly Wingan Inlet for great camping, bushwalking, fishing, 4WDing or just plain relaxing in this pristine area of Aaustralia.