On the south-east tip of mainland Australia is a stunning national park that packs a lot of punch for its size.

Story By Don Fuchs

Dan Jones squats in a sandy, sparsely vegetated patch near the start of the track to Millers Landing in the north of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Gently he cups a very rare eastern spider orchid in his hand. The flourishing of these flowers is a welcome result of the big bushfires that roared through the area in 2009.
“Before the fire there were 20 known individuals in the park,” Dan says. “After the fire we found 400-plus and there is a lot more that we haven’t found.”
The senior ranger in Wilsons Promontory National Park is on a field trip to meet a group of volunteers on a plant survey. For him, the beauty and significance of the annual wildflower display lies in the details. Dan’s passion is the many orchids. “If you are into flowers, especially orchids, I would recommend September and October as the best months for walking," he says. "Sometimes they just grow right next to the track.”
Wilsons Promontory National Park protects a mountainous peninsula that juts out into the restless waters of Bass Strait. Prominent granite mountains (Mt Oberon, at 558 metres, is the highest peak), waterlogged swamps, rich heathland, sheltered coves and sweeping beaches form a diverse area. Extensive forests, including pockets of dark rainforest, and a flat sandy isthmus at the beginning of the peninsula create a compact reserve of great beauty, unrivalled in Victoria. The park is also crisscrossed by more than 250 kilometres of walking tracks.
Witnessing Dan’s fondness for orchids is Jacqui McMahon, a council employee from Shepparton, and her fiancé Justin. The couple is on the way to Millers Landing, where a forest of white mangrove grows along the shallow shores of Corner Inlet. These low-growing trees form one of the botanical wonders of the reserve, as they are considered among the most southerly stands of mangroves in the world.
“Wilsons Promontory is one of those places that you know is beautiful and everybody tells you about it, but you could never imagine how stunning it is until you see it for yourself,” Jacqui says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #75

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011

This story excerpt is from Issue #85

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