There are few things like pitching a tent under the stars and enjoying a bit of what ol’ Mother Nature has to offer. But spending the night under a bit of fabric doesn’t mean that you have to forgo creature comforts like a meal in a great restaurant or a decent morning coffee – or that you need to drive for miles to get them. Here are six campgrounds around NSW where you can rough it but still easily walk to breweries, restaurants and cafes.
Putty Beach campground, Bouddi National Park
1.4-kilometre walk to The Fat Goose
Putty Beach Campground on the Central Coast is a real gem: on one side is the temperate rainforest of Bouddi National Park, on the other a grand sweep of beach that stretches to holidaymaker favourite Killcare. You’re in close proximity to plenty of long and short walking trails – it’s a scenic, easy hike via a wooden boardwalk from the campground to tiny nearby Bullimah Beach. Sites here are unpowered and suitable only for tents, so you’ll truly feel you’re in the wilderness. But less than 20 minutes’ walk away is The Fat Goose cafe and bakery in Hardys Bay, which bakes a range of goods – tarts, pies, croissants and more – in-house daily. Head over early in the morning for a takeaway coffee (always a luxury when camping), or go the whole hog and dine in for breakfast.
Cockatoo Island waterfront campground, Sydney Harbour
300-metre walk to Marina Cafe & Bar
If you fancy getting back to nature, but leaving the city isn’t an option, pitching a tent on Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour makes for a pretty unbeatable staycation. There are a few types of site on the island: unpowered, BYO tent; unpowered with a pre-erected tent; a pre-erected tent right on the water with raised beds, linen and toiletries; or a slightly larger tent with two or four beds as well as sun loungers, an esky and a lantern. All options have access to hot showers, barbeques and even fridges and microwaves. But if cooking for yourself isn’t on the menu, wander down to Marina Cafe & Bar, which is open till 3pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends. Not only can you grab a coffee and food – including a solid menu of pizzas, bacon-and-egg rolls and burgers – but you can kick back with a glass of vino or a tap beer from its container bar.
Patonga Camping Ground, Patonga
A 700-metre walk to The Boathouse Hotel Patonga
You’re surrounded by water on nearly all sides at the lush Patonga camping ground. On one edge, the grand Hawkesbury River funnels into Broken Bay; on the other, Patonga Creek flows. Patonga is a little dot of a town set within the grandeur of Brisbane Water National Park – but it’s only 25 minutes from Gosford city. Closer still is The Boathouse Patonga, around 10 minutes’ walk away. What was once a rather frumpy – but charming – old boozer was taken over by The Boathouse group, reopening in 2018 with the company’s signature blue and white nautical-style decor. Stop by for fish’n’chips to take away and eat by the water, or enjoy its all-day menu of oysters, chilli prawn spaghetti and burgers. There’s coffee in the morning, and a menu of beachy cocktails and crisp wines for later in the day. And if getting back to nature all gets a bit too … natural? There are some fairly luxe hotel rooms built into the pub.
Blue Mountains Tourist Park – Katoomba Falls, Katoomba
2.1-kilometre walk from Mountain Culture Beer Co
Mountain Culture is a cult favourite among beer fans – punters drive from all over for its Neipas, oat cream IPAs and imperial stout-style brews. But pitch a tent at Katoomba Falls campground, and you won’t need to assign a designated driver – you’ll be able to walk through the pretty Blue Mountains town for your fix. The campground offers powered and unpowered sites, as well as hot showers and even wi-fi hotspots. You’re also in easy walking distance of Echo Point, the Three Sisters and the quaint main street of Katoomba.
Trial Bay Gaol campground, Arakoon National Park
50 to 650-metre walk to Trial Bay Kiosk*
The grand stone ruins of the heritage-listed, convict-built Trial Bay Gaol sit high above Trial Bay Gaol campground, within the beautiful seaside Arakoon National Park. All sites – powered and unpowered – are a short stroll from the beach, and kangaroos are a constant presence. Also on site is Trial Bay Kiosk – but despite the name, it’s actually a scenic licenced cafe and restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner from Thursday to Saturday. Take a seat on the grand deck and take in views of the bushland and water beyond. The menu is classic cafe fare: smashed avo and eggs for breakfast, and fish’n’chips or Buddha bowls for lunch. Keep an eye on the local kookaburras – they’re notorious meal thieves.
Terrace Reserve Holiday Park, Brunswick Heads
85-metre walk from Fleet
Fleet is a destination restaurant – punters book well in advance to secure a spot at this welcoming 14-seat diner. And if you reserve a campsite at the Terrace Reserve Holiday Park, you’ll be just one minute’s walk from the eatery’s front door. The holiday park is located right by the creek, with plenty of flat, shaded sites – powered and unpowered – to choose from. But it’s worth tearing yourself away from your waterfront real estate to dine at Fleet. Chef-owner Josh Lewis plays with local ingredients from the surrounding sea and fertile food basin to craft a new take on modern-Australian dining. It’s paired with a menu of minimal-intervention wines that’ll have you breathing relief you’re not expected to drive home.
Fleet is temporarily closed, and slated to reopen in May, 2022.