The Best Australian Camping Spots
Whether you’re a glamper who can’t be without their creature comforts, or a rough and ready survivalist who just wants to get back in touch with nature, or a campervan enthusiast – there’s an abundance of truly stunning camping spots in Australia.
While the vacations of my childhood were most often family trips to Mooloolaba or Newcastle, I have fond memories of our occasional forays into roughing it a little.
Bathing in a crateful of rainwater at Carnarvon Gorge National Park after a long day hiking about the various Aboriginal cultural sites; cooking our own food over a tiny fire by the shores of Lake Menindee; and even something as simple as pitching a tent in our backyard on a chilly night in Mudgee are all cherished memories of an occasional camper.
In later years, my family would take the campervan up to Jackadgery or across to Coffs Harbour for a more relaxed kind of camping.
The Benefits of Camping in Australia
Few countries on earth can boast the diversity of landscapes that Australia offers. The five camping spots I’ll highlight below cover the gamut – from snow peaked mountains to steaming rainforest, from scorched red desert to brilliant white sand beaches.
As a country with a strong sense of pride in its landscape and a culture of enjoying the outdoors, there’s also a wealth of options for campers and campervan enthusiasts. These range from bare bones camp sites to those with powered sites, public toilets & showers, and other facilities.
The Drawbacks of Camping in Australia
It’s not exactly a secret that Australia is home to a veritable nightmare of poisonous creepy crawlies. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say that you’re never going to come across a snake or a fist-sized spider in your travels, but most well used campsites are going to be a fairly safe bet.
As with camping anywhere in the world, there are risks inherent with putting your safety entirely in your own hands. The Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” is sound advice when camping in any of Australia’s national parks.
Enough lecturing! On with the show!
Booderee National Park, New South Wales
Many travellers come to New South Wales to experience its famous beaches, and there’s certainly no shortage of them between Sydney and Byron Bay.
Head south, however, and you’ll come across the breathtaking Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay region of the state. Famous for its pristine white sand beaches, Booderee boasts three campsites; one of which (Green Patch) is suitable for campervans as well as tents.
While all sites are unpowered, you come to Booderee to be close to nature and to swim on beaches you’ll have largely to yourself.
The real selling point of Booderee is the opportunity to witness the Humpback Whale migration from the beach. In June and July and again in the spring months, you might just be lucky enough to see whales frolicking not far from the shore.
Kuitpo Forest, South Australia
After a day of exploring the 3,600 hectares of plantation and native bushland in Kuitpo forest, pitch your tent amid Eucalypt woodland. Chookarloo, the main campground, is 1.5 kilometres from the Kuitpo Forest Information Centre and is an ideal base for families and hikers exploring the Heysen and Chookarloo walking trails. There are 23 campsites, shelters, rainwater, a pit toilet, and picnic areas.
The forest’s magic is most visible in winter when you can stroll under dense canopies and discover fairy mushrooms and wildlife as if it were something out of a fairy tale. Coil up by the fire and tell stories while toasting marshmallows before falling asleep under the stars.
Daintree National Park, Queensland
110km north of the backpacker heaven that is Cairns is the Cape Tribulation area. Don’t let the ominous name scare you off, though. The World Heritage listed Daintree National Park is Australia’s largest tropical rainforest and, in my eyes, one of Australia’s most stunning landscapes.
Camping among the towering trees and dense undergrowth is something that isn’t easy to experience elsewhere on the largely arid Australian continent, and wildlife enthusiasts can find some of Australia’s most exotic and beautiful animals, birds, and insects here. In fact, 90% of Australia’s butterfly population calls the Daintree home.
With the rainforest going to the very shore, you’re able to blend jungle adventures with ocean escapades like nowhere else in Australia. Kayaking and rainforest hikes in the same day, and day trips to the Great Barrier Reef or other local attractions such as Kuranda are an option for those wanting a change of pace.
Gunbower National Park, Victoria
There are some quiet, rustic campsites on the 40km-long Gunbower Island, a string of wetlands and waterways adjacent to the Murray River between Echuca and Koondrook.
Visitors can choose from 114 Murray River campsites and 25 Gunbower Creek campsites, all of which are free of charge and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no restrooms, no tables, and only a few barbecues: nothing but serenity.
