Tidal River to Refuge Cove Return

refuge cove

Located in arguably one of the most popular sections of Wilsons Prom, the track from Tidal River to Refuge Cove is an adventurers dream.

Complete with a well-worn path that cuts its way through lush, green forest, across expansive beaches and along various sections of the coast, it’s easy to understand why so many hikers come here.

Before you’ve even hiked a kilometre, you’ll need to check your group into the Tidal River visitor centre to get your permit before you set off on your 34km round adventure.

It seems like overkill, but honestly, it’s for your overall safety and to ensure that the correct people are staying at the correct campsites (more on that shortly).

Place the permit on the dashboard of your car and you’re good to grab the free bus up to Telegraph Saddle which is the official starting point of this track and many others.

Regardless of where you have parked your car, you’ll need to make your way to the overnight car park where the buses come reasonably frequently to pick you up and drop you off to & from Telegraph Saddle.

It’s here where the adventure begins.

It’s worth noting that the Tidal River to Refuge Cove track is best done as an overnight pack carry.

Not saying that 34kms in one day isn’t out of the question, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy it more if you break it up into a two-day adventure.

From Telegraph Saddle, you’ve got roughly 9-10kms of walking to do to Sealers Cove that covers a well-worn and well-signed path through mostly green & lush forest.

Now, why have I mentioned Sealers Cove?

Well, to begin with, one of the more popular paths to take to get to Refuge Cove is via Sealers Cove; particularly if you’re doing it as a return hike.

But, most of all, if you were short on time, and really didn’t want to commit to an overnight pack carry, you could always do Tidal River to Sealers Cove as an 18km return hike.

It’s still just as stunning as Tidal River to Refuge Cove which is but a small example of just how good the Prom is regardless of which hike you do.

As a way of breaking up the first 10kms, you can divide it into 3rds like this:

  • Telegraph Saddle to Windy Saddle – 3kms approximately
  • Windy Saddle to the start of the boardwalk – 3.5kms approximately
  • The start of the boardwalk to the campsite – 3.5kms approximately (and mostly flat)

That first 10kms seems like it goes on forever, however, if you use the above three spots as mental markers, you’ll knock it over easily enough whilst enjoying the scenery all at the same time.

If you start at about 9am from Telegraph Saddle, you should be able to make it to the beach at around 12-12:30 just in time for lunch as it’s a perfect spot in good weather.

Once you’ve hit the beach, had some lunch and taken about 1,000 photos, continue on to your right and head towards Sealers Cove.

During peak season, you’ll encounter rangers at Sealers Cove in particular who will almost certainly ask for your booking reference number for your campsite.

Both sites – Sealers & Refuge – are busy spots and pre-booking them is necessary or you may find yourself being turned back.

Referring back to my earlier comment about checking in at the visitor centre, it’s important that you do this and pre-book your spot rather than try to cheat the system and stay for free.

And just before you get to Sealers Cove, and depending on what time of the day you are there, there’s a small ford that you’ll need to cross.

Our group were lucky enough to cross it during low tide and thus it was only ankle-deep, but I’ve heard it can get much deeper than that.

The visitor centre at Tidal River will be able to assist with you tide times for the day before you set off. So, make sure you’re paying attention!

Follow the signs through Sealers and make your way through the forest and out onto the coastal path for the remaining 7-8kms to Refuge Cove.

Within about 45 minutes, and as you start to ascend more, you’ll come across some really spectacular views of the ocean and Sealers Cove.

Honestly, this small section here, and you’ll know it when you get to it, really is one of the best sections of the entire walk and great for photography.

Continue to follow the path and you’ll find yourself descending through the forest again and then pop out onto a beach area that has couscous-esque sand on it. You’re not done just yet!

This is the final little stretch of hiking before you arrive at your destination – Refuge Cove.

This secluded beach located on the east coast of Wilsons Prom is a fantastic little spot with plenty of room to pitch your tent, filter water from the stream, and find a spot around one of the tables to have dinner.

There’s also a handy drop toilet nearby for you to use.

Add all of that to the scenery you’ll experience around the area and this would have to be one of the better campsites I’ve stayed at.

As mentioned at the start of this blog, I’d recommend the Tidal River to Refuge Cove return hike for those of you who are keen pack carry hikers.

Yes you could smash out 34kms in one day but I honestly don’t believe you would enjoy it as much and therefore Sealers Cove is a better option for a day hike.

Given it is two-days worth of hiking, you’re really going to need to think about the type and the amount of food you are carrying to ensure you’ve got enough.

You’ll also need to give strong consideration to the amount of water – both drinking and cooking – you carry with you.

The stream at Refuge Cove is perfectly fine to take water from, however, you will need to boil it and it may not always be available.

Our advice would be to carry both drinking and cooking water with you in the event there’s no running water to use.

The best-case scenario is that you have extra drinking water for the return journey in the event that the stream is flowing.

As usual, if you wish to follow our track via WikiLoc, you can do so here.

The Stats – Tidal River to Refuge Cove Return

Length (km): 17.55kms (according to WikiLoc)
Time: 5hr 39mins
Moving Time: 4hr 35mins
Difficulty: Moderate (Grade 3-4)
Maximum Elevation: 322m
Accum. elev. uphill: 360m
Accum. elev. downhill: 563m
Return/Loop/One Way: Return

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