By KAREN DARBY
Travelling with kayaks to Melbourne for Christmas, Tony and I decided to detour and do an overnight paddle at Wilsons Prom. The weather forecast looked promising without the strong winds that had persisted for our trip down the NSW coast.
The first stop was Sale and the lady at the information office had never heard of anyone wanting to visit Port Welshpool. She clearly felt we were insane, could offer no information about Port Welshpool and attempted to suggest other more attractive destinations. Despite this we continued on to Port Welshpool.
The weather hadn’t been great all day and the wind got stronger the closer we got to Port Welshpool. As we arrived in town we started to think that maybe the lady in Sale had a point. A tiny town, no one around and the whole place blasted by the wind. We decided to get a cabin at the caravan park as we weren’t certain our tent or us were up to the weather conditions. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the cabin as the wind buckled in the walls. Later we struggled down to the beach to admire the size of the wind waves.
Tony reminisced about childhood summer holidays in Gippsland where the family could spend a week at a time stuck together in their rental accommodation waiting for the weather to improve. As the tide went out and the extensive sand flats emerged the town looked even more attractive.
We got the afternoon forecast and found that the forecast for two days time had worsened and would be similar to the weather we were currently experiencing. There was no way we wanted to paddle Corner Inlet in the conditions forecast so our paddle became a day trip.
Incredibly the next morning there was no wind and the sun was shining. Port Welshpool looked like an attractive town! We had the boats on the beach at 6am to catch the end of the run-out tide. Tony had communicated with Matt Bezzina about Port Welshpool and Matt warned us to work with the tides and to follow the channel markers as the tide ran out.
Paddling out I chose to ignore the channel markers as I decided it would make the trip a lot longer. Unfortunately Matt knew what he was talking about and I found myself in a large expanse of shallow water with that water rapidly heading out to sea. A fun time was had as I searched for a way back to navigable water.
Once back closer to the channel we had a speedy trip with the tide over towards the Prom. We noticed various large ships moored in the area we would paddle through. Tony had his shiny new VHF radio and got to listen to lots of cryptic communications.
“Far Supplier: leaving Singapore mooring, going to Barrys Beach”.
Of course we didn’t have a decent chart. It might have been useful. We quickly started to work out what they meant. In this case the rather large ship near us was suddenly moving across our path back into Corner Inlet.
Tony also got listen to some fishing types who appeared to think the channel 16 was their private conversation line. Apparently the fishing wasn’t that good but they had had a good time the previous night.
We dodged around the shipping and made it over to the Prom. The most scenic part is down the southern end but it was still a lovely paddle along the northern section. There was no one else around and we had an excellent paddle down the coast. Visited beautiful beaches, played in tiny waves, explored around the rocks and watched the wildlife. All too soon we had to turn around as we needed to return before the tide started to run out.
The wind had picked up a bit on the return trip but was nothing compared to the previous day. More dodging of shipping, a pause to watch a seal using a channel marker as a scratching post and we were nearly back.
While fooling around in the shallows and chasing sting rays we noticed that the tide was running out. Our calculations appeared to be wrong and we picked the pace up to get back to the beach before the current got any stronger.
As we packed up our gear we watched some tourists drive into town, down the main street and back. They got out of the car briefly before accepting that for anyone other than fishermen or maybe kayakers Port Welshpool probably isn’t that interesting.
Would I go there again? Yes I would, but I would want more time. With three or four days we could have paddled to the southern end, spent a day down there exploring while the wind picked up and headed back when things calmed down. However with Christmas looming we couldn’t afford to wait out bad weather on the Prom and had to make the boring but sensible decision.
Is it worth driving all that way from Sydney past all the amazing places down the NSW south coast to a location with rather changeable weather? Possibly not but it was a really beautiful place to paddle.
BTW if you still want to go to Port Welshpool I would recommend the Long Jetty caravan park, friendly people who helped us get the weather forecast, provided a safe place to leave the car while paddling and, best of all, a hot shower for after the paddle.