An Australian holiday doesn’t seem complete without piling a bunch of friends into the car and heading off on a camping mission to somewhere spectacular. No matter what state you’re in, Australia offers an amazing array of options for the intrepid camper.
Explore sea caves on the east coast, stalk wineries in the west, discover ancient mountains with deep spiritual connections, or simply throw a camp chair in a cool river and pop a brew. Beach, forest, mountains or desert, all you need is a car, some supplies, good company, smart tech and good tunes (both for the car and when you get there).
Here’s five spots around the nation worth highlighting in the group chat.
NSW – Seal Rocks
The east coast of NSW can sometimes feel overdone, but you can still find secluded spots where it feels like you’re the only people on the planet. Seal Rocks is one of those places. Located on the wild Barrington Coast near Myall Lakes National Park, it gets its name from the jagged rock outcrop rising from the sea just offshore.
The lonely lighthouse is the most well-known attraction (and is a spectacular viewpoint) but explore a bit deeper and you might find a secret sea cave in the rocks just before the lighthouse, carved by the ocean swells and part of an extensive underground cave system.
Take your pick of camping options. Treachery Camp lets you set up where you please and allows campfires (but keep the noise down after 10.30pm), while Reflections Holiday Park is a more urbane affair, offering cabins, glamping and powered sites. Nearby Yagon Campground in Myall Lakes National Park is a gorgeous (but no-frills) spot just behind the sand dunes.
Don’t forget to pack: Surfboard, snorkels or scuba diving equipment. Walking shoes.
Suggested tunes: Surprise Chef, Beach Boys, Winston Surfshirt
Queensland: Gordon Country
You don’t find many places like Gordon Country, an enormous eco-tourism property just two hours from Brisbane in the stunning Goomburra Valley, bordering the rain forests of Main Range National Park. Run by the Gordon family for as long as anyone can remember, this is camping the way it used to be: simple, casual and full of fun. The sheer size of the place (over 1500 hectares of camping - no joke) means you can find a secluded spot far from anyone else and cooee the night away if you wish. (If a bunch of friends has a party until dawn but no one hears them, did they really party?) Craving serenity? Sure thing. Just pitch the tents beside the gentle Dalrymple Creek and wake to bird calls. Cabins are also available (our favourite are the rustic heritage cabins), as are glamping tents, plus powered sites.
Playing in the river and exploring the boundless surrounds is encouraged here. Dogs are welcome and if you’ve got a four-wheel drive you’ll be in heaven, with 4WD tracks winding up into the mountains, through the mud and even into a skills course known as the ‘play pen.’
Don’t forget to pack: Camp oven. Akubra hat. Water. Sense of adventure Suggested tunes: Marlon Williams. Slim Dusty. Son Volt.
Victoria: Lake Catani Campground
If swimming, kayaking, bush walking and relaxing are your thing, well have we found a spot for you.
This campground beside an alpine lake high on the Mount Buffalo plateau is run by Parks Victoria. Sites are sites nestled among trees in snow gum woodlands, and all are within short walking distance of the lake. Make day-trips to mountain waterfalls, explore the granite-clad plateau and make sure you take a drive to The Horn (the highest point on Mount Buffalo) where you can park your car and climb to the lookout and witness incredible views over the Australian Alps. A sunset dinner at The Horn is also a must (wait till you see those colours as the sun goes down over layers of grey hills).
Make sure you take a drive down the mountain and into Bright, where you and your cohorts can tumble into a terrific brewery, gin distillery and the best burgers and cocktails in the high country.
The lake is warmer than you’d expect (in summer at least) and there are sandy beaches, deeper pools and even a comely jetty - very Instagrammable for dusk photos.
Don’t forget to pack: Kayak, or inflatable swan. Binoculars. Day pack. Drinking water.
Suggested tunes: Anything chill that won’t disturb the birds.
Western Australia: Conto Campground
The coastal fringes of Western Australia’s Margaret River region are rugged and wild, but never too far from the more urbane pleasures of wineries and foodie delights. So a stay at Conto Campground (about a three and a half hour drive from Perth) offers the best of both worlds.
There aren’t too many bells and whistles (or showers) here so your gang will need to be self-sufficient. But what it lacks in facilities it makes up for in beauty. Set within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, there are 116 campsites within peppermint woodlands, and it’s big enough that you can find your own space and settle in with a soundtrack. Conto Beach is just a short walk away and there are stunning cliff tops that seem made for sunset picnics, maybe with a glass of Margaret River wine.
Mornings are especially magical, when you wake to the sound of the surf pummelling the coastline and the first strands of sunlight flicker through the trees. Take a walk along the Cape to Cape track, which cuts through the coastline here (doing the whole 123km is not compulsory), go surfing or just sit by the sea and soak up the salt spray.
Don’t forget to pack: Wet wipes. Wine. Wanderlust.
Suggested tunes: Tame Impala, Peter Bibby, Rüfüs Du Sol
South Australia: Wilpena Pound
If you’ve never been to the Flinders Ranges, put it on your to-do list immediately. Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park is a national treasure, an ancient landscape rich in geological wonders and spirituality, around five hours’ drive north of Adelaide. For tens of thousands of years this astounding natural amphitheatre has been the traditional home of the Adnyamanthankha people, and the resort and campground is run by the land’s indigenous owners. A welcome to country is held each evening at 6pm (attendance highly recommended) and includes songs and traditional stories.
The campground has 40 powered and over 300 unpowered sites, and plenty of amenities blocks (with laundry facilities). There’s also a licenced IGA that sells groceries, petrol, firewood and supplies. Expect to encounter many eager kangaroos (who’ll brazenly ransack your food if you’re not careful) and maybe even a rare yellow-footed rock wallaby.
Bushwalking is the go-to activity at Wilpena Pound. An easy option is the 1-2 hours walk to the old homestead and Wangara lookout, which gives you a slice of history of the area and offers incredible views across the crater-like landscape. You can also join an indigenous guide for an interpretive walk into Sacred Canyon, and learn about the cultural significance of the rock art.
Don’t forget to pack: Sunscreen. An Esky. Spare tyre.
Suggested tunes: The Warumpi Band, Miles Davis, A.B. Original
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