Cleft Island (Skull Rock)
Looming large off the tip of Wilsons Promontory—mainland Australia’s southernmost point—this massive skull-shaped rock is reminiscent of a movie villain’s lair. Sheer granite cliffs on all sides make it nearly impossible to access, but intrepid travelers can view its mysterious mass and enormous cave from the water on a day cruise.
Cleft Island sits in the middle of Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park on the rugged southern coast of Victoria. Sightseeing cruises along “the Prom,” as the peninsula is known locally, offer the closest view of the rock one can get without expert-level diving skills. It is a true island, surrounded by water on all sides, with one face yawning in a giant chasm large enough to fit a school bus inside. A handful of determined early explorers allegedly scaled the cliffs to set foot inside the cave, but these days it’s mostly occupied by nesting cormorants.
Things to know before you go
- Conditions around Cleft Island are often turbulent and treacherous, so boating and diving around the rock should only be attempted by experts or on a licensed cruise.
- Bring all the food and water you need for the day, as Wilsons Promontory National Park has very limited dining options.
- Sightseeing cruises may include an onboard lunch and beverages.
- If you want to stay overnight in the park, Tidal River offers powered and basic campsites plus cabins.
How to get there
Cleft Island sits three miles (5 km) south of Tidal River—the main visitor information area when visiting Wilsons Promontory. This recreation area is about 2.5 hours from Melbourne and is best reached by car or on an organized day trip. The most common way to view the island is on a sightseeing cruise departing from Port Welshpool or Port Albert.
When to get there
The rock is best viewed on clear, calm days. Most cruises depart in the morning for the best ocean conditions.
Exploring Wilsons Promontory
This rugged peninsula off the Victorian coast is as far south as you can go on mainland Australia and a popular day trip for Melbournians. Bushwalking trails span diverse landscapes, from sandy shorelines to temperate rain forests and imposing granite cliffs. Swim in seclusion at Norman Beach or Fairy Cove, take in panoramic coastal views from atop Mount Bishop, or climb the sand dunes at Darby Point. For longer adventures, camp out among eucalyptus groves at the Stockyard Campground.