Only two kinds of people go camping: the anally retentive and the utterly disorganised, and usually, they’re the best of friends.
The former is fastidiously organised, someone likely to pack the car in the evening and wake before sunrise to avoid the traffic out of the city. They arrive in the mid afternoon, find a nice resting place in the shade and set about constructing a regal tent – adjacent rooms, lamps and camping showers in tow. By the time most people have arrived, they are casting a patronising gaze from their chair by the water.
The latter wakes up when they’ve had enough sleep, fills the nearest bag with as many clean clothes as they can find and hits the road at lunchtime. By the time they arrive it’s getting dark and there is barely enough light to set up the two man tent, which is missing a few pegs anyway. But the disorganised people bring the entertainment and, unlike the former, they’ll experience nature without trying to maintain all the cumbersome luxuries from home.
We are one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to national parks and long, untouched stretches of beach. Our suggestion is that you go and find some of them, as soon as you can, while we can still see the high water mark. In Victoria, you can visit the Great Ocean Road, the Peninsula, the Grampians, the High Country, the Prom and just about anywhere where you can see the stars. Here are some of our suggestions for a weekend away in blissful isolation.
The Prom, as it is affectionately known, is perhaps the most accessible camping spot in all of Victoria. Located on the southern end of the Wilsons Promontory National Park, it is Victoria’s largest marine reserve. Perfect for a larger group, the Prom is a favourite for Melburnians who want to camp in a vibrant atmosphere, while squeezing the novelty out of flashlights and eerie darkness. There is a huge amount to do by the sea – snorkelling, surfing and just walking on the squeaky sand. The more adventurous go bushwalking or scuba diving on the reef. There are people everywhere at the Prom over the summertime, so you’d best book ahead.
The Prom is on the southernmost tip of the Victorian mainland, beyond Western Port Bay, Philip Island and Inverloch. We recommend camping at the Tidal River camping ground. Bookings are essential. For more information and bookings, call 131963.
The Grampians National Park intrigues on the strength of its name alone. Located near Halls Gap (another zinger), The Grampians is a series of five sandstone ridges that stretch across a vast expanse of national park, forming almighty peaks and valleys as far as the eye can see. They are created by seismic activity, shifting as the earth expands and contracts. You won’t find anywhere to swim at the Grampians, so we recommend waiting until late summer when the weather has cooled down, so you can duck in and out of the wilderness in the cool, and see the Aboriginal artwork on the rock shelter walls.
The Grampians National Park is located a little more than three hours out of Melbourne. You’ll need a map, but the Western Hwy will take you most of the way. We recommend Jimmy Creek Campground. It has 10 campsites near the creek. For more information call the National Park and Cultural Centre on (03) 5361 4000.
The Murray River
If you’ve never jumped in the Murray in New South Wales and doggy paddled your way back home to Victoria, then you’re missing out on one of Australia’s great camping experiences. As Australia’s longest river, you have the chance to camp just about anywhere along the Murray. Because it’s the lifeblood of our state, there’s an abundance of plant and animal life crowding its banks. The major settlements along the Murray are Echuca, Albury, Swan Hill and Mildura. You can camp in the national parks and go jet skiing, waterskiing, sailing or fishing along the great expanse. Our pick is Mildura, because it’s largely untouched. You can find a spot all on your own and head up to the Mildura Brewery when you get tired of the river – it serves one of the best local summer ales in Victoria.
If you’re looking for some accommodation, there are several caravan parks, but we recommend camping in the Murray Sunset National Park, by the river. For more information visit the Mildura tourism website.
There’s a roundabout just near Lorne on the Great Ocean Road that holds up the traffic for miles, it’s on a picturesque stretch of road that cuts through the cliffs. You can watch the grassy planes and sand dunes out the drivers’ side window, and the deep blue Indian Ocean out the other. When you get to the roundabout you should push through the traffic and beyond Lorne to Wye River, because those crowded streets take away from the Surf Coast’s main attraction – the best ocean views on the entire Otway Coast and deserted, glassy surf spots. There’s a general store in Wye River too, that serves local produce and healthy breakfasts. And when you’re there, you can walk a few metres up the hill to the Wye River pub for a counter meal, looking over the water and sitting by old pictures on the wall from when it burned down a few years back.
*The Wye River camping ground is about two kilometres inland on Wye River Road. There are 12 campsites large enough for camping trailers and all your elaborate tents. *