The beauty of the national park, and the opportunity to hit the water in a kayak or canoe, go for a swim, drop a line in for some fishing, watch the birdlife, drive the 4WD tracks, and spend quiet evenings, are the highlights here.
Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory
From the lush rainforest of northern Queensland to the deserts of the Northern Territory, the picturesque desert gorges of the Nitmiluk National Park offer some of Australia’s most stunning river gorges and secluded swimming holes.
As I recently highlighted in my Travel Daydream: Northern Territory, here is a region overflowing with stark sandstone landscapes, surprising beauty, beautiful animals, and Aboriginal history just begging to be uncovered.
There are multiple campsites within the park, but the only one with both power and the ability to light fires is the Nitmiluk Tours Campsite, which is suitable for both tents and campervans.
Barmah Lakes Campground, Victoria
Australia’s most iconic river is the Murray-Darling, and camping along beside its muddy waters like so many explorers, farmers, and bushrangers did in the past is an experience to be sought out.
Barmah Lakes Campground is located on the banks of the Murray River, about a three-hour drive north of Melbourne.
The main draw here is the waterway and the lake itself, which is ideal for canoeing, fishing, and swimming. The campground is simple, set in a clearing among tall River Red Gums along the river’s edge.
There is good road access (4WDs recommended), but very little facilities once you arrive: just a drop toilet and a few places to set up a grill. All food and water must be brought in. But it’s the isolation, the opportunity to see vast flocks of waterbirds and emus in the wild that draws people in.
Gentlemans Halt Campground, New South Wales
To get to this bush camp on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, you’ll have to walk 10 kilometres through rugged wilderness.
Gentlemans Halt, which is thought to have been used by Governor Phillip during his exploration of the area in 1789, has few facilities: just a few picnic tables, barbecues, and compost toilets. On the 10km hike along the Canoelands Ridge track, all water, firewood, and other supplies must be carried in.
A stay here is all about watching native wildlife, hiking nearby trails, and cooling off in the river. This site is also accessible by boat or kayak for those who do not wish to hike.
Burbie Camp, Warrumbungle National Park, New South Wales
Burbie Camp offers the perfect combination: it is remote but easily accessible. In all seasons, the car park in this section of the Warrumbungle National Park is accessible by 2WD. The site is only accessible by foot, though it is just three kilometres along the Burbie Canyon Track, a gentle hike that makes it ideal for those who would not usually attempt such an adventure.
The site is a rustic campground with few facilities, including a tap running untreated spring water and a spot for a wood-fired barbecue. That is, however, the attraction. This is where you disconnect from modern life and instead look for wallabies on the ground, wedge-tailed eagles in the sky, and sleep under a truly amazing starry night.
Kosciuszko National Park, Australian Capital Territory
Australia is not a country known for its mountains or for its snow, but the Kosciuszko National Park in the Australian Capital Territory/New South Wales offers up both in spades.
It’s rugged terrain ideal for the outdoor adventurer looking to explore gorges, woodlands, and some of Australia’s only genuinely alpine terrain.
While the area is understandably quite cold in the winter and autumn months (They aren’t called the Snowy Mountains for nothing!), the weather turns temperate in summer and spring – allowing campers to swim in creeks, billabongs, and dams.
The more adventurous will find the region is perfect for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and plenty more.
The following camping gear should be checked while planning a camping trip.
Comfort & Shelter
- Sleeping mat or camp bed;
- Sleeping bag;
- Camping table and chairs;
- Mallet, spare pegs, and puller;
- Batteries, portable charger, and cables;
- Torch and/or headlamp;
- Tent repair kit;
- Air pump for any airbeds;
- Waterproof jacket and trousers;
- Clean and dry clothes;
- Sun hat, woolly hat, and gloves (as needed);
- Camping footwear;
- Spare underwear and socks;
- Sun protection and sunglasses;
- Stove and/or BBQ;
- Fuel for the above;
- Lighter or matches;
- Pots, pans, and kettle;
- Chopping board;
- Plates, bowls, and mugs;
- Dish cloth and sponge;
- Dishwashing liquid (environmentally friendly);
- Garbage bags;
- Can and bottle opener.
Health & Hygeine
- First-aid kit;
- Hand sanitiser;
- Face masks;
- Insect repellent;
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste;
Do you have any fond memories of camping from your childhood?
What are your favourite camping spots in your own country?
Featured image by Arup Malakar