Travel startup YouCamp is something of an Airbnb for camping. But instead of staying in shared flats, serviced apartments or homes, it connects you with landowners so you can camp on otherwise private properties.
The idea came to founders James Woodford and Prue Bartlett while they were sitting around a campfire. “Our vision was to create a way for people to go camping and escape the crowds,” Woodford tells Broadsheet. “Instead of crowding into caravan parks and campgrounds, we thought it would be great for people to have [access to private] spaces [and share that] with friends and family.”
YouCamp, which launched in 2013, has properties listed across Australia, including basic bush camping with minimal facilities, full glamping experiences, decked out caravans and small cabins. You can rent out small properties for just you and a friend or – and this trend has surprised Woodford – bigger sites for gathering large groups and hosting events.
While YouCamp was started with the idea that people were after peace and quiet, he’s noticed more and more people are seeking somewhere they can be as noisy as they please.
“We’ve been getting requests from considerate people who want to go camping with their friends and make some noise without disturbing others,” he says. “They can get together and be loud all night, knowing they’re on a 500-acre property and won’t be upsetting anybody except the kangaroos.”
Many of the listed properties are located in secluded, remote areas that are ideal for these kinds of gatherings. He says Redbank Way, in NSW’s Port Macquarie, a little over four hours north of Sydney, is a dog-friendly, mobile reception-free cattle farm on 1500 acres and is good for rowdy groups. There’s also Platypus Waterhole, in the Blue Mountains, which has a great communal camp shelter with rustic amenities and a fire pit.
In Victoria, Riveroak can accommodate up to 40 people (up to eight caravans and lots of tents). It's on Thompson River in Heyfield, Gippsland, so you can fish and frolic. At Waterfall Retreat, in the hinterland of Queensland's Sunshine Coast, you get access to two paddocks, a rain forest and a creek with rock pools and a waterfall. Take your group of 25 to the tiny town of Robertstown, just under two hours north of Adelaide, for family owned merino sheep station Burra Creek Camping.
YouCamp has also received requests for events to be held on the sites, ranging from community outings with young kids, to bachelor and bachelorette parties.
“We had an inquiry from a woman who organises female empowerment gatherings and she wanted to make sure the host would be comfortable with possible nudity and people howling at the moon,” Woodford says. “We get requests for everything you can possibly imagine.”
Ultimately, he sees gatherings and parties like these as an extension of what YouCamp was built for in the first place – to bring people back out into nature.
“This is exactly what I love to do – go camping with a big group, get a nice fire going. People bring their dogs, somebody pulls out a guitar, children run around and play,” Woodford says. “People are just able to relax, get off their devices and reconnect with nature and their friends in person. That’s what it’s all about.”