Winter and camping aren't the most comfortable of bedfellows. But whether you’re a camping enthusiast or a newbie, setting up a tent in the crisp winter air is an entirely underrated experience.
Camping in winter is surprisingly refreshing, offering a new perspective on the surrounding landscape and alerting your senses to a plethora of new sounds, sights and smells. It also offers a much more comfortable sleep – as any camper who has sweated the night away in a sweltering tent can testify.
To get you started, here are our top five picks for winter camping in Victoria. So grab your friends, your favourite scarf and head off for an overnight snooze in the great outdoors.
Taking on a hike between Mount Buller and Mount Stirling may seem like a slightly challenging endeavour, but it’s a great hike that is mostly an easy walk (with a few tricky bits thrown in to keep you on your toes). You can’t camp at Mount Buller, so the best way to do the hike is to set off from Buller and hike to Stirling, where you can camp at King Hut, a warm little spot to sit and have a cup of tea before heading off to sleep. You can also check out (or camp at) Craig’s Hut, which was originally built atop Mount Stirling for the iconic film Man From Snowy River. For the more adventurous, alpine camping is provided for $120 per night and gives you access to a sheltered, solid snow tent that remains insulated and warm inside whilst accessible by skis from the outside (so no awkward trudging through the snow in ski boots).
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The camping at Mount Samaria is easily accessible and set within a tall, shady eucalyptus forest. It’s around 130 kilometres northeast of Melbourne and about 14 kilometres north of Mansfield and there are two main campsites: Spring Creek Sawmill and Samaria Well. Both sites are free and have drinkable creek water (though it’s always advisable to bring as much of your own supplies as possible), and are equipped with picnic tables too. Mount Samaria is classified as a state park, so it’s ideal for those that aren’t so into the idea of hiking. The park offers a bunch of easy and beautiful walking routes, as well as great views from Mount Samaria Summit. And you’ll find a huge variety of Australian natives and wildlife like kangaroos, sugar-gliders, echidnas and wombats.
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The Crosscut Saw and Mount Howitt
For camping enthusiasts or those who just really appreciate a good view, the Crosscut Saw is an experience not to be missed. Admittedly, it’s not the easiest of hikes – the undulating, mountainous terrain can be quite tough, but the stunning views are well worth the walk. The Mount Howitt walk is about 14 kilometres (around five hours return), which will take you to the summit, which is covered in wild flowers. If you’re a little braver, the walk across both Mount Howitt and the Saw is an overnight hike, but the camping grounds are well equipped and comfortable. In winter, the experience of crossing the Saw is entirely different – rather than sweeping views of the mountain ranges, the fog settles over the valley below, giving you the opportunity to hike over an eerie but serene mountain top. There are two recommended campsites, depending on whether you’re ‘car based’ or have decided to go all-out as a bushwalker. For car-based campers, Wellington River offers toilets and fuel stoves. If you’re going on an overnight walk, camp at Tali Karng, where there’s Riggals Hut, an insulated and sturdy stop off that provides you with a warm, dry place to eat before you settle down for the night.
Since the 2009 bush fires, Kinglake has undergone a great deal of natural regeneration, allowing and enabling new plant life to flourish, which adds a new beauty to the area. The campsite in Kinglake, called The Gums, features a sheltered area for eating, as well as bathrooms and a picnic area. It’s about 65 kilometres north of Melbourne, situated on the slopes of the Great Dividing Range. The surrounding bushwalks are far from difficult, providing an opportunity to relax and take in the surrounding wildlife and spectacular views. You can book your campsite online before your stay.
Sheepyard Flat and Tunnel Bend
A bit of a drive (about 200 kilometres from Melbourne) and close to the Howqua River, Sheepyard Flat is large enough that you can find your own space and protected enough that you won’t get too chilly if you’re spending part of your evening cooking on one of the many barbecues provided. The camping ground is green year round, dog friendly and even equipped with bathrooms as well. If you’re game, from Sheepyard Flat you can walk to Tunnel Bend, a natural underground tunnel that is pitch black once you get inside but good fun to navigate your way through. If the weather isn’t too wet, you can go horse riding along the Howqua Hills too.
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With all camping grounds, unless there are rubbish bins onsite it’s important to take your rubbish with you to preserve the natural habitat. Always check the websites before leaving for your campsite to ensure they’re open and always remember to check water supplies as some campsites require you to bring your own.