10 Places For The Perfect Aussie Summer Camping Weekend
We know where you’d rather be: you’d rather be out in the fresh open air, where the night sky is sparkling with stars. Just imagine it now. There’s an esky full of cold ones at your feet, an open fire to keep you warm and a handful of good mates for company.
Let’s not forget it. Australia is a camper’s delight. Among our uninterrupted coastline and vast national parks are thousands of hidden campsite gems, quiet little nooks that are just waiting for you and your friends to arrive. To get you started, here’s a few of our fave Australian summer camping spots.
Putty Beach, NSW
About an hour and a half north of Sydney, Bouddi National Park’s Putty Beach on NSW’s Central Coast is about as secluded as it gets this close to the city. Located right behind the unpatrolled beach, it’s the perfect base for bushwalking, swimming or a visit to nearby Killcare. Bring your walking shoes for the Bouddi Coastal Walk (believe us, it’s worth it) or just laze by the beach for hours at a time. There are 20 campsites, and it’s usually pretty quiet, so make sure you get a good group together.
Price: From $33 per campsite, per night.
Smoky Cape Campground, Hat Head, NSW
Families have been flocking to nearby South West Rocks for their holidays for years – it’s got a perfect confluence of beautiful beaches and small-town vibes. But if you’d prefer to avoid the family-friendly atmosphere, stay at nearby Hat Head National Park instead. You’ll still be within driving distance of South West Rocks and its amenities, but with more sand to stretch out on, and fewer screaming children. Hike to nearby Trial Bay to see the ruins of its old prison, or go diving at Fish Rock, one of the country’s best dive spots.
Price: $6 per adult, per night.
Apollo Bay, VIC
Sure, Apollo Bay is popular, but for good reason. It’s super close to the 12 Apostles, as well as treetop walks and waterfalls in the Great Otway National Park. The beach is right across the road from this campsite, and there’s plenty of good eating – try out La Bimba – and drinking at micro-brewery Forest Brewing Company. If you’re feeling especially energetic, do part of the nearby Great Ocean Walk, which follows the cliffs from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles.
Price: From $25 per campsite, per night.
Johanna Beach, VIC
Set behind sand dunes adjacent to the beach, this very pretty campsite is one of many along the Great Ocean Road. It’s a great base for a swim (sadly the surf is often a bit too violent for ocean swimming – try the nearby river instead) or just relaxing with your mates and a few tinnies. This campsite no longer free, but even so it’s still good value for money. The beach is ideal for a long coastal walk, or follow the creek inland and try to spot some native wildlife.
Price: From $27.30 per campsite, per night.
Dandabah Camping Area, Bunya Mountains National Park, QLD
If you’re not so into beaches, Australia has plenty of inland national parks for you to explore instead. The Bunya Mountains National Park contains subtropical rainforests, dry rainforests and grasslands, as well as, yes, mountains. While the Dandabah campsite is quiet, you’re still close to a restaurant, a general store and a public phone (nature cares not for mobile signals). There are hot showers (unfortunately still uncommon in a lot of campsites), and myriad lookouts and bushwalks nearby to keep you busy.
Price: From $6.15 per person, per night.
Eurimbula Creek Campground, QLD
Get in a world-class tourist attraction on your next camping trip by heading to Eurimbula National Park. The coastal areas – where the Eurimbula Creek Campground lies – bordering the national park are part of the Great Barrier Reef, so make sure you get a gander while you’re there. Other activities in the area include bushwalking and surfing. You’re allowed to build fires here too (unless there’s a fire ban at the time), meaning you can ‘Kumbaya’ and roast marshmallows to your heart’s content.
Baird Bay Campground, Streaky Bay, SA
Close to Baird Bay township (consisting of a boat ramp and a couple of houses), and the beach, this Eyre Peninsula campground is the perfect spot to escape the city and kick up your heels with your friends. There’s a coin-operated gas barbecue for dinner, and a wood barbecue (if you feel like bringing your own wood). Baird Bay is known for its sea lion population, so be sure to check them out, or head out on a boat tour to say hi to resident dolphins and seals.
Price: $10 per campsite, per night.
Ellery Creek Big Hole, NT
If you’ve been to the Northern Territory, you’ll know that it’s not much like the rest of Australia. Largely empty, it’s as wild as the Australian outback gets. So, it’s the perfect place to camp around. Ellery Creek Big Hole is basically what it says on the box: a big hole with a creek in it. In other words, a water hole. Enclosed by towering red cliffs and bush aplenty, it’s a spin on camping for those of us who usually head to the coast.
Price: From $38 per campsite, per night.
Parry Beach, WA
On the southern coast of Western Australia lies Parry Beach. With its white-sand shores and shady bushland, it’s a good introduction to this relatively unknown (by those outside of Western Australia) region. From the campsite head to nearby Denmark, where you’ll find plenty of galleries and tours of the local waters. Or, if you’re looking to make the most of your Christmas break (read: drink a bunch), there’s a killer food and wine trail. The region specialises in chardonnay, Riesling, shiraz and cabernet, and there a road stalls selling fruits, pickles, honey and fudge to take back to your tent.
Price: From $15 per campsite, per night.
Lake St Clair, TAS
At the bottom of Cradle Mountain National Park likes Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake, and arguably one of its most beautiful. Teeming with wildlife, its camping ground has powered and non-powered sites and, thankfully, hot showers (it can get pretty chilly at night). It’s about a three-hour drive to see famous Cradle Mountain, but the area is surrounded by quaint towns, fascinating mining history and bushwalks out the wazoo. If you’re lucky you’ll see one of the park’s resident echidnas; if you’re unlucky your tent will be dive-bombed by possums as you sleep (best to leave your food in the car).
Price: From $27 per campsite, per night.
Che-Marie Trigg is a freelance writer and full-time subeditor. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Collective Hub and GoPlaces with Toyota magazines among others, as well as on websites like Broadsheet and Junkee. Follow her on Instagram @chemariet
(Lead image: HipCamp